"When Billy Batson speaks the name of an ancient wizard, he is magically transformed from boy to man -- the world's mightiest mortal!"

That name is Shazam and he becomes Captain Marvel.

The SHAZAM story started in 1939 and apparently as of 1994 was still going... I should note however that I have never seen a SHAZAM comic, I have seen the odd Captain Marvel toy in stores, and I only know the name because my Uncle used to dress up in a cape and try to fly off the coffee table (according to my mother).
Captain Marvel originally appeared in comics published by Fawcett Publications, and rights to the character were later purchased by DC Comics. However, Marvel Comics had several "Captain Marvel" characters who bore no relation to the original.

In addition to being the name of the spectral Egyptian wizard who granted Billy Batson superhuman powers, SHAZAM was an acronym for six mythological figures of whose abilities Billy would partake. They were:

Solomon - Wisdom
Hercules - Strength
Atlas - Stamina
Zeus - Power
Achilles - Courage
Mercury - Speed

In geology, this is a particular type of line drawn between two facies, or rock types where a gradational boundary exists. These are conformable boundaries, meaning each layer was deposited right after the other, with no gaps.

For example, let's say the rock type we start with is muddy, limey rock with lots of calcarious fragments included. This would form just beyond a reef, where the water is too deep for the reef to survive, which receives fragments of the reef when storms come along. As the sediments thicken, the water becomes shallow enough to support a reef, which would show up in the rock record as a limestone full of coral, crinoid, bryzoan ad other fossils. This would be a gradational boundary because the reef wouldn't form overnight, rather a few of each species would move in when the conditions were right, and after some time a full fledged reef would exist.

In the rock record we would draw a shazam line between these two rock types like so:


  reefy limestone

\ |\ |\ |\ |\ |\ |\ |\ |  shazam line
 \| \| \| \| \| \| \| \|

  mud and limestone
 with fossil fragments

As you can see the shazam line depicts interfingering lithologies, which is much more accurate than drawing a straight line between the two. The shazam line must always be drawn with the upper points pointing left. All the shazam lines should be drawn in the same colour, or in a different colour for each identical change.

You cannot draw a shazam between two rock types where the boundary is sharp. Instead there must be either a transgressional boundary (representing a change in sea level) or an unconformable boundary (representing an unconformity, or a gap in the rock record.)

A short while ago I met up with an old friend from university, and we went out for the evening for some discussion and the quaffing of several beverages. Sat in a smoky basement bar, supping pints of 80 shilling, my attention started to wander as my friend animatedly lamented the decline in fortune of his preferred football team. Enquiring as to the source of my distraction, I gestured towards the speaker on the far wall.

"What the hell is that song they're playing?" I asked.

Instead of replying, or attempting to bullshit that it may have been Talking Heads but he wasn't sure, he gave a thin smile and produced his mobile, pressed a few buttons before holding the device with the ear piece pointed towards the music. I sat and watched as his phone beeped to acknowledge the receipt of an incoming text message. My friend read the message, and after pausing to down his pint, announced;

"it's I Travel by Simple Minds. And it's your round."



Shazam is a service for mobile phones that identifies songs. Designed to settle arguments in bars and clubs, or just when you keeping missing the name of that song you keep hearing on the radio, Shazam requires to hear only 20 seconds or so of a song before it searches through it's database for a match. You can use Shazam by dialing 2580 on your mobile. The service costs 50p a time, and will work on all 4 of the major mobile networks in the UK. The service is not available outside the UK at present.

Shazam seems to have a fairly large library of songs stored away, and the text message with the name and artist of the song you query normally arrives within a minute or two of the original call. If they are unable to identify the song you are not charged, but receive an apologetic text. The only song I've found Shazam has been unable to identify so far was by Mogwai.

Despite their failings with Mogwai, the service seems to cope well with new and pre-release songs, and I'll expect it covers pretty much anything that gets in the charts. While finishing off this write-up I turned on the radio, in an unscientific attempt to see if Shazam could identify the first song I heard. Seconds later I received this text message:-

"SHAZAM tagged THE DARKNESS performing "Growing On Me". Go to www.shazam.com to buy the music, see a list of all your tags, & more."

Go to the website mentioned above for more information if you like, but its primary purpose seems to be to sell ringtones and other things you don't really need. 2580 is all you need to know, try it and wow your friends, before the mass-marketing takes off and we all get sick of the damn thing.

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