Welcome to Light Reading, which is dedicated to the proposition that fiction is just another kind of fact which fortunately doesn't have to be verified. We like to think of ourselves as an antidote to the sort of boredom that can set in when you find yourself at a party thrown by a ceiling fan of a host circulating and endlessly reintroducing the same stale conversation.

Light Reading is the kind of companion likely to keep you awake by telling you that it is 99% certain that you're literally breathing the same air that, oh, Oliver North himself exhaled if he had been a contemporary of Jesus, which isn't likely, and back this up by citing John Allen Paulos, who in his 1988 book Innumeracy examines the situation.

You see, after a few millennia exhaled molecules are uniformly spread throughout the world and the majority are still freewheeling bachelors, so to speak. If there are A molecules of air and Oliver exhaled O of them, the probability that any given molecule you've inhaled is from Oliver is O/A, whereas the chances that it isn't Oliver's air is 1 - O/A. By the ubiquitous multiplication principle, if you inhale three molecules, the probability that none of these three is from Oliver is [1 - O/A]3. Likewise, if you suck up S molecules, perhaps in a panic attack of some sort, the probability that none of them is from Oliver is maybe [1 - O/A]S. Thus the probability of the complementary event (think of the social implications) of your inhaling at least one of his forthrightly exhaled molecules is 1 - [1 - O/A]6. O, S (each about 1/30th of a liter, or 2.2 x 1022), and A (about 1044 molecules) are such that it all adds up to .99, give or take a few sneezes. Admit it: that's not even six degrees of separation.

Our goal is to knit together disparate but strangely resonant concepts for the whole family, under oath if necessary, and to provide helpful context for often helpless facts. That's right: it's going to be that kind of a party. Bring a friend.


The lobby of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Note the classy artwork in the background. Color commentary: THE BATTLE OF VERCELLAE (Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, 1696-1770) depicts the Romans under Gaius Marius defeating the Cimbrian Gauls, who were blinded by the sun. In conflict resolution you have to catch breaks where you find them.

Our Niche, and Welcome to it
But First, a Few Words About Our Cover Price

Visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan will find a suggested admission of $7.00. Considering that the Met is like a dozen museums in one, this isn't too much to ask, but readers who are lawyers may notice that there's some room for latitude. We know of a couple who never pays more than $1.00. For both of them. And the cashier doesn't even blink. How very civilized, for New York.

There are, of course, consequences. The more people do this, the higher the admission charge will become. The higher the charge, the less people are likely to pay. Eventually there may not be a choice. It's roughly analogous to health insurance. Meanwhile, there's always somebody in line more economically viable who hands over enough large bills to pay for all concerned.

A museum also has benefactors, who get their names carved in stone if they're generous enough, and who even pick up their own title: Patron, Friend, Munificent Being, etc.

Now, there are differences between the Met and Light Reading. We don't have Tiepolo's The Battle of Vercelae in our lobby. (We have acquired a print of Canaletto's Piaza San Marco of questionable provenance, however.) We don't have visitors. And we don't have benefactors.

Most magazines have their own commercial benefactors. They're called 'advertisers'. A quick shuffle through Light Reading will confirm their absence here. If you're good at abstract thinking you might imagine a LR weighty with ads, if it makes the experience more fulfilling.

What we're getting at, perhaps rather obliquely, is that we're grateful you effected the transfer of funds. And we didn't pick $5.00 out of the air; it's a scientific figure which takes into account expenses and likely sales and which, if our consultants are right, should result in a margin of profit sufficient to allow us to publish yet another advertising-free issue and have enough left over for one of the mid-range sandwiches at Helen's Pizza, which is on Newark Avenue just west of the Grove Street PATH station.

We're sorry we won't be able to carve your name into granite, or even into our sidewalk out front, but the next time our staff takes a much-needed stroll down the walkway along the Hudson River we'll try to find a bunch of really flat stones and skip them, just for you. Yes, we think it's a nice gesture, too.