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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 after the death of his old dog, Kosmo, he also has a new bulldog puppy, Clara, since September 2018 :-)

Some of my bikes

My Crypto Pages

My Maths Pages

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Where's the Mass?

Iwas waiting for a gap in the traffic so I might cross the road when an out-of-town car pulled up to ask for directions. The driver was a Catholic priest looking for the church where he was to perform a memorial service. He asked me "Where's the Mass?", and I replied "Some in the Higgs field but mostly in the Gluon Cloud" ;-) That's a quantum physicists' joke, by the way, so let me explain.

When I was at primary school, aged just 7, we had a class teacher who was a big fan of the Austrian philospher Wittgenstein and explained he used Wittgenstein's ladder as his model of education. That is, children are given a simplification as an explanation like a rung in a ladder. When they see the cracks in that simplification they are ready to move up a further rung on the educational ladder to a better explanation. And so on and so forth, moving up the ladder a rung at a time until they get to the top (if there IS a top!) and then can throw the ladder of simplifications away. This ladder idea was rediscovered in 1994 by mathematician Stewart as Lies to Children. A lie-to-children is a simplified explanation of technical or complex subjects as a teaching method for children and laypeople. Both are also how scientists make new discoveries. Here's a ladder of mine : 70 years for 7 rungs!

That primary school teacher sent me to fetch something from a cupboard, warning me that it was heavy. I did so, asking "Why are some things heavy and others not?" and was told that little things are light and big things are heavy (rung 1 of the ladder). After some thought, I objected "The biggest thing here is the air in this room, but it's not heavy!". The teacher promptly moved me up to step 2 of the ladder, explaining that "everything is made up of atoms, that means "indivisible" in Greek, the little atoms are light and the big atoms are heavy - about 250 times heavier than the lightest atom. There are about 100 different sizes of atoms. Think of them as little round balls of matter." This explanation sufficed me for about 5 years.

Skip forward to secondary school, I was about 12, when we taught that the atom (about 1 Angstrom or 100,000 femtometers across) had been split and found to contain a nucleus about 1 femtometer across, made of protons and neutrons, with the electrons orbiting around the nucleus. This was rung 3 of the ladder.

Unfortunately, this explanation was accompanied by misleading diagrams, noone told us they were diagrams and not photos :-(

The diagram on the left is of a lithium atom (three protons and three electrons). Misleadingly it suggests the electrons are in plane orbits perfectly spaced 120 degrees apart and that protons are coloured red and neutrons black. The diagram on the right is of a nitrogen atom (7 protons and 7 neutrons, misleadingly coloured red and yellow respectively). Not only were the colours misleading to me, but the inner and outer electron orbits are shown as coplanar :-( Later our science teachers explained Niels Bohr's model 2D of the atom and so light (colours) came from electrons falling to lower orbits(energy levels). Therefore protons and neutrons did not have colours. I climbed another rung up the ladder. However, I still had my primary school question, now reformulated as "Where's the mass?", and was told it was almost all in the nucleus. Come 1962 and we went to university (Hi John, Hi Derek et al) still with this mental model of the atom and the nucleus as the main mass-carrier. Einstein had showed that E=mc2 much earlier, so we could also write m=E/c2. So we learned that the mass of the electron is about 0.511 MeV/c2 where MeV means Mega-electron-Volt, the proton has a mass of 938 MeV/c2 and the neutron is slightly more massive at 939.5 MeV/c2 ; so the nucleus has 99% of the mass of the atom. That was the 1966 answer to "Where's the mass?"

But science moves another rung up the ladder since in parallel Murray Gell-Mann - an english physicist - came up with the theoretical idea of Quarks in 1964 which were confirmed experimentally in 1968, so we didn't learn about them at university. So later we learned that a proton is composed of two up quarks, one down quark, and the zero-mass gluons that mediate the forces "binding" them together. The "color" assignment of individual quarks is arbitrary, but all three "colors" must be present. Also "color" is an arbitrary name for a quantum attribute and has nothing to do with the colours we see. Nor are "up" and "down" gravitational directions ;-)

So again I ask "Where's the mass?"; are the quarks massive? Now a proton has a mass of approximately 938 MeV/c2, of which the rest mass of its three valence quarks only contributes about 9 MeV/c2; much of the remainder can be attributed to the field energy of the gluons and a bit to the Higgs field. So my current understanding of "Where's the mass?" is "Mostly in the gluon cloud", but I don't know which rung of Wittgenstein's ladder I'm on, nor do I even know how many (more) rungs there are :-(

Comments (9)
Schorsch (D) wrote "I'm still on your rung three :-(" Most people are.
Pergelator wrote " That bit about the rest mass of quarks and the mass of the gluon cloud is news to me. I especially like it since gluons are massless. They must be moving near the speed of light. Zero times infinity must equal 929 MeV/c2. Could it be that the lighter won't light anymore because all the gluons have quit moving?" I'm not sure I even understand what a gluon is. And why are they only in hadrons?
Jenny (Ibiza) asks me to "...explain the third picture...". Okay. The grey circle is a 2D diagram of a proton. It contains 3 quarks, in 3 different "colors". Two of the quarks are labelled U (meaning UP quarks) and one is labelled D (meaning it is a DOWN quark). The white wavy lines represent the Gluons which act as the exchange particles (or gauge bosons) for the Strong force between quarks. Most of the mass of a proton (or neutron) is the result of the Strong force field energy; the individual quarks provide only about 1% of the mass of a proton. So 99% of the mass is in the gluon cloud, as in my joke to the priest ;-)
Cop Car figured that "I note that most of "mass" is in the "ass"." Some schoolchildren here were being taught about fatness and were asked to complete the sentence "People with a BMI over 30 are called ? .....". The expected anwer was "obese" ; one child wrote "Americans" ;-)
Karel (CZ) objected : " That blog article was too, too, heavy. Get back to the lighter stuff please!" Okay.
John (UK), with whom I read physics at university, wrote " 1) The ladder I'm on is one of those telescopic ones which has not been adjusted properly so every step up ends up lower down. 2) You do not record the response of the priest (perhaps he's still confessing)." His response was "What???". We mere physicists have difficulty splitting a tiny atom to make 2 ones of smaller mass; but the priest achieves transubstantiation at every mass ;-) [In theology, transubstantiation is the changing of the elements of the bread and wine, when they are consecrated in the Eucharist, into the real body and real blood of Christ (a doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church). So it's real, non-symbolic cannibalism ;-) ]"
Tanja (Finland), who is a Catholic, sent this cartoon :-)

Starts with a Bang has a blog entry up which points to the next rung up the physics ladder.
Jenny (Ibiza) wrote again, asking "If your sub-nuclear quantum physics is so important, why is it not taught at Hogwarts?" Oh dear :-(

Sunday, October 18, 2020

A different Halloween in 2020

Thanks to Covid-19, we will be having a different Halloween this year.

Now we are in a fairly safe situation in our little village : no Covid-19 in our little village :-) The nearest known infections being 20 kms north, 15 kms south and 30 kms east and west :-) But of course this could change at short notice since we are on the exponentially rising curve of the second wave here in Germany. SWMBO and I being in our mid-seventies and slightly(?) overweight, are regarded as overly endangered :-(

So we will be having a different Halloween this year. I'm refusing all invitations to costume parties - indeed to any parties - and will not be opening the door to anyone trick-or-treating this year, just a bowl of candies on the bench in the front garden with the hopeful note "Just take one, leave some for the other kids!" (in german of course).

As it is, we don't leave the house much anyway nowadays, dining out once a fortnight with close friends, doctor visits as necessary, etc. I do all the vittles-shopping so only one of us is exposed. Tendentially more online purchasing & delivery of other non-food stuff, very convenient SWMBO thinks :-)

So the only opportunity to dress up Halloween style will to be wearing the obligatory masks when going out. Scurrilous Halloween-style masks. We have narrowed it down to these two, L2R the face-hugger from the Alien movie and a pest-doctor from the middle ages. No Trump masks lest we scare someone ;-)

Neither is up to N95 standard of course, so we may have to wear an N95 underneath them. We shall have to see what the breathability is like then.

What are your Halloween precautions?

Comments (3)
Schorsch (D) said "Those two horror masks are probably just (or more) effective as the loose perspex shields shop-girls wear!" I agree.
Doug (Canada) wrote "Definitely the medieval doctor's mask - they are simply awesome. There are so few kids around here that it's not worth while doing anything for Samhain. " Both may be too hot / stifling?
Addendum: It seems that robots read my blog, because I got 7 (now 12) eMails today trying to sell me FFP2 and/or N95 masks :-(

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Lord of the Flies ;-)

Much amusement was had in the USA during and after the vice-presidential debate about a fly which landed on and s(h)at on Mike Pence's head for over two minutes. Flies are known to like shit ;-)

The more erudite amongst the commenters referred to "Lord of the Flies", which was (the first) 1954 novel by Nobel Prize-winning British author William Golding. We had to read and analyze that book in secondary school in the UK, but I don't know how well it is known in the USA. Feedback, anyone?

Anyway, the name "Lord of the Flies" is a literal translation of Beelzebub, from the Bible verses 2 Kings 1:2 3, 6, 16 in the scene where Ahaziah fell through the Matrix ;-) In theological sources, predominantly Christian, Beelzebub is another name for Satan. So this must have been troubling for Pence - a prominent evangelist - since it associated him with Satan. Doubtless, he will protest that this doesn't count since Kings is in the Old Testament and he only believes in the New Testament.

However Beelzebub also appears in the New Testament - in three of the Gospels - In Mark 3:22, the scribes accuse Jesus of driving out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, the name also appearing in the expanded version in Matthew 12:24,27 and Luke 11:15, 18-19. The name also occurs in Matthew 10:25. So Pence is stuck with the Satan association. But since he has to associate with Trump daily, he may prefer Beelzebub ;-)

Here in Germany, Goethe's Faust refers to Mephistopheles as inter alia the Lord of the Flies. The word may derive from the Hebrew (mêp¯î?) which means "scatterer, disperser", and tophel, short for (top¯el eqer) which means "plasterer of lies". The name can also be a combination of three Greek words: µ? as a negation, (pho~s) meaning "light", and "philis" meaning "loving", thus giving "not-light-loving", possibly parodying the Latin "Lucifer" or "light-bearer". [quoting Wikipedia here]. This, for Pence, also characterises his association with the "plasterer of lies", Donald Trump.

So it also has a fitting literary tradition, Pence and Lord of the Flies ;-)

Comments (3)
Cop Car, who hails from Kansas (USA), answered my question thusly "Although I don't recall why I read the book, I do recall reading and being repelled by it. I think most of us on this side of the pond have been exposed." Then Golding (the author) achieved his aim :-) Or, as the Scottish poet Robbie Burns wrote Man's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn!
David (NY,NY) grins "I don't think Trump has read it, nor any other book. Pence probably only reads The One Book ;-)" Heh, Heh.
Billions of Versions... wrote " I have not read it but it is well known in the US. Maybe I'll add it to my list of things to do. The longer my list gets, the more I enjoy not working on it." I'm a pensioner now, Mike, so I no longer pro-crastinate. Now I just amateur-crastinate ;-)
Addendum: (found on the Intertubes) :-

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Meeting the Daily Llama

No, that's not a typo ;-) I did once get to meet the Dalai Lama (ruler of Tibetan Buddhism) many years ago, or rather attend a lecture he gave. A very gentle man, wise in the ways of the world. He is 85 now, living in exile in India, so maybe we'll see another incarnation soon.

But, since I couldn't avoid the pun, let me tell you about my first meeting with a llama. We were staying at an old hotel in the Uckermark which is in the northeast corner of Germany where it borders on Poland along the river Oder. Turned out that the hotel owner keeps llamas. Each morning they are let out of their stall to graze daily in the fields behind the hotel. When they saw me walking the dog, they came running over to greet us, assuming that we had something for them to eat, or were just friendly and/or curious. This happened every day we were there.

My wife had warned me that they spit in self-defense but I didn't know if they also might bite, so I kept my hand closed. This one was fearless and even let me stroke his fur (very soft). But when it started a chewing motion despite an empty mouth, I realised it was just working up some saliva to spit at me, so I retreated rapidly. Here's the wife's photo of me meeting the daily llama :-)

That lunchtime I read the multi-page menu in the restaurant from cover to cover, just in case there was a delicacy I'd never tasted ;-) But I guess the hotel owner was just keeping them for their very soft wool :-)

Comments (2)
Billions of Versions... wrote " Some people down the road from me had one or the other. Llamas or alpacas. I was never sure because they were far from the road. I just assumed they were llamas. Haven't seen them for years now. Either the llamas got old or the people got old, or both." Or maybe the Llamas reincarnated, Mike?
Anon (China?) sent this YouTube video link about how a company in China ‘hires’ llama-alpaca mix to bring joy to workers :-)

Monday, October 5, 2020

Post-Covid Trump

Trump has been in hospital with Covid-19. But the virus has been gentle with him. Seemingly, the only long-lasting effect has been for it subtly to change the shape of his face.
The truth will out, not even orange makeup helps any more ;-)

Comments (1)
Carol (UK) noted "Coincidentally, today (Oct 7) is Putin's birthday, so a nicely timed post, Stu ;-)" Didn't know that, so it was not planned :-)

Link to the previous month's blog.
Recent Writings
Where's the Mass?
A different Halloween
Lord of the Flies ;-)
Meeting the Daily Llama
Post-Covid Trump
JU-52 major overhaul
Who needs a catapult?
RIP Jimi Hendrix
Shi shi : a poem
Multiple Choice questions
My favourite scenic roads
Old Oak Down :-(
Sex during Corona
3rd A-bomb for Japan
Taking the Mick
Berlin Wall day
Nukes´ 75th anniversary
Cov-idiot Karens :-(
First Encounters
SWMBO's green thumb
PI approximation day
An unused device
Dambuster Museum
30th wedding anniversary
They were framed!
Just another jab?
Single-use plastics

Ain Bulldog Blog
All hat no cattle
Balloon Juice
Billions of Versions...
Cop Car
Digby's Hullabaloo
Earth-Bound Misfit
Elephant's Child
Fail Blog
Finding life hard?
Greg Laden
Mostly Cajun
Observing Hermann
Silicon Graybeard
Starts with a Bang
Yellowdog Grannie

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Blog Dewey Decimal Classification : 153
FWIW, 153 is a triangular number, meaning that you can arrange 153 items into an equilateral triangle (with 17 items on a side). It is also one of the six known truncated triangular numbers, because 1 and 15 are triangular numbers as well. It is a hexagonal number, meaning that you can distribute 153 points evenly at the corners and along the sides of a hexagon. It is the smallest 3-narcissistic number. This means it?s the sum of the cubes of its digits. It is the sum of the first five positive factorials. Yup, this is a 153-type blog. QED ;-)
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