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The Torch Magazine,  The Journal and Magazine of the
International Association of Torch Clubs
For 90 Years

A Peer-Reviewed
Quality Controlled

ISSN  Print 0040-9440
ISSN Online 2330-9261

  Fall 2016
Volume 90, Issue 1


"Livy, it would pain me to think that when I swear it sounds like that.
You got the words right, Livy, but you don’t know the tune."

--Mark Twain, to his wife, after she had just
reproved him by repeating word-for-word one of his bursts of profanity.

   Articles in the Fall 2016 Issue
  1. Forbidden Words
    by John P. Lewis
      This paper makes three points about these immodest words.  First, words are powerful.  The old expression "Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me" simply is not true.  Second, words and their meanings continually change.  English is a living language. Third, taboo language can do many different things. Cursing can be offensive or it can be funny.  It can incite animosity or it can cement friendships. It all depends on context. "Forbidden Words" is the 2016 Paxton Award winner. A pfd file of the article is available here.
  2. Railroads: Empire Builders
    by Charles W. Darling
      Why did the United States leapfrog Great Britain and other European nations in railroad development?  Urgent need for land transportation coupled with cheapness of land and lack of political or economic barriers offset European technological and financial superiority.  Above all, the American public enthusiastically endorsed the coming of the "iron horse."  Swedish novelist Frederika Bremer, visiting the United States before the Civil War, noted that boys in class amused themselves by drawing locomotives with motion, smoke, and fire.  She concluded: "interest in locomotive machinery had a profound connection with life in [this] country"  A pdf of the article is available here.
  3. Fly Me to the Moon: The Risks and Possible Rewards of Developing Intelligent Computers
    by Mark Dahmke
      How will we know when a machine is intelligent? This subject has been debated for decades, and we still don't have an answer. Is language a sign of intelligence, or perhaps tool use, or the ability to modify one's environment? All of these behaviors have been seen in animals, including dolphins and chimpanzees, and even birds and elephants. Does it take a combination of all of these attributes to be considered intelligent and self-aware? Is being self-aware even required for an artificial intelligence to be a threat to the human race?  A pdf file of the article is available here.
  4. No Change, No Fowl: A Theory for the Birds
    by Larry Zaleski
      Even a casual observer cannot fail to notice that there are a bewildering number of living things.  And soon that same observer unthinkingly, automatically begins to split and lump this cacophony, organizing it into categories large and small, first into plants and animals, and then finer groupings.  Virtually everyone, even primitive people, recognizes the similarities and differences.  Biologists have constructed elaborate assemblages, recently made more precise through genetic analysis.  The question is, how did these groupings arise? Were they created as is, forever unchanging, or are they derived, dynamic, and continually in flux? A pdf file of the article is available here.
  5. Stolen Away by Fairies
    by Dorothy Trench Bonett
      About eight hundred years ago, a woman named Marie began writing a series of short, narrative poems called lais. The themes and settings of her lais were Celtic, and she used Celtic folklore in them—the kind of legends that the jongleur sang accompanied by his harp and his "rote" (a stringed instrument with a soundboard).   The innovative nature of the lais can be seen in her feeling compelled to justify at length in her prologue not her standing as a woman writer, but her choice of subject matter.  A pdf file of the article is available here.
  6. The Social Consequences of Aging and Elder Law in the United States
    by John Thomas McGuire
      Social developments can occur very rapidly or, as is usually the case, slowly but steadily. The second type of development often involves changes that are less noticeable but more far-reaching, such as the aging of a substantial percentage of the United States population and the corresponding growth of elder law into a major legal field.  Among the pressing questions arising from these developments are (1) the feasibility of meeting future retirement obligations and sustaining the employability of elderly persons in an extremely competitive job market and (2) the possibilities of mental or physical incapacitation as a person reaches elderly status, defined for purposes of this article as a person at least 65 years old. A pdf file of the article is available here.
  7. Howard Zinn: A Man Who Swam Upstream
    by Gerry Wagner
      Zinn's best-known book is A People's History of the United States.  It came out in 1980 in an edition of only 5000 copies.  To date it has sold over two million copies, ending up on the reading list of many high school and most college history departments.  Its premise is a new one: looking at history from the little person's point of view as opposed to those of the generals or political leaders.  Howard Zinn believed that everyone in history has something to contribute, not just the George Washingtons crossing their Delawares.  Looked at more closely from this new angle, many of our national heroes, like Christopher Columbus and Teddy Roosevelt, take on a new, less favorable aura.  A pdf file of the article is available here.

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