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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'.

Some of my bikes

My Crypto Pages

My Maths Pages

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Summertime is icumen in, lhude sing cuccu

Did you remember to put your clocks 1 hour forward? We have summertime in Germany now (CEST= Central European Summer Time). At 2 a.m. CET the clocks were moved forward to show 3 a.m. CEST.

Which reminds me of the joke from 6 months ago. The Alzheimers blond girl set her alarm for 3 a.m., was duly woken up and reset the clock to 2 a.m. to show winter time, and went back to sleep. At 3 a.m. the alarm went off ;-) So she duly woke up and reset the clock to 2 a.m. to show winter time, and went back to sleep. At 3 a.m. the alarm went off . . .

In the Crimea of course, they voted to set their clocks back over 60 years :-( Short history lesson : Crimea became part of the Soviet Union in 1921 as the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1954, Chruschev(sp?) gave the Crimea to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1991, with the collapse of the USSR, it became part of independent Ukraine.

300 years ago, towns each had their own timezones, as shown by their local sundials. As railway transport developed, it became necessary to synchronise all these times to get railway timetables which would avoid collisions on what were often single track lines. In Germany, rail times were synchronised via telegraphs with Berlin time because that was where the Emperor lived. I have explained in a previous article last year about optical telegraphs how all the clocks were synchronised along the rail lines.

Nowadays we have the world divided into multiple time zones as shown below.

We deviate from the theoretical 24 timezones vertical lines for convenience. Examples : Iceland prefers to run on UK time, bringing itself 'nearer' to Europe. All of China runs in a single time zone. Many timezones run along national borders. Some timezones have a 30 minute offset even. In analogy to the railway timetable issue of 200 years ago, modern international aviation all runs on UTC (=GMT). Just as well, because such is the shape of the International Date Line that around midnight a supersonic Concorde could have flow straight from Tuesday into Thursday and then back into Wednesday :-)

Meanwhile, about a hundred and ten years ago, a certain Albert Einstein was asking the train ticket collector (=conductor) "Does Bern stop at this train?" ;-)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Bearing false witness :-(

WTF Google? Are you serious??

Google claims to have an image search facility. Just drag and drop an image into this search field and Google will tell you where that net image appears.

Cutting a short story long, I missclicked and entered the photo shown above from my About-Profile on the left sidebar of this blog. Google correctly showed me the several blog-months where I had used this picture in my profile. So far so good. I don't know what their algorithm is, but neither, it appears do they, because Google went on to show photos which are - they claim - "optically similar" to me. Judge for yourselves :-(

Four are ladies, six of the men are wearing ties, four people without glasses, ten have hair, only one has a decent beard and NONE OF THEM are me :-(

My expectation was that Google would deliver other photos of me - there are scores online - or at least photos of people who look in some way similar (e.g. Dr.Carl Rose), as if I were appearing in a police identity parade and the witness had to pick out the guilty party. For comparison, I went back to regular Google text search, typed in my name, and asked for picture results. This is what Google gave back.

All but six of these pictures came from my own website. How hard was that for you, Google ? And NONE of them overlapped with the "optically similar" image search result, as you can see for yourselves :-(

Continuing to the second page of "optically similar" image search results (shown below) I find that Google thinks I look like six ladies [those poor ladies!] and even look like an american politician (lower left) and even similar to Mr Bean (lower right)!!! WTF Google?

Only three guys with a beard, someone with a serious face tattoo (or a face-painting?), several pretty girls including an asian girl wearing a diadem!

The only thing these "optically similar" image search results have in common is that they are all head shots of fair-skinned people.

If I were a terrorist on the NSA watchlist, presumably ALL of these poor people would have been arrested, put in Guantanamo, or at least onto the no-fly list. Here is a mosaic of over 1.2 BILLION faces on Facebook. Choose ANY one :-(

Google, whose leg are you pulling? Your "optically similar" image search results are unadultered CRAP!!!

Comments (4) :
Renke (D) disagrees " You call it crap, I see mostly benefits [c.f.,, and nearly everything Schneier wrote in the last months :)] If the technology is not advanced enough (and Google has some fricking good programmers) no one can abuse it..." It was good enough to identify YOU, Renke, just from a photo of you. Hence it linked to an article about your bathful of plastic balls, of which I'm SO envious!)
Renke (D) replied to my comment : " Let me guess - you found this article? The thing exists because *I* was envious and is based on XKCD's Grownups and a follow-up done by Mike. PS Guests are welcome, if house-trained. No sex, no eating, no drinking while in the pit :) PPS Call yourself lucky, a face-recognition resistant head is a Good Thing." Yes, that was the article I found. And I agree that a face-recognition resistant head is a Good Thing. But judging by my deteriorating memory, a lot of people I meet seem to have one :-(
Val (UK) replied "So you are Mr. Blend-in Nondescript?" My name is Unimportant. Earnest Unimportant ;-)
Jenny (Ibiza) opines "So much for anonymised online dating sites :-(" Indeed! Don't post a picture there either!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Inventing the wheel

J ust how hard was it to invent the wheel?

Pretty damned hard in 3500 BC, I'd say. One issue is the lack of tools, no iron saws (this was 2400 years before the iron age) or axes. This was the chalcolithic period, the only metal being worked was (soft) copper, so no blades. Probably the only woodworking tool would have been a stone adze :-(

The other issue is that they had no concept of a wheel. It's like me asking you to invent a Stargate (also 3500 BC) from scratch! At least you know what you want (thanks to SF), even if you have no idea how to make one.

The wheel had to be evolved (sic!) by trial and error, probably over centuries. But form follows function. Certainly, they didn't jump straight to the spoked, iron-clad, hubbed and axled wheel we know from coaches as still used today.

The temples on the top of the hills in Uruk were first made of sun-baked bricks. A lot of them. Which would need to be transported there from the riverside where the clay came from. Later buildings, such as the white temple, were made of limestone blocks from a quarry 40 miles away. Domesticated donkeys could only carry a limited weight in their back packs, so better transport for building materials was needed.

The Uruk exhibition didn't say how the wheel was invented, they just had a one-liner : 3500 BC, invention of the wheel. So these are the evolutionary steps I would assume were made to invent the wheel; it's the accepted theory nowadays.

Type 1 wheel : Some bright Sumerian had seen a log rolling (elsewhere) and figured if he could put the stones on a wooden board he could roll them easier, then put another log at the front, move the rear log to the front repeatedly and so move the stones more easily. Why did I write "elsewhere"? Because trees with thick trunks did not grow near Uruk, only soft palms and bushes. So they adzed flat planks and tied them together, adzing them to a roughly circular cross section, to make the rollers I described above.

In parallel to this, they also used a sledge. This was horizontal planks to carry the stones with vertical planks at the sides acting as runners, reducing the friction when pulling the sled. All this was merely tied and wedged together, there were no nails at that time.

The type 2 wheel would have been a sled on rollers. The rollers were grooved to stop the sled's runners sliding off the rollers on corners, hills etc.

Type 3 wheels were made when the Sumerians wanted a lighter vehicle and realised they only needed the grooved piece of the roller; most of the centre of the roller could be adzed away to make it lighter. Hey presto, the axle!

The Sumerians then added a piece of wood to the each side of the sled and adzed a circular hole for the axle. These holes bore the load and hence were called bearings. Smearing them with animal fat made them slippery and/or water which kept them cool. Bearings were part of the type 4 wheel.

But there were no differentials on the long axles, so cornering was still a problem. And so, I suspect, someone fixed the axle to the sled (= a cart) and attached the wheels to the bearings which then spun on the axle. Individual, separate, but unspoked wheels on the (ox?)-cart.

As a final optimisation, the first spoked wheels were made by cutting out wood from the solid wheels to save weight. Metal tires were added (first copper, later bronze, later still iron) to save wear on the wheels' perimeters.

And that is (probably) how the wheel evolved!

They left the development of a Stargate as an exercise for my dear readers ;-)

Comments (4) :
Jochen (D) thinks I missed something ;-) viz. " A very interesting blog entry, but what about square wheel technology? It sparked some interest in recent years, see : :-)" Those 'Carry On' movies were SO corny....
Jenny (Ibiza) wrote "Please tell us more about that Uruk exhibition; your blogposts on it are fascinating!" Thankyou. Wilco in the coming month.
Val (UK) asks "Where and what is that Stargate you pose in?" There is a pump-storage power station on Lake Eder. When demand for electricity is low it pumps lakewater 800 feet up to a reservoir on a hilltop. When demand for electricity is high, the water runs downhill in 2 pipes, through turbines to generate electricity. That 'Stargate' is a cross-section of a pipe, so you can judge the waterflow. See Google Earth, here.
Val (UK) replied "With THAT cross-section, the hilltop reservoir must empty very quickly? It doesn't look very big on Google Earth." The engineer there said it covers about 20 minutes of full load, which is how long it takes to power up one or more regular gas-turbine power stations which are kept on standby.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Uruk : the world's first city.

Our state (NRW) archeological museum has a special exhibition about Uruk, which was the world's first city (4000 BC-1000 AD), so SWMBO and I drove the 75 miles to the museum and spent a couple of hours learning some early Sumerian history, probably enough for half a dozen blogposts of which this is the first.

Uruk was on the Euphrat in south-eastern Mesopotamia in what is now Irak, between Bagdad and Basra.

Uruk gave us many cultural innovations and inventions, the wheel, domestication of beasts of burden, writing, the division of labour, mass production, even early Taylorism, accounting, burocracy, slavery etc.

So it probably best if I try to fit these all into a timeline for y'all first and then tell you some details in later blogposts.

Neolithic (10,000 - 5,500 BC). First use of seals and tally counters to show the integrity of goods and messages sent.

5500 BC to 3000 BC. Chalcolithic period.

5000 BC. The donkey (ass) is domesticated. Wooden plough invented.

4000 BC. Two villages in the marshland on the Euphrat merge to form the first town of Uruk. Ploughs with integrated seed hoppers used.

3500 BC. Wheel invented & carts. Laid horizontal, it led to the potter's wheel. There was lots of clay on the river banks, so the potter's wheel led to mass production of e.g. eating bowls. These were discarded after use and a new bowl thrown (no washing up, and more hygenic :-)

3300 BC. First writing (ideograms), becoming cuneiform script by 2400 BC. More about this in a later post. Cylindrical roll seals introduced in Uruk. Also used to sketch mass-production processes (= the first user manuals for slaves who could not read or write). More about these in a later post.

3100 BC. Uruk now had 25,000 to 50,000 inhabitants and covered 2.5 square kms. Has canals for irrigation and sewage disposal. "Venice" of the Euphrat.

3000 BC to 2000 BC early bronze age.

2900 BC. Uruk has grown to 5.5 square kms and a 9 km long wall is built around it (some attribute this to (a) Gilgamesh), presumably for defence, but the exhibition did not say who the invaders were :-( The book of the Sumerian kings mentions a Great Flood, same as the jewish Noah legend, details in a later blogpost. Uruk had a Ziggurat (their version of a pyramid/mound) , where the people could flee from the floods.

2700 BC. A king called Gilgamesh is mentioned. I'm not sure if this is the same Gilgamesh as in the Gilgamesh Epos I read as a teenager, nor if he was the one who built the wall around Uruk (see above). More about the Gilgamesh Epos in a later blogpost.

2500 BC. Cuneiform writing, now able to express abstract ideas not just write about objects. Akkadian version of the Gilgamesh Epos written down in clay.

2000 BC to 1550 BC Middle Bronze Age.

1780 BC. Hammurabi's laws carved on large round stone pole and put on public display. More about these in a later blogpost.

1550 BC to 1150 BC. Late bronze age.

1150 BC - Iron age begins.

1000 BC. Dromedaries domesticated.

1000 AD. Euphrat has shifted in its bed, Uruk no longer on the river, is abandoned ca. 1000 AD after 5000 years as the world's largest city :-(

1850 AD. Archeologists discover the first clay tablets of the Gilgamesh Epos near the town of Ninevah.

Comments (3) :
Kenneth (UK) rebukes me "Why would dry Sumerian history interest ANY of your readers? Please go back to the wry humour & puns you do so well!" You don't have to read everything I write! Just skip what bores you; it might interest someone else???
John (USA) counters the previous comment "It may be dry, but I find it interesting. Please keep on keeping on." I intend to do so, John :-)
Doug (Canada) chimed in "If I had my life to live over I would be an archaeologist, so too bad Kenneth (UK), this stuff is very interesting. Several years ago I watched a show on the Discovery network over here that was discussing some new ruins (Gobekli Tepe) in that general area (Eastern Turkey today) that they thought was the very first inhabited agricultural settlement - it appeared to be quite advanced and the dates iirc predated Uruk as they are from around 12,000-13,000 BC. They hypothesized that it is what became known in myth as Eden. Here's an article on it. Thanks for the link, Doug, I hadn't heard of Gobekli Tepe until you wrote :-)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Stocking up on the good stuff :-)

Well it looks like we are going to get an embargo on Russian and Crimean goods imposed in the coming months :-(

So, folks, stock up while there is still some left in the stores. Like Stolichnaya Gold, which is an excellent vodka I can recommend, from the oldest distillery in Moscow. Crystal-clear purity, mild and delicate flavor, exquisite in taste. Costs under €20 a bottle here in Germany, and IMHO better than Russian Standard Original.

A good caviar costs and arm and a leg here; have a visiting Russian (or Iranian) bring you some, it is considerably cheaper there. The most expensive high-quality caviar is called Alma, it comes from the sturgeon and the kilogram trades at around €6000 ! The second best is IMHO Beluga. A kilo trades for about €4000. At these prices I'd only buy the 100 gram (3½ oz) portions :-( Goes well with blinis :-)

Thirdly, the Krim Sekt shown in the picture. I prefer the Krimskoye, mild and red, as shown in the right of the photo. I just paid a mere €12 for a bottle this morning, still available even in the village supermarket :-)

If the embargo starts to hurt him, Tsar Vlad may just refuse to transport Americans to/from the ISS, just to demonstrate US-impotence :-(

Once the import of Russian goods becomes impossible, I dread having to lower my living standards to that of USA, i.e. junk-burger and a cola for €6.66(sic!).

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Molly Bloom turns 10 :-)

On St.Patrick's Day in 2004, blogging farmer Frank Paynter (USA) bought himself a puppy and asked his blogfriends to suggest a name for her. I was one of those on his blogroll (and vice versa) when he was blogging at Sandhill Trek and sent him a suggestion ("Fenris", because I was reading Norse mythology at the time). The winning name was Molly Bloom (Just FYI, Molly Bloom is a fictional character in the novel Ulysses by James Joyce, quid vide) :-)

Frank moved from Sandhill Trek onto Facebook and I lost contact since I don't do Facebook {having read their small print :-( }.

On monday, out of the blue, or perhaps out of the green as monday was St.Patrick's day, I got an email from Frank "Hi Doctor Savory! Since you were one of the contributors to the search for her name, I thought I'd share some sentimental nonsense about my puppy with you today as we celebrate her 10th birthday... here's a Facebook link with pictures of the pup growing up. How are your bulldogs doing?"

My bulldogs are doing fine, Frank, the brindle bitch Frieda is 8½ now and her son (the bigger, tan, dog) is 6 already. How time flies! In the photo below, they have finally learned to share their duties at the "Keep a watch!" instruction ;-)

Comments (3) :
Frank Paynter (USA) brought me up to date on his timeline " That was a nice blog post. Molly thanks you and the pups for the acknowledgement! We have indeed quit farming, scaled back from our place near Madison in the wintry midwest to a half-acre lot in Vista, a small city in North San Diego County, California where instead of thunder and lightning, we have the occasional booming of US Marine artillery practice at the nearby Camp Pendleton base. We have a small orchard of citrus fruit trees and a couple of avocado trees. To the west we have a view down-slope to the sea, about seven miles away by Carlsbad. Do you have any guesses about the origins of the people who settled that town? Best of all, my son Matthew and his wife Wendy live about half an hour away with my 18 month old grand-daughter, Izabella. I'm enrolled in my second semester of Spanish language course-work. I have a nice old concert CC tuba built by Boehm & Meinl in 1972. I take lessons from a youngster who recently graduated from the famous Julliard school in New York and who has returned home to live with his parents while he looks for a chair in a symphony orchestra somewhere. I provide my own inexpert bass clef accompaniment to the Palomar Unitarian symphony here in Vista, a group whose musical talents range from the gifted to the enthusiastic. After four months work on the horn, I'm starting to understand how much practice lies ahead before I will be an adequate tuba-ist." My wife will be in San Diego in April, maybe you guys wanna go for a drink? I'll mail you details when I have them.
Mike Golby (RSA) wrote nostalgically " Here's looking at you, Stu... Old Frankie Boy's amplifying Molly Bloom's fame across the Great Wide InterWebz on the strength of your most-recent post. I never did get to know Molly all that well but, Frank - well, he remains as close a friend today as he was all those years ago. His Facebook update (wherein he mentions your entry) reminded me of a large chunk of that which I miss most about having swapped blogging for Facebook way back when, i.e. Stu Savory's bulldogs, bikes and mathematical mind brim-full of ideas, anecdotes, alternative ways of looking at things and plain-old, down-to-earth, straight-talking, no-bullshit approach to this, that and everything. I reckon Frank's entry has many of us casting our minds back to a decade or so ago. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to drop you this note to remind you that, while many of us might no longer blog, you're still as close to us as you ever were. Needless to say, is now a bookmark of mine so, if you occasionally see Cape Town pop up on your site meter, you know who's popping in for a virtual cup of tea..." Frank and you and I are first generation, turn-of-the-century, bloggers, Mike. Nothing can take that away from us, not even Facebook :-) Glad to read that you'll be dropping in again sometimes. The web is indeed a global village :-)
Doug Alder (Canada) joined in "Frank, I remember when Molly Bloom came into your life. We were a crazy crew back then - You, Stu, Mike Golby, Shelly and so many more. You're a lot closer to me (and Loren WEbster as well) now that you've migrated over to the Left Coast - come on up for a visit :) Mike glad to see you are still around - haven't seen anything from you on G+ for a long time now :)" Hey, I'm a social network now! Watch out, Zuckerberg, here I come! ;-)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Belated PI day post ;-)

I wrote this last friday, which was PI day (3.14) in the USA, for my US readers, but forgot to upload it. So here it is, a little late, but now with borrowed picture.

Just over 30 years ago, I was visiting at S.R.I (Stanford, in Silicon Valley) on a PI day, march 14th, socalled because the way Americans write dates this was 3.14, an approximation to PI.

The students at Stanford had a PI-day recitation competition, where people tried to recite the first 100 digits of PI from memory. That'd be 3.1415926535 8979323846 2643383279 5028841971 6939937510 5820974944 5923078164 0628620899 8628034825 3421170679 ...

However the wording on the poster said "Can you remember the first 100 digits of PI? Win a certificate if you get them right". I'd learned them as a schoolchild, so reciting them was not a problem. But I decided to tease the organisers, noting first that they didn't specify a decimal expansion. At first, I toyed with the idea of reciting 100 digits of e.g. the hexadecimal value, 243F6A8885A308D313198A2E03707344A4093822299F31D0082EFA98EC4E6C89 452821E638D01377BE5466CF34E90C6CC0AC29B7C97C50DD3F84D5B5B5470917. I decided not, as they would prolly have no way of checking if it was correct ;-)

So I teased them by sorting the digits first, point out that they didn't specify either a recitation nor the decimal expansion, and reciting "8 zeroes, 8 ones, 12 twos, 11 threes, 10 fours, 8 fives, 9 sixes, 8 sevens, 12 eights and 14 nines ;-) It was quite a squabble before I got my certificate, as someone had to draw up a tally list and verify my answer ;-)

Needless to say, subsequent competitions insist you recite decimal digits ;)

Makes a change from Spelling Bees, I suppose. Your word today, Gerald, is floccipaucinihilipilification ;-)

Comments (5) :
Jed (USA) asks "So what's PI day in your country?" We write the day before the month, so the nearest we get to having a PI day is on 22nd of July, i.e. 22/7 :-)
Doug (Canada) wrote "re: floccipaucinihilipilification - I see no value in such an ostentatious display of flummery ;)" It has a hidden value, being the longest English word not containing the letter "E" ;-)
Gerald (D) wrote "The word of the day was not floccinaucinihilipilification, but laissez-faire. That makes we wonder, if this (Merriam-Webster) app is an modern oracle... ;-)" I don't think the words are chosen at random, Gerald. I think they select ones likely to crop up in the news, so M-W is training your vocabulary depending on current affairs :-)
Aina (DK) wrote "You certainly teach us a lot of new words - recently from plebiscite to now floccinaucinihilipilification. I've had to look up a half-dozen in the past week alone!" Too highbrow? I'll lower the level again then in the coming week :-)
Frank Paynter (USA) , from whom I had not heard in AGES (so welcome back, Frank), wrote - inter alia - "Incidentally, regarding Pi day... a friend in San Francisco celebrated here: . I was interested to learn about the movement to shift Pi to tau. Have you heard of this? Does it make sense to you? ." At the Maths museum in Giessen they still have a PI-spiral wall, no Tau (except when they drop below the dewpoint [bad German meteorological joke there, sorry]) :-)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

First Plebiscite ;-)

In the beginning (of Roman year DCCIX) it came to pass, XLIV years before the birth of the Redeemer, when Julius Caesar was Emperor in Rome, that a plebiscite was made by him within the city. On the first full moon of the new year the plebeians might appeal such wrongs as they perceive at Caesar's hand, that their suffering might be lessened.

"For this, they shall cause their appeals to be written - inasmuch as they cannot write themselves - by a licensed scribe, upon the finest vellum made from the hide of a sacrificial goat. The vellum shall bear an image of the Emperor, that it be seen against whom the grievance be borne.

Then the plebeians shall parade along the Appian Way, bearing their vellum scrolls held high, that the people might see that their voice is being heard."

And many did rail against the Emperor, their scrolls demanding he be replaced by another, even a farmer of Koi, verily even a call for violence against the Emperor was heard in the land :-(

But a soothsayer did raise his voice and warn the mighty Caesar, saying "Beware the march of hides!" ;-)

Comments (5) :
Cop Car (USA) said "You had me all the way - groan!" That was my intent ;-)
Aina (DK) wrote "Good pun! But I don't understand the numbering?" The Romans counted their years AUC, Ab urbe condita , Latin for "from the founding of the city" (of Rome), which was in 753 BC using our equally arbitrary scheme. So DCCIX or 709 AUC we would call 44 BC (they could hardly write 44 BC could they?). XLIV=44, the year BC that Caesar was assassinated. Are you not taught Roman history in Denmark? BTW, The Roman new year started in the middle of march, which is e.g. why our tenth month is called october, whereby octo means eight.
Jenny (Ibiza) asks "What's with 'Farmer of Koi', where does THAT fit in?" Just me being overly erudite. Pharmakoi is ancient greek for a scapegoat. The Ides of March included the ancient Greek pharmakoi ritual, which involved beating an old man dressed in goat hides and ejecting him from Rome. It represented the expulsion of the old year.
Jed (USA) complained "Your[sic!] mocking the Bible again! Don't do that, it is the True Word of God! :-(" I refer you to this ;-)
John (UK) wrote "Like CC said, you led us up the garden path completely. I thought this was going to be a genuine historical treatise. Well done! :-)" Thankyou :-)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Yuri Gagarin Remembrance Day :-)

Humanity's first cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, would have been 80 on sunday (as I write this). He was the first human to journey into space, when his Vostok 1 spacecraft completed an orbit (1 hour, 48 minutes) of the Earth on 12 April 1961. His major qualification was being under 160 cms tall and light ;-) They never let him back into space again, much as he would have liked to go, instead using him for propaganda.

Here is his Wikipedia page. And here's a 50th anniversary video.

Alan Shephard's flight a month later was a sub-orbital lob :-(

Comments (3) :
Ivan (RU) tells me "There were celebration throughout Russia yesterday." Thankyou. BTW, there is a statue of him in London (UK) now too.
Doug (Canada) clarifies his death "Up until last year the circumstances surrounding his death led to many theories, from conspiracy (Brezhnev was not a friend of his so had him murdered for political reasons) to carelessness (taking pictures of birds instead of paying attention in the cockpit.) It turns out a much larger fighter (Su-15) flew too close to Gagarin's MIG-15 at super sonic speeds and essentially just knocked it out of the sky." Didn't read that version, so thanks for the heads-up. Ivan, what's the word in your country?
Hattie (Hawaii) wrote "Just had an enjoyable visit to your blog. The Wikipedia entry on Gagarin fascinated me. So many things I did not know about this man and his life and death...." Thankyou.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A circular stamp :-)

Here in Germany, all our stamps are oblong. I've seen triangular ones from afaik San Marino, but I'd never seen a round stamp until last week. So thankyou to the blogreader from Anchorage, Alaska, who sent us a letter bearing this circular stamp. Does it look great or what?

Given the patriotism that is rife in the USA, viz. the logo "USA forever", I was surprised that the globe was not shown with the USA in a central position ;-) At first I thought it was centered on the Cap Verde Islands, but it's just a spot in mid-atlantic. I wonder why ?

Comments (3) :
Cop Car (Kansas, USA) was kind enough to provide me with some more details from : "In 2013, the U.S. Postal Service introduces Global Forever®, a new international rate stamp. The Global Forever® stamp offers a single price for any First-Class Mail International 1-ounce letter to any country in the world. For the January 27, 2013, price change, the Global Forever® stamp may also be used to mail a 2-ounce letter to Canada. This stamp features a rendering of Earth composed of images created from satellite data and redesigned with 3D computer technology. The view of our planet shows the Atlantic Ocean flanked by the Americas, Africa, and part of northern Europe. In the stamp art, the globe is isolated on a white background. The shape of the stamp is round. The text, which surrounds the image of Earth, includes the words "Global Forever." Artist Leonello Calvetti used a variety of maps, primarily from NASA, to create his design. With 3D computer technology he was able to modify depth, vary color, and create subtle light and shadow details on terrain surfaces to achieve a high level of photorealism while also attaining something new. "I always have been fascinated by space and what astronauts could see from out there," Calvetti says. "As an artist, an illustrator, I wanted to make my own representation of the Earth." Art director William J. Gicker selected this depiction of Earth by Calvetti. Greg Breeding designed the stamp. The Global Forever® stamps are being issued in self-adhesive sheets of 20. Made in the USA. Issue Date: January 28, 2013. SKUs featured on this page: 578842, 578843, 578844" Thanks for the infos, CC :-)
Xtreme English (USA) clarified the text "What will we do without Cop Car? a Forever stamp is a kind of stamp that we pay for once, and then it 's good "forever." They are not saying "USA FOREVER" in some kind of chauvinistic move. It just means the kind of stamp." Aha! That may explain why on the USPS page picture which Cop Car send to me, the word 'forever' has been crossed out?????? I wondered about that."
Frank Paynter (USA) added " I wasn't entirely satisfied with the two explanations of "Forever" stamps, so let me add a third that will hopefully clarify without seeming entirely redundant and repetitious: The USA "Forever" designation relates to the US First Class mail postal rates. The US Postal Service raises rates quite frequently. Until the "Forever" stamps were offered, a postal customer holding an inventory of first class stamps, would find it necessary to add postage when a rate increase occurred. For example, if I had a sheet of 40 cent stamps, the first class rate at that time, then I would have to add a two cent stamp if the rate was raised to 42 cents. This was inconvenient for all concerned. The US Postal Service invented the "Forever" stamp in order to assure customers who purchased a large number of first class stamps, that those stamps would provide first class postage "forever," regardless of their price. When I was a boy, the rate was 3 cents for a letter, one cent for a post card. and--I think--seven cents for an airmail letter. That rate didn't change for many years. " Same here, we had to buy a bunch of 3 cents stamps when prices rose. The Bundespost doesn't do 'Forever-valid' stamps :-(

Friday, March 7, 2014

Nuclear guesswork & foolhardiness :-(

H aving a beer with some friends and discussing the Ukraine situation, when Ansgar opined "Politicians don't know what's going on, they're such dilettantes! Not like say the people who design nuclear weapons, they have to know what they are doing....". I laughed so hard that I snorted beer through my nose and 'bout spilt my drink before saying "Ansgar, I have to disillusion you. Let me tell you about Castle Bravo and some other near disasters..."

After the Russians detonated their first atom bomb, the USA wanted something more powerful "to restore the balance" as the Hawks put it, and started working on an H-bomb. Their first H-Bomb (Ivy Mike) used a tank full of cryogenic hydrogen isotope as fusion fuel and was 3 stories high. No way it would fit in an airplane/missile. Their second design was Castle Bravo. It used lithium deuteride as the fusion fuel. Lithium 6 (an isotope with 3 protons and 3 neutrons) was hard to make and so the bomb was made with ⅓ Lithium 6 and ⅔ Lithium 7 (the regular isotope with 3 protons and 4 neutrons) which they imagined would be inert in the fusion reaction. The design was for a 5 megaton bomb (the theoretical yield/weight limit is 6 Megatons per tonne weight), based on the amount of Lithium 6.

However, early in the fusion reaction, the extra neutron was stripped out of the Lithium 7 converting it to Lithium 6. Thrice as much Lithium 6. Giving 15 megatons, the biggest bomb the USA ever exploded! The designers didn't know about cross-sections at the time, so the design was by nuclear guesswork. And you'd trust these guys more than diplomats, Ansgar?

The Mark 17 and Mark 24 were the first mass-produced hydrogen bombs deployed (in a hurry, as socalled Emergency capability=EC weapons) by the United States. The EC weapons lacked parachutes to delay the time between release and their detonation, ensuring the delivery aircraft would be destroyed with the target. Other safety features such as In Flight Insertion (IFI) and safe arming and fusing devices were also omitted to ensure a quick thermonuclear capability. And you'd trust these guys more than diplomats, Ansgar?

The B83, a 1970s design still in current use, was the first U.S. nuclear weapon designed from the start to avoid accidental detonation. Meaning previous designs were NOT designed with this in mind? My emphasis. And you'd trust these guys more than diplomats, Ansgar?

Lest you think I'm just knocking the Yanks, read and savour this quote about Yellow Sun, the UK's first nuke " It had blunt nose (instead of a parachute) which was intended to slow the fall of the weapon sufficiently to permit the bomber to escape the detonation, and ensured that Yellow Sun did not encounter the transonic and supersonic shock waves that had caused much difficulty with barometric fusing gates that had plagued an earlier weapon, Blue Danube." and this quote "The risk of predetonation that was a feature of all-plutonium designs of that period with yields larger than 10 kilotons." And you'd trust these guys more than diplomats, Ansgar?

When the Russian wanted a really BIG bomb, Sacharow designed the 100 Megaton "Tsar-Bomba". But even he got cold feet and derated it to 50 Megatons. It still broke windows etc in Norway and Finland (from Nova Zemlya). The shockwave went three times around the world. And you'd trust these guys more than diplomats, Ansgar?

Let's be honest : much of the early work on nuclear weapons was guesswork and with small regard for some of the risks :-(

Comments (2) :
John (UK) tells us "Here in the UK we now have 13-year old schoolboys experimenting with nuclear fusion! " Shades of Sheldon Cooper!
Jenny (Ibiza) asks "What is the biggest possible bomb?" There is no theoretical limit for an H-bomb. But you'd need to deliver it. An Antonow-225 can carry the heaviest load (250 tons). The theoretical yield/weight limit is 6 Megatons per tonne weight. So 1.5 Gigatons yield. But even a 100MT bomb has a shockwave pressure which at 40,000 feet equals atmospheric pressure there, so anything larger just blows off the top of the atmosphere. But the destructive power of a single warhead (on land) scales approximately only as the 2/3 power of its yield, so you get more destructive power from several smaller bombs than one big one; hence the modern emphasis on these. Boy, is this blog getting perverse! I need to stop this subject here :-(

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Hentai Story ;-)

So the 6-year-old kid comes home from school and over dinner her Dad asks "So what did they teach you at school today?" The kid replies "We learned all about hen tie, Mr.Jones even showed us some of his hen tie pictures :-)" Father drops his spoon in the soup and splutters "What, what, what?". The 6-year-old kid continues happily, "And we learned to sing the hen tie song too! Do you want to hear it?" Dubiously - and wiping the soup off his shirt - the parents say "Well, yes....", so here it is

Old Kentucky had a farm
And on that farm he had three hens
And each little hen wore a red bow tie
Because the farmer liked to see

.......... Hen Tie........................... Hen Tie........................... Hen Tie ;-)

Comments (3) :
Jan (NL) reiterates "As I already commented on your Feb.24th post : You have a very strange sense of humour :-(" Complicated by the fact that many of us Westerners do not know about the correct direction to read Manga comics . Top to bottom right to left :-(
Schorsch (D) opines "That's a terribly forced pun :-(" Agreed. Sorry.
Keith (UK) puns too "Oh, it's the 'en essay again!" Listen up!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Size matters

One of the things I find annoying in school textbooks is this misrepresentation of the solar system. Sure, it shows the sequence of the planets in their orbits correctly and shows the relative sizes of the planets correctly, but it totally misleads the schoolchildren about the distances between the planets and how incredibly far apart they are! And the book doesn't even mention that the diagram is not to scale! Apart from the misspelling of Mercury and still showing Pluto as a planet, that's my main beef. So today I want to tell you about the scale of the solar system.

The first thing I point out to the schoolkids is this misleading scale. I tell them to look at the picture and see what angle e.g. Jupiter would subtend for someone standing on the Earth in this diagram. Then I tell them that Jupiter is presently at its nearest point to the Earth and that they should go look at the night sky, where it is currently the brightest object. See how small it looks. See what a small angle it subtends. That's because it is much further away than the textbook diagram suggests!

Now let's try doing things to scale. Here are the Earth and the Moon. Their relative sizes and the distance between them are to scale.

On the screen of my laptop they are 10.7 cms apart, representing 363295 kms (perigee) to 405503 kms (apogee). And it took us 3 days, 3 hours, 49 minutes travel to get there in Apollo. Light takes ~1.3 seconds.

The distance between Earth and the Sun is, on average, 149,597,870.691 km or 499 light seconds or 8.3 light minutes. That is 384 times further away; on the scale used above, that is 41 meters! Now Jupiter is 4 times further away than that, about 33 light-minutes. That'd be 165 meters on the scale used above. Jupiter's diameter is 11.2 times larger than Earth’s. On the scale used above that'd be 5 cms. Cut out a 5cm cardboard disc, I tell the kids, and one of you take it 165 metres away. NOW look at the subtended angle, THAT is to scale!

Now Pluto’s average distance from the Sun is 40 astronomical units (29-49 AU due to Pluto's elliptical orbit). 1640 meters (over a mile) on the scale used above. So that's why they compress the size of the solar system in the textbooks, just to get it on the same page ;-)

The nearest star is Proxima Centauri, 4.2 lightyears away = 265,607 AU = 10,990 kms on the scale used above! At this point, let us sing together Sheldon Cooper's mnemonic song The stars nearest to me, which is now outdated as he sang it, by the way ;-)

Turning the textbook page, the next thing that annoys me is this artist's impression of the asteroid belt! No way are the asteroids as densely spaced as this. Considering the big ones (1 km or more in diameter) like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs, calculations show them to be 5 million kms apart on average!

So you see, size does matter ;-)

Comments (4) :
Renke (D) asks "Do you know ?" Now that DOES make a huge visual impression! Thanks for the heads-up, Renke!
Cop Car (USA) wrote "Please thank Renke for the link to a beautifully done illustration of relative sizes and distances concerning Earth, Moon, and Mars - for me!" Consider it done here. Renke has some great sources :-)
John (UK) gripes "The sketch also misleadingly suggests that all the planets are in a straight line! As if they all orbited the sun like part of a solid bar :-(" Thanks to Kepler we know that each orbits the sun on its own ellipse and that the square of the orbital period of each planet is proportional to the cube of the semi-major axis of its orbit. Schoolkids need to be taught that too, I agree.
Renke (D) has another great link for us , showing the solar system on the scale of a 1-pixel moon :-)

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A Hentai Story ;-)
Size matters
The secret life of Christ
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Knight Rider resurfaces
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