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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

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Bully-Blogging ;-)

Enough of all your catblogging, folks, time for some humorous dogblogging.

Bulldog Kosmo says 'Hi' to all my blogreaders :-)

Comments (1) :
Pergelator (USA) barked "Arf!" Dog->Human translation : If I can remember how to integrate Gamma functions, Charles, factorial(½) = sqrt(Pi)/2 ;-)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Muslim Vigilantes :-(

L ast week's news from London (UK) reported that gangs of Muslim Vigilantes were terrorising locals and insisting that visitors to their ghettos comply with their interpretation of Sharia (not UK) laws :-(

I have found that anagramming an expression sometimes leads to insights or at least to humour about the said expressions. So let's try anagramming the headline "Muslim Vigilantes" ;-)

We can get Gummiest villains with 2 words , or A slummiest living in their ghetto, or Imam Veiling Sluts or Imam Snivels Guilt or Maiming evil sluts depending on your pro or contra point of view. I'll sum negativism ;-)

Whatever. But this sort of bullying by gangs of religious extremists must be stopped. Which brings me back to the OTC on rape or on their own pedophilia or on their own hypocrisy :-(

Update : 'Muslim Vigilantes' Video : Abuse Victim Found.

Friday, January 25, 2013

No Burns Nicht Supper for me tonight :-(

Today is the Scottish poet Robbie Burns birthday. Traditionally, we Scots celebrate wi' a Burns Nicht Supper, eating haggis, neeps and tatties washed down with good whisky. Even though all these foodstuffs {yes, you Sassenachs, I DO count the haggis as a foodstuff ;-)} are soft, I'll be skipping the next couple of meals. Why? Just went to the dentist for him to fix my lower rear right wisdom tooth which has been working up towards a really good toothache these last two days. Now I can't feel where my mouth stops and where the cotton wool begins :-(

But, you know, Robbie Burns not only wrote the "Ode to a Haggis", he also wrote an "Address To The Tooth-Ache" (in Lallans). Here it is :-

My curse upon your venom'd stang,
That shoots my tortur'd gums alang;
And thro' my lugs gies mony a twang,
 Wi' gnawing vengeance;
Tearing my nerves wi' bitter pang,
 Like racking engines!

When fevers burn, or ague freezes,
Rheumatics gnaw, or cholic squeezes;
Our neighbors' sympathy may ease us,
 Wi' pitying moan;
But thee -- thou hell o' a' diseases --
 They mock our groan!

Adown my beard the slavers trickle!
I throw the wee stools o'er the mickle,
As round the fire the giglets keckle,
 To see me loup;
While raving mad, I wish a heckle
 Were in their doup.

O' a' the num'rous human dools,
Ill har'sts, daft bargains, cutty-stools,
Or worthy friends rak'd i' the mools,
 Sad sight to see !
The tricks o' knaves, or fash o' fools,
 Thou bear'st the gree.

Where'er that place be priests ca' hell,
Whence a' the tones o' mis'ry yell,
And rankd plagues their numbers tell,
 In dreadfu' raw,
Thou, Tooth-ache, surely bear'st the bell
 Amang them a'!

O thou grim, mischief-making chiel,
That gars the notes of discord squeel,
Till daft mankiud aft dance a reel
 In gore a shoe-thick; --
Gie a' the foes o' Scotland's weal
 A towmond's Tooth-ache! 

Comments (1) :
Cop Car joked "Disappointment : I had expected you to write about your #32 tooth!" You mean dat appointment? Not everyone is familiar with ISO 3950. And stutterers confuse us when they refer to the thirty-twoth tooth ;-)
Comments Email

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Is there anybody out there?

T ree-ring data from A.D. 774 show a sudden spike in radioactive carbon 14, pointing to a burst of charged particles or high-energy radiation that struck Earth. A relatively nearby gamma-ray burst could be the culprit, Scientific American reports. It was sufficiently far away (1-4 parsecs) that no extinction event on Earth was triggered.

That said, if such a gamma-ray burst happened today, so much of our present civilisation is dependent upon electronics (e.g. the Internet, scientific instruments, etc etc) which would be destroyed by such a gamma ray burst. Our technological civilisation would collapse, setting us back to (at least) pre-electrical times.

The Drake equation is a mathematical equation used to estimate the number of detectable extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy as probably between 1000 and 100,000,000 civilizations in the galaxy at the same time.

However, the original Drake equation does not include an explicit term to model the collapse of civilisations caused by nearby gamma-ray bursts :-(

So : Is there anybody out there? :-(

Comments (3) :
Pergelator (USA) asks "How long do gamma ray bursts last? Hours? Minutes? Days? Years?" Gamma-ray bursts are flashes of gamma rays (shorter wavelengths than X-rays) associated with extremely energetic explosions that have been observed in distant galaxies. They are the brightest electromagnetic events known to occur in the universe. Bursts can last from ten milliseconds to several minutes. The initial burst is usually followed by a longer-lived "afterglow" emitted at longer wavelengths (X-ray, ultraviolet, optical, infrared, microwave and radio). A typical burst releases as much energy in a few seconds as the Sun will in its entire 10-billion-year lifetime, so the damage is done immediately.
Schorsch (D) opined "But neither is biohacking explicitly modelled either." Neither is the Zombie Apocalypse. BTW, Mary Shelley says Hi ;-)
Brian (UK) corrects me "Stuff and nonsense! A GRB 1-4 parsecs away would have killed all life on Earth and boiled off the seas and atmosphere. You mean 1-4 KILOparsecs!" Brian, you are right of course. Thanks for the correction :-)

Monday, January 21, 2013

The OTC's War on Women :-(

R egular readers of this blog will know that I sometimes rail against the hypocrisy and un-Christianness of The One True Church® (OTC) whenever given cause to do so. And such causes occur regularly. Just last week the OTC took a break from buggering the choirboys and trying to sweep their sins under the carpet and tried something different.

A 25 year old woman attended a party in Cologne where she was slipped a knockout powder in her drink, taken outside, RAPED, and dumped on a park bench. After waking up she went to two different Catholic hospitals for treatment and to ensure that DNA & sperm traces were taken from her vagina and underwear as evidence. Both Catholic hospitals turned her away saying they wouldn't treat her (but meaning they wouldn't prescribe her a morning-after pill, which they consider to be abortion).

How cold hearted is that? Can you imagine the state of mind of this poor woman? Goddamn OTC, putting their dogma before helping a raped woman!

Finally she went to the police who took her to a protestant hospital. She got the help she needed.

The recommended morning-after pill in such situations is Ulipristalacetate, sold (here) under the name of "ellaOne 30mg". Unfortunately, a prescription is needed (in Germany), don't try going to a Catholic doctor though! Note that it is NOT an abortion pill, it just inhibits ovum release. Avoid Levonorgestel, as sometimes offered on the internet; said (by the Westfalen-Blatt newspaper) to be not as reliable.

Comments (6) :
Xtreme English chides me "sweet're as bad as they are. you persist in calling god "he," "him," etc. If god created humankind in god's image, the bible sez it was "male and female." And no sematics, please. Some of us have had enough of this b.s." Semantics or not : you confuse me, lass. Neither in this OTC article nor in the January 11th one do I assign a gender to a 'god'. Nevertheless I appreciate your point. The OTC is not a matriarchy :-(
Gudrun (A) wrote "Thanks for telling us girls what product to ask for :-)"
Jenny (Ibiza) sent this picture of the OTC management team ;-)
Xtreme English apologised "So sorry I mistook your meaning. It's my hobby. Love the photo of the OTC management team, but where did Darth Vader come from? " Photoshop. The OTC uses "Darth Vader" as a "Hard Advert" ;-)
Dave (USA) sends Jenny a link about the Dark Side of the OTC. Heh, heh ;-)
Mary (IRL) tells us "Vatican City has the lowest age of consent (12) and the highest per-capita crime rate in the whole of Europe!" I'll bet! :-(

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Long Arm of Coincidence?

F oreign Minister Guido Westerwelle praised a new book last friday about the Franco-German friendship. It is subtitled "Der lange Weg zum E´lysée Vertrag" (translation : The long way to the E´lysée contract). By a Long Arm of Coincidence the authors are called Haβ and Fuhrer ;-)

Comments (1) :
Schorsch (D) writes "You're just taking the mickey!" No I'm not! The ISBN-10 is 3789282146, look it up yourself!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Pareto Analysis, NOT! :-(

Pareto Analysis is the statistical selection of a limited number of tasks that produce significant overall effect. Also known as the 80-20 rule. For 20% of the effort you can achieve 80% of the desired results.

In the example shown below I have chosen the six most frequent causes of a problem. Sort the causes by their relative frequencies and draw a histogram left to right by decreasing frequency. It might look something like this :-

Attack the problems left to right to get the most effect for the least effort.

The problem might be homicides in the USA. In which case we get

  1. Red : Handguns, one shot per trigger pull, 6009 deaths per year.
  2. Yellow : Knives, 1817 deaths per year.
  3. Green : Fists, Hands and Feet, 869 deaths per year.
  4. Turquoise : Other blunt objects (e.g. hammers), 674 deaths per year.
  5. Blue : rifles with one shot per trigger pull, 453 deaths per year.
  6. Purple : assault rifles, multiple shots per trigger pull, 18 deaths per year.

Following a Pareto analysis, in Britain (England, Wales and Scotland), the private ownership of most handguns was banned in 1997 following a gun massacre at a school in Dunblane and a 1987 gun massacre in Hungerford in which the combined deaths was 35 and injured 30. In 2008 the number of deaths from firearms in Britain was 42, a 20-year low, with vast parts of the country recording no homicides, suicides or accidental deaths from firearms.

So what have the bright spark US government done? Tackled the LEAST probable cause! How stupid is that? Or are they just too chicken to attack(sic!) the MAIN tool of homicides, handguns? What a bunch of f*ckwits!

Comments (2) :
Chuck (USA) corrects me with a graphic comment "The major cause of self-induced death in the USA is . . . obesity !!!"
Gerard (D), a geocacher friend whom I much respect, has pointed me to a (43 page PDF-download) study showing that handgun-reduction would not necessarily reduce murders and suicides. The study does not cover the subject of mass-killings such as those at Sandy Hook. It does however make the case against 'violent predators', i.e. people with a criminal record - especially violent crimes - should not be allowed access to firearms. He also points me to a Jewish-American religious blog with a pro-gun ownership article entitled Dianne Feinstein’s Ignorance is Stunning. Both references unnecessarily reiterate the obvious claim that law abiding citizens do not commit (violent) crime [which I thought was the DEFINITION of 'law-abiding' ;-) ]. Neither reference suggests HOW criminals - who disregard the law anyway - are to be prevented getting access to weapons, which is the much more difficult problem. The Sharia solution - which would be hacking off criminals' hands thus preventing them pulling triggers or stabbing people - has not (yet) entered mainstream non-muslim discussion {sarcasm alert} ;-)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Scud Running ? :-(

Y esterday morning around 8 a.m. a helicopter hit a tower crane & crashed near Vauxhall Bridge in London, England. Two dead and nine injured by falling parts etc. This blog entry puts together what I know & what I speculate about the situation from afar.

There are two types of flight rules

  1. IFR = instrument flight rules in zero visibility allowed under the command guidance of ATC (Air Traffic Control) and above the minimum radar vectoring altitude (MRVA). ATC is then responsible for terrain/obstruction clearance and separation from other traffic.
  2. VFR = visual flight rules, clear of cloud, pilot responsible for maintaining VMC (visual meteorological conditions) & separation.
Scud running is the dangerous practice of flying low level under VFR just under the ragged bottom of clouds, maybe in-and-out, not truly in VMC :-(

The helicopter was on a flight south to north across London to Elstree (north of London). At the time, Elstree closed due to fog. London ATC called London Heliport to ask if the helicopter could divert there (normally, they have a local-area training requirement for pilots using the London Heliport). From this I deduce the pilot's flight plan had not included London Heliport as a designated alternate airfield if Elstree were closed.

Visibility was poor, the base of the fog looks like it was at 500-600 feet in the photo below (taken at a time unknown to me but after the crash).

The top of that tower building under construction is around 600 feet high (the heliport is at 58 feet above mean sea level). The top of the crane next to the building reached up to 770 feet. Both were in the cloud / high fog at the time.

It is not (yet?) known in which direction the jib of the tower crane was pointing. Tower cranes have cable(s) under tension reaching down diagonally from the top of the crane to a point about ⅔ of the way along the jib. These cables are small (one or two inches in diameter) and so probably difficult to see even without any fog.

The crash occurred just outside the heliport LFA (local flying area). Therefore the required horizontal visibility is 3kms (inside the LFA 1km suffices). Required cloud ceiling is 600 feet i.e. below the tops of tower and crane (my emphasis).

The pilot (who was killed) would have had a London Heliport approach plate available. Routes to the heliport are all along the river Thames, for obvious safety reasons, the idea being that in case of an accident they ditch in the river. Routes are shown as dashed lines in the plate below.

The approach from the east along H4 shows the procedure at 2000 feet which at the time would have put him in cloud, I guess. The London Heliport Flight Procedures chart shows cables near Vauxhall Bridge (where the accident occurred) at a height of 430 feet. The building under construction at around 600 feet and the crane reaching up to 770 feet are NOT shown on this chart.

However, there was a NOTAM (notice to airmen) available which lists the high-rise crane as an obstruction along the compulsory route.

When planning your flight you are required to study the route-relevant NOTAMs, including those for the alternate destinations listed in your flight plan. However, IF the pilot had been diverted by ATC to London Heliport unexpectedly he might not have read this NOTAM. I don't know if this was so, but it is a speculation that I'm sure the accident investigators will follow up. Whatever happened, Scud Running is dangerous, it can kill you!

Comments (3) :
Anon asks "Was the crane driver up in his cabin at the top?" No. Quoting the BBC : Tony Pidgley, chairman of site developer Berkeley, said the crane driver was not in the crane because of the "fog level". "The operative is just not allowed up that crane in conditions like that because you just can't see," he said. 'Nuff said :-(
Klaus (Alaska) chides me for my wording on IFR "...maybe I misunderstand, in my view the pilot in command is always in command, never the ATC, except they give me radar vectors but even that is voluntary. Many year ago I was flying in King Salmon, AK and all of a sudden the weather dropped below min., all aircraft had to report within 25 NM off the airport to get clearance, it was so bad and I was asking for radar vectors, the tower agreed and gave me directions but after two headings the tower guy announced, "N *****, I lost you on radar", that was the last time I was asking for radar vectors, very scary to get out of the mist myself and have VFR conditions, Under US rules it is: Despite the protection offered by flight in controlled airspace under IFR, the ultimate responsibility for the safety of the aircraft rests with the pilot in command, who can refuse clearances. Maybe you wording should say "under the rules of ATC" but not under the command, This year I celebrate another anniversary, I fly DeHavilland Beavers for 20 years in Alaska and I'm still alive :-)" You are right, I will change the word 'command' to guidance. Only once have I refused an IFR clearance; climbing out of the Samedan altiport in Switzerland, ATC wanted to clear me up through cold cloud but my Piper had no de-icing.
Jenny (Ibiza) asks "So what solution do you propose?" Raise the minimum ceiling to above the height of any obstruction (e.g. to 800 feet instead of 600). Also reissue the London Heliport flight procedure chart to include these taller obstructions. Require obstructions be lit (e.g. by flashers) if visibility at min. ceiling level is below 2kms. Don't build so high along a low-level VFR flight route (I can just see that happening :-( )

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A penny for your thoughts

O ne of the comments on last wednesday's large-coin posting was "A penny for your thoughts", an idiom first mentioned in Thomas More's 'Four Last Things' in 1522. A penny was worth quite a lot in those pre-inflation days and might have been a reward given by a nobleman to an author for his writings. It also is listed in John Heywood's 1546 book of proverbs and epigrams. Heywood was More's nephew, I seem to remember.

But as I was reading that comment, Big Ben was striking on a UK TV news channel. Big Ben is the name of the great bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London, and often extended to refer to the clock and the clock tower, and thereby hangs a tale. The clock is over 150 years old and is a mechanical marvel. For example, the 11ft long hands - which are exposed to the force of winds and the weight of birds - are decoupled from the clock mechanism so that forces on the hands do not affect the accuracy of the clock mechanism. Big Ben is probably the most accurate tower clock, it is said.

This got me thinking about how they adjust such a huge mechanical clock. I mean, you can't just nudge the hands a bit, given the size of them. So they need some means of adjusting the length of the huge pendulum to avoid e.g. thermal changes in summer vs. winter. It turns out they add or remove one of the penny coins laying on the top of the cylindrical pendulum bobweight. Obviously, changing the weight of the bob has no effect. But the penny coins added on the top of the bob raise the centre of gravity of the bob minimally, removing them lowers the C.of.G. A shorter pendulum swings faster and the clock gains time, a longer pendulum slows it down. A single old-style penny coin makes a difference of ⅖ second per day to Big Ben clock.

A penny for your thoughts, indeed :-)

Comments (3) :
Xtreme English (USA) wrote " This post reminds me of the time when my friend Judy and I raided her brother's Indian Head penny collection and used the loot to buy licorice candies at the corner store on our way back to school one day after lunchtime. We were quite confident that Judy's brother would NOT miss the old coins, but we had not counted on the storekeeper. He promptly called Judy's mother and asked her if she knew we were spending Indian Head pennies on candy. We had to pool our allowances to repay the storekeeper, who at once returned the old cent coins to Judy's brother. Indian Head cents were coined from 1864 to 1909, and their value depends a lot on their condition. None of the cents we pinched was bright uncirculated, but nowadays, even a 1902 (very common) Indian Head cent that is well circulated is still worth about $1. (Correct me if I'm wrong, as there are many sites online discussing this old coin.) But in those days, a penny was a penny." Here you are, commenting about spending a penny ;-) And CopCar about shrinking toilet paper, what IS the world coming to ? ;-)
Jenny (Ibiza) asks "How long is Big Ben pendulum? Down to the base of the tower? Does it suffer from Foucault rotation then?" The Big Ben pendulum is installed within a closed windproof box beneath the clockroom. It is only 13 feet (4.0 m) long, weighs 660 pounds (300 kg) and swings every 2 seconds. Afaik, no Foucault rotation, being constrained on an axle.
Cop Car chides me on the previous sentence "...What? No equations to provide the forces of constraint?" Every equation loses me readership :-( You can find the equations for the latitude-dependent Foucault rotations here :-)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Summer Glau et al.

H ave you noticed that there are many hot girls named after spring or summer months?

I don't just mean the attractive Summer Glau. I also know 5 girls called April, May, June, Julie and Augusta.

But they are all from the northern hemisphere. So how come there are so few girls from Australia or New Zealand called November, December, January, February ? After all, that's when it's summer & hot there :-)

Comments (2) :
Pergelator (USA) wrote " The examples you gave are English. Maybe if you tried a language from the Southern hemisphere you would have better luck. Are any girls in Australia named for the summer months of the Northern hemisphere? You may have hit on something here." I chose Oz and Kiwi because they speak English there.
Ella (OZ) sent this link to Most Popular Baby Girl Names 2012-Australia / NZ, for which, thanks.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The One True Church® pulls out1 :-(

T empora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis2. NOT !

The One True Church® (OTC) makes me vomit almost on a daily basis.
Here's its latest iniquity, perpetrated this week here in Germany :-

Back in 2011 The One True Church® submitted to intense public and media pressure here and agreed to an independent inquiry into pedophilia amongst the priesthood and other church functionaries. In july of 2011 the German bishops' conference contracted for an independent investigation. Ostensibly. It was led by criminologist Christian(sic!) Pfeiffer and bishop Stephan Ackermann.

Now The One True Church® has chickened out and cancelled the contract :-(

Criminologist Christian Pfeiffer complains (in the Süddeutsche Zeitung) that dioceses have destroyed their files rather than let him look at them. His Emails to ALL bishops about this have ALL gone unanswered. Interviews planned with the molested persons did not take place because the OTC insisted in specifying who would be doing the interviews. That boils down to undue influence and censorship. So much for an "independent" inquiry! Then some of the dioceses demanded that the research results not be published without their permission, he claims! Censorship again :-(

The One True Church® now allegedly wants to restart the project with a more "cooperative" leader. Pfeiffer points out to his (as yet unnamed) successor that the OTC wants an investigation but only as long as they can control the results and that just because the bishops' conference signs a contract doesn't mean that the bishops will each necessarily cooperate :-(

It seems to me that the OTC is trying to sweep the dirt under the carpet and avoid doing their dirty washing in public. Therefore I think that the Minister for Justice (Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger) should start a criminal investigation and not leave it up to the OTC to do its own 'investigation'.

I am DISGUSTED, but had not expected3 better of the One True Church® :-(

Comments (8) :
Gudrun (D) objects "Surely the OTC should also be presumed innocent until proven guilty?" NO! By their own criteria (original sin) they judge everyone guilty from the start. So I'm merely adopting their own criteria!
Schorsch (D) jokes "How does the OTC punish their own priests guilty of - say - exposing themselves to minors? They defrock them!" Heh, heh ;-)
Jenny (Ibiza) tells me "Wikipedia has a long entry about Catholic sex abuse cases".
Anon reckons that "Stephen Fry shares your opinion of the OTC " Heh, heh ;-)
Big Peter (sic!) writes from the USA to point me to a whole website just about sexual abuse by priests of the OTC in the USA alone! :-(
Xtreme English (USA) wrote " I just found The Silence We Keep, a book by a nun, Sister Karol Jackowski, about the priest pedophilia scandal, and in it she quotes "a 1990 study of clerical sexual habits that reported that conservatively 20% of priests were sexually active with women, that 20% were homosexual-10% of whom were sexually active, 4% of those with children. Sadly, sex scandals in the Catholic Church have never been limited to America-The Silence We Keep reveals that widely publicized abuses have been reported in countries such as England, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and throughout Africa and South America. And the abuse dates as far back as the tenth century when figures like the notorious Pope John XII (955-964) turned the Lateran Cathedral into a brothel and ultimately died in the bed of a married woman. The whole celibacy thing is fraught. As a personal exercise, it can be enlightening and strengthening, but as a way of life? Most people are hard pressed to abstain completely from sex for their entire adult life. Better a married clergy." Thanks for the heads-up. I shall have to read that book. In this case it's the sheer hypocrisy of the cover-up attempt that gets my goat (sic!).
Xtreme English (USA) added " I'm sure I've written this to you before, but in MY DAY, the priests went after girls, and of course, whose fault was that? THE GIRLS'! Tempting our pure priests, etc. But, heaven help us, when priests began showing a predilection for BOYS, all hell has broken loose. Boys are sacred. Girls are just sluts to be used by boys. Do I sound bitter? Yes, I am. I had four older brothers who are right up there with the choirs of angels. Not that they ever did anything wrong. But you know, I've never been able to catch up with them. They are the standard-bearers, etc. I should have known my place and kept it. But of course, I didn't. And don't now. " That's why I enjoy reading your blog, Mary :-)
James (GB) remonstrates "... neither Klaus Kinski nor Jimmy Savile were OTC priests!" I am not claiming that all pedophiles are priests, nor that all priests are pedophiles, merely that the intersection set is much larger than it should be (it should be empty!). But that's not my point here. My point is that the OTC claims to support an independent investigation, but then during the process is obstructive. THAT is hypocrisy; probably just trying to minimise the amount of damages they will have to pay? :-(

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Large Coins

D enise (IRL) asked "What's YOUR largest coin?" but didn't specify value or diameter or face value. Let me try to answer anyway.

The largest coin in my purse right now is the 10 € one shown below.

My thumb is included in the photo to give you a feel for the size, there are larger sized coins in Yurp, but they are older, rarer and impractical anyway, barely fitting in your pocket. In practice, most (99.9%) people use the 10€ note - as do I - I just use the 10 € coins to tease pretty waitresses; the coins are legal tender after all ;-)

As for coins of larger diameter (and value), in 1988 I bought a 25 Bilbao bullion coin in Panama which is 5 oz of solid silver, about 3 inches across, now worth about 350 € afaik. Being a pilot, I bought it for the engraving of the Red Baron's triplane on it, not really as an investment. Bullion is really of no interest to me, although perhaps with the expected inflation of the Euro maybe that's a decision to be reconsidered :-(

As far as the world record for bullion coins is concerned, up until 2011 it used to be Canada that held the record with a 1 million Canadian dollar face value legal tender gold coin, 20 inches across, weighing 100 kilogramms(sic!) worth over twice its face value for its gold. But now Australia has minted a bullion gold coin of 1 million Australian dollars face value, 31.5 inches across, weighing a ton(sic!) and worth 57 million dollars for the gold in it. Talk about bling! In Euros, in 2004 the Austrian mint produced fifteen 100,000-euro coins weighing 31.1 kg (1000 troy oz) to celebrate the 15th anniversary of its best-selling Philharmonics coin. For contrast, Maundy pennies are made of half a gram of silver afaik and are the world's smallest coins(?).

May I ask my esteemed readers (and you, Kees ;-) what is the largest (diameter/face value/metal value) coin in regular circulation your country?

Comments (6) :
Jenny (Ibiza) wrote "A penny for your thoughts :-)" Fair value, these days.
Horst (CH) wrote "A Eurocent coin costs more to make than its face value. I think the same applies to the US cent coin. Here in Switzerland we round to the nearest 5 Rappen; Scandinavians also round to the nearest 5c." Luxembourgers do that too afaik.
Brian (UK) tells me that "The physically largest coins in the world are the Rai, immobile stone (quartz?) doughnuts up to 12 feet (4m) in diameter used on the Yap islands (Micronesia)." Where only the rich are stoned? ;-)
Nadif (Somalia) tells me that "Somalia tries to cater to coin collectors and produces some non-circular coins, e.g. shaped like sports cars, guitars, motorcycles etc. Go to Google, select search-for-images, and look for 'coins of Somalia'." That's weird (and exploitative too)!
Xtreme English (USA) answered " Well, for both size and face value, the Eisenhower dollar coin is the largest, but it's not exactly in circulation. There are three kinds of dollar coins in use now--often given as change by metro fare card dispensers. Two, the new Presidential dollar and the Native American dollar (Sacagawea), are gold-colored, but without any actual gold. (Manganese?) They and the silver-colored Susan B. Anthony dollar are all in circulation if a bit rare. The dollar coins in circulation are just a bit larger and thicker than the US quarter-dollar coins. Presidential: 1.043 in. diam and 2.00 mm. weight; Quarters: 0.995 in. diam and 1.75 mm. weight." You have dollar notes too, I seem to remember. Much more frequently used than the coins (at least in Tucson).
Xtreme English replied " Yes, we do have dollar notes, and they are used much more often than the dollar coins. Some places are now sneaking in $2 notes, and they are fine, too. My ex-husband's grandmother sent us a $2 bill for our wedding present in 1961. I always think of her when I get a $2 note these days. Come to think of it, while we're talking about large US coins, I haven't seen a 50 cent piece for quite a while. Almost no vending machines are set up to use them, and I think they may not be minted any more. They are smaller than the silver Eisenhower dollar but larger than the other dollar coins and the quarters. The last general circulation half dollar was minted in 2001. Any halves minted since then have been for collectors only. This is due to the cost of the silver, which most half-dollars contained (down to 40% or so) until fairly recently. But Wikipedia sez the half dollar and the cent have been the most continuously produced US coins since the 1700s. Halves are still popular/in use in Las Vegas in the slots and as opening bets (antes??) in some games. Je ne sais pas.... I liked Las Vegas, but not enough to go there again." The only thing I liked about Las Vegas was the shows; the rest was (designed to be) a rip-off.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Bak 2 skuul USA Rant

Schoolchildren here go back to school today after the Xmas break. I gather the remaining kids from Sandy Hill school in Newton (USA) did so last week, accompanied by 1-on-1 psychiatrists :-( And, if the NRA had their way, 'protected' by freelance killers armed to the teeth, or unwilling teachers or other kids(WTF?).

If you think it's hell when your kid throws a tantrum because he/she doesn't want to go to school, imagine if that kid were armed with an AK-47 or equivalent! :-(

Besides which, there is related evidence that e.g. stand-your-ground states have gotten a higher homicide rate since they introduced their stand-your-ground laws, moreover the additional deaths caused by the laws were largely concentrated among white men, not the racist fear-mongerers' wet dream!

Maybe it's Congress that needs to back to school, the GOP are still played the spoiled-brat role of 'If I can't get my way, I'm going to make sure you don't get yours' obstructionism. Now to avoid further Fiscal Cliff obstructionism some bright spark has suggested that a Trillion Dollar Platinum Coin be minted. Virtual (Fiat-) money again. But what if face value had to be covered by the metal value. Platinum currently costs $50,0250 per gram, $50 million a kilo, $50 (US) billion per metric tonne. So the damn coin would weigh 20 million tons ;-) Imagine Geithner having to roll THAT over to the bank! Just as well it's just a convoluted construct to stop GOP obstructionism :-)

And no, the Fiscal Cliff has not been avoided, merely delayed. The Day of Reckoning is still to come. Whether by March when Congress has to agree on spending cuts or when debt-owners such as the Chinese decide to foreclose. I expect Moodys & other rating agencies to downgrade the US; if not, only because of US government intervention :-(

Meanwhile, Obama could always declare the people threatening to hold the US economy hostage to extract unrelated policy concessions to be economic terrorists, then we'd see what the GOP really thinks of the War on Terror ;-)

Oh well, on the way to school they'll kick the can down the road for a while more :-(

Comments (2) :
Pergelator (USA) tells me I got the numbers wrong : " $50,000 a gram for platinum? How about $1,500 an ounce? A trillion dollars still comes to 20,000 tons." My bad, must have misread the price table in the papers, decimal point and comma are interchanged here from their US usage in numbers :-(
Denise (IRL) asks "What's YOUR largest coin?" Value or diameter? I'll answer that in a separate blogpost.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Solving quadratic equations

J ust recently I have been coaching some 14-year olds in maths, to get them up to speed for when school restarts next week. We were revising how to solve quadratic equations and I thought to reproduce the material here for your criticism & feedback.

Now I know that several of my blogreaders claim to be weak at maths, or even mathophobes, but I'd ask them to plough through this and tell me if they could follow my derivation of the general solution. Let me know how you got on or what I need to do to simplify it further.

(x+2)*(x-5) = x2-3x-10=0 is an example of a quadratic equation.
The solutions x=-2 and x=5 are easy to see in the factored form {(x+2)*(x-5) = 0}, but harder to see when multiplied out {x2-3x-10=0}.
The general form is ax2 + bx +c =0, with the three coefficients a,b and c.
The two solutions are x = (-b + sqrt(b2-4ac))/2a and (-b - sqrt(b2-4ac))/2a.

One of the kids said "That was too fast, how did you get from the general form to the solution?". So let's do the algebra step by step.

We start with the general form ax2 + bx +c =0.

We want to get an expression with the x on the left side only and the coefficients a,b and c on the right side only, so we need to juggle the pieces around (this is called 'Doing the algebra').

We start with the general form ax2 + bx +c =0.

Move the constant c over to the right giving ax2 + bx = -c.

We are trying to get an expression on the left of which we can take a square root leaving us linear in x. So we multiply all of this by 4a, getting :

4a2x2 + 4abx = -4ac

Add b2 to both sides to get a factorable squared term on the left :

4a2x2 + 4abx + b2= b2-4ac,

and rewriting the left hand side, (2ax+b)2 = b2-4ac

taking the square roots of each side we get : 2ax+b = SQRT{b2-4ac}

Nearly there, we subtract b from both sides, getting

2ax = -b +SQRT{b2-4ac} OR -b -SQRT{b2-4ac}

Finally, dividing both sides by 2a, we get

x = (-b + sqrt(b2-4ac))/2a and (-b - sqrt(b2-4ac))/2a.


Just 7 steps. Was that understandable enough? If not, why not?

Connolly's view is that of many mathophobes, so here's a tip for you schoolchildren who still have to actually DO quadratic equations. While the general solution I gave above holds, you may note that virtually ALL the examples used in school classes and exams have integer (=whole number) roots. Look at the example we chose above : x2-3x-10=0. The constant C is -10 which has only two possible integer factors, 2 and 5, one of which will be negative. The sum of the factors is -3 so we see the factors must be -5 and +2. So the factored form of the quadratic equation is (x+2)*(x-5). Just by observation, no formulae involved, even Connolly would appreciate that ;-)

Comments (3) :
Schorsch (D) wrote "Understandable? Yes. Interesting? No!" :-(
Pergelator penned "I can follow your explanation, but I already know what's going on. What I don't like about the explanation is that it does not show how you picked the stuff to add. You picked it because it works, but that's like knowing the answer before you try to solve a problem. It's akin to cheating. I like the "completing the square" method better, although right now I can't recall just what it is. I am sure I could work it out, and I imagine you can too. Much later I found out that quadratic equations are only good for a very small subset of the kinds of problems you run into in life. I suspect that they are really only good as an introduction to higher math, like calculus." We need to reduce the power of the polynomial from x2 to x1. So we need an expression which is the square of something, in general of fx+g. Then we take the roots of that square to get an expression linear in x. Thus I juggled terms until I got that square on one side. I should have explained the solution strategy better, huh?
Xtreme English wrote "Gah. I definitely was left out when they passed out the family math gene. My family is jam packed with engineers, CPAs, pilots....people who have to know their way around numbers. It just floors me--always has. I'm very happy for you and all the other smart people out there who can figure this out, but no thanks. I can't do it." Just like Billy Connolly in the video, huh :-)

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