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Nota bene : Cuius rei demonstrationem mirabelem sane detexi hanc marginis exiguitas non caparet.
Friday, July 29, 2011
US budget crisis alternatives ;-)
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Thursday, July 28, 2011
An old friend lost :-(
ver 45 years ago Andy Clements (late of Bristol, UK) and I attended university together where we somehow managed to graduate with good honours degrees in physics. After I left the UK at the end of the sixties we lost sight of one another. But five years ago - thanks to the power of the internet - most of us who read physics 1962-1966 managed to find one another for a City U. reunion.
Andy Clements - ever the ebullient motivator - organised a splendid reunion weekend in Bristol (UK) and it seemed like only yesterday when we'd graduated and set off to change the world. It was fantastic how we could resume where we'd left off 40 years previously, albeit with a lot of catching up to do.
Andy slipped away peacefully after suffering a massive brain haemorrhage last Sunday morning. He is survived by his lovely wife Marilyn, and the children Sharon, Ian & Paul to all of whom my consolations go.
We are planning a further physicists' class reunion, this time in Oxford in september of this year, which John is organising. I am looking forward to seeing the rest of the gang in Oxford and I know we will spend a moment of silence, remembering Andy. Obviously, the Grim Reaper is waiting for all of us, but it is especially sad when we lose one of the best first :-(
R.I.P Andy, we'll miss your good humour.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
My Right Royal Pun ;-)At the end of last week a pod of pilot whales were stranded in the Kyle of Durness, having beached themselves there on a remote Sutherland (Scotland) beach. So the local newspaper photographer, his wife and grown-up daughter piled into their car and went to see if they could help float the whales again and incidentally get some good photos.
Having done so, with several of the other helpers asking for copies of the photos, they headed for the village store which had one of those machines which can print hard copies from the (removable) chip in the digicam. Arriving in the village square, there were no parking places left, so he parked the car under the 'No Waiting' sign and dashed into the store to make his hard copies, leaving the lasses in the car (to move it if necessary).
However, the local polisman (that's how they spell policeman in Scotland) saw this and approached the lasses in the car, saying "Hello, hello, hello...." (why do UK cops all say that? Did their parents watch too much Dixon of Dock Green on the TV?), adding sarcastically "...and who do we have here, the Ladies in Waiting?" Quick as a flash, the photographer's wife replied "Yes, we're just waiting for the prints of whales" ;-)
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Monday, July 25, 2011
No Hybrids forseen?he photo here shows my wife's grandfather's (German) driving licence.
He was born in 1883 and the licence was issued in 1922, making him 39 years old before he got a driving licence. Compare that with nowadays; I wonder what the age range amongst Four Dinner's driving school pupils is?
But the line that interest me was the one that subdivides the licence according to the types of engines used :-
Several years ago I had the opportunity to drive a steam-powered car. Like electric DC engines, they have maximal torque at zero revs, so this old 1920's steamer would blast off everything else at the lights, much to the surprise of modern car drivers :-) No gears needed, like an electric car one gear suffices (plus reverse of course). The steam car only had one (forward?) gear; reversing was done by feeding the steam to the other side of the piston via a valve ! On the same day I got to drive a 1935(?) FWD Riley; worth a mention because the gas pedal was in the centre and the brake on the right (it was RHD too and had a huge handbrake on the outside! You had to be wide awake to drive that; the steam car was much easier :-)
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Saturday, July 23, 2011
Norwegian Terrorism :-(
esterday, a Norwegian terrorist went on a killing spree, shooting 80 people dead on Utoya Island (a holiday island) :-(
The terrorist - Anders Behring Breivik - is a white man, Christian, right-wing, gun-nut, islamophobe. You know, sort of like most of the Tea Party :-(
Black humour aside, my deepest sympathy goes to all the relatives of the dead and injured from these cowardly attacks.
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Friday, July 22, 2011
Four Colour Theorem anecdote :-)
ay back in secondary school, maths te;-)acher Jeb tasked us to draw a map that needed more than four colours; adjacent areas that met on a line had to have different colours, areas that met on a point did not. My sketch in the left shows the idea.
Draw a central circle and colour it yellow. Draw an annular ring around it, subdividing it into three areas. The ring section on the left must be not-yellow because it borders on the yellow area, so colour it red. The ring section on the bottom must be not-yellow and not-red because it borders on both of them, so colour it green. The third section may not be yellow, red or green because it borders on all three, so colour it blue. Four colours suffice so far. Now what colour should the next (gray) area be ? Do we need a fifth colour? Pink? No, it can be yellow too, because it does not border on the first yellow area. The Four Colour Theorem says that four colours suffice, which was what Jeb was teaching us.
However, being a precocious child (a polite term for pain-in-the-neck), I'd noticed that Jeb had tasked us to draw a map but had omitted the condition that it was to be a plane map. So I carefully tore a narrow strip off my sheet of paper and twisted the strip by a half-turn, glueing the ends together, getting a Möbius strip. And why is this important? I knew that a Möbius strip needs SIX colours for a map; greatly to Jeb's discomfort ;-)
Although it is fairly easy to prove that five colours suffice for a plane map (Heawood did this in 1890), it is effably harder to prove that four colours suffice. Finally this was achieved by Appel and Haken in 1976, with much computer assistance. Independent proofs in 1997 and 2005 disposed of any lingering doubt in the computerised part of the first proof.
If you want your (american) kids to try colouring a plane map, here's a blank map of the USA, and for Yurpean kids a blank map of Europe. For historical reasons, they should start by colouring Holland orange ;-) For a geography lesson, get the kids to name the countries on the blank European map too :-)
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Thursday, July 21, 2011
42 & no longer counting :-(
years ago today - 21st July 1969, 03.56 Central European Time - America put a man (well, two men) on the moon.
And so it is only fitting - but ineffably sad - that the USA chose this day to give up their manned space flights altogether.
Mission Control just gave the space shuttle "go" for the last deorbit burn. The shuttle's two Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) engines will fire at 4:49:04 a.m. EDT for three minutes, 16 seconds and slow Atlantis by 331 feet per second. Landing is expected at 5:56:58 a.m. at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, runway 15, NASA blogged.
Wernher von Braun is turning in his grave :-(
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
On going deaf...BbrrrrrrrrrrrmmmMMMMMmmmm. WhirrrrrrRRRRRrrr. Click. WhooOOOOOoo. Mmmmmmmmmmmm. Pain. "Mumble, mumble, mumble..." Llllllllllllike I've beeeeeen avooooooooooiding using the phoooooooooone reeeeeeeeeecently (except forrrrrrrrrrr SMSssssssssssssss), so I couldn't call the doc.
Finally I gave in and visited my local doc. "Mumble, mumble", the doc said, peering in my ear. He scraped out a chunk of earwax only to find an ear infection, so I'm on antibiotic/antiseptic/antifungal eardrops right now.
Tones above 1 kHz seem to have gone. This body is degrading much faster than I had hoped; negative karma? Not just the cookie that's crumbling :-(
Deafness is a pain in the ..... head. Where's the problem?
"Here, here" Yes, that would nice :-(
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Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Food Porn Anecdote ;-)
Wikipedia and was surprised by the definition given there : "Food porn is a provocative term variously applied to a spectacular visual presentation of cooking or eating in advertisements, infomercials, cooking shows or other visual media, foods boasting a high fat and calorie content, exotic dishes that arouse a desire to eat or the glorification of food as a substitute for sex. It specifically refers to food photography and styling that presents food glamorously or provocatively, as in glamour photography or pornographic photography."ust have been a decade or more ago when I first encountered the term "Food Porn" and have misunderstood it ever since. But recently I followed a link to
My naive misunderstanding was that it about the gory details of 'romantic dinners' as glossed over in ladies' trashy pulp romantic fiction of the sort on sale at airports etc. These paperbacks never tell you what the diners were eating that got them so turned on :-( So here's one of my anecdotes in this misunderstood style.
Back in my postgrad days in London (UK) I once dated a couple of bi-sexual girls, an afro-american lady and her good friend a very pinkish pale blond french girl.
We went out - ostensibly for dinner - to what the french blonde jokingly called a Mange a trois ;-)
Didn't turn out as well as I'd expected, both girls claimed they preferred colored men to plain whites ;-)
See what I mean? Genuine misunderstanding; a mistake anyone could have maid(sic!), especially those of you pervs who clicked on the misleadingly unerotic hot links ;-)
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Sunday, July 17, 2011
Crypto Grille for kids :-)
Turning Grille. It originated from Cardano around 1550. Also called Fleissner Grilles, they were adopted by the German army during World War I, but were withdrawn after only 4 months as their security was terribly weak. Also, Jules Verne used a turning grille as a plot device in his novel Mathias Sandorf, published in 1885; go read it!oday - at Pierre's request - I'm showing you a very easy (but insecure) crypto method called the
This is a 6 by 6 turning grille like the German's WW1 Berta grille.
Print out the grille shown on the top left here, scaling it larger if you like. Punch the nine holes EXACTLY in the positions shown. Place the grille centrally on a sheet of paper, then run a pencil around the grille edge showing where it is positioned. Now write the first 9 letters of the plaintext of your message - left to right, top to bottom, as usual - onto the paper through the holes you punched. Then turn the grille clockwise by 90°, giving you the pattern shown at the top right above. Make sure it fits exactly in your pencilled square. Write the next 9 letters of the plaintext of your message - left to right, top to bottom, as usual - onto the paper through the holes you punched. Then turn the grille clockwise by 90° again, giving you the pattern shown at the bottom left above. Write the next 9 letters of the plaintext of your message - left to right, top to bottom, as usual - onto the paper through the holes you punched. Then turn the grille clockwise by 90° again, giving you the pattern shown at the bottom right above. Write the next 9 letters of the plaintext of your message - left to right, top to bottom, as usual - onto the paper through the holes you punched. If your message is longer than 36 letters you should just repeat the steps described above. If your message is shorter than (a multiple of) 36 letters fill in the blank holes with an unusual letter, say X or J or Q or any mixture thereof.
Now remove the grille and on the paper you have 36 letters of your message all scrambled up, giving you the cyphertext of your message. You now send this cyphertext (by SMS, eMail, post, carrier pidgeon etc) to the addressee. Then destroy your sheet of paper and hide your secret grille away safely.
Anyone intercepting the cyphertext message sees garbage. But the addressee has a copy of your grille, it is the key to your code (so they keep it well hidden too). The addressee outlines his grille onto a sheet of paper and subdivides it into 6 by 6 fields. He/she writes the cyphertext - left to right, top to bottom, as usual - into these 6 by 6 fields. Placing the grille in position 1 onto this cyphertext square, they can read out the first 9 letters of the plaintext through the holes. Rotating the grille by 90° gives them the next 9 letters, by 180° the following 9 letters and by 270° the final 9 letters. Any nonsense letters X,J,Q or whatever at the end of the message is just filler. The addressee notes the plaintext of your message, destroys the sheet paper with the coded square on it, and hides the grille away securely again.
The pattern of holes in the grille is the secret key, which is why it must be kept well hidden. If the enemy captures a grille, he can read ALL of your messages :-( That's the (or rather A) weak point of the grille system :-(
BTW, grilles can be applied to a fractionating cipher, such as a Delastelle Bifid or Four-Square, with a CONSIDERABLE increase in security against a pencil-and-paper WW1-era attack (but still susceptible to a theft of the grille of course). Try seriating the sheet of paper behind the grille to see what I mean.
Recommended classical textbook : Helen Fouché Gaines, "Cryptanalysis : A study of ciphers and their solutions", Dover Publications, NY, 1956 reprint.
Online resource : The Turning Grille Toolset by Matthias Schneider.
Friday, July 15, 2011
rior to WW2 Germany sold Switzerland a number of commercial Enigma (K-model) 3-rotor cipher machines. Of course, the Swiss were sensible enough to rewire all the rotors to a different pattern (two sets in fact, one for training/peacetime use, and the other patterns for wartime use). Nevertheless the Swiss became aware (afaik in 1941) that their (neutral) diplomatic messages were being intercepted and read by both the Germans and the British. And so the university of Bern's maths dept set about designing a NEw MAchine through 1943.
The photo on the left shows one of the NEMAs from a production run of 640 machines which did not start until after WW2, 1947 to be precise. NEMA was declassified in 1992, and machines were offered for sale to the public in 1994. They cost only about 10% of the price of an historical Enigma nowadays and so are affordable for collectors like you and I.
NEMA uses 10 wheels, as you can see under the lid on the left, of which 4 are normal electrical rotors with 26 contacts at each end that are scramble wired in a way unique to each rotor type; one is an electrical reflector (like the Enigma's Umkehrwalze) with one set of 26 pairwise cross connected contacts; and the remaining five are "drive wheels" , with configurable mechanical cams that control the stepping of the rotors and the reflector. The wheels are assembled on an axle in pairs consisting of a drive wheel and an electrical rotor. The irregular motion of the drive wheels avoids one of the weaknesses of the Enigma 'rollover' design. The Swiss also realised that it is relatively straightforward for a cryptanalyst to strip off the over-encryption of the Enigma's plugboard and so there is no plugboard in the NEMA design, as you can see from the photo.
Contemporary rotor machines were the 5-rotor Typex in Britain dating from 1937, the Soviet Fialka (M-125) Cold War-era cipher machine, and the American SIGABA, an advanced design, indeed no successful cryptanalysis of the SIGABA during its service lifetime (into the 1950s) is publicly known.
Further online information about the NEMA is available from :-
If you are now interested in getting started in cryptography, there is a paper of mine in the West Point publication Cryptologia* showing an easy way of breaking a single rotor Hebern machine; use that as a starting point.
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Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Scrap Metal Sculptures :-)ince I've been blogging about metalwork all week (from the Starfighter restoration to the model rapturous cathedral), let me also show you some of the full scale (1:1) life size scrap metal sculptures in the gardens of our local country pub, Frau Brandt's Gasthaus am Königsweg.
The following photos are a bit larger, so you can see more detail :-
Those were my personal top ten, my favourite being the fallen angel, which goes for 5,000 Euros. Smaller statues are available for around 500 Euros. The artist is Jürgen Linnemannstöns, his website is www.lilleart.de, worth a visit :-)
Methinks we need a bigger garden :-(
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Monday, July 11, 2011
Great PETling hurling prize :-)s regular readers may know, one of my hobbies is Geocaching. A typical geocache may be a more or less well hidden PETling. On saturday we geocachers in the Paderborn area got together for a fun event, seeing how far we could hurl a PETling. One try only, no assistance.
Paderborn is designated a city only because it has a cathedral, otherwise it is a nondescript country town. The (Catholic) cathedral looks magnificent:
Now one of the geocachers in our little community - Sälzerkönig - is an expert with machine tools and made this neat model of the cathedral from a block of stainless steel as the first prize; a rapturous cathedral model :-)
The photo shows the winner - Pitchbulls - behind the model cathedral and his son clutching the challenge trophy, which after engraving, makes its way to another state (Bavaria afaik) for their PETling-hurling championship.
Now why do I refer to Sälzerkönig's model cathedral as a rapturous cathedral model? Well look closely at the photo. The top of the cathedral spire can be tipped over, whereupon the brown petling placed next to the cathedral entrance can be put into the hollow tower. Lowering the lever on the front of the tower tensions an internal rubber catapult. Pulling the trigger on the left side of the tower then hurls the brown petling high into the air. What a genial construction, thankyou Sälzerkönig !
If you were to tip the model over by 45° the model could even take part in the competition for which it was the main prize :-)
BTW, Pitchbull's winning throw was 38.97 meters. Me? I came in 26th with 21.77 meters, losing even to two of the ladies and two teenagers :-(
I could hurl ;-)
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Project Phoenix :-)his blog-entry is for Ms. Earth-Bound Misfit, a fellow pilot, whom I chided last week about anhedral instability in her comments, quoting a F104 Starfighter as an example. She replied "...the odds of me ever flying one of those Luftwaffe Widowmakers is pretty nonexistent :-("
Well cheer up lass, 'cos there's a restoration project going in Würgassen :-
The US flew these as a 'high'-altitude interceptor, in which role they were fairly safe. Germany was pressured into buying them and flew them low-level, so much so that there was barely time to eject after a birdstrike and/or a flameout of their single J79 engine, whence their local nickname "Widowmaker".
Macabre humour here used to have it that the cheapest way to get your own Starfighter was to buy a small patch of land and just wait :-(
The second cheapest way is to buy a leftover as scrap from the Luftwaffe. Just make sure you don't get a gate guardian (there's a F-104 Starfighter gate guardian at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, if I remember correctly).
This one is in the yard at Würgassen (N 51.641800, E 9.401596), but it hasn't been there long enough to show up on Google Maps yet - Google needs to refresh its satellite pix more frequently! The stovepipe has been fixed and the leading edge of the tailfin is nearing completion as you can see from the gantry. The left wing has been stripped for repair too. I should explain that German war-armaments law requires the plane be stripped of its armaments before sale to civilians. So the 20 mm (.79 in) M61 Vulcan Gatling gun was removed pre-sale, so we'll need a counterweight to get the weight-and-balance back where it should be. The Starfighter had 7 hard points for external loads (2 wingtip tanks, a belly point for a nuclear bomb, and 4 wing pylons for bombs or AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles). These hard points were destroyed pre-sale too :-(
Looking at all the work still to be done on this bird, I'll be 75 by the time it's airworthy again. Hope I still have my licence by then; flying a Mach 2 interceptor as a private plane for display purposes is a yet-to-be-fulfilled dream. Of course we are all restricted to 250 knots* below 10,000 feet (so we can see/be seen by the VFR pilots) and are not allowed to go supersonic over land in Germany. Mind you, the combat range on the internal tanks is just 365 nautical miles, so it'd be out to sea, climb to service ceiling (a mere 50,000 feet) at a sea-level climb rate of 48,000 fpm, accelerate to 1154 knots (bang-bang) and scrape home before the tank runs dry :-(
Of course Ms. Earth-Bound Misfit will need a jet rating and a type clearance (it's a single-seater). Whatever you do, don't get this bird into a high angle of attack, lest it pitch up into an unrecoverable spin. Sure there's a stick shaker, even a stick pusher, but (dead) pilots have been known to overrride them :-( Be careful with this bird, it's not a toy! Example : a T2-reset on the (sole) J79 engine can cause engine failure on take off, which has happened several times after just parking the finicky bird in bright sunlight!
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Monday, July 4, 2011
Whence the Anacreontic Song? ;-)uly 4th redux : The Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence on July 2nd 1776 proposed in June 1776 by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia. Congress debated and revised the Declaration of Independence, finally approving it on July 4 some say, although it was not actually signed until August 2, 1776. France, Spain and the Dutch Republic all secretly provided supplies, ammunition and weapons to the revolutionaries starting early in 1776. So American Independence was only achieved by military help from the French; how gauling(sic!) that must be to the 'Merkins ;-)
The Treaties of Paris, by which Britain recognised the independence of the American states and returned Florida to Spain, were not signed by King George III and ratified until 1783. There is also evidence that George III suffered from further mental problems, recognising the independence of the American states being one of his first acts of madness ;-) As independents, the States needed a new national anthem, so Francis Scott Key stole the music of the Anacreontic Song from an Englishman(!) John Stafford Smith, adding his own lyrics ultimately to give The Star Spangled Banner.
Here are three Hendrix-style versions for your orgiastic ear'ole delectation :-)
These three are mere copies. I was fortunate enough to experience Jimi Hendrix live in the UK at London's Royal Albert Hall in February 1969, so I prefer his original WOW-guitar version, like this session :-
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23 Recent Writings
FWIW : 23 is the number of the Illuminati, folks ;-)
US budget crisis...
An old friend lost :-(
My Right Royal Pun ;-)
No hybrids forseen
Norwegian Terrorism :-(
Four Colour Theorem
42 & no longer counting
On going deaf :-(
Food Porn Anecdote ;-)
Crypto Grille for kids
Scrap metal sculptures
PETling hurling prize
The Anacreontic Song
Turning and turning...
Google = Urdu ?
Red Bull's Hit :-(
Ethical Dilemma Fail :-(
Teasing Americans ;-)
LOTR Beemer :-)
Collatz conjecture proved!
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FWIW, 153 is a triangular number, meaning that you can arrange 153 items into an equilateral triangle (with 17 items on a side). It is also one of the six known truncated triangular numbers, because 1 and 15 are triangular numbers as well. It is a hexagonal number, meaning that you can distribute 153 points evenly at the corners and along the sides of a hexagon. It is the smallest 3-narcissistic number. This means it’s the sum of the cubes of its digits. It is the sum of the first five positive factorials. Yup, this is a 153-type blog. QED ;-)
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