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About
Stu Savory
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 he also has a neat English Bulldog bitch 'Frieda'.

And her big son 'Kosmo'.


Geocaching Stats


Some of my bikes


My Crypto Pages


My Maths Pages


Friday, August 31, 2012

Quantum Daleks ;-)

Came up with this design for a geeky Dr.Who T-shirt for my next SF-convention visit :-) Eat your heart out, Dr2. Sheldon Cooper!

Those are Feynman Diagrams for quantum transitions in the middle. Needless to say (unless you are a non-physicist) those interactions are two (electron+positron->gamma rays) annihilations.

Annihilate! Annihilate! ;-)

You may copy my design for non-commercial purposes but please leave my copyright mark on the diagram. Prospective commercial users must email me for a licence to use.

Comments (1):
Jenny (Ibiza) grins "Why does that look like the FSM (Flying Spaghetti Monster)?" Because Dr.Who is fictional?


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Quality Time Survey ;-)

Yesterday BILD newspaper published a survey by the Institute for Questions about the Future (Institut für Zukunftsfragen) which asked Germans about their top 10 wishes for their spare time (aka more quality-time). Multiple answers were allowed. Here are the top 4 of the results.

  1. 58% wanted more time for doing spontaneous things.
  2. 57% wanted more sex.
  3. 56% wanted more time for their hobby.
  4. 54% more time playing with children.
Personally, I think the sample was biased. They asked too many of the Catholic clergy ;-)


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Zipf distribution

On monday I blogged about the frequency of use of the various blades in my Swiss Army Knife. As I would have a priori expected, it is (almost) a Zipf distribution. That means that the individual blade-usage probabilities are the reciprocal of their ranking. Thus rank 2 has ½ the probability of rank 1 and rank 3 has ⅓ the probability of rank 1 etc. etc.

Drawn on log-log graph paper, this would be straight line (albeit only defined for integer values) sloping slightly down.

George Kingsley Zipf (1902-1950) was an american linguist who noticed this distribution of words in large written text corpora. In the Brown corpus (about 1 million words), the most frequent words are #1 'the' (7%), #2 'of' (3.5%), #3 'and' (2.3%). Only 135 vocabulary items are needed to account for half the (american) Brown Corpus. That might explain the limited vocabulary of the hoi polloi ;-) Spoken language has a different vocabulary from written texts, unfortunately, in the UK 'fuck' seems now to be #1 :-(

"Zipf himself proposed that neither speakers nor hearers using a given language want to work any harder than necessary to reach understanding, and the process that results in approximately equal distribution of effort leads to the observed Zipf distribution" (Quoting Wikipedia). This principle of effort-minimisation also explains why the most frequently used words are short ("I") and rarer ones are longer ("floccinaucinihilpilification" ;-) See also Hufmann coding.

"Hold the newsreader's nose squarely, waiter, or friendly milk will countermand my trousers" is the unlikely non-Zipfian sentence 1st said by Stephen Fry ;-)

Comments (1) :
Hasheem (currently in D) asks "We learn English in school. How much words must we learn?" 3000 words will give you 95% everyday comprehension. There are special vocabularies for specific subjects (e.g. physics, etc). Only about 80% (70-90%) of the words I use in this blog are in that Oxford list of 3000 words because these are advanced texts. Tough shit ;-)


Monday, August 27, 2012

Swiss Army Knife Usage Stats

I happen to own a Swiss Army Knife. It is just a simple (9-blade) knife, not a really fancy one just for showing off. Awhile back, my biker friend Schorsch was teasing me "Bet you don't what all the blades are for, and even if you do, you'd never have occasion to use them all!" Challenge accepted! So we agreed that I would keep track of the next 100 usages (without forcing unusual-use situations) and report on the blade usage stats. Here it is Schorsch!

Knife : Used 42 times. A usage is defined as an opening of a blade, regardless of how many times used in that usage session. Seriously sharp!

Bottle opener : Used 17 times. OK, OK, I'm a beerdrinker ;-) The (unfortunately rounded) end is purportedly a small screwdriver head. Never used. The quadrant between the screwdriver head and the bottle-opener is sharpened, presumably to cut (electrical) wires. Never used.

Screwdriver : Used 12 times. This is a screwdriver for woodscrews mainly and I do geocaching as a hobby which is where I used it. I wouldn't use it on metal screws like on my motorcycle, I don't think it could take the torque. I suppose you could use this blade as a bottle-opener too; I never did. I don't know what the U-shaped cut-out at the top is for; I never used it.

Tweezers : At first I expected this to be a toothpick until I pulled it out of the handle. Turned out to be tweezers. Used 10 times, because I own two bulldogs and sometimes have to remove tics from their fur after going 'walkies' in the woods. Noone else would use them this much, I suspect.

Scissors : Used 7 times. (Just) OK for cutting paper and/or fingernails if you don't have any serious scissors at hand. Too small for cardboard. Sharp though :-)

Corkscrew : Used only 6 times, I don't drink much wine. The grey rectangle is for (un)locking the major sharp blade and/or saw: a safety feature I like :-)

Saw : Used 4 times. And then only when geocaching. The pitch of the saw is far too rough. OK for twigs, ropes, and small branches only.

Phillips screwdriver : Used once. Useless, ill-fitting cross-headed screwdriver. Ruined the screwhead :-( The crescent is for getting this blade out of the knife.

Spike? : Used once, to open a can which had lost its pull-ring. OK, Schorsch, I don't know what it is really for. Just a spike with a hole in it. I suppose I could thread a piece of string of known length through the hole and use it as a pendulum for timing purposes. But WTF is it? Knives used to have knobbly things for picking boy scouts out of horses' hooves. Maybe this is a descendent thereof? Anybody know what this blade is for?

BTW, the maker is Victorinox. Maybe they can use this statistical feedback???

Comments (10) :
Jenny (ibiza) quips "You used the cutting blade 2½ times more often than the bottle opener? How (un)likely is that?!? ;-)" Sarcasm alert! I'll talk about the probability distribution in my next post,OK? ;-)
Jan Micheel (D?) has a tip for me "Photo #2 is a can opener, that's why the quadrant is sharpened. One of the few features of my knife I ever used (until I learned how to cook). Never needed the awl or the tweezers. And the toothpick gets a bit yucky after 25 years :-)" Aha! Thanks. So the bottom photo is an awl?
Brian (UK) wrote, telling us "There is another manufacturer called Wenger." Was! Victorinox took over Wenger many years ago, afaik.
Renke (D) corrects me "Though Wenger is a subsidiary of Victorinox both companies have still independent product lines and marketing. So Wenger is not only a brand but still a manufacturer of Swiss Army Knifes. They use different logos: Victorinox versus Wenger. The "real" army knifes are much harder to distinguish". With & without a lanyard ring perhaps? As ever, I bow to Renke's superior knowledge, isn't that knife of me :-)
Renke (D) replies "'Superior knowledge'? lolwhut? nah, 'basic google-foo' is more appropriate..." FWIW, $foo is the name of a Perl programming magazine.
Piet (LUX) tells me he has "... a Credit Card sized Survival Tool like this one." I call that a gimmick, not a useful tool. I have a Leatherman as a serious multitool.
Viktor (UA) gives us a tip "... magnetising the knife will let you use it as a rough compass when suspended from the awlhole....Magnetising the tweezers will help you pick up tiny steel screws..." The second is a good idea; I magnetise my screwdrivers for that very reason :-)
May (USA) asks "Is there a Swiss Navy?" You're pulling my leg, right? But seriously, landlocked Switzerland does not have a high-seas navy, but it does maintain a small fleet of military lake patrol boats (e.g. Lake Constance borders on Germany and Austria). I lived in Gottlieben (CH) for 6 months and on the Isle of Reichenau (D) for a year. One hard winter (69/70/71?) I used to skate across the lake, smuggling booze, much to the consternation of the Swiss customs guys, whose bicycles were not the best of transport facilities across the frozen lake ;-)
Renke (D) added "May was only half-kidding (or by chance correct): There IS a Swiss Navy, though the one with containers and not artillery. Merchant marine.
Hasheem (currently in D) asks "What knives are permitted?" Depends on the country you are in. Here in Germany blades longer than 4.7 inches (12 cms), flick knives, butterfly knives, stabbing knives etc are illegal. I believe you have to be at least 18 too, like for e.g. paintball guns. (Yes, Renke, I know that's an approximation ;-) NB: This is NOT legal advice!


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tiger kills zookeeper :-(

Yesterday in the zoo at Cologne (Germany), a zookeeper lady (43) was working in the tigers' area, incautiously without having first locked the tigers in their cages. One of the tigers attacked her, biting her in the throat. She subsequently died. The head zookeeper clambered onto the roof and shot the killer tiger so that rescue crews could attempt to save the injured lady, but to no avail :-(

Here's the BBC summary.

Comments (2) :
Brian (UK) has some breaking news too "Moonwalker #1, Neil Armstrong, died saturday aged 82." Boldly gone, Neil. RIP. Actually folks, the VERY first words said after man landed on the moon were by Buzz Aldrin :- "Contact light! Okay, engine stop. ACA - out of detent." Armstrong acknowledged "Out of detent" and Aldrin continued, "Mode control - both auto. Descent engine command override off. Engine arm - off. 413 is in." Then and only then, did Armstrong say "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed!" Myth busted ;-)
Brian (UK) replies "Not quite verbatim, Stu :-( Here's the actual transcript".


Friday, August 24, 2012

R.I.P Bill Thurston

Another good man gone :-(

Three years younger than I, Thurston was a pioneer mathematician in low-dimensional topology. In the 80s he was awarded the Fields prize (think : Nobel prize for Maths) for his work on hyperbolic 3-manifolds. Other notable awards were the Oswald Veblen Prize in Geometry (1976), the National Academy of Sciences (1983), and the Leroy P. Steele Prize (2012). He was most recently a professor of mathematics at Cornell and had been Director of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley.

His Erdös number was just 2 :-)

I can't say I was ever able to follow his Monster theorem, which took 20 years until proven (then by G.Perelmann in 2003). Much was over my head.

On tuesday he left us for that great 3-manifold in the sky. Requiescat in pace.

Comments (1) :
Demeur wrote "Hat tip to all the amazing mathematicians and their contributions. My personal favorite is Benoît Mandelbrot who in 1975 came up with fractal geometry. Without his work we would not have cell phones or costal mapping." Costal mapping? What a rib-tickling typo ;-)


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

GOP-knocking coincidences?

R egular readers of this blog will know that I am a real fan of anagrams, especially those which reveal hidden secrets. So it is noteworthy - if no great surprise - that "Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan" really does anagram into "Ayn Rand : my ultimate porn" ;-)

Comments (3) :
Harry (UK) points out that "FYI, 'Ayn Rand : Atlas shrugged' is a 'Dreadnaught-slag's yarn' " Another coincidence!
Demeur wrote "Correct me if I'm wrong but there's no 'd' in Paul Ryan. So how do you get Ayn Rand out of it? Close but no cigar. " The 'D' comes from the 'and', sir!
John (USA) quips "The GOP motto in Tampa, which is "We built it", anagrams into both "Wit, but lie" and "I lube twit". Your choice ;-)" Yes, and "Tampa florida convention" anagrams into "Me, vapid, confrontational" ;-)


Monday, August 20, 2012

Classic motorcycle races in Schotten

Just another photoblog today, fresh from the classic motorcycle races in Schotten yesterday. Just five of us set off from my house at 8 a.m. on the 360km (220 mile?) round trip this year, to spectate at the annual classic motorcycle races in Schotten in the state of Hessen. At 8 a.m. it was still cool enough for a decent ride but at the track it was a blistering 32°C in what little shade there was. Perhaps for this reason there were so few spectators, 15,000 instead of the usual 25-30,000.


We were clever enough to refill our tanks just before arrival, avoiding the huge queues you get at departure time. Planning ahead meant that we had also brought shorts and sandals, so we changed out of our leathers in the shade of the trees on Post Office Hill. Amongst the spectators' bikes also parked there were these two rare Munch Mammoths shown above; less than 500 of these were built, no two identical (so they are real artisan's bikes).


As we arrived the sidecar outfits were doing their laps. A lap on the quite tiny Schotten town circuit is only 2km or so. The photo above shows a couple riding their BMW from the pre-kneeler generation, Earles forks and drums.


We continued on through the riders' paddock where I took this bird's-eye view of a BMW kneeler outfit. BMWs are boxer twins, as you can see in the photo. They are called kneeler outfits because the driver kneels in the two troughs just behind the carburetors and gets fried by the heat from the air-cooled cylinders ;-) The tennis balls in the inlet trumpets are to prevent sand and insects getting into the engine while the outfit is parked. They also stop small boys stuffing toffee papers and half-eaten ice-cream cones into the intakes too ;-) The steering damper doubles as a chin-rest, it would seem ;-)


For comparison, the photo above shows a later Yamaha kneeler. The handebars are almost vertical. The engine is a four-in-line two-stroke, water-cooled, delivering almost twice the power of the earlier BMW. The exhaust expansion chambers exit the engine to the front and are led across the front of the sidecar, cooking and deafening the passenger at the same time ;-) The engine is offset to the left so that the rear chain lines up correctly with the rear wheel. This means that there is a high-speed oily chain thrashing about between the driver's legs. The hot orange-coloured breather pipe is just under the driver's belly. His testicles rest on the (foam pad covered) battery, which, I am sure that he fervently hopes, will not lose any acid during the race ;-)


Continuing through the riders' paddock, we came across several red Ducati Desmo "Mach 1" 250 cc racers similar to the one I owned back in the 60s.


My competitors back then raced Greeves Starmakers and e.g. the Bultaco 250cc Metralla two-stroke singles, as shown in the H35 photo above.


Moving up a class to the 350cc machines, we came across this Aermacchi, a regular participant. The owners have a great sense of humour, as illustrated by the doll "Luigi" in memory of a certain tiny mechanic ;-) Back then, Harley took out a licence to produce Aermacchis for the US market because they had no product to fill the low end niche of the market. This is why the cast crankcase has a Harley-Davidson logo on it (just to the left of Luigi).


Competition for the Aermacci might have come from the OHC Horex, but very few were made. The Horex OHC chain cover reminds me of my AJS 7R.


This little beauty (shown above, on static display) is Tom Petty's 500cc works Norton Domiracer (placed 3rd in the TT back then). It is being restored after destruction by a major fire and should be racing next year the owner says.


Top of the line is this pre-WW2 1000cc JAP racer (what a tiny drum brake!)


Car company Audi, a VW subsidiary, own the rights to DKW. They had a cool(!) hospitality tent with two dozen bikes on static display. These include the DKW 2-stroke compressor machine number 2 as shown above. The blower is the black cylinder lying across the frame ahead of the engine and below the carburettors. Bike number 16 - shown below - is the 'Singing Saw', an aircooled normally-aspirated two-stroke triple, which got its name from the infernal shreik its engine makes when on the power band.


Comments (2) :
John Gall (USA) wrote "I've been enjoying the bike and plane pics in your last two posts. Most enjoyable seeing some bikes I'd never seen or heard of before. From the few times I've seen film of side car racing I'd developed the impression that the drivers and passengers might be a bit bonkers - your photos certainly strengthened that and moved it pretty close to bats**t crazy. Gonna have to do some research on several of those bikes. Thanks for sharing. Very nice photos." Thanks John, it was a good - if extremely sweaty - day's outing. The heat was debilitating. One solo race had to be red-flagged because one of the racers fell off his bike, collapsing due to heat exhaustion. Luckily, in the hairpin he was only doing about 10-20 mph, so no injuries :-)
Morag (Scotland) asks "So you changed out of your leathers. Did you cart them around with you, or what? You have no cases on your Street Triple, unlike your previous FJR." Let me tell you an old biker trick. I took a long steel wire bicycle lock with me. Threaded the wire through a jacket arm and a trouser leg and the helmet chinpiece then through the front wheel. Hey presto, all your stuff can be left at the parked bike and noone can steal anything :-) I even thought to take suntan oil and a flat cap to cover my baldness as you can see in the Ducati Mach 1 photo :-)


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Model aircraft meet in Haaren today :-)

Just a photoblog today, fresh from the model aircraft fly-in at Haaren today. Excuse me if I can't name all of the types...

Polish Wilga.

Sopwith Pup.

Beech Staggerwing.

Heinkel and Me109.

unidentifieds. MIG-3s perhaps? anybody know?

Avro Lancaster.


De Havilland Tiger Moth.

Super Sabre.

Mitsubishi Zero.

Comments (2)
Demeur (USA) wrote "Interesting that you should post about model airplanes. I had two of those when I was 12 or 13, minus the engine. Couldn't figure out how to get them together as some of the instructions were in japanese. :-(" Zero comprehension, huh ;-)
Ian (UK) wrote "Your unidentified pair look like MIG-3s to me too. Here is the Wikipedia page on the MIG-3". Thankyou.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Nessie ahoy?

Just last week, there was another alledged sighting of Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, as unexploited by the Drumnadrochit & Castle Urquart Marketing & fleece the tourists club ;-)

George Edwards, who for 26 years has been 'hunting' the Loch Ness monster, took the photo with a digital camera after observing Nessie for over 20 minutes. Digicam. 20 minutes. One photo. Yeah, right! Coincidentally, Edwards also owns the Loch Ness Cruise business where he takes gullible tourists out on boat rides in search of the monster firsthand.

Honi soit qui mal y pense!

Now - for those of you who can read German - here is a poem about Nessie which I wrote way back in the winter of our discontent (1989/1990). The rhyme scheme is trochaic tetrameters as in Longfellow's Hiawatha. Enjoy!

Wenn du fragtest, wie die Zeilen,
Diese Reime hier entstehen,
Ich werd sagen, "Aus den Bergen,
Aus den Bergen hoch im Norden,
Aus dem Wald und Moor (dem tiefen),
Aus den Seen, aus dem Hochland,
Aus der Seele eines Schotten."

Jock MacDonald hieß der Schotte,
Hochland-Schotte, fern der Heimat,
Sitzt in Henglarn schreibt Gedichte,
Schreibt Geschichten voll mit Terror,
Mit dem Horror dunkler Seelen,
Quält der Teufel seine Seele?
Tiefe schwere, schwarze Seele?

Tief ist auch das Loch Ness Wasser,
Wo das Monster zeigt sich manchmal
vor den Schotten auf dem Heimweg.
Auf dem Heimweg aus der Kneipe,
mit zu viel des guten Whiskys,
Single Malt, alt, nun zwölf Jahre,
wärmt die Seele Jock MacDonalds.

Whiskyfahne stoppt Gedanken;
Läßt ihn auf dem Heimweg wanken,
Auf dem Heimweg bei dem Wasser.
Tiefe, dunkle, alte, Wasser
wo das Monster nun seit Jahren,
sich versteckt vor all den Scharen
die mit Kameras es suchen.

Mit der Kamera, Japaner
und die Amis, voll beladen
Telephoto-Objektiven
in den schwarzen, schweren Taschen.
Auf dem Rücken die Stative,
hoffend Nessie dort zu knipsen
Auf dem See, dem Loch Ness Wasser.

Lebt die Nessie, unser Monster
in diesem Wasser oder Seelen,
Dunkle Seelen Hochland-Schotten?
Lebt nur dort und nicht bei Sonne
wo Touristen mit den Kameras
sie belichten und mit Wonne
An die Presse tun berichten.

Nun steigt das Monster aus dem Wasser,
In den Mondschein dunkel glitzernd.
Wasserperlen fallen tropfend,
Fallen Tropfen, auf die Straße,
Auf der Straße silber glänzend
Auf der Straße vor dem Schotten,
Hochland-Schotte, auf dem Heimweg.

Jock erschreckt sich ganz gewaltig,
ahnt, die Nessie vor sich stehend,
kann die Nessie nicht klar sehen,
Dunkel in dem Mondlicht stehend,
Fahles Mondlicht läßt nur ahnen,
Läßt nur ahnen, wie die Nessie
fletscht die Zähne diesen Abend.

Mondhell ist die Nacht für Nessie.
Aus dem tiefen, schwarzen Wasser,
Dieses Monster hat gerochen,
hat gerochen seine Fahne.
Whiskyfahne herb und rauchig
Rauchig wie der Torf am Wasser
wo das dunkle Monster wohnt.

Ganz betrunken ist der Schotte
sicher niemals, obwohl schwankend.
Neben ihm die alte Mauer,
alte Mauer Efeu-rankend,
Hilft der Schotte sich zu stützen,
während er die Flasche Whisky
leert in einem vollen Zug.

Holt er dann aus seiner Tasche,
schwarze Zigarette, eine Masche,
wie Jock aus dem Ausland schmuggelt,
Holland oder Frankreich schmuggelt.
Im Fischerboot bei dunklen Mondschein
bei Viertelmond und Flut zu schmuggeln
so verdient er schwarz ein Zubrot.

Und die Nessie sie hat Hunger.
Sie hat Hunger auf den Schotten.
Lecker schmecken Hochlandschotten,
besser noch als alle Sprotten.
Alle Sprotten, die sie immer
täglich jeweils ohne Wimmern
frißt im Unterwasserzimmern!

Zigarette zwischen Lippen;
Streichholz holt er aus sein Sporran,
will die Zigarette zünden,
aber Nessie will ihn munden,
streckt deshalb den Kopf nach unten,
schreckt den Schotten mit ihr'n bunten,
regenbogenfarbnen Augen.

Zündet Jock die Zigarette,
seine schwarze Schmuggelware,
Zündet gleich die Whiskyfahne.
Flammen aus dem Munde stoßend
schreckt er Nessie, die die Lippen
lecken wollte, ganz im Hunger
ihrem Hunger auf den Schotten.

Flammenwerfend wie ein Drache,
torkelt an der Mauer der Schotte.
Nessie hatte Angst vor Drachen,
Drachen die vor tausend Jahren,
als Rivalen fraßen Walen.
Und sie warf sich in das Wasser
und sank dabei 'ne Fischerflotte.

Von Tourismus kann man leben,
nur wenn die Leute dort was geben,
wenn das Monster sich tut zeigen
Und nicht dort wie ein recht feiger
Drachen sich im Tiefen schweigend
Angst vor Flammen und dem Whisky.
Der zwölf Jahre alt Malt Whisky.

Ohne Geld kann man nicht leben
Nicht ohn' Whisky, ohne Haus.
Und so unser Hochlandschotte,
ging dort weg, wanderte aus.
Ging nach Deutschland, ging nach Henglarn,
Schreibt Gedichte um zu leben,
Wenn Du dies glaubst, gib einen aus!

Comments (1)
Demeur (USA) wrote "As to your post in Nessy I find it unusual that no carcasses have ever washed up on shore. Much like we've never seen any remains of a big foot here in the Northwest." Perhaps Nessie is immortal? ;-)


Monday, August 13, 2012

"Many ornery" supporters?

Over the weekend, we heard that in the USA, Romney has picked Ryan as his GOP running-mate (veep candidate). As ever, my mind immediately started searching for anagrams of Romney/Ryan, ridiculing the GOP candidates. There are no really good ones, but here is a selection :-

  1. A team with "many ornery" supporters.
  2. A team that could "merry annoy" you.
  3. Against supporting the Japanese currency : "Marry no Yen".
  4. The most unconventional pair : "Nary ye norm".
  5. They standardise far-fetched tales : "Norm ye yarn".
Romney/Pawlenty would have been "Permanently Yow!". Even better, Romney/Portman gives us "Momentary Porn" ;-)

If Romney had chosen Palin we could have had the much better anagrams "My Nonpareil" (sic!), where his "Nominal prey" was "Mainly Prone" while they did "Romp inanely" ;-)

Of course the playboy Dems have the "Babe domain", sharing "A badman bio", who keep abreast with 007 :"Abeam Bond I", support lesbian voters "Maid on Babe", and have sex with the First Lady "Do main babe".

I suppose everyone already knows that "Disown playwright", and "withdrawing ploys" result from "playing with words"? Am I the only anagram fan here? I'll get my coat :-(

Comments (1) :
Brian (UK) expounds "So McCain/Palin gave us a 'Niacin clamp', whatever that is?" Well, since Niacin is vitamin B3 and thus an essential human nutrient, I can only surmise that 'clamp' was used with the secondary meaning of 'a pile of bricks ready for processing in a furnace' ;-) Alternatively, the USA would have been 'In calm panic' had they won ;-)


Friday, August 10, 2012

Why stuff has colours

Kids ask the damndest questions, hard to answer adequately, because you don't know how much they already know. This one from a 15-year old "Stu, why does some stuff have colours and other stuff is just black or white?". I wonder how much of this reply she understood :-

Well, you know that stuff is made up of atoms. And Nils Bohr's model of the atom has electrons in quantised shells orbiting the heavy nucleus, see my first rough sketch shown below. [No, nuclei are not coloured and electrons are not starshaped, this is just a cartoon]. I've drawn 3 electrons in the second shell, because only 2 fit in the inner shell.

And you know that white light is made up of all the colours of the rainbow, as Isaac Newton demonstrated using a prism to split white light into its component parts. So when the multicoloured (white) light impinges on matter (aka stuff) the electrons move out to outer orbits, absorbing the light. No light gets reflected. So the stuff appears black. See second sketch, below. After the light is turned off they drop back within a very short time to their ground state. [Yes, this is a simplification, but bear with me].

Now if the stuff (matter) has its outer electron shells further out, the light quanta impinging may not be energetic enough to move the electrons into higher orbits. So the light is not absorbed at all and the stuff appears white (see third sketch below) :-

Finally, you need to know that the shorter the light wavelength (bluer), the more energy in its quanta. In this fourth sketch (below) the red light and green light get absorbed because their quanta need less energy, and the blue light is not absorbed because there is not sufficient energy to let the electron reach the outer shell. So that particular material appears blue.

Mixed (non-primary) colours appear depending on the energy levels of the light quanta and the energy levels of the electron shells. Was that understandable? Would a 15-year old been able to follow that?

Comments (1) :
Barbara (USA) opines "I doubt it. here's a 60 year-old who could barely follow you :-(" Sorry. Nature ain't simple.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

On the Beach

Methinks the Japanese have poor memories.

On this very day in 1945 the USA dropped a second atomic bomb onto Japan, this time at Nagasaki.

Just last year, Japan suffered a third nuclear catastrophe, multiple core meltdowns at Fukushima. But the Japanese appear to have forgotten this already, because they are seen bathing On the Beach at Fukishima !

P.J. O'Rourke has called Shute's book 'On the Beach' the "best novel ever written...". Go read it, if you have not done so! Or see the 1959 movie.

Comments (2) :
Jenny asks "Why not the 2000 film?" 'Cos it doesn't stick to the book :-(
Demeur wrote "It's really odd how times have changed. When I was a young boy of eight or nine our class went on a field trip to see the very first nuclear power plant. Photo link. You will note three men in white suits standing on the catwalk to the right of the core being lowered into place. Our class was permitted to stand where those men stood and look down into the reactor. I believe I asked our tour guide what would happen if one of us fell into the pool that surrounded the core. His reply "you'd get wet". I find this quite interesting because in talking to a coworker who had worked on a decommissioning of a nuclear plant, he informed me that they were not permitted in that area without protective equipment. At present I don't think you can even tour a plant for security reasons. How times have changed or more fitting ignorance is bliss. " As long as you were at least 250 cm from the core, the water would save you from the radiation. Which is why it is OK to stand on the catwalk. I covered this in an april 2011 post. By the way, the PR man for the UK AEA was at one time a certain Terry Pratchett! How unlikely is that? One in a million, I know ;-)


Monday, August 6, 2012

Mars Curiosity Distractions

Today is August the 6th - GMT, but in Hiroshima it is too - and for some reason the USA chose this date to drop a one ton nuclear powered device (=a rover robot) onto Mars. The rover (that'd be a good name for a dog) is intended to search for evidence of past life (as we know it, Jim) on Mars. In order not to falsify the search-for-life results, NASA had to get the lander and rover absolutely sterile. But I bet the SW still has a bug ;-)

Imagine it found a small box, inscribed "Property of Erwin Schrödinger" and opened it. The quantum wave function collapsed 14 minutes ago (pace Albert) and - wait for the punchline - Curiosity killed the cat ;-)

Scott Maxwell is the nominated driver of Mars Curiosity. Back on Earth he drives a red Prius. Imagine the sheer oneupmanship of having a bumper sticker "My other car is on Mars" ! Howard Wollowitz may just steal this idea to impress the ladies ;-)

If excessive media reporting about Mars Curiosity (i.e. NASA trying to provide some self-justification) gets your goat, just buy yourself a small telescope. An 8 inch reflector on a Dobsonian mount (together $500) is small enough to fit in your car, enabling you to drive to dark-sky areas. You can then try the cheaper alternative yourselves, Milky Way Curiosity ;-)

Just watched the successful landing. Congratulations, NASA!

Comments (3) :
Cop Car (USA) wrote "You should have heard my groan from clear across the pond, Stu. (I thought I heard Albert AND Erwin twirling in their graves.) I fondly recall the skies of my youth (1940s). They were gorgeous! Even in 1986, if one were in a sparsely populated area (rural NM, for instance) it was possible to find a good place from which to view Halley's comet. I drove from my home in Albuquerque NM to a place near the Isleta Indian reservation, back on a "dark" road. What did I find there? Many cars pulled along the side of the road. I was not the only gawker that night." But on a dark night, your eyes may not have had a "customary iris" ;-)
Harry (NZ) tells me that "Variants of the Schrödinger joke were in all corners of the world at once, even NZ! ;-)" Aha, transmission by Fernspukwirkung, as Albert predicted ;-)
Jenny (Ibiza) punned "@CopCar, yours were groans? Mine were Snickers ;-)" My flabber is ghasted!


Friday, August 3, 2012

Bradley Wiggins Fail :-(

After winning the Tour de France for the UK and then Olympic Gold for Team-GB, cyclist Bradley Wiggins then displayed his ignorance by posing with his country's flag UPSIDE BLOODY DOWN! :-(

Face palm! :-(

Comments (6) :
Jenny (Ibiza) asks "You've blogged about this before. Remind us how it should be." The broad white diagonal should be on top next to the pole (on the left). He should have grabbed what is the lower left corner in the photo.
Pierre (F) asks "What is the difference between GB and the UK?" See Venn diagram below. Set members are shown in blue, set names are shown in red. PNG taken from Wikipedia, to whom thanks.


Pierre (F) replies "That's not quite right. Some of the Channel Islands (Chausey) are French.". True, and they only name the 2 Bailiwicks there. And the setnames 'British Islands' and 'UK' should be in red too.
Pergelator (USA) objected "RE: Union Jack. I'm not sure, but it looks to me like the only indication that the flag is upside down is the band of webbing along the left hand edge, where it would presumably be attached to the flag pole. As there is no pole in this situation, can you you really claim it is upside down? Is there any significance to the placement of the white diagonal bars? Or was it just arbitrary?" It is called the Union Flag. It is only the Union Jack when flown from the jackstaff of one of Her Majesty's ships. Officially, if no pole is present, it is assumed to be on the left. But you are right, the webbing shows where the pole is intended to be. Therefore I CAN claim it is upside down. The counterchange of saltires is a fimbration in accordance with heraldry's rule of tincture where colours (like red and blue) must be separated from each other by metals (like white, i.e. argent or silver).
Brian (UK) surprised me OT with "Arrogantly British. You are the anagram fan; have you noticed that 'David Cameron' gives 'Random Advice' ;-)" August 6th anagram : 'Enola Gay - Little Boy' is what you get from 'Negotiable Loyalty' ;-)
Morag (Scotland) adds "He's not the only one to get it wrong; Mo Farah too :-(" He's a Somalian refugee, naturalised Brit, so maybe he was never taught it? I think it is infectious, after all Andy Murray did it too. I think TeamGB should provide a little lesson to their athletes, not just the zipwire fail guy.
Update 8/8/12 : Horseriders Charlotte Dujardin, Carl Hester und Laura Bechtolsheimer got it upside down too :-(


Thursday, August 2, 2012

My Donkey Kong namesake :-(

B rian (UK) tells me that someone (at Nintendo?) is taking the piss out of me and has named a game character after me :-(

Apparently, in the Nintendo game "Donkey Kong Country Returns", Stu Savory is the boss of the Ruins area, appearing in the level Ruined Roost. Stu Savory is just an egg before he is hypnotized by Gong Tiki. After being defeated by Donkey Kong and/or Diddy Kong, Stu's "armor" will further crack, causing him to fall down, and then fall apart exposing his torso, resulting in Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong comically placing their hands on their eyes to avoid looking at his body, yet peeking anyways. Stu is a giant red bird with blue and yellow-tipped feathers and blue talons. He has a big yellow beak, blue eyes, and purple eyelids. Stu's most basic attack is throwing three bombs. To defeat Stu, Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong will have to throw bombs at Stu. Once Stu is hit with bombs six times, he will be knocked unconscious and Donkey Kong can defeat the Tiki that possessed him. The bird is only referred to as Stu, but in the sound track the song title is 'Stu Savory'.

What did I do to deserve this nonsense? Is this to be my legacy?

Comments (1) :
Demeur (USA) wrote "Look at the bright side. At least your last name isn't Crapper." Or 'Tarmac Shopper' ;-)


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Twin Bonanza here :-)

Our local airport - at which I was flying instructor for over ¼ century - is home to the Quax Club for owners of historic aircraft. Until recently all of these were single-engined. But now they have acquired N3670B, a 1954 Beechcraft B50 Twin Bonanza, from Oregon, USA. The mining company which owned N3670B had left it unused for the last 8 years, that's not good for an old plane :-(

Three Quax members, pilot Dirk Sadlowski and two other pilot/mechanics fetched the 58 year old 'T-Bone' themselves. 12,476 kilometers (7752 miles) and 50 flying hours for the trip. Radio relaying via airliners because their own old radios were too weak for transatlantic calls. Oregon(USA) via Boston(USA), Gander (Newfoundland), Goose Bay (Canada), Narsarsuaq (Greenland), Reykjavik (Iceland), Faroes, Wick in Scotland (Hi Jimmy!), to EDLP - Paderborn (Germany). 160 knots at 12,000 feet (above that they would have needed oxygen). No heating and Greenland is 10,000 feet high, so it was -15°C in the cabin. They had to wear gloves, thick coats and fur hats. The left magneto of the right motor quit on the flight-leg to Wick, so they had to repair it there with some scottish mechanics' help. Soon all 276 hp were working again and there were no other problems. What an adventure! Well flown lads :-)

What makes transatlantic hopping in an old small plane adventurous? Well, on my plane at least (1969 PA28-140), each of these legs were beyond the point of no return, so you need stable good weather at your leg's destination. Waiting for it lengthens your trip. Narsarsuaq airfield (Greenland) is at the end of a blind fjord, so be sure to choose the right fjord to enter. However, they do have a rescue boat :-) Small planes like mine have no de-icing gear. Navigate by dead-reckoning, you are out of range of navigation beacons. Back in the early 1980's there was no GPS. You don't know the real wind vectors either, just the forecast and what you tracked while still in range of any land-based beacons. 25° magnetic variation and more, adjust your compass regularly ;-)

I still have a Gander dollar that you got when landing there. It's worth more as a souvenir than actually using it :-)

Comments (7) :
Schorsch asks "What safety gear would you have for the transatlantic trip?" 1) Carbon monoxide detector for my cabin heater, 2) Short wave radio (loaned) which has more range than the line-of-sight VHF, 3) Wear a hooded neoprene suit for the overwater legs 'cos the Atlantic is frigging cold if you have to ditch, and you won't have time to put it on :-( 4) Rubber dinghy (uninflated) attached to your wrist by a lanyard so you don't lose it when exiting after ditching, 5) Flares, a 12-gauge Verey pistol, and bright orange water dye, 6) ELT (emergency locator transmitter, triggered by impact), integrated GPS, 7) Large bore gun to fend off hungry polar bears (required equipment for Canada and Greenland), 8) 4-5 days food and drink, etc etc...
Peter (UK) asks "How long are each of the legs on the B50 trip?" Great circle distances : Boston to Gander 1470 kms, Gander to Goose Bay 632 kms, Goose Bay to Narsarsuaq 1250 kms, Narsarsuaq to Reykjavik 1240 kms, Reykjavik to Faroes 798 kms, Faroes to Wick 445 kms, Wick to Paderborn 1060 kms. The B50 has a still air range on standard tanks of only 1333 kms, so they must have stopped somewhere between Boston and Gander. West to East, they would have had following winds, so were not cutting it quite as fine as their still air range suggests :-)
John Gall (Hiawatha, Iowa) asks "Could you post any information you have on the work done on the aircraft prior to the flight? Thanks. I enjoy your site!" Given that the transit time was 50 hours, they would have had at least a 50 hour check. But I'll be at the airfield Friday evening, so I'll see if I can find anyone to ask and then update my blog, OK? I'm assuming the seller paid for the plane's annual checkup to get it current again, otherwise Dirk & co. would have bought a pig in a poke. Update : Henrik Gels of Quax club replied (I translate) : "Yes, in fact, two months before the annual was done. The B50 was also examined by the pilots before the flight extensively. Nevertheless, a lot was repaired. The ravages of time have taken their toll." Pilot Dirk Sadlowski mailed a note "It had a fresh annual. I did an oil change, plug change, run-up and thorough inspection first. The avionix and radios were antiquated so we swapped them for modern ones. Then in Wick we fixed a dud magneto. That's all."
John Gall (Hiawatha, Iowa) replied "Thanks! That it took so little is amazing to me - it's a long way across the old grey widow maker."
Steven Birch (Seattle, USA) wrote (October 4th) : "Dear Stu, I ran a Google search for N3670B today to show a pilot friend my very favorite shiny plane, and I found your blog and some links to the Quax site. I had mixed joy and sorrow when I saw the plane has found a wonderful home on the other side of the ocean. You see, N3670B is my dream aircraft. I saw it for the first time advertised for sale on Barnstormers.com in November 2010, and just based on its pictures I fell in love with it. I knew it was impractical to buy, but I nearly called Thomas Hammer several times to make an appointment to go and see it. I bought books about the T-Bone, and studied as much information as I could find about its maintenance and upkeep. The plane nearly sold a couple of times, I think. The ad would disappear from Barnstormers and I would feel a slight pang of regret, but then it would appear again and I would start thinking about it again. I still have the pictures from the ad! Such a beautiful aircraft. But I'm only certified for single-engine planes, and don't even have a complex endorsement yet. And with the price of fuel rising, 22gph at $7/gal, it could hardly be the family aircraft for my son and me to build hours. When the ad for N3670B was taken offline for the last time about a year ago, I had to let the dream go. I bought a membership in a flying club with a fast but efficient Cessna, and my family loves it. I'm so pleased the plane will be well-cared-for now. Thank you so much for posting the news of this summer's flight across the Atlantic. I come to Europe every other year, so perhaps I will look you up and maybe finally come to see N3670B in person." You would need to coordinate with Henrik at Quax Club to find out where the T-Bone will be during your proposed visit.


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