Kilkenny Cats, Kola Nuts and Antimatter Rockets

Wondering what the connection is? Priya Raju came across these interesting things in the past week. 1. To fight like Kilkenny Cats This is a type of battle where both opponents ultimately destroy each other. Excerpts from worldwidewords:

This refers to an old story about two cats that fought to the death and ate each other up so that only their tails were left. It’s a battle that goes on until both sides have been destroyed, an all-out, no-holds-barred fight to the finish. It’s often used figuratively of two people who are vehemently opposed in attitudes or opinions to the extent that they will never agree and will spark fire off each other whenever they meet. The idea has been summed up in this limerick: There once were two cats from Kilkenny
Each thought there was one cat too many.
   So they fought and they fit
   And they scratched and they bit
And instead of two cats, there ain’t any!

[You may, incidentally, like to note the use here of fit, the dialectal past tense of fight.]

Where the expression comes from in one sense is easy enough: everyone’s agreed that it refers to the ancient town of Kilkenny, on the River Nore in south-east Ireland. There are three stories in modern books about how the expression grew up in connection with the town; all of them repeat submissions to the British publication Notes & Queries in the Victorian period.

2. Kola Nuts – their claim to fame is the fact that an extract from Kola nuts is a key ingredient in Cola drinks including Coca Cola. But in Africa, where Kola nuts originated, it has a lot more significance than that.

Excerpt from Congocookbook: [Caution: lot of popups on this site]

Kola nuts are important in many African societies, particularly in Western Africa. Besides the fact that Kola nuts contain caffeine and act as a stimulant and anti-depressant, they are also thought to reduce fatigue and hunger, aid digestion, and work as an aphrodisiac. In some parts of Africa, kola nuts are given as gifts to visitors entering a home, usually with some formal ceremony. Offering the kola nut is a gesture of friendship and hospitality. The kola nut ceremony is similar to the traditional American Indian peace pipe or breaking bread in a religious context. Elsewhere, before a marriage, a bag of kola nuts are often given by a groom to the parents of the bride. Kola nuts are a used in rituals performed by religious healers.

3. Antimatter powered rockets are on the anvil (Via Nationalgeographic News) A New Mexico company has just completed its initial studies of an antimatter-powered rocket that it hopes will someday take astronauts to Mars in 90 days or less. Apparently, Antimatter as a possible power source for rockets was suggested first by Austrian engineer Eugene Sanger in the 1950s and the idea was popularized by Star Trek (Enterprise is supposedly powered by Antimatter) and other TV serials and books. Before you make plans to be on an antimatter powered rocket, you may want to listen to Roger H. Miller, a professor emeritus of physics at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. He says [from the same National Geographic article linked above]:

“I think it is worthwhile to point out that in the mid-1950s, knowledgeable people thought useful controlled [nuclear] fusion power generation [which, in contrast to nuclear fission—commonly used in power plants—generates energy by combining hydrogen atoms to create helium] would be achieved in about 25 years. Today it is still believed to be about 25 years away.”