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View Diary: Bookflurries-Bookchat: Tunneling (134 comments)

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  •  ALSO lots of interesting characters (9+ / 0-)

    I mean, Leibniz, Newton and Hooke were fascinating in themselves. But, e.g. Avi is a fascinating guy, as is Bobby Shaftoe.

    •  And Half-Cock Jack... (10+ / 0-)

      so named because he only has half a cock, the result of a novel syphilis cure that backfired.  The romance between poor Jack, with his half a dick and late stage syphilis rotting his brain, and the harem girl Eliza, is... actually, pretty funny.  

      Okay, my favorite thing learned from the Baroque Cycle, and it sounds very tedious when you pluck it out like this... the subject of the coin-weighers.  It made so much sense, though.

      Here's the deal (for anybody who didn't read the book):

      Coins in the good ol' 17th century days were worth the gold that they were made of and the reputation of the coiners for weighing and using real gold.  Oftentimes, traders just melted the coins down into bars before they set sail because nobody cared if the coin had a picture of somebody else's king on it.  They had to weigh each coin, anyway.

      What coin weighers would do (and this was ILLEGAL) was to collect a bunch of gold coins, and then to weigh them, looking for the ones that were just a tiny bit over the average weight.  They would keep these and return the rest into general circulation.  Melting the heavier coins, they could get more money than they would get using the coins themselves.  

      And over the course of time, because of this, the AVERAGE weight of the coins in circulation dropped, and dropped, and dropped...  leading to a drop in the value of all English coins in circulation.  Remember, those traders coming into port would melt the coins into bars, and discover that they got less gold on each trip -- so they would demand more coins in payment the next time they came to port.  

      And this leads to inflation and a reduction in the confidence in the treasury, which leads to more inflation, etc.

      But Stephenson makes that sound intriguing.

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