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Thursday, May 26, 2016
Hallo, neighbour :-)
telescopes and hope for good seeing to get some good views (and perhaps photos) of Mars at its nearest. Mars will not be so close again for 300 years, so this is our only chance, folks!elestial orbital mechanics lead to varying distances between the planets. For the next three weeks Mars (see photo above) is at its closest approach to Earth. So get out your
Mars will be bright, easily seen by the naked eye, better with binoculars, but a big scope will perhaps enable some surface detail to be seen. A 5 inch aperture scope can resolve 1 second of arc. A 20 inch aperture scope can resolve ½ second of arc. Photographs blur features due to integrating the image over time, so achieve only about 1 second of arc. So the best you are going to be able to see are point features 300 kms across, using a regular amateur scope. But line features (e.g. "canals") about 60 kms across might just be visible. Nothing smaller, I'm afraid; so no chance of seeing Mark Watney or Russell's teapot even with a Bar-zoom eyepiece ;-)
But expect to see good photos appearing in the press though, even the non-astronomic general media.
Where to look? If you make a fist at arm's length, this is the angle at which you see Mars below Antares which is a pretty bright star, easy to see. There are star-charts available free online if you need help :-)
Monday, May 23, 2016
On academic standardshe mind - for want of a better noun - boggles!
In the USA there is the phenomenon of "jockships", otherwise known as sports-scholarships. People who are good at sports are awarded scholarships to attend college. Because only students may play college games, this maintains the fiction that they are amateurs, but, through the jockship they are effectively paid to play sports for their college. They don't have to have any academic achievements, but graduate nevertheless. Famously, even Forrest Gump graduated with a bachelor's degree from Alabama State University, and look at his IQ (yes, I do know he was a fictional character, he merely saves me from naming real people!).
In the UK, university students/alumni like to look down on other universities, claiming their degrees are worth(less) than their own. Typically this happens between Oxford and Cambridge. Indeed, for a university reunion in Oxford five years ago I had this derogatory T-shirt made and wore it much to the amusement of the Oxford students :-
Note that the T-shirt is in light blue (Cambridge) as opposed to dark blue (Oxford) and bears the degree MA(Cantab) where Cantab means Cambridge. So far so good, that got the students looking at it. Then they read on and laughed their heads off, "Underwater Basketweaving" being a qualification of no academic value at all ;-) I wonder if any looked at their own qualifications?
Oxford and Cambridge universities are so snooty-nosed that they automatically upgrade a Bachelor to a Master's degree after one year, no addition studies/exams needed afaik. This is just one example of the inflation of academic qualifications :-(
"Underwater Basketweaving" is just an idiom for any number of useless degree subjects. Now we have a new one at the Hochschule Osnabruck in Germany. They have introduced a chair (professorship) in Lawn Care! Seriously! Seriously ;-) A masters degree in mowing the lawn! Graduates will presumably go on to football clubs, golf courses and stately homes ;-)
What kind of grass were they cutting when they came up with THAT idea?
The mind - for want of a better noun - boggles to an uncertain degree :-(
Friday, May 20, 2016
The impossible barber, revisitedhe UK magazine "New Scientist" recently managed to screw up an old chesnut by slightly misquoting the premises thereof, using a pronoun twice where the original used the full noun. See here.
So I'll quote the problem in its original form and show there is a valid solution. "A certain barber is very particular about barber-work. The barber shaves every man who does not shave himself, and no one who does shave themself. So: does the barber self-shave? It doesn’t take long to see the contradiction: If he does, he can’t; if he doesn’t, he must. Such a barber can’t exist."
The solution is that the barber is female (or at least, someone with no facial hair, who doesn't need to shave). SHE shaves every person who does not shave themself and no one who does shave themself. "New Scientist" got it wrong by assuming the barber is male/hairy-faced.
In these days of North Carolina transgender confusion, I respectfully suggest that mine is a valid solution :-)
Yes I do know that this is a question designed to see if pupils can spot a logical contradiction, but there are better ones.
They also get "Newton's cannon" wrong as did he. They have a cannon above the atmosphere fire a ball horizontally, the ball orbiting and hitting the cannonier in the back of the head. However, no gun can fire a bullet/cannonball faster than the speed of the flame-front of the explosive. The deflagration flame front of low explosives such as gunpowder propagates at less than the speed of sound (Mach 1 = 300m/s). So a blackpowder cannon only has a range of 1 to 2 miles. In order to achieve orbit, the cannonball/flame-front would need to travel at about 4800 m/s (Mach 16).
Yes, I do know that this is supposed to be just a thought-experiment to get you to think about gravity, but kids should be taught to question the premises of questions before attempting to answer them.
These are science journalists, supposedly teaching our youth to think properly! I fear for our children's education when this is the best the science-writers can do :-(
In all fairness, they do have a good view of Galileo's balls ;-)
New Scientist : pull your socks up!
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Heavy Metal Naked Girls :-)es, perhaps surprisingly, today's headline is accurate! However, it may also be encouraging search-engine visits from undesirables who read websites single-handedly. We shall see.
These welded together scrap-metal sculptures are on display in the garden of a country cafe´ (Gasthaus am Koenigsweg) in nearby Dahlheim :-
The artist (Jürgen Linnemannstöns) also does impressive wood sculptures. Here is his website :-)
Friday, May 13, 2016
Going to Church ;-)egular readers of this blog will know I am a declared Atheist, so how unlikely is it that I went to church last sunday, and what better day to document it than a Friday 13th? ;-)
The church in question is St.Aegidius, a former Catholic church in Hannoverisch-Munden which has been desecrated/decommissioned (what's the right word?) and sold as private property. It is now an unusual Cafe´, so I took these photos to show you. The photo above shows the entrance door.
This inside shot shows the nave; every other row of pews has been replaced by a long table, providing dining for eight. The breakfast buffet (8 - noon) is first behind the inner entrance door. For lunch there are various light Alsatian tarte flambée and a salad bar. We ate ours outside in the sunshine.
Here an untypical altar boy ;-) The altar area is a luxurious table for four with padded leather bucket seats. The original stained glass windows are still there, but the interior has been modernised with paintings, mostly of musicians, hollywood stars etc, but also Einstein :-)
The original choir empore provides an upstair room. Below on the left the buffet (toilets are behind that) and on the right the bar with a tiny kitchen behind that. The main kitchen is across the lane outside, in what I believe was the original priest's house. So you may get rain in your soup? ;-) The organ was removed and sold, afaik by the OTC, before the church was decommissioned. 4 or 5 young waitresses serving quickly. Friendly women :-)
Outside there is a plaque giving a very short history of the church. Built in the late gothic style in the Middle Ages, it burned down in 1626 when the powder-storage tower next door exploded. Restoration began in 1684 and in 1733 the barock tower (not shown) was added and the church recommissioned (what is the word I'm looking for?). On the outside wall of the north side of the church is the grave of the famous local Doctor Eisenbart, a touring dentist-cum-surgeon of the period around 1700, as shown on right.
Finally, a photo of yours-truly, drinking a bottle of Holy Water and NOT going up in flames ;-) Actually, it is a pleasant energy drink, tasting of lemon, parsnip, ginger and mint. Our light lunch cost much less than 30 pieces of silver ;-) This is a Cafe´that we can recommend, open 8-18 daily.
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
The Iron Curtain Museum @ Schefflergrundfter the end of WW2 Germany was divided into an Allied zone (West Germany) and a Soviet Zone (East Germany) until Re-Unification in 1990. People in the East got so fed up with communism that they began fleeing to the West. So much so that in 1961 the East Germans built an Iron Curtain down the length of the mutual border. This was more to keep their own citizens IN rather than the western people OUT. Much as Trump's proposed wall will be ;-) This is what the "wall" (actually a fence, only in Berlin was it a wall) looked like then, as seen from the east looking west. The strip of land between what became later double fences was mined :-(
This second photo (below) shows some of the details of the Iron Curtain. On the left you can see the automatic gun sensors. If someone tries to scale the fence they will be automatically shot. My friend Frank is standing between the striped border warning pole 2-5 yards east of the actual (white) border pole. The "pill-box" contains 2 chairs, a table, a phone and a heater. Two border guards could be in it, the slot-windows let them fire their AK47s at any potential escapees. The fences were electrified afaik.
The traffic control hut shown below is used by the museum to show a collection of border warning notices; the middle of the river Werra was declared as the border as state fishermen or any other authorised boat users were reminded. Similarly, the centre of the border road was declared as the border as any road-users were reminded; so no overtaking/passing! US personnel were not allowed within 1 km of the border without written permission in order to prevent any inadvertent trespassing. But yes, there were small "gates" in the fence, so that eastern bloc spies could sneak in and out. During the Cold War, I would take my US and UK visitors up to an observation point near the fence, and within minutes our West German border guards would arrive to ask what we were doing there and inspect our papers! On the other side too, East German Border guards (see photo further below) would be taking our tele-photos and phoning in their reports.
This photo shows the uniforms of the various East German border guards, their dogs and their MZ motorcyles for couriers.
But it was not only infantry. They also had rapid-reponse helicopters which were troop carriers. A squad could be put down anywhere within minutes :-(
In my final two photos, I show you a typical East German watchtower, placed every half-mile or so along their side of the fence (or between double fences). Just a steep staircase inside. All-round viewing windows at the top, openable for shooting. Chairs, a table, a heater, a phone, a walkie-talkie radio, cameras with telephoto lenses, binoculars, night-glasses etc. Toilet 1 floor down. Omnidirectional searchlight on the roof.
The photo on the right shows a wooden sculpture put there after reunification when the museum was established. It shows one hand each from the east and the west, breaking a border post into two :-)
This was one part of our VE-day motorcycle outing. More to follow.
Monday, May 9, 2016
71 years after WW2 endedended on May 8th 1945 and a VE-day remembrance ceremony was held at the nearby border museum on sunday because this was near where US and Soviet forces met. Couple of bigwigs there, US ambassador, Russian ambassador, local politicians etc all in posh suits and uniforms and Frank and I in our motorcycle leathers who had gatecrashed the ceremony, but were made welcome anyway 'cos we increased the poor numbers of attendees.
There was a ceremonial choir - who were rather good - who sang - alternating - US-based "freedom" songs and Soviet-based ones. Needless to say, we didn't stay for the political speeches ;-) The museum is on the former border between West and East Germany, i.e. Allied and Soviet occupation zones after WW2. This is how the restored border looks now, restored as it was when Germany was divided.
And what I didn't know until now, was that the NW corner of the state of Thuringen was in the US-zone for 3 months before the borders were re-aligned to become less "jagged" and took on the Iron Curtain form used during the Cold War. So these poor occupants were re-assigned to communism rather than the capitalist zone. Tough shit :-(
More about the East-West Cold War border museum coming in my next post.
Saturday, May 7, 2016
For my US readers :-)ecently, I rode my motorcycle through Marsberg, a small hilltop town in Germany, and saw the roadside poster shown below. So I had to stop and take this photo for my US readers ;-)
As they say in France : "Exigez l'originale´" = Insist on the original ;-)
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Castles for Carol :-)logreader Carol (UK) has been on a snowbirding vacation, visiting her daughter's family in Oz (our winter, their summer). She wrote that she was scared of the Outback though, "...so many dangerous/poisonous animals, snakes, crocs, insects, even fish. I liked the Blue Mountains though, but missed seeing the old castles of UK etc."
So these two castle photos are for you, Carol, I took them on a recent ½ day motorcycle trip; they are less than 50 miles from here.
The photo above is of the old caste ruin at Polle (now an open-air theatre) and the motorless ferry across the Weser which I'd just missed. The ferry is attached to an upstream overhead cable (out of the picture to the left) by two link cables. The ferryman shortens the front link and lengthens the rear link. The ferry is then at an angle to the river which thus pushes against it, moving it across the river, no engine needed :-) I'd just missed him, so he's waiting at the far bank until he gets a paying load to ferry back across, then I get to cross towards the castle. Had to wait over 20 minutes :-(
This photo shows Castle Calenberg, situated on a hilltop with a commanding view across the countryside. Photo slightly fuzzy due to the zoom, I took it from almost a ½ mile away. The castle was built around 1250 AD, scene of a war between the bishops of Cologne and Paderborn 1299-1307, in 1464 the last of the "von Calenberg" line died and various bishops fought about ownership of the castle. Between 1535 and 1597 it was on the demarkation line of the Reformation, so religious fighting took place, the original castle being destroyed in 1622 by "Mad Christian". In 1675, as part of the witch-hunting, a warlock was burned alive here. 1875 the Schuchhard family bought the ruin and by 1881 had restored it as shown in my photo; they still live there, so it's not open to the public :-(
Haven't been to Australia since about 30 years ago, Carol, when I was doing a lecture tour. Only the SE corner really, but did fly up to Alice Springs and climber Ayer's Rock; the usual touristy things. I found Sydney to be a very laid-back city, reminded me of San Francisco :-)
Our kitchen cupboards are covered in travel stickers like these because cars get re-sold but kitchen cupboards don't :-)
Monday, May 2, 2016
Passing Windn a knee-jerk reaction to the Fukushima tsunami nuclear catastrophe, the German government shut down all nuclear power plants in Germany. They then accelerated a program of "green" power - wind, solar, biogas etc - by providing huge subsidies. The result of all this is that we now have the most expensive electricity in Europe and windy sites are all unsightly.
We live in a valley. But both to the north and the south of our village are high plateaus. The wind used to blow across the flat hilltops unheeded. Now there are dense windfarms like the one shown here (3 miles south of us). I doubt they could get much denser without each turbine spoiling the windflow to its neighbours. Farmers living nearby are rocked to sleep by the "whup, whup, whup" of the rotors on a breezy night, except that they can't get to sleep due to the flashing lights on the turbines, put there because of the nearby airport (10 miles away). The lights still flash even though the airport is closed 23:00 - 5:00 :-( And it's no longer safe to fly over the area in a glider because the places you could put the glider down if you lost lift have mostly gone :-(
The wind turbines produce unneeded electricity at night and the turbine owners get paid for it regardless, because there are few ways to store it. That contributes to the expense of course. So now the government is going to subsidise the cheaper electric cars which inter alia charge their inadequate batteries at night from the unnecessary peak. We tax payers have to cover this subsidy too, as well as paying for the expensive electricity :-(
And the threat of a nuclear catastrophe has not gone away either! Just because they've shut down the nuclear power generation does not make the nuclear plants 100% less radioactive. The nuclear waste has just become available sooner :-(
Fessenheim, on the banks of the Rhine, in France, just 1 kilometer from Germany, a french nuclear reactor is happily producing power full steam ahead. The cooling-off pools are below the mean water level of the Rhine in its valley. So that's okay then??? No. There are historical records from that area of the high water mark reaching over 7 meters, which would flood both the reactor and the cooling pools. The resulting highly radioactive river water - unlike Fukushima where it went straight into the sea - would flow through Germany through the cities of Frankfurt, Cologne, Düsseldorf etc then on through low level Holland and their major cities before reaching the North Sea. Holland - like Belgium - are stocking up on a million doses of Iodine. Germany? No :-(
And so, barring that someone comes up with a feasable, scaleable, fusion reactor (and Bezos, Allen, Thiel etc have each invested in fusion R&D companies), we're left between the devil and the deep blue sky when it's passing wind.
Do you like the government's energy policy? I prefer passing wind ;-)
On academic standards
The impossible barber
Heavy Metal Naked Girls
Going to Church ;-)
Iron Curtain Museum
71 years after WW2
For my US readers :-)
Castles for Carol :-)
TBBT model atom wrong
First Bifocals :-)
In memory of The Bard
Chimera via Gene Splicing
Filthy Food? :-(
Potwin, Kansas :-(
Starshot as a Death Ray
Ain Bulldog Blog
Finding life hard?
Not Always Right
Rants from t'Rookery
Spork in the drawer
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This blog is getting really unmanagable, so I've taken the first 12 years' archives offline. My blog, my random decision. Tough shit; YOLO.
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DEUTSCH : Für alle Seiten, die auf dieser Website verlinkt sind, möchte ich betonen, dass ich keinerlei Einfluss auf deren Gestaltung und Inhalte habe. Deshalb distanziere ich mich ausdrücklich von allen Inhalten aller gelinkten Seiten und mache mir ihren Inhalt nicht zu eigen.
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Blog Dewey Decimal Classification : 153
FWIW, 153 is a triangular number, meaning that you can arrange 153 items into an equilateral triangle (with 17 items on a side). It is also one of the six known truncated triangular numbers, because 1 and 15 are triangular numbers as well. It is a hexagonal number, meaning that you can distribute 153 points evenly at the corners and along the sides of a hexagon. It is the smallest 3-narcissistic number. This means it’s the sum of the cubes of its digits. It is the sum of the first five positive factorials. Yup, this is a 153-type blog. QED ;-)
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