For a time, Siena enjoyed reading almost daily (especially while on the potty) Peter Sis’s Madlenka’s Dog. It is the story of a young girl in a city who wants but cannot have a dog. She takes an invisible (or is it only imaginary?) dog on a walk around the block and meets various people, including bassist Charles Mingus, which for some reason has always amused me. Maybe because mama and I associate Mingus with his song, “The Shoes of the Fisherman’s Wife Are Some Jive Ass Slippers,” though I also played a more traditional Mingus tune in college jazz band.
The opening page of text of Madlenka’s Dog, as can be seen at the Amazon link above when you look inside (first pages), has the following text:
In the universe, on a planet, on a continent, in a country, in a city, in a house on a block where everyone is walking a dog, …
This is a list that spans the macro scale of all creation, yet there is a glaring flaw in the parallel structure. Working backwards, the narrator allows for a multiplicity of people (“everyone”), blocks (“on a block”), houses (“in a house”), cities (“in a city”), countries (“in a country”), continents (“on a continent”), and yes, even civilized dog-walking planets (“on a planet”). Yet, the narrator presumes the existence of a single universe. “In the universe.”
Why adopt such a pro-Drake view that there might be multiple civilizations of the dog-walking variety, yet not allow for parallel or alternate universes? And why didn’t the editor catch this?
Clearly it should’ve been, “In a universe.”
And that’s how I read it to Siena every time.
As a postscript, let me note that making the multiple-dog-walking planets assumption is technically a subset and slight extension of the Drake approach (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_equation), as you do not need to factor in f(sub c) or L, which is to say, we don’t need to factor in civilizations that release detectable signs of their existence into space or consider for how long they release such signs (though you need to work from the alternate expression at that link above and assume a known number of stars). And we’d need to add in a factor for “fraction of civilizations that form living quarters into city blocks and have children that walk dogs.”