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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'.

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Friday, March 30, 2012

Dulce et decorum est?

Apparently I've been upsetting people in the USA by pointing out the amoral nature of some of their military, be it pissing on enemy corpses or going on killing sprees of innocent women and children. War crimes. I'd like to know why Bush, Cheney, Rumford et al have not been tried for their war crimes? It's just the little guys (and the whistleblowers) who get busted, if at all.

This led to a pub discussion of whether it is possible to separate patriotism from military context. The old lie Dulce et decorum est, pro Patria mori thus excluded.

I was asked if I, as a pacifist, even had patriotic emotions? Sure. Just stand in the grandstand at Murrayfield rugby stadium before the match between the ancient foes Scotland vs. England and listen to our 40,000+ Scottish throats belting out Flower of Scotland at the top of our lungs. Tears come to my eyes :-)

But I can feel patriotic about Great Britain too. I do enjoy the patriotic flag-waving and sing-along at the Last Night of the Proms. Joining in and belting out Rule Britannia, then Land of Hope and Glory (watch from 7:27 onwards).

And so it pisses me off to see scenes like this, a screenshot from the traditional hymn Jerusalem (0:01 to 2:39) :-

This woman has bought a Union flag* mounted upside down** on its pole. She wants the patriotic experience, but is too ignorant to buy a correct flag! I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she is a foreigner. But what manufacturer is so ignorant as to make them upside-down like this? Made in China?? And the UK importer, is he too an ignorant foreigner? Jeebus wept!

Then what about these people reading their programs because they don't know the words ? Booking weeks ahead, they go to participate in the most patriotic sing-along in the whole of GB and not make the effort to learn the words first ? Even foreigners can/should do that. Rant!Rave!!

If my very English blogmate Four Dinners reads this, he'll have a hissy fit too!

Comments (3) :
Pergelator (USA) complains " I'm starting to really dislike Latin phrases. They seem to be very popular these days. I don't like them because I never know what they mean, which is irritating, which means I have to go look them up, and then I find they mean something stupid. Well, not stupid, it's just that there is an English phrase that would have actually communicated the concept without my having to go look it up. Annoying is what it is, just a chance for people who have learned a Latin phrase to beat other people over the head with their ignorance. It wouldn't be so bad if once I looked it up, I would remember what it means, but for some reason the translation soon vanishes from my memory. I often find myself looking up Latin phrases and realizing I have looked it up before. Today's phrase was new, or at least I have forgotten that I looked it up before. And as for the business of the upside down flag: maybe England should have made the flag either A) symmetrical, so there would not be a wrong way up, or B) with a significant difference so that it was obvious which way was up. I've read your posts about this issue before, and I studied your directions on how to tell the difference, and yes, there is a difference, but I have forgotten which way is which. (Or C- include a small line of type along the top edge that reads "this edge up".) God forbid I ever have to post a picture of the UK flag. (Can't call it a Union flag over here, that would refer to our Civil War. I think.)" It's a quotation from Horace AND a famous poem by Owens, both would be recognised by any Brit grammar school child, even without any Latin. So it's a cultural difference UK/USA I guess. If I can see the significant difference immediately, so can everyone else. But yes, Cop Car has (elsewhen) charged me with having an eye for detail and assuming everyone else does too. This is probably a case in point. Which is why I linked to Owen's poem for the non-Brits, I don't seriously expect you to have read Horace ;-)
Dave (USA) asks "What is this? The UK version of peak wingnut?" No, the UK version of peak wingnut is George Galloway winning the Bradford by-election last night, by the grace of Allah. As 4D would say, "WTF?"
Brian (UK) points us to a TV-skit on the British citizenship test ;-)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Accidents @ Home

Just a week ago we were talking about lab safety, when it occurred to me that many more accidents occur in traffic and even more at home. Of those domestic accidents here in Germany, over a half million happen to children. So it is the responsibility of parents to see what they can do to avoid them [the accidents, not the children, although . . . ;-)].

Modern ovens and espresso machines have a child-safety button that needs to be held down for long time (5 secs?) before the appliance will start. Modern irons turn themselves off if they have not been moved for a short(30 secs) while. Ceran induction heating areas only respond to the area being touched after the On-switch has been pressed twice, or turned then pressed in. If you have young children, you might want to upgrade your kitchen/electrical appliances to ones with these safety features.

Even putting an acryl isolation plate on the door of an older oven will isolate it better, preventing burns.

Bread slicers, irons, waffle-makers, frying-pots should all be stowed away out of sight in cupboards when not in use. Water-boilers (for making coffee/tea) and their associated cables should be positioned at the back of the kitchen surfaces, not near the front where a child (or even cat) can grab at a dangling cable. Most ovens have 4 heating areas on top, so just use the rear ones which a small child cannot reach. Turn the pan handles towards the back, not the front. The same applies to any steam-emitting spouts. Buy a grid that can be mounted on the front of the oven so that children cannot reach for pots and pans on the stove.

Put one of those childproof temporary gates at the top of any stairs. Lock the medicine cupboard and store the key elsewhere. Put all cutlery away when not in use and keep the dishwasher closed. Fence in the garden pond.

Thanks to DSH for the heads up on this list; it's not mine, I'm just passing their tips on in my own words for use by my blogreaders.

Comments (2) :
Doug Alder (CAN) has an additional safety precaution "Get electrical outlet covers that will prevent children from sticking things in and getting shocked".
Brian (UK) points us to the UK gov Health and Safety report (PDF to download).

Monday, March 26, 2012

Star Light, Star bright

Supernova in M95 ! While I was looking at Mars, which is at its nearest currently and we had (rare) good seeing. Mars currently has a magnitude of -1. Much dimmer (9), but getting increasingly brighter over the next few months, is a new supernova II from a massive star in galaxy M95. You will need at least an 8 inch scope, magnification 120x used.

Star Light, Star bright,
The first star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.

Who knows* what old civilisation in a solar system around a massive star far out in a spiral arm of their galaxy had to perish so that in another galaxy, far far away, a young civilisation might one day remember 1 A.D ? :-(

Comments (1) :
John (UK) was first to get it right "Arthur C. Clarke's short story The Star". Correct, here it is.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Old Vinyl Meme, #8, 1977 :-)

Continuing on the weekly sundays' Old Vinyl Meme which I started last month, in which we show old LPs we own and link to a YouTube video from back then. You can read the meme rules here, feel free to join in, the more the merrier, as long as the vinyl LP is 30+ years old :-)

This sunday's Old Vinyl LP is Bat out of Hell featuring Meat Loaf. The LP was published in 1977, first of a trilogy Bat Out of Hell, Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell and Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster is Loose. From this LP I particularly like the track "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" co-starring the sexy Karla de Vito on this video. Bat Out of Hell has sold over 43 million copies worldwide, making it one of the highest selling albums of all time.

Here is the video of my favourite (11 minute) track by the non-smiling Meat Loaf, the title number, Bat out of Hell in 1977. Karla de Vito accompanies.

BTW, should you want to join this meme, the rules can be found here :-

... And thus do we learn of one another's eclectic music tastes :-)

Do this meme!

Comments (2) :
Bogie (USA) wrote "My 3rd post related to your music meme is up at". Thanks, lass, for joining the meme.
HaggisChorizo is a fan of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band (1974).

Friday, March 23, 2012

Goodbye Doug Alder and thankyou

Ten years ago, when I started this blog on 1/1/2002, I was soon followed by Doug Alder from Trail, Canada, who started his blog on March 24th 2002. Just recently Doug mailed me that he will be giving up his blog tomorrow, on its 10th anniversary :-(

He wrote "BTW I'm shutting my blog down permanently on the 24th - that makes 10 years and that's long enough, especially considering no one other than you and leftbanker reads it anymore."

Well Doug, it's been a long haul this last decade. It has been a pleasure reading you and accompanying you along the ode[sic!] less taken.

As you know, I've been having trouble accessing your site these past few weeks but I saw what may be your ultimate blogpost, appropriately enough a photo of a great sunset :-) I do however, find it ironic that the error message I get claims you are 'always online' :-(

So this is just my way of saying thankyou for the 10 years of entertainment you have provided. Live long and prosper :-)

Comments (5) :
Doug Alder will be doing a photo page he tells us " Thanks Stu - that really means a lot to me - more, maybe, than you can imagine (or maybe that's just the Appleton's VX talking :) ) As I continue my photography I will likely start a new site just for that - but after 10 years it is time to retire Doug's Dynamic Drivel once and for all." Let me know the new URL, Doug.
Off topic, fellow Atheist Klaus (Alaska) feels the need to organise at the local level too, not just in Washington DC. Go for it!
Karen (D) opines "People say thankyou much less often than they should. So thank YOU for setting an example, and please keep on blogging yourself." Wilco :-)
Schorsch (D) raps my fingers "Today (23rd) would have been Wernher von Braun's 100th birthday. Why didn't you blog about that?" Because that is public knowledge, so I could assume that others would. Doug, OTOH, is a good eFriend, even though we've never met. My choice!
Jenny (Ibiza) reminds us that "Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet contains LL&P in Act V. Sc iii" Almost, afaik he wrote "Live and be prosperous." there :-)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lab Safety Anecdote - for Demeur

Richard Feynman used to tell this story about when he was working on the Manhatten Project, i.e. development of the first US nukes.

The Manhatten Project was subject to top military secrecy, i.e. the grunts were only told the minimum they needed to know. Nowadays we KNOW that this leads to accidents and that best results are achieved if everyone involved has a deep understanding of what is going on. Fukushima being the case which proves my point.

The scientists had enriched uranium in the form of a liquid and knew that multiple sub-critical masses were to be stored as far apart as possible. The grunts had been told to store the liquid in separate far-apart rooms, away from outside walls and away from the doors. But they had NOT been told about critical masses, nor about neutron flux, nor that wooden walls were transparent to neutrons. So this is how they stored the liquid in rooms A,B,C and D :-(

Far apart? Yup, thought the grunts, only accessible from separate corridors.
Away from outside walls? Check.
Away from the doors? Check.

But the neutrons from the radioactive liquid went straight through the wooden walls! Not only that, the grunts had tipped the liquid from the scientists' small bottles into large buckets (so that they would not have to carry them so often!). The buckets were borderline sub-critical! Not until a grunt reported that the buckets were still hot after several days, did a junior scientist (Feynman, back then) look to see what the problem was! OOPS!!!

There are several Feynmann videos on YouTube, well worth watching. I still have a bound set of the Feynmann Lectures on Physics from my days at City University; the guy was a great teacher, not just a Nobel Prize winner ;-)

Comments (9) :
Val (IRL) asks "So, what liquid would that be?" That's irrelevant to the story, Val, but since I am someone who always approves of scientific curiosity, here's your answer. An oxide of uranium. The most stable oxidation state of uranium is the hexavalent state. Whether you get the uranyl cation or the diuranate anion depends on the pH of the solution, anions in alkaline media, cations in acid media. So it'd be one of those two: UO22+ or else U2O72- , in solution.
Pierre (F) asks "What is a grunt?" Slang for a soldier, especially an infantryman. Generally : an unskilled worker; labourer.
Cop Car (USA) wrote "Thanks for the hat tip, Stu. Somehow, the story of the disposition of the radioactive substances reminds me of this passage (below) from Proud Robot by Henry Kuttner. "Gallegher was chuckling quietly on the couch. "Joe has a high irritation value," he said. "I've found that out already. I must have given him some remarkable senses, too. An hour ago he started to laugh- his damn fool head off. No reason, apparently. I was fixing myself a bite to eat. Ten minutes after that I slipped on an apple core I'd thrown away and came down hard. Joe just looked at me. 'That was it,' he said. 'Logics of probability. Cause and effect. I knew you were going to drop that apple core and then step on it when you went to pick up the mail.' Like the White Queen, I suppose. It's a poor memory that doesn't work both ways."". . .
Jenny (Ibiza) quipped "That story is beyond the pail" Groan!
Gudrun (D) asks "Exactly WHY were the buckets still hot? I'm a banker not a physicist, so keep it simple." The proximity of the radioactive contents of each bucket raised the neutron flux in each of them, aka they got neutrons from the other 3 buckets too and so there was almost a chain reaction (the Markov coefficient was almost 1). The fission of the uranium generates heat. Remember, a nuclear reactor is just a big kettle, used to boil water.
Renke contradicts me "Hi Stu, your sentence "a great teacher, not just a Nobel Prize winner" is highly misleading: Great scientists are often bad teachers (and vice-versa)... and some reactor types are not kettles used to boil water, but badass designs boiling fucking _molten salt_ (though admittedly not NaCl but eutectic mixtures like FLiBe)". Surely the molten salt is just the primary coolant circuit? Then a heat exchanger generates steam like a kettle to drive the turbines?
Renke, better informed than I, replied to my comment " the proposed Hyperion reactor uses 3 loops: primary and secondary lead/bismuth, third supercritical CO2 for power generation: no water involved :)" Okaaaay.
Piet (NL) say "Thanks to CopCar for the Kuttner link. Good tale :-)" Isn't it!
Demeur (USA) points out "You refer to process safety as something that is only now made it down to the worker level in the last 5 or 10 years. In the past we were only told of the short and long term health effects of chemical exposures and never expected to use our brains. With the addition of many many new chemical combinations every year it's not enough to have basic information. I chuckle having viewed the old films of them building the first atomic weapon. With just enough material they managed to jury rig the first and had it not been for an ample supply of duct tape the atomic age may have never arrived. And here's a little experiment (test) that our supervisors experience in class. Take a group of people and a simple line diagram. Without them looking give a verbal description of the diagram and have them try and draw it. No easy task for the supervisor or the students. " The problem with doing cutting edge R&D is that there are NO training manuals, texts etc. I remember being just out of university with an honours degree in Physics, being thrown at naval guided missile guidance system design. No texts, many sources classified. I had to learn about glint and humidity gradient ducting on my own, even learn the need to take them into consideration. Ditto on torpedo tracking design, learning about salinity gradients etc. Cop Car has written elsewhere (I paraphrase) "You are engineers, you can do anything". (I think we share some common background). Namedropping, I remember teasing Edward Teller in Davos once in the 1980s about some of his early H-bomb design errors and being told "On the first of anything, you merely feel your way. Only late-comers can benefit from experience." I was suitably chastised!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Superluminal Neutrinos...

...are a thing of the future ;-)

Think about it.

Comments (2) :
Gudrun (D) asks "I don't understand the joke? Often so with your 'jokes' :-(" Recently it has been reported that a highly collimated beam of neutrinos from the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) in Geneva (CH) reached a detector in Gran Sasso (I) about 750 kms away almost 60 nanoseconds fast than light (hence superluminal and hence in the future). Turns out that a dodgy connection was causing a systematic error of exactly those 60ns. So Einstein was still right, and nothing superluminal has been discovered (yet) :-)
Demeur (USA) wrote "Superluminal? I guess Einstein was smarter than he looked. I still wonder how the boys at Los Alamos knew that the chain reaction would eventually stop. My knowledge on the subject is limited to cleaning up after a dirty bomb. Aren't you glad you have us high tech janitors? ;-)" The fission chain reaction eventually stops when the neutron flux cannot be maintained because the uranium atoms have been blown so far apart and there was no surrounding uranium to maintain it. They knew that. However Edward Teller (=father of the hydrogen bomb) told me that he was not sure if the natural hydrogen in the atmosphere would fuse as a result of the first H-bomb test and that was why he didn't attend the first test! How about that! And yes, I'm grateful for you hazmat boys and girls; surely there are plenty of job opportunities in Fukushima right now? Assuming you know how to sweep stuff under the Tepco carpet :-(

Monday, March 19, 2012

Freshman Chemistry Book Tip

My posts on chemistry led to someone's favourite aunt asking me "What could I buy my nephew who will be doing freshman chemistry beginning later this summer?".

To which I replied : "Protective glasses, several pairs of rubber gloves and any book on his university's required reading list".

But it turned out she didn't have that list and wanted a useful book as a surprise present. So I'm recommending to her my old favourite, Vogel's Quantitative Inorganic Analysis, as shown here. I used to have a first edition from 1937, but it got lost in a house move. So I got a used copy just for nostalgic reasons (I no longer do chemical analyses). It's the seventh edition, dating from 1996, revised and reworked by Professor Svehla (at Cork, Ireland), and now an even better lab manual :-) The ISBN number is 0-582-21866-7.

Be interesting to get Carl's and Demeur's feedback on this tip and hear their tips.

Comments (1) :
Demeur (USA) - a blogging HazMat expert - graciously replied " To be honest I doubt I'll get around to the chemistry book I'm a bit busy trying to get back in the game, but I do have some good advice that may save a greenhorn from permanent damage. is the web page for the Chemical Safety Board in the U.S. They investigate all injury accidents and recommend changes to safety procedures for companies, universities, etc. Unlike a regulatory agency they have no power to fine or bring penalties and I therefore trust their judgments. On their web page is a 24 minute video entitled "Experimenting with danger" that deals with several serious accidents at universities. I was surprised to find people with such degrees have so little common sense when it came to safety. This should give your friends' son something to ask when he gets to university. Something such as "what are the safety procedures and training before working in a university laboratory?" might be the first thing on his list. Hope I have been of service here." I am sure you have, Demeur, that's a good piece of advice :-) Re. University Labs : in the land of the blind the one-eyed man DID read the safety manual 2nd time around ;-)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Old Vinyl Meme, #7, 1976 :-)

Continuing on the weekly sundays' Old Vinyl Meme which I started last month. You can read the meme rules here, feel free to join in, the more the merrier, as long as the vinyl LP is 30+ years old :-)

This sunday's Old Vinyl LP is Cry Tough featuring Nils Lofgren mostly on guitar, but sometimes keyboards and anyway vocals. There is no date on the LP, but Wikipedia tells me it was published in 1976.

Here is my favourite video by Lofgren Cry Tough, on slide guitar, in 1976.

BTW, should you want to join this meme, the rules can be found here :-

... And thus do we learn of one another's eclectic music tastes :-)

Do this meme!

Comments (5) :
Pergelator wrote "I don't have any old vinyl. Never did have any. Had friends who did, had an FM radio in my car. My wife had some old vinyl, but it had gotten kind of beat up by the time she met me. We gave it all away years ago. " Yes, Charles, this meme is a flop. Didn't catch on as I'd thought it might. Guess it's only over-60s who (still) have old vinyl. Likely I'll drop the meme at the end of the month :-(.
HaggisChorizo objected to this, "I note your comment about the old vinyl meme being flop, well I don't think so. I've found delving into your record collection a jolly good read. I hope you keep the weekly feature going for a bit longer, just because other people don't join in (or moan the never bought a LP) doesn't mean the meme is failure." Well OK, I'll do a few more.
Badtux likes ELP's Lucky Man.
Demeur wrote "Most music I tend to like is complex and orchestrated so my choice would be Pink Floyds' "Dark side of the moon". As for much of the music today I'd get more pleasure listening to an unbalanced washing machine." I'd second both remarks :-)
Bogie (USA) recommends Electic Light Orchestra, from 1976 :-)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The wearing of the green ;-)

Happy St.Patrick's Day. Enjoy yourselves! ;-)

Comments (1) :
Xtreme English (USA) grinned "Sorry I missed your March 17th post....I'd have reposted it. Do they sell these now in the Emerald Isle?" I doubt it. Fifty years ago in Eire the nearest you could buy to a 10-pack of condoms was a pair of rubber gloves and kitchen scissors. BTW: these condoms glow in the dark for about 20 minutes after you open the package, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase 'Light of my life' ;-)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sheldon Cooper's alloys of Gallium ;-)

Sticking with the subject of chemistry, today I thought I'd tell you about several new alloys of Gallium (Ga) as attributed to Dr. Sheldon Cooper, B.S., M.S., M.A., Ph.D., Sc.D at Caltech. Now some of you may not remember your chemistry lessons from school, or have never seen research chemists at work (Hi, Carl), so for each of the elements mentioned in my blog today I'll link you to the excellent but simple educational videos on each of them featuring Nottingham university's professor Martyn Poliakoff, which are well worth watching. Here's their video about Gallium.

Cooper's alloy #1 adds traces of Barium and Zink to the Gallium, the precise proportions being a Caltech trade secret (pat. pend). Here is the video on Barium which you may know from 'barium meal' used for its X-ray opacity when your doc is examining your guts :-) And here is their video on Zinc, which is often used to prevent rusting of iron. Besides, without traces of Zinc in your body, you would not be able to smell things.

Cooper's alloy #2 is like #1, but uses Tin instead of Zinc. I guess this replacement idea came from England ;-) Here is the video on Tin; you'll all know Tin from the thin coating of tin on the inside of food cans.

Cooper's alloy #3 adds traces of Boron, Arsenic and Indium to the Gallium. Here is the video on Boron; there is a small town called Boron in California, pop.2000. Here is the video on Arsenic, a poison famous in many detective stories (e.g. Arsenic and Old Lace). FWIW, the arsenic equivalents of pyrroles are called Arsoles; surprisingly or possibly not, Arsoles are not aromatic ;-) Here is the video on Indium, an element present in every LCD display because it conducts electricity AND is transparent to light :-)

If you want your child to be the chemistry geek at parties, have them learn Tom Lehrer's periodic table song. I learned the Elements song off by heart back in 1960, but can no longer perform it. But even Harry Potter knows it off by heart.

Theo Gray of Wolfram Research built a Periodic Table table. That's NOT a typo!

You may be asking WHY these 3 alloys are attributed to Sheldon Cooper. Well, just consider the symbols for the elements in each alloy :-
Alloy #1 : Ba-Zn-Ga ;-)
Alloy #2 : Ba-Sn-Ga ;-)
Alloy #3 : B-As-In-Ga ;-)

Comments (4) :
Cop Car wrote "Stu-Thanks for the story. You really do go all out! It is well that you revealed the reasoning behind the nomenclature as I am exhausted....." I do really enjoy watching TBBT on TV; about ¼ of the puns get lost in translation though. Or maybe the translator didn't realise they were puns :-(
Demeur (USA) wrote "Got a chuckle out of your chemistry lesson Fri. but I must be honest I never took chemistry in high school. Most of what I learned was self taught and mostly to prevent a quick demise or long term effects. It must have paid off as I'm still here after 20+ years dealing with nasty stuff. " Plenty of HazMats amongst the GOP prezzi candidates :-(
Cop Car wrote "You have probably already found these sites: but, just in case :- and for TBBT"
Xtreme English (USA) grinned "Ha! the only part i can remember now is the last: ' These are the only ones of which the news has come to Haaarvard. There may be many others, but they haven't been discaaaarverd.' Looking forward to watching the videos on metals!" Guess I just Pb you to them ;-)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Nerdy place mat for budding scientists :-)

A friend of mine has a daughter now in secondary school who is turning out to be a science nerd like her dad. She particularly likes chemistry. But her parents don't let her read textbooks at the table at mealtimes lest they get messed up. To get around this I'm buying her this place-mat.

Kilroy was here ;-)

It is the periodic table of the elements, nicely colour coded. The metals have pale blue backgrounds, the non-metals pale yellow backgrounds and the semimetals/metalloids pale green. The symbols for the elements are colour coded too, gases in red, liquids in blue and solids in black [but for some reason I don't understand, Gallium is shown as a solid, even though it is (just) liquid at room temperature; hold it in your hand and it will melt!].

Top right in each box is the symbol for the element, here we see platinum(Pt) and gold(Au). Left thereof, we see the atomic weight (averaged over any isotopes) above the atomic number. At the bottom are the names of the elements (in german, this is a German periodic table). Between we see a child-friendly picture showing a common use of the element. The pictures are explained on the other side of the mat, indexed by atomic number up to 83 and to keep it simple, omitting the Lanthanoids. Radioactive elements are labelled by the usual schematic, the atomic weight is replaced by the count of the nucleons in the longest-living isotope, and the half-life of the longest-living isotope is shown in each box at lower right.

As per usual convention, the Lanthanoids and the Actinoids are separated out and shown across the bottom of the place mat.

This periodic table place mat cost me under 4 € , it is published (and copyright) by Ernst Klett Verlag GmbH, Stuttgart, 2008. The German version has ISBN 978-3-12-068580-7. They probably do an English version too, but I don't know the ISBN of that. Get one for yourselves for lunchtime learning!

Comments (6) :
Pergelator did his own thing, viz. " I put the periodic table in a spreadsheet. I don't remember exactly why I did it. Partly because I wanted to sort out the names, and partly because I had come across a couple of sources of info that I wanted to correlate. I also drew my own spiral table." Nicely done, Charles! Not sure about the spiral model though. The regular 2-8-8-18-18-33-33 structure shows the number of electrons in each shell according to Nils Bohr. What (additional?) info does your spiral model contain?
Evelyn (AUS) grinned "You would make a great Kilroy, bit wrinkly though ;-) FWIW, Kilroy is called 'Foo' down here in Oz." And he's called 'Chad' in the UK, if I remember correctly.
Nat (US) wrote "Today is PI day (3.14) in the US. I'd expected you to blog about that." Did that eight years ago. Look here.
Brian (UK) reminds us "It is also Einstein's birthday." On which we look at the GOP candidates and remember one of Einstein's lines "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." ;-)
Cop Car wrote "Loved the periodic table table. Fabulous! I wish that Tom Lehrer would update the song; although, truth to tell, I don't recall that there were 102 known elements in 1959. I had remembered 97. (My brother got so much memory that there was none left for me!) The young science fan should appreciate the informative placemat (on which they could have presented a p-v-t diagram for each element instead of designating it as a single state)." I think they chose the little 'usage' pictures instead of PVT to keep it simple for kids. Maybe I'll write a periodic table App for the iPad wherein each element links to its Wikipedia entry. Probably been done already though??? Surprise : Schorsch tells me I am mentioned in Wikipedia, but I don't have my own entry (yet ;-)).
Jenny (Ibiza) gives us a great link "Now look at this :-)"

Monday, March 12, 2012

Misuse of Mail :-(

I had thought that this was common knowledge, but since it appears not to be the case, I'll just repeat it for common edification.

Email addresses are intended for point-to-point 1-1 communication. Sometimes they are used (IMHO misused) for broadcasting 1-N circulars. Some organisations have an opt-out policy, requiring you to say specifically that you do NOT want their broadcast infos. Some - with more respect for privacy - have an opt-in policy, omitting you from their broadsides (I use the word advisedly) UNLESS you say you specifically want to receive them. Some have no policy - or indeed inclusion/exclusion mechanism at all :-(

Those who DO broadcast should address their mails to themselves and list the other recipients in the BCC field. BCC stands for Blind Carbon Copy. This implies that none of the recipients gets to see who all the other recipients are. This is called respect for the Privacy of others!

What happens if you put your whole address book in the regular addressee field? Every recipient gets to see all addresses. Some of them will have their mailing SW set up to insert all those addresses into their own address book. Some of those computers may be infected with a virus, trojan etc; after all, not everyone is knowledgeable about computer risks. As a result, all those new addresses can get 'farmed' by professional spammers :-(

This is how spams start and propagate :-( Don't do it!!! Especially not with commercial (for-profit) content, which includes (church) begging letters.

The result is that many of your unwitting recipients will soon be receiving junk like this begging letter shown below :-(

"From: Mrs.Mariama Ba : Beloved, Compliments of the day to you! By this e-mail, I do sincerely Apologize for my intrusion of your privates[sic!]. However, I have a serious concern with which I believe you might be of help and for this reason, I can not but reach out to someone - a fellow beloved. I am Mariama Ba, the mother to Gerard St. Germaine and Yvette St. Germaine who both died untimely in an Egypt Air crash 1999..." etc. etc ad nausam :-(

I shall not mention the numerous - always embarrassing - examples of people (mistakenly) clicking 'Reply to All' instead of 'Reply' button. Recently even the German parliament had a flurry of these 'I am absent - bounce back' emails, caused by a secretary who should have known better. Don't do it either!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Old Vinyl Meme, #6, 1970 :-)

Continuing on the weekly sundays' Old Vinyl Meme which I started last month. You can read the meme rules here, feel free to join in, the more the merrier, as long as the vinyl LP is 30+ years old :-)

This sunday's Old Vinyl LP is Band of Gypsys featuring Jimi Hendrix, Billy Cox and Buddy Miles on drums. There is no date on the LP, but Wikipedia tells me it was published in 1970, and so even qualifies as 40+ year Old Vinyl :-)

I have a number of Hendrix LPs from 1967 onwards, Band of Gypsys was recorded live in 1970, just before his untimely death. All feature the unforgettable Jimi Hendrix, the most psychedelic guitar of the time.

Here is my favourite video by Hendrix Star Spangled Banner @ Woodstock 1969, on YouTube, anacreontic indeed, 1969 at Woodstock. At the Isle of Wight festival he opened with God Save the Queen I remember, but I couldn't find it on YouTube just now to show to y'all :-(

BTW, should you want to join this meme, the rules can be found here :-

... And thus do we learn of one another's eclectic music tastes :-)

Do this meme!

Comments (5) :
Doug Alder (CA) recommends "Miles Davis - Bitches Brew. There is no favourite cut on this album as it needs to be listened to from start to finish - like a symphony. "
Haggis Chorizo recommends "Black Sabbath's Heaven and Hell, from 1980."
Ikosan (J) chided "I thought you would write about Fukushima today". I thought of doing so, but others will do it much better.
Bogieblog joins the meme, recommending Boston's self-titled album, from 1976. Glad to say that it's in my collection too, Bogie.
Gudrun just mailed me a YouTube link to Iron Butterfly - In A Gadda Da Vida (1969). OK, but I prefer ELP playing 'Fanfare for the common man'.

Friday, March 9, 2012

A domino joke for the blind ;-)

T oday's shaggy dog story is specially written for Xtreme English, ex-teacher and editor extraordinaire.

Once upon a time there was an English teacher who flipped out every time she saw one of her students - and anyone else for that matter - misuse an apostrophe. So to calm herself down, she sometimes went to the blind folk's home to play dominoes with the inhabitants there. The dominoes were embossed, of course, so that the blind folks could play too. Most of the blind folks had been tradespeople or shopkeepers, in fact as we see by the domino on the left, some of them were blind greengrocer's ;-)

Comments (6) :
Xtreme English wrote "mousing over the domino like a mad woman, but nothing happens. not only that, i don't get the joke." Domino pattern displays an apostrophe in Braille, as used by greengrocer's (sic). Yeah, it's lame, but then I'm one-eyed (like the domino) as far as humour is concerned ;-)
Renke points out that "In the German Braille dialect dot 3 (as shown in your image) is not ' (apostrophe) but . (full stop), the apostrophe in German is dot 6. Weird, even something as progressive as an alphabet for the blind is intermingled with nationalism." When I worked for SNI, I ran the handbook-writing department for a while. Our handbooks had to take account of Internationalisation (or, as we self-referentially sarcastically called it I18n). Praise be to the EU for getting rid of a lot of the differences. Examples : if the user has selected Hebrew as his language of choice you have to toggle the sort algorithm in the SW to work right to left! And in Iceland, namelists like the telephone book are sorted by first name, because half of them are surnamed Magnusson/Magnusdottir ;-)
Cop Car has some apocryphal remarks in her own blog, go look.
Klaus (Alaska) sent this amusing piece on EU standardisation efforts :-
"The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility. As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5- year phase-in plan that would become known as "Euro-English". In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c".. Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favour of "k". This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter. There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with "f".. This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter. In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent "e" in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away. By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v". During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vordskontaining "ou" and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi TU understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru. Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas. If zis mad you smil, pleas pas on to oza pepl. "
Peter (Ireland) punned very badly "Apostrophe AMN concatenated in Morse"
.----. gawd almighty, Peter, and dat's a terrible joke! Had I not known you are a Ham Radio operator I would have missed it too.
Renke replied "The sorting of Icelandic names is l10n instead of i18n, isn't it? but anyway - both tasks are horrible if the underlaying software isn't prepared for heavy customization (customisation?) [and for some reason no one uses the abbreviation c11n :)]" I find that European SW is in general better prepared. American SW suffers from cultural blindness more often. As a case in point, afaik NONE of Knuth's sort algorithms have a parameter for the direction to be used in reading the words to be sorted. I teased him about that last time he was over here visiting (also at the HNF, Renke :-).

Thursday, March 8, 2012

For Brutus is an honourable man

. . . So are they all; all honourable men (Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 2).

It is today that the German ex-President Wulff - who stepped down on 17th February after the district attorney applied to parliament to have his (Wulff's) immunity removed so that he (the DA) could pursue charges against him (Wulff) - gets his official military tattoo send-off. Until a new president (just a figurehead here) is elected on the 18th inst, the role is being formally fulfilled by his stand-in, Horst Seehofer :-( Yes, that Horst Seehofer, the one who produced a bastard daughter with one of the office staff whom he then dumped. Conservative family values, anyone?

Wulff is shown above with Guttenberg, ex-defence minister, who resigned after it came out that his doctorate was plagiarised. The university withdrew said doctorate and Guttenberg fled to the US, much shamed.

Three German lessons for the day :
Glaubwurdigkeit -> English : Credibility
Ehrlichkeit -> English : Honesty
Politikverdrossenheit -> English : Pissed off with politics and politicians.

"For Brutus is an honourable man... So are they all; all honourable men" (?)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Gardening Enigma Cribs

L ast month Brian (UK) asked me to write something about breaking the Enigma codes in WW2. For UK residents a visit to Bletchley Park (aka BP) is a (satur)day well spent and there is a lot of literature available, so it's difficult to write something new. But I shall try.

The Enigma is a cipher machine invented in the 1920s by Arthur Scherbius. There were commercial versions available before WW2, albeit when the Germans adopted it as their cipher machine they changed the rotor wiring. The Enigma has three rotors, a 'mirror' and a plugboard. Electrical signals from the keyboard go through the first rotor coming out at a different letter than they went in (depending on that rotor's wiring), ditto for the 2nd and 3rd rotor, are 'reflected' by the mirror (also coming out at a different letter than they went in) and then go back through the rotors again in the other direction. Then there is a monoalphabetic substitution by the plugboard before the resulting letter is lit up on a lampboard. After each letter the rightmost rotor rotates one position. After a full rotation of the rightmost rotor, a single fixed peg moves the centre rotor on by one position. After a full rotation of the centre rotor, a single fixed peg moves the left rotor on by one position. Thus the Enigma design achieved the maximum possible length for its keysteam (26*26*26=17576 characters) before repetition. No message was this long, and so the WW2 Germans thought the Enigma was undecipherable.

If you read that description carefully you will have noticed three design flaws. Firstly, the use of a 'mirror' means that no plaintext letter can represent itself in the ciphertext. Secondly, the single fixed turnover once every 26 letters means that for 26 letter sequences all the other wiring is unchanged; it would have been a better design to have had 3 or 4 pegs whose positions could have been changed on a daily basis, IMHO this would have made the Enigma pretty much unbreakable. Thirdly, the plugboard only provides a (daily different) monoalphabetic substitution which can be stripped out with some effort (they had no computers back then). Later post-WW2 rotor machines such as the Swiss Nema had no plugboard. Now let's see how to exploit those design flaws using cribs.

A 'crib' is a piece of plaintext which you expect to be hidden in the ciphertext somewhere. An often quoted example is the weather reports as sent at regular times each day. 'Weather report 0600...' is - in German, they spelled out the digits - 'Wetterberichtnullsechsnullnull", a crib longer than the 26 letters maximally useful. For the purposes of this explanation I shall assume the 26 letter ciphertext is 'n h v p m n n r a o g q s y e v n d k k r f c g v'; I could have used anything else, it's not relevant here. Lining them up, we see that indeed no letter represents itself, and so the plaintext could be in the ciphertext at this position.

Sliding the plaintext along one position to the left gives a clash in column 8 with an R in both texts. Not allowed by an Enigma as I stated above.

The next two positions would be permissible, then there are conflicts at E,S,N,N,N etc. Thus the design flaw of the mirror resulting in no letter representing itself enables us to reduce the candidate position from 26 to just 3. These 3 candidates could then be selected for menues for the Turing bombe, a WW2 top-secret combinational electromechanical engine (shades of steampunk) to further restrict permissible combinations until the correct solution appeared and was approved by a checking machine.

The Turing exhibition at the HNF which Renke and I went to is currently displaying Turing bombe rotors, menues and a checking machine from BP.

Obviously, the weather report alone would not suffice. The Brits at BP wanted as many cribs as possible, since the menues for the Turing bombe need a sequence of at least 7 or 8 letters with 1 or 2 loops in the menue. And thus they developed the technique of 'gardening' which means provoking the Germans to use a suspected specific plaintext. For example, the RAF would be sent to mine a previously unmined harbour, whereupon the harbourmaster would send a coded message to the German navy HQ saying "Mines in the harbour at Calais" (German plaintext: MineninHafenvonCalais); the crib. Sliding this crib back and forth along the ciphertext gives us just 4 candidate positions for the crib.

Sometimes, the crib could be achieved by doing nothing! There was a German observer in North Africa who was left well alone by the Brits on the instruction of BP because on a daily basis he then transmitted 'KeinebesondereVorkommnisse' - 'Nothing special happened', a useful crib!

Human errors. Like the German habit of signing their messages with their rank, thus 'LeutnantJaeger' was a useful crib. Most messages contained HH at the end, to short for a crib, but a few idiots spelled HH out as 'HeilHitler', also a useful crib for the codebreakers at BP :-)

As a generalisation, I would say that most cryptographic breaks are attributable to human error on the part of the code users/makers. The Venona breakthough into Russian one-time-pads being the most famous unclassified, documented, example. Others are implied in the autobiography of East German spymaster Markus Wolf, who died in 2006.

Comments (6) :
Renke (D) wrote "Hi Stu, the VENONA project may be the best documented example for political/military code-breaking - but in some ways even more famous (as it affected millions of people) was analyzing the flaws of WEP. Defective by design (this happens when a bunch of industry managers is responsible for a cipher standard...), widely introduced in 1999, completely broken in 2001. Probably I'm _way_ too young, but playing around with WEP and trying to understand the mathematics behind the attack was my first big WOW-experience in cryptography [and I learnt about Bruce Schneier and the (in)famous Schneier Facts :)]" True, and anyone who cares about their privacy should not use WEP to stop others using their wi-fi router. (This is the same as saying 'Do not use any pre-2004 routers'). Even WPA-2 has the hole-196 defect (by design error), although such ARP-spoofing attacks by registered users can be detected by IDS/IPS.
Jenny (Ibiza) asks "How did you come up with the ciphertext 'n h v p m n n r a o g q s y e v n d k k r f c g v' ? Do you own an Enigma?" No, they are far too expensive for me, the local computer museum (HNF) has some though. NEMA are more affordable. Christie's auctioned a 3-rotor Enigma for over $100,000 recently. I used a home-made Bazeries cylinder which I made myself. It shares the same defects in that no letter represents itself and has 26-letter sequences without a turnover. There is quite a good description of a known-plaintext (aka crib) attack on a Bazeries cylinder in Wikipedia, Jenny.
Cop Car (USA) wrote "Hi, Stu- Now, you've done it! My Hunky Husband was whining about how much time he took, yesterday, following many of the links in your posting (which I had emailed him)- when he was supposed to have been preparing to teach today's all-day class in Frontline Supervision on a Disaster. I may have told you (I don't recall doing so) that in his really young days, nearly 60 years ago, HH was a member of the cryptography unit for the Missouri Air National Guard at Lambert Field. He enjoys your postings on crypto." Crypto is an infectious hobby :-)
Dave (USA) asks "Where did Bletchley Park recruit its cryptanalysts from?" BP is half way between Oxford and Cambridge, so the uni city distance (geddit?) is 40-50 miles ;-)
Barbara (UK) asks for "...a textbook tip on simple codebreaking" The classical one is Helen Fouche´Gaines 1939 book 'Cryptanalysis'. There is a modern reprint available from Dover Press, ISBN 0-486-20097-3. :-)
Barbara (UK) asks again "...Something more current, perhaps?" OK, then read 'Understanding Cryptography: A Textbook for Students and Practitioners' , 2009, ISBN 978-3642041006. It's cheaper than my next tip 'Decrypted Secrets' by F.L.Bauer, 2006, ISBN 978-3540245025.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Death Fader :-(

R alph McQuarrie, the Hollywood designer who gave us Darth Vader, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and E.T's starship, died on saturday, aged 82.
He won his Oscar for the special effects in the movie Cocoon.

May the Force be with him.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Old Vinyl Meme, #5, 1971 :-)

Continuing on the weekly sundays' ´Old Vinyl Meme which I started last month. You can read the meme rules here, feel free to join in, the more the merrier, as long as the vinyl LP is 30+ years old :-)

This sunday's Old Vinyl LP is A Space In Time by Ten Years After. There is no date on the LP, but Wikipedia tells me it was published in 1971, and so even qualifies as 40+ year Old Vinyl :-)

I have a number of their LPs from 1967 onwards, Ten Years After, Stonedhenge, Cricklewood Green, A Space in Time, and Alvin Lee and Company, all good, this just happens to be the most photogenic sleeve photo. All feature the great Alvin Lee, at that time, the fastest guitar in the west.

Here is my favourite video of inter alia I'm going home, on YouTube, in a contemporary version, 1969 at Woodstock :-)

BTW, should you want to join this meme, the rules can be found here :-

... And thus do we learn of one another's eclectic music tastes :-)

Do this meme!

Comments (3) :
HaggisChorizo points us to "...the Rainbow album Rising (1976) as something special...something unique". Jimmy also has a link to Hendrix 'Foxy Lady' from the 1970 Isle of Wight concert; sadly GEMA blocks the video in Germany :-(
Doug Alder (CA) joins the meme here; sadly, I've been getting timeouts for the last 3 weeks trying to access Doug's site from Germany 99% of the time, so I can't even see what his recommendation is :-(
Update 5/3/2012 22:40 CET : Doug mailed me a copy of the cover and a link to a YouTube video. Many thanks. It's the LP "Heavy Weather" by 'Weather report'. Doug wrote "Possibly my all-time favourite Weather Report piece and I have all of their albums. Wayne Shorter on sax, Joe Zawinul on keyboards, and Jaco Pastorius on bass. One of the best jazz-fusion bands of all time." Ironically, the damned GEMA censor SW won't even let me watch the video here in Germany, due to a rights issue :-(
Jane (D) - in her twenties - tells me "I don't even own a turntable, my music collection is on CDs, DVDs and MP3s. But my Android Smart Phone does spelling correction, so I suppose you could call it a grammar phone ;-)" Only if I have a Mega-groan ;-)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

R.I.P Bernd Gehrken

Sad phone call from Paul Gockel (Norton-Paule). All those years of smoking finally took Bernd Gehrken in his mid sixties :-(

I only met him thrice (in 2000 in Worpswede, years later at a Münch meet in Beverungen and with Friedel Münch in Schotten), but he generously let me ride his Münch Mammut TTS-E (frame & motor number 188), the only time I've ridden one. Belated thanks again, Bernd; Rest In Peace.

Friday, March 2, 2012

WWW : World Wide Wobbly

T he previous post was about Leap days as a method of keeping the calendars in sync with the seasons assuming a stable Earth.

Today I want to talk about the ways in which this world wobbles.

Let's start off with something seasonal as a first approximation. The Earth rotates around an axis running through from the geographic north pole to the geographic south pole. The magnetic poles are elsewhere and move around quite a bit annually, but that's a subject for another day. Slicing the Earth along the equator would give us a plane which is NOT parallel to the plane of the ecliptic, which is the plane of the Earth's orbit around the sun, but rather is at 23.44° to it. This is what gives us the seasons.

In the Wikipedia illustration on the left, we seen midwinter in the northern hemisphere (no sun visible above the arctic circle at any time) and midsummer in the southern hemisphere (midnight sun in the antarctic). Conversely, during May, June and July, the northern hemisphere is exposed to more direct sunlight because the hemisphere faces the sun. The same is true of the southern hemisphere in November, December and January as shown here. It is the tilt of the Earth that causes the Sun to be higher in the sky during the summer months which increases the duration of the sunshine and the sun's flux. The 3% ellipse of the Earth's orbit has (almost) no effect on the seasons.

The extended axis between the geographic poles points to the celestial north pole, just 1° away from Polaris, the current pole star, which we amateur astronomers use to align our telescope mountings (so that a clockwork drive can drive the telescope in a single plane to track the stars for us).

Notice I wrote "the current pole star" ? The Earth actually precesses like a spinning top pushed off axis. Think of it as if the axis line moves along the surface of a cone. The axis does not aim at a static point but describes a circle in the sky, taking 25,780 years to do so. So in 12,000 years time the pole star will be Vega, not Polaris. There being a star at/near the celestial pole is a fortunate exception nowadays, not the rule.

But the Earth 'wobbles' even more. The pull of the Moon and the Sun cause the axis to nutate. This means that the axis does not draw a smooth circle in the sky; there is also a small sinusoidal nutation curve superimposed upon the circle. For the moment I will ignore the fact that the Moon is slowly pulling away from the Earth (due to conservation of momentum) as the Earth's rotation slows down due to the friction between the liquid core and the tectonic plates on the surface. Currently the moon is so near that we get full solar eclipses sometimes, but in the future we will only have the annular ones.

I just mentioned the liquid core and the tectonic plates on the surface. The axis of rotation is NOT attached to the surface (or vice versa), and indeed the geographic poles move by upto 10 cms each day ! The pole spirals around inside a circle about 15 meters across. And all this has to be programmed into the GPS system for your smartphone/personal navi! World Wide Wobbly indeed!

Comments (2) :
Kees Kennis (RSA) grinned "So that is why I sometimes miss my mouth with my glass when I drink." In vino veritas ;-)
Donald (UK) complains "The Poles are moving? Yes, moving over here :-("

23 Recent Writings
FWIW : 23 is the number of the Illuminati, folks ;-)
Dulce et decorum est?
Accidents @ Home
Star Light, Star bright
Old Vinyl Meme, #8, 1977
Goodbye Doug Alder
Lab Safety Anecdote
Superluminal Neutrinos...
Freshman Chemistry Book
Old Vinyl Meme, #7, 1976
The wearing of the green
Alloys of Gallium ;-)
Nerdy place mat :-)
Misuse of Mail :-(
Old Vinyl Meme, #6, 1970
Domino joke for the blind
Brutus is an honourable..
Gardening Enigma Cribs
Death Fader :-(
Old Vinyl Meme, #5, 1971
R.I.P Bernd Gehrken
World Wide Wobbly
Leap Day Ruminations
Trojan Ahoy
Old Vinyl Meme, #4, 1970
Orchid for Pharyngula
Evolution : next step

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