Friday, July 30, 2010

Classic cars

E arlier this month I happened to be in the small town of Salzkotten when a Classic Car rallye came through. Here are some of the photos I took :-)
It was the "2000 kms through Germany" rallye, I discovered.

Sadly, the Morgan had its Union Jack sticker upside down. What stupid sticker-maker gets this wrong? And the owner didn't notice?? I bet the sticker was made in China!

Finally, yours truly with this tiny Sprite, such as my friend Carol used to drive some 40 years ago. I'd forgotten how tiny they were, but we weighed 20 Kg less back then ;-)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Shepherds' warning

Red sky at night, shepherds' delight.
Red sky in the morning, shepherds' warning.
Red sky at noon, nukulah boom :-(

Click HERE to embiggen.

Comments(3) :
Wendy (Oz) has her own version :-
"Red sky at night; shepherd's delight,
Red sky in morning; shepherd's warning,
Fog and mist; shepherd's pissed"

Depending on regional idioms that could mean 'annoyed' or 'drunk'; which is it?
Wendy (Oz) replied "To be honest Stu, I've wondered that one myself... I think it works both ways..." ;-)

Denny (B) asks Is that a silicon roof on your neighbour's house?" Yes, it delivers about 5 kW as far as I know. Low ROI though, at age 66 too late to invest for me.

Monday, July 26, 2010

FTL Walking : Faster than light

The nearby spa town Bad Lippspringe has a scale model of the solar system (old enough to include Pluto) scaled so that you can walk through it comfortably at 2½ to 3 times the speed of light without turning blue with relative effort (Einsteinian joke there, sorry). The distances to, and sizes of, the planets are scaled correctly, so it's about a three hour round trip stroll. In the picture below - borrowed from Wikipedia and cropped - the planetary sizes are to scale but not the distances.

The real distances - where the distance from the Sun to the Earth is normalised anthropologically to 1 AU (astronomical unit), = 8 light-minutes - are tabulated as :-

  • Mercury (0.4 AU from the Sun) is the closest planet to the Sun and the smallest planet in the Solar System (0.055 Earth masses)
  • Venus (0.7 AU from the Sun) is close in size to Earth, (0.815 Earth masses)
  • Earth (1 AU from the Sun) has a single real moon (made of green cheese? ;-)
  • Mars (1.5 AU from the Sun and has only 0.107 Earth masses); tastes of chocolate, soft toffee and hazelnuts ;-)
  • Asteroid belt, orbits between Mars and Jupiter, between 2.3 and 3.3 AU from the Sun. Ceres (2.77 AU) is the largest body in the asteroid belt and has recently (2006) been classified as a dwarf planet.
  • Jupiter (5.2 AU), at 318 Earth masses, is 2.5 times all the mass of all the other planets put together.
  • Saturn (9.5 AU), distinguished by its extensive ring system, is also a gas giant.
  • Uranus (19.6 AU), at 14 Earth masses, is the lightest of the outer planets. Uniquely among the planets, it orbits the Sun on its side; its axial tilt is over ninety degrees to the ecliptic.
  • Neptune (30 AU), though slightly smaller than Uranus, is more massive (equivalent to 17 Earths)
  • Pluto (39 AU average), a dwarf planet, is the largest known object in the Kuiper belt. When discovered in 1930, it was considered to be the ninth planet; this changed in 2006 with the adoption of a new formal definition of planet :-(
Haumea (43.34 AU average), Makemake (45.79 AU average), and Eris (68 AU average) are not included in the model. Eris is the largest known scattered disc object, and caused a debate about what constitutes a planet, since it is at least 5% larger than Pluto with an estimated diameter of 2400 km (1500 mi). Nor is Sedna included. 90377 Sedna (525.86 AU average) is a large, reddish Pluto-like object with a gigantic, highly elliptical orbit that takes it from about 76 AU at perihelion to 928 AU at aphelion and takes 12,050 years to complete.

There are various other scale models of the solar system scattered around the world, you might like to visit your nearest one and take an FTL walk through it in order to get a feel for the scale of these distances!

The other ones I have visited so far include :-

Go take an FTL walk around the solar system, good for your mind AND your heart :-)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Waiting for Denny Chin.....

Ten, twenty, thirty or forty years ago there were no blogs, no flashy personal websites. If you wanted to get published you wrote books. And if they were any good, or at least popular, you got paid royalties depending on the sales.
On the left, one of the wife's; on the right one of mine, representative of the rest.

Flash forward to the twentyfirst century. Along came Google and started putting many books online, trying to monopolise the world's largest digital library. In 2008, after legal infighting between 2005 and 2008, some sort of settlement agreement was reached between Google and a publishing consortium. Now judge Denny Chin (US district court in New York) is running a hearing to decide whether to accept it, reject it, or modify it. Let's just hope he comes to a ruling before getting promoted again!

Authors - with bated breath - are nearing asphyxiation ;-) Go, Chin, Go !!!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Yesterday, in the US of A :-(

Y esterday was July 21st. Remember that date?

On 21st July 1925 US teacher John T.Scopes was fined $100 (a LOT of money back then) under the Butler Acts for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution :-(

On 21st July 1969 Neil Armstrong stepped out as the first man on the moon, shortly followed by Buzz Aldrin :-)

On 21st July there is a national memorial day for those who died from drug abuse, voluntarily removing themselves from the gene pool. Go, Darwin Awards, go!

2010 : Texas 'Education' board rewrites text books to include creationism, decrying evolution. FWIW, George 'evolved(?) Chimp' Bush lives in Crawford, Texas.

Do you ever get the feeling the USA peaked in the sixties and has been going downhill ever since? And the hill is getting steeper!

Comments(1) :
Hiram (Idaho, USA) replies "Sure, but just to round things off, you in Yurp have PI approximation day (22/7) today, something we celebrated on March 14th (3.14), so who's behind now ? ;-)" To which I roundly retorted "Now I need a drink, alcoholic of course!" [list the number of letters in each word and you get 3.1415926;-) ]

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Magic old maths :-)

When I was growing up in the 1950s and 60s there were no home computers as we have them now. In fact the first computer I worked on (at age 18) was an analog computer so huge it filled up a large room. The one at Leeds university was TINY by comparison ( ~30 amplifiers), as was the one at Cornell. Over two thousand amplifiers, each with 5 valves (sic!), which we used on top secret MoD (UK Defense Ministry) projects designing missile and torpedo guidance systems. Yours truly - just out of school - got to check the workings of all 2000+ amplifiers early every monday morning and sometimes wire them up to program it. Programming the scaled partial differential equations was done by wiring between plugboards!

There were no pocket calculators either, in fact the only calculator I used at university & before that in the 6th form at school was a hand-turned mechanical Brunsviga 18 RK. In primary school (around 1950) though we had an abacus (one per class, not each!).

So you will understand that in primary school back then considerable emphasis was placed on learning to do arithmetic quickly, and indeed doing much by mental arithmetic. So I was delighted to find a reprint of an old textbook (1945 era) on Amazon for under five Euros. It is shown on the left here; Henry Sticker's paperback book How to calculate quickly, Dover publications, ISBN 0-486-20295-X.

Coincidentally, about the time I found this and was relearning forgotten mental arithmetic tricks, I got an email from blogreader Anil Bapat thanking me for my maths pages which he had found interesting. Anil pointed me to the intricacies of Vedic mathematics, common in India but neglected in Europe. Sadly the book he recommended was not available here, so I've picked up the one shown on the right.

However - and it's a big however - I have no background in Sanskrit and am not acquainted with these 16 Sütras from the Vedas, so I'm finding it surprisingly heavy going. Maybe I need to ask at the local university if there is a maths student from India there who could coach me? :oops: It's just the cultural background I need, because I'm missing assumptions which would have been second nature to the author.

Another coincidence? My mathematically inclined correspondent from India has a namesake, another Anil Bapat, whose blog I sometimes read lurkingly, which had me confused for a while about the person to whom I was writing :-)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Half weigh there ;-)

H ave been on a veg diet for the past 10 weeks and have managed to get down from a beer-bellied 96 kg to under 88 kg (BMI 26½), a loss of 8+ kg so far.

Half weigh house ;-)

So my blood pressure and blood sugar levels are back to normal. My target now is get down to a weight where the first digit is a 7, so 79.9 kg would be fine , the BMI down from an adipose 29 to an acceptable 24. Just another 8 kg to go, should take about another 4 to 6 asymptotic months. Wish me luck perseverence :-)

The ridicu-lousy photoshop below is by my blogmate Kees Kennis, his guess at what I will look like when finished ;-)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Figures of speech ;-)

F or a statistical exercise in a psychology class we were recently asked to investigate the use of bad language, using the most perjorative word we knew.

Despite Douglas Adams' allegation that the worst swear word in the known universe is 'Belgium' (see HHGTTG), the most perjorative and disgusting word I knew was 'Politicians' (see my recent post) ;-) So I googled for "N politicians" for various integer values of N. In general, the number of hits decreases as N gets larger.

NB : there is a real peak at N=4. What newsworthy thing is it that politicians get up to in gangs of four? ;-) Is this worth more investigation by the gutter press ? ;-)

However, the next two peaks are mostly attributable to figures of speech :-

In the leftside diagram there is a peak for 99 and 100, as in ...bottles hanging on the wall' maybe ;-)? The slight peak at 101 is due to college classes called 'Politics 101 : politicians....', I believe. Similarly, the peak at 999 and 1000 is most likely a figure of speech as in ...bottles hanging on the wall'.

Continuing logarithmically, I was pleased to note that Google could not find ten million (10000000) politicians, so there is still hope for humankind :-)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


W hen we don't have a word for something in German, we just make one up, usually just by stringing adjectives and nouns together; during the last few years Politikverdrossenheit (= a morose dissatisfaction/disillusionment with politics and politicians). This is not just a German phenomenon. Recently several Brit politicians have had to resign for fiddling their expenses. Now Norman Foster and several others have resigned their seats in the House of Lords (UK) to preserve their status as tax-exiles. A new law had required that Members of Parliament declare their taxable global income properly. Here in Germany there are a couple of other despicable cases of nepotism etc. Jürgen Zöllner (Senator for Science in Berlin) tried to appoint his mistress as office-head of the Einstein-Stiftung for an alledged salary of 118,000 € p.a. In France the wife of the Employment Minister Eric Woerth had a 13,000 € per month job at his party's money-manager. Woerth has just resigned, but what about Sarkozy himself? And in corruption-plagued Greece there is yet another politican scandal. Sotirios Hatzigakis, ex-minister, supplied 30 friends and relations with free government mobile phones and the Greek tax-payer is now stuck with a bill for 20 million € (yes, 20 million) for sex-line calls. Hatzigakis is the king of nepotism, have provided 269 party friends and his own children with gov. sinecures.

Is it any wonder we are all fed up with them enriching themselves.

Politikverdrossenheit? Put them all* in jail and make them pay 200% compensation!

Comments (2) :
JustaDon (Cambridge, UK) rebukes me with "Ne supra crepidum suter judicaret" ; to which I reply 'Load of old cobblers, my good man!'
Carol (UK) wrote back "Scarcely had you blogged this and the next one is being charged on 6 counts of corruption, says SKY News : 'Tory peer Lord Taylor of Warwick is being prosecuted for false accounting over his parliamentary expenses. The Crown Prosecution Service said Lord Taylor, whose full name is John David Beckett Taylor, has been summonsed to face six charges of false accounting. He is accused of dishonestly claiming more than £11,000 in overnight subsistence and mileage claims.' :-(" LINK . And how many more are to follow?

Monday, July 12, 2010

The most powerful computers of their time ?

F or you history-of-computers freaks, I took these two photos last week at the HNF (the world's largest computer museum, just 15 miles north of here :-) .

The machine on the left is the 1961 Zuse Z23. The machine on the right is the 1985 Cray-2 supercomputer. Photos are overexposed to show you their interna.

The 1961 Zuse Z-23 was his eighth model, being a transistorised version of the 1956 valve based Z22. His previous computers had used relays! A typical Z22 had 14 words of 38-bit core RAM, 8192 word (38 KB) magnetic drum, punched card I/O, it ran at just 3 KiloHz!! And - oh wonders - by 1958 there was an ALGOL 58 compiler for it !!!

Jump forward to 1985 and the world's fastest supercomputer was the 256 Megaword Cray-2 shown here which reached 1.9 Gigaflops. As of May 2010, the Cray Jaguar is the fastest supercomputer in the world. It reaches 1.75 PetaFlops, has 224,256 x86-based AMD Opteron processor cores and runs Linux :-) The file system read/write benchmark is 240 GB/s, and it provides over 10 petabytes (PB) of storage. Hundreds of applications have been ported and parallelised to run on the Cray, many of them have been scaled up to run on 20,000 to 150,000 processor cores. That's progress :-)

Meanwhile, here's the sticker which should be attached to every computer you own :-

Thursday, July 8, 2010

YAMM : Yet another multiplication method :-)

D uring the last few years I have shown you blogreaders several unconventional methods of doing multiplication, including the Russian method and the Indian method, let alone doing arithmetic in Roman Numerals ;-)

As children, you probably learned your 10-Times-Table, by rote. We older Brits even learned the 12-Times-Table. Do Brit bakers have to learn the 13-Times-Table ? ;-)

Now - from an old lady from Kirgistan - Babuschka - another method, for which you only have to learn the 5-Times-Table, & do numbers 6 to 10 on your fingers. Thus :-

Firstly, let's look at the photo on the left where we are multiplying 8 by 7. Discounting the first five (a full hand), we raise 3 fingers on the left hand (8-5=3) and raise 2 fingers on the right hand (7-5=2). Now just multiply the number of folded fingers on the left hand (2) by the number of folded fingers on the right hand (3) giving 6 (no carry), our units result. To get the tens result just add the number of raised fingers (3+2=5).Total result therefore is 8 times 7 is 56. Which is correct :-)

To see an example using a carry-one, let's look at the photo on the right where we are multiplying 6 by 7. Multiply the number of folded fingers, so 4 times 3 = 12, i.e. units result is a 2 and we carry one into the tens result. Add the number of raised fingers, 1+2=3 plus the one we carry makes 4, so the total result is 6*7=42. Correct :-)

And you would have only needed to learn the five-times table by rote as a child, merely a quarter of the effort of the regular 10 times table :-) Way to go, Babuschka !!!

Thanks too to blogreader and friend Ina, my guinea pig tester for this explanation, who noted that this method is unreliable for saw-mill personnel and butchers' lads ;-)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Where are the Bees?

H ave you noticed that there seem to be less bees this year? Usually our cherry, apple and plum trees would be abuzz with the sound of happy industrious bees collecting nectar and pollinating the blossom. But this year the trees are rather quiet, so are there less bees? I think so. Which is why I took this photo of a bumblebee visiting one of the flowers in the back garden.

Checking with a village beekeeper, I learned that yes indeed, there are about 30% less bees this year, whole hives having been wiped out by some new disease ( CCD) :-(

I think it was the much respected Albert Einstein who once said: "If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, Man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination - no more Men!" :-(

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A cause for cerebration ;-)

Back in the late 60s, the infancy of Computer Science, I had written a couple of interpreters (BASIC, Z-Lang) autodidactically and worked in a team building a fully fledged ANS-COBOL compiler. But in the early 70s I got the chance to take a course on compiler construction given by an american professor (whose name I've forgotten). In the course were 2 other Brits, Julie from England, David from Wales and yours truly from Scotland. As our 'term paper' we got to write a simple compiler. I remember Julie chose to do a FORTH compiler, I wrote a BCPL compiler (both producing stack-based threaded code) and I think David did most of a BASIC interpreter.

On this very day, all those years ago, we got our marks. David had scraped through, I was runner-up , but Julie had aced it, getting top marks for her implementation of FORTH. Just as we were rolling a joint breaking out the bubbly to celebrate passing our course, the professor came in and asked us all what we thought were up to? Quick as a flash I replied "We may all be Brits, sir, but we're celebrating the FORTH of Julie" ;-)

Groan - I'll get my coat . . .

Friday, July 2, 2010


Publication of this article has been delayed.

Again :-(

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The wrong choice :-(

Germany has elected a new president. This is merely a figurehead role, political power remains with the Chancellor. But for how much longer? Merkel's right-wing puppet was only elected in the third round of voting, 44 of her own coalition having voted against him. IMHO, the other candidate, independent civil rights man Joachim Gauck, would have been the better choice. But the far left party 'Die Linke' abstained in the third round, unable to bring them selves to vote for 'Stasi-Hunter' Gauck. I expect this is the beginning of a gradual end for Merkel's coalition since 44 of them wouldn't support their own candidate. We need to get rid of Westerwelle & Co!

At the other end of the world - in Australia - things are looking up for them. Australia has a new progressive left wing Prime Minister, openly an Atheist and a woman, Julia Gillard. Oz Blogreader Anna Pashen has sent me a couple of links to their media response. I quote her : "Even if you have no interest in Oz politics the articles are a bit of a giggle. The second one particularly highlights the 1950s attitudes that still grip so many of the Australian public." Link 1 here and link 2 here. Way to go!

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Eunoia, who is a grumpy, overeducated, facetious, multilingual ex-pat Scot, blatently opinionated, old (1944-vintage), amateur cryptologist, computer consultant, atheist, flying instructor, bulldog-lover, Beetle-driver, textbook-writer, long-distance biker, blogger and webmaster 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 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'.

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Classic cars
Shepherds' Warning
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Magic old maths :-)
Half Weigh there ;-)
Figures of speech ;-)
Zuse Z23 and a Cray-2
Multiply on your fingers
Where are the bees?
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