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Eunoia, who is a grumpy, overeducated, facetious, multilingual ex-pat Scot, blatantly opinionated, old (1944-vintage), amateur cryptologist, computer consultant, atheist, flying instructor, bulldog-lover, Beetle-driver, textbook-writer, long-distance biker, geocacher and blogger living in the foothills south of the northern German plains. Not too shy to reveal his true name or even whereabouts, he blogs his opinions, and humour and rants irregularly. Stubbornly he clings to his beliefs, e.g. that Faith does not give answers, it only prevents you doing any goddamn questioning. You are as atheist as he is. When you understand why you don't believe in all the other gods, you will know why he does not believe in yours.

Oh, and after the death of his old dog, Kosmo, he also has a new bulldog puppy, Clara, since September 2018 :-)

Some of my bikes

My Crypto Pages

My Maths Pages

Friday, March 27, 2020

Measuring the size of the Earth

Some fifty years ago I lived in north Switzerland and still have a friend Willi who lives there; he is also a geocacher and so also owns a GPS. He lives almost exactly south of where we live. Last friday, we cooperated to measure the size of the Earth, repeating Eratosthenes experiment from 2222+ years ago.

Eratosthenes is best known for being the first person to calculate the circumference of the Earth, which he did by comparing angles of the mid-day Sun at two places, a known North-South distance apart.

Now last friday was the spring equinox - you can only do this experiment at an equinox - and it was sunny at local noon in both our locations. Ideal conditions. Willi went to the famous covered bridge across the river, near Kyburg, the Kyburgerbrugg, which is at 47.46 N 8.747E.

Using a stone on a string, he erected a temporary pole exactly vertically and measured the length of the (shortest) shadow at local noon. He was thus able to estimate the tangent of his latitude, finding himself to be at latitude 47.5° N. Not far off from what his GPS told him.

Knowing his longitude from his GPS after a phone call, I walked the dog along a local field road until I was at the same GPS longitude 8.747E and did what he did at the same time. Same longitude, so the same local noon. I measured myself to be at latitude 51.6, not far off from what my GPS said (51.62 N). Obviously it is a little difficult to measure when the pole's shadow is at its shortest, but we both had an estimated accuracy of +/- 0.1° ; FWIW, our solar estimates of local noon were almost a minute off from each other by GPS time :-(

Now Google Maps says we are 462 km apart as the crow flies north-south. The difference in our latitudes is 51.6 - 47.5 = 4.1 degrees +/- 0.2°. So by extrapolating to 360° we can calculate the circumference of the Earth to be (360/4.1)*462= 40,566 Kms. The angular inaccuracies giving a result somewhere between 38,679 and 42,646 kms. Always estimate your inaccuracies. These 3 estimates valid for longitude 8.747E and assuming the Earth is a sphere.

So, not only did we prove that the Earth is not flat (if the Earth was flat then the Sun’s rays would cast identical shadows at the same time on all days everywhere on Earth assuming the sun is far away), we measured the circumference of a sphere pretty accurately as well. Of course we did not account for the fact of the Earth being a spinning geoid - not a perfect sphere - but considering that Eratosthenes method is 2222+ years old, still pretty damn good : the physicist and geocacher in me both rejoiced:-)

For comparison, this is what mapmakers thought the Earth looked like just before Columbus:-

Thankyou, Willi, for enabling this experiment! An international amateur geek cooperation!

Jenny (Ibiza) wrote "You really are a nerd, measuring the planet yourself!" Not only that : I'm proud to say that, over the decades, I've seen ALL of the planets of the solar system with my own eyes (using my own scope), albeit not in NASA quality.
Schorsch (D) asks "WHY does it only work on the equinox?" The Earth's axis is tilted (23.5°) relative to the plane of the Earth's orbit around the sun (which is why we have seasons). So the sun is higher in the sky in summer and lower in winter. Only on 2 days , spring and autumn equinoxes, is the sun above the equator at noon. Latitudes are parallel to the equator. Therefore only on such days is the angle subtended by Willi's and my poles and the shortest (noon) shadows on horizontal planks at their base equal to our respective latitudes.
Cop Car sent this cartoon about Saturn-like rings around Earth ;-) Of course, Earth has no natural rings, otherwise we'd be able to see them. After all, you can see some satellites (e.g. ISS) even with the naked eye, as they whizz silently overhead.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

No more threesomes!

Well, our government (Germany) has tightened the rules about social distancing even more. Now only two people can go for walks (etc.?) together, others have to keep at least 1.5 meters apart. All because some idiots couldn't voluntarily follow the rules when they were still suggestions. So now there are laws and punishments for disobeying. These are the new fines as of today in our state (NorthRhine-Westphalia) :-
  • More than 2 persons together : €200
  • Keeping less than 1 meter 50 cm apart : €200
  • Barbecue party : €250
  • Visit inside an old people's home or a hospital : €800
  • Opening your pub/cafe´/bar/disco/gym etc €5000
  • obstinate repetition of any of the above : upto €25000 !
I think it was Charlie Sheen/Harper who defined : 1 person sex = masturbation, 2 = normal, 3= threesome, 4= swingers, 5= swingers+a voyeur, 6= orgy ;-) So we'll see what the government denies us next :-( Glad I did my experiments in my twenties, 50 years ago :-) However, I admit that I think this social distancing will flatten the infection curve here. In the UK, less so; people there are still e.g. crowding onto the London tube. In the USA, idiot Trump wants to relax the distancing rules too early to save the economy so that he'll be re-elected. He'll just kill more people that way; the man's a self-centered fool :-(

Locally, the village shop has shut, bakery items only on pre-order now and served via the side door. As it is, I do the supermarket shopping alone twice a week (wearing gloves etc), SWMBO walks the dog alone, we avoid seeing people as far as possible. Masseurs are closed, pedicurists, hairdressers, etc, any thing that involves physical contact. So we'll be sore, getting long nails and turning gray over the next few weeks, I suppose.

Our common new motto : Divided we stand, lest together we fall! Look after yourselves folks, and stay safe and optimistic!

Derek (Canada) wrote " Truly a Dystopian world that we are all slipping into......yes like you, the world is shutting down around us, except for food, alcohol and pot stores! Shoppers are now greeted at entrances by staff keen to sanitize you and your cart handles! Gloves are suddenly back "in fashion", so too face masks becoming common place as one has to navigate past fellow shoppers, at 2 yards distant! Now 2 is company, but 3 is now an illegal crowd! Lots of discarded blue gloves to be found in grocery parking lots these days, signs perhaps of a frustrated gauntlet challenge to the unseen viral enemy? At our two local shopping centers, the public sitting areas normally occupied by coffee drinkers, snackers and animated Italian and Greek retirees playing cards.....have all dissapeared! BTW, Click here to see a statistical snap-shot of the global scene." Pot stores? We should be so lucky!
Cop Car wrote " Trump cannot relax any social distancing "rules" since he has never issued any - nor has he closed anything down. All he has done is talk - well - blather. It has been the wary governors, county commissions, and mayors who have issued prudent restrictions. Our own "social distancing rules" just went into effect at 12:01am, today - suggested by the county commission, but ordered by the top health official in the county. For the past two weeks we've been living under a "request" from the county (and the previously mentioned emergency orders of our on-the-ball state governor). The two nurses in our family work at skilled nursing homes that have been working under lock-down orders (issued by the company officials) for the past week. Amusingly to me, among the essential businesses that are allowed to remain open are liquor stores. Restaurants, although they may stay open, may only serve "to go" meals - preferably picked up by a customer who stays in a vehicle (McDonald's will carry orders out to truckers whose rigs cannot physically pass through their drive-in window line.)" Bar Trump, many in the USA are picking up the ball and running with it. I fear for David and his family, who live in NY. NY is the US epicentre :-(
Jenny (Ibiza) laughed "I love your steampunk mask in your left sidebar!" Stolen from the web somewhere.
Evelyn (D), a friend of SWMBO, who knows we have bulldogs, sent this cartoon she found

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Krueger's Whisky Museum

On PI-day, Schorsch commented that this blog was getting too high-brow, and suggested I "Write something normal people can relate to". So today's blog entry is for him; so it's about booze ;-)

Last month, when we were still permitted to do tourist travel, SWMBO and I spent a week in Germany's northernmost state, called Schleswig-Holstein, which borders on Denmark. I was driving along the road from Rendsberg to Eckenfoerde when I came across this old thatched building by the roadside : it is Krueger's famous Whisky Museum, so I stopped to take a look (and a taste) and do some shopping :-)

It is a Cafe´(with whisky-cakes), a tasting-hall, a museum and (thankfully) a shop, all combined. So I started off by looking around the (single malt) whisky museum.

Perhaps the best 'overview' cupboard contains 'Treasures of the past' , bottles dating from the fifties, sixties and seventies. Not for sale, obviously. Some had never been casked, and so were clear - like Manx whisky - rather than a golden brown.

Another cupboard contained ancient whiskies from the twenties and thirties and before. One bottle there had been ordered by german general Erwin Rommel pre-war, but then WW2 broke out, so he never got to collect it. All very unique and never opened.

After an hour in the museum, educating myself and drooling, I moved on to the shop.

The first row consisted of the milder whiskies, not really my taste, so I moved on.

This row was much more to my taste, peatier whiskies all, like Islay and Laphroaig.

Finally, and much more expensive, was a row of rare malts, all over 25 years old.

Now, if I've managed to whet your appetites, I would recommend you read this book. It is Alfred Barnard's 1885 tome "The whisky distilleries of the United Kingdom", over 500 pages, reprinted as ISBN-13: 978-1841586526.

Of coarse(sic!) the shop also sells blends, american bourbons, irish whiskey and japanese 'whisky' for the respective tourists who don't know any better. Sad indeed!

Charles (Germany, ex Scotland, like me) sent this looped video link telling us how to pronounce the names of various malt whiskies. Weigh ta geugh :-)
Schorsch (D) asks "So what did you buy?" A Talisker (Skye) single malt, 10 years+ old, for about 30 Euros. Very, very, peaty :-)

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Shutdown in Germany

Thought I'd give you a short summary of what is happening here in Germany with respect to Coronavirus measures. Situation changes weekly, but this is where we are this week.

The main focus is on reducing social contacts in order to delay and reduce the peak of new infections. Bars, clubs, discos, pubs, theaters, cinemas, concert halls, museums, trade fairs , playgrounds, amusement parks, zoos, casinos, gaming halls, betting shops are all compulsorily closed. Sport halls, swimming pools, fitness studios, and yes, even the brothels are shut down (thou shalt not covid thy neighbour's wife ;-).

Now the schools and kindergartens are almost closed (except for the kids of medical staff, hospital staff, police, i.e. whose parents are in essential services). University term starts delayed. Education goes online as far as possible.

No vacations abroad or domestic; no hotel stays for tourists, only for people at work. No bus tourism allowed. Very restrictive border crossings for work purposes only. No church/mosque/synagogue services allowed. Less than 25 people at funeral services, no wakes. Only 1 visitor per day (max. 1 hour) for hospital and hospice patients (and no children visitors under 16).

What's still open? Supermarkets, weekly outdoor markets, drink-shops, apothecaries, drugstores, gas(petrol) stations, banks, post offices, hair-dressers, cleaners, pet-food stores, DIY-stores, gardening stores, newspaper kiosks. Restaurants may only open 6am-6pm; (less) tables (at least 5 feet apart). Sunday shopping now allowed.

What restrictions may still be in the pipeline but are not in current use? Personal non-work travel. Curfews. Rail travel and air-travel restricted to people with permits. (e.g. the state of Baden-Würtemburg has simply closed all airports). But they are STILL letting refugees into the country. Why??? No national emergency declared (yet). So military not deployed (yet).

So how does this compare with your country? Write a comment. And stay healthy.

PS: SWMBO and I are staying indoors (self-quarantining?) as much as possible and are as yet uninfected :-)

Cop Car wrote " I suspect that you and your readers hear all too much about what's going on in the USA; but, I'll tell you that, in the State of Kansas, our governor declared a state emergency on March 12 and closed all Kindergarten through grade 12 schools on March 17. Hunky Husband and I have eschewed family gatherings since mid-January, having great-grandchildren who are pre-teens. In addition, our family is protective of one 37-year-old member who has Multiple Sclerosis, and a 63-year-old who is to have hip-replacement surgery next Monday - nor are we seeing friends. Otherwise, we wash our hands and maintain distances. Kansas has recorded 1 or 2 deaths, 16 additional confirmed positive tests, and 417 negative tests as of 2:30pm on March 17." Social distancing is a good strategy, not just because our government requires it. Most people here are following gov-laws and advice, though some are not thinking it through (e.g young mums taking pre-teens with them to the supermarket, loathe to leave kids alone at home).
John (UK) asks "What about the workforce?" Some manufacturers are shutting down (e.g. Opel, parts of VW, etc) because their just-in-time single-source supply chains are stuttering. Big office companies (e.g. SAP, some central banks, etc) are telling employees to work from home. Microsoft offered work-from-home cloud SW for free(?) but the cloud collapsed under the load, I heard. Airlines are throttling back on the number of flights as demand decreases due to border closure. Many local restaurants etc are just firing people :-(
Cop Car wrote " John asked about the workforce. Here in the Wichita, Kansas, area, employment took a hard hit when the 737MAX was grounded several months ago. Spirit, a spin-off from Boeing, took over some of the old Boeing-Wichita facilities from which Spirit had been producing about 60% of the 737MAX structure. The layoff hit at least 2800 workers. Now, not only are the Spirit people out of work, but COVID-19 is increasing the hurt. Textron Aviation (parent company of Cessna Aircraft and Beechcraft in Wichita) is set to "furlough 7,000 Wichita workers for four weeks. That time will be unpaid, though Textron says employees can use vacation and earned time off during the furlough." I might explain that "earned time off" is usually extra time worked by a salaried person (who cannot draw overtime pay) that may be called upon to provide paid time off at a later date." Yes, you don't have an adequate social security net in the USA. Next time, vote Dem!
Ed (USA) asks "What's the worst that could happen? " In the USA? Europeans stockpile TP, Americans stockpile more guns, shooting anybody nearby who sneezes. So Trump declares martial law and cancels the elections :-(
Cop Car replied about 'Americans stockpile more guns", saying " As I wrote, before, our (Democratic) governor used her emergency powers to close schools. She also forbade foreclosures and evictions from homes and/or termination of utility services during this crisis. In response, the (Republican super-majority) senate "voted to prohibit the governor from seizing ammunition or limiting the sale of firearms during the current crisis." That was along with barring her from a few other actions. BTW: When my friends (Republicans, all) asked me in 2016, what I thought of Trump, I replied that "He's a clown." I take no responsibility (see what I'm learning from him?) for Trump and his noxious gang." My newest joke is that Trump will claim he can cure COV-Id-19 by attaching two iron atoms to the virus core - thus: COV-FeFe. So I'd reply by telling him there should be one iron atom at either end of the viral core : Mr.Trump FeCOVFe!
David (NY,NY) wrote "Trump does not have the constitutional power to cancel the election!" True, but he doesn't know that, so he'll try (see Revelations 13:5 NIV) :-(

Saturday, March 14, 2020

PI day

Our american friends write their dates in the format MM/DD/YYYY (perhaps one of them could explain to me how this came about) and so today, 14th March, is written there as 3.14 , and this being an approximation to PI, they celebrate PI day today, hopefully at 1:59 pm :-) Thus this is an excuse for me to blog a short history of PI approximations through the ages.

= 3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41971 ...

is the ratio of the circumference of any convex curve of constant diameter to that diameter. Usually a circle is stated, but this better definition includes e.g. Wankel rotors, and others of that ilk with more than the Wankel's three lobes :-)

Going back to old-testament times in the bible, I Kings 7:23 implies that = 3. The bible got it wrong as usual, and at about the same time, Ahmes, an egyptian scribe, wrote that the area of a circle is like a square on 8/9 of its diameter, thus giving = 3.16049...

Meanwhile in Greece, Archimedes used a 96-sided polygon to limit to between 3 + 10/71 (3.14085...) and 3 + 10/70 (3.142857...) ; so Archimedes also gave the schoolchild's approximation 22/7 (3.142857...) ; meanwhile, Ptolomy worked with = 377/120 (3.1416...)

About 480 AD in China, Tsu Ch'ung-Chi gave = 355/113 (3.1415929...) which is 7 digits of accuracy and is the approximation often taught here today.

Not until the 15th century did the arabian mathematician Al-Kashi reach 16 digits. A century later, dutch mathematician Ludolph van Ceulen (1540-1610) reached 20, then 32, then 35 digits. They are on his gravestone in the church in Leyden, almost illegible now, but there is a cover plate with the same content.

If you drew a circle around the equator, his 35 digit precision would reach the size of the thermal vibration of the molecules of the ink he wrote with. Any additional improvement (see below) is merely of arithmetical, not physical, interest. In fact, it took almost 100 years to get much more precision. In 1706 John Machin manually calculated 100 digits of PI.

Finally, half a century later, Johann Lambertz (1728-1777) proved that is irrational (i.e. is not expressible as a fraction). His personal best approximation was 1,019,514,486,099,146 / 324,521,540,032,945.

Here is a short proof that is irrational.

A hundred years later, in 1853, William Shanks manually calculated to 707 places, but made a mistake in the 528th position. All these calculations so far were done manually. The error was not found until 1945 when Ferguson used a desk calculator. Same arithmetical method, but just so much faster (and accurate). The sequence of digits 999999 occurs at position 762 (which is sometimes called the Feynman point), which many use as an excuse to break off the search. Starting in 1949 computers were used, ENIAC managing 2037 places in 70 hours runtime :-) The highest precision for PI that I know of, went out to 12.1 * 1012 digits; it was done by Yee and Kondo in december of 2013.

Yours truly in 2014, at the spiral PI wall in the Math museum in Giessen.

FWIW, today is also Albert Einstein's birthday ; another reason to celebrate. Einstein was much on a war footing with quantum theory ("God does not play dice") and after reading Max Born's 1926 treatise on matrix mechanics is said to have declaimed "How I need a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy chapters involving quantum mechanics!" Hint: count the number of letters in each word.

BTW, back in 1897 in the US State of Indiana the House of Representatives (in House Bill 246) proposed to rule (because I Kings 7:23) that =3. I guess US politicians were just as stupid then as they are now with Trump, and provably so.

David (NY,NY) wrote "3/14 is Einstein's birthday? Yes, but also the day Stephen Hawking died :-(" And the day Karl Marx died too; his grave is in Highgate cemetary, London, UK. I've visited it there.
Doug (Canada) wrote "Re: American dates. I suspect it is because most people in CA and US seem to speak the date out in that order. So instead of saying we went to the theatre on the 1st of August, 2019 we usually say we went to the theatre on August 1st, 2019. That would be my guess." Maybe they're just used to reading it that way. But how did it start?
Cop Car sent this info " MIT Celebrates 'Pi Day' With Star Wars-Themed Video ( Posted by EditorDavid on Sunday March 15, 2020 @12:34AM from the using-the-Force dept. DevNull127 writes: MIT has a long-standing tradition. High school seniors who've been accepted into next year's class at MIT are informed on Pi Day (March 14th - that is, 3/14). And each year there's also a slick video touting the URL where students can check whether they've been admitted. (Last year's video documented a massive project that involved 30 sacks of charcoal plus several hundred pounds of - no, that would be telling...) But in 2018 Dean of Admissions Stu Schmill appeared in a Star Wars-themed video titled "The Last Dean." (The 2017 video had also paid homage to another Disney franchise...) So for 2020, MIT's video returned again to their version of Star Wars universe. Congratulations to the class of 2024!Even America's National Security Agency got into the Pi Day fun this year, daring readers on Twitter to try to crack the code hidden in this sentence: "Now, I make a tasty delicious or hidden treat and share messages decrypted through numbering..." " That's a new acronym to me :-) And I found it a neat touch that the MIT video is exactly 3:14 minutes long ;-)
Schorsch (D) opines "Your blog is getting very boring again Stu. Write something normal people can relate to :-(" Thanx for the tip.
Jenny (Ibiza) asks "So how DID they calculate PI by hand back then?" Like this :-)
Iwan (RU) suggested "Or by throwing darts :-)"
Pergolator wrote " I also wondered why we put dates in month / day / year order. I suspect we put the month first because that gives you a general idea of where you are in the current year. The day of the month doesn't matter until you know what month you are dealing with. The year is last because most dates deal with the current year. Only after time has passed does the year become important." Sounds credible.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Bike Shop Open Days

At this time of the year, local motorcycle shop owner Dirk Berlage has an "Open Days" weekend when he displays new 2020 bikes he has immediately for sale and a number of older second-hand bikes, not all of which are for sale but just for display. Here are some of my sunday mobile-phone photos of those I liked best.

Ducati Panigale S V4 2020, 214 hp, about 200 mph.

2020 V2 Indian painted US Military Green.

2020 overly customized Kawasaki Z900 with bad taste US Roulette wheels.

And now on to some of the older bikes, usually well restored.

1972 restored Kawasaki 900cc Z1, restored by Klaus at Checkpoint.

Also 1972, a restored Kawasaki 750cc H2, 3 cyl. 2-stroke.

Old Harley V2, no details given, restored by Checkpoint.

Oldest bike on display, a 1936 BMW R4. AFAIK not for sale.

Lena (Canada) wrote "Riding motorcycles is dangerous, I'm sure!" No, in these days of Coronavirus you are in more danger riding public transport, buses, trains, planes and especially cruise ships! Motorcyclists are just one or two persons and wearing a visored helmet :-)

Sunday, March 8, 2020


It seems that sometimes there are people who can see into the future. Let me tell you about this piece of clairvoyance.

For over 40 years, Goscinny and Uderzo have been writing and drawing a popular french comic book series Asterix and Obelix, the adventures of two Frenchmen (Gauls) in the days of Julius Caesar. I had a complete set in German which I gave to the 8-year-old son of my friend Regina. I have some in Latin, some in various regional dialects, some in English, and many in French. The puns are best in the original french, of course.

In this particular comic book from 1981, an english translation produced in 2017, there is a chariot race between our heroes and the roman baddie. Now look at the name of the baddie (who even wears a paper-bag mask)!

Is that clairvoyance or what? ;-)

Meanwhile, there are lots of Coronavirus stories making the rounds. Doug sent me this photo taken in a RC cathedral (oh ye of little faith!):-

And then there is this story from the spanish press : In Valencia (a city in Spain) the health authorities were doing their weekly health checks (STDs) of the ladies of ill-repute in a local brothel when they found that one of them was infected with the coronavirus. So they rounded up all the girls and all their customers present at the time, 86 people in all, and put them into compulsory quarantine for a fortnight. Two whole weeks! Imagine having to explain THAT to your wife and/or your boss!

And to my American readers : I hope none of you get infected by the coronavirus; but if you do, go to a Trump rally and thank him for ignoring the problem and be sure to shake hands with corona-czar Mike Pence, who is protecting you with his prayers :-(

Doug (Canada) wrote " A bunch of US and Canadian politicians were at the AIPAC conference last week and did a lot of mingling and handshaking. Pence was one of them and it turns out that 2 people there tested positive for COVID-19, later Pence and Pompeo were at the annual CPAC conference and at least one of the attendees there has tested positive. In addition Pence visited a school in Florida and shook hands with every student there; the fifteenth person Pence shook hands with was infected. My hope at this point is that Pence will try and pray it away, and of course fail, while Barr, Pompeo, and Trump, all being old farts like us but in terrible health will die from it. That would immediately put Speaker Pelosi in the oval office LOFL" :-)

Link to the previous month's blog.
Recent Writings
Measuring Earth's size
No more threesomes!
The Whisky Museum
Shutdown in Germany
PI day
Bike Shop Open Days
Getting to 365.2425 days
Our nearest neighbour
Palindromic numbers
Hiking through Patagonia
My 60's Coding history
Stormy Monday Blues
Moscow's Metro
Telescope resolution
Domino puzzle
Brexit tonight :-)
Scud Running kills
Pizza my arse!
Astronomically Stupid
U.S. Aircraft Carriers
No memory lockout :-(
Factorial fun
Going to Mars
Holiday avian dining

Ain Bulldog Blog
All hat no cattle
Balloon Juice
Billions of Versions...
Cop Car
Digby's Hullabaloo
Earth-Bound Misfit
Fail Blog
Finding life hard?
Greg Laden
Mostly Cajun
Observing Hermann
Starts with a Bang
Yellowdog Grannie

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