Friday, September 17, 2010
Hiatus. . .ime for a creative break, the first in eight years of thrice-weekly blogging.
This blog is going into Standby-Mode whilst I try to reinvent myself. I hope to be able to resume in November. In the meantime, thankyou everyone for reading me. You may go peruse the archives to avoid withdrawal symptoms ;-)
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Thursday, September 16, 2010
Much ado about nothingothing to write about :-(
So that's what I'll do : write about nothing ;-)
Even in number systems without positional notation (e.g. Roman Numerals), you soon discover the need to represent Nothing. It happens when you have N items and take N of them away. Early civilisations soon felt the need to have a symbol to represent Nothing. It was discovered by the Babylonians around 700 BC, again by the Chinese about 500 BC, in India around 300 BC etc. And when you have positional notation (e.g. Arabic Numerals) you need to represent an empty column somehow. LXIII + XLII = CV, gets rewritten as 63 + 42 = 105. In the regular Christian calender there is no year zero, so presumably Jesus skipped his infant year ;-) Astronomers correct this, labelling 1 BC as year zero, so the usual rules of arithmetic apply irrespective of the birth of any fictitious prophet. For some daft reason Creationists do not call 4004 BC zero ;-)
Conventionally, we use the round zero as Khwarizmi introduced it in 976 AD. The Babylonians used two slanted wedges in 300 BC, in 700 BC the scribe Bêl-bân-aplu wrote zero as three hooks. The Mayan Long Count dates include a zero symbol.
Understanding and using zero in addition and subtraction became easy for them back then, but multiplication was harder and division and exponentiation even more so. Surprising that I can write so much about nothing, I must be becoming a politician ;-)
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Saturday, September 11, 2010
Just a week to go...
almost everyone else (at least, the 'merkin bloggers) will be boring you with articles about
I will instead remind you that there is just one week to go until the Octoberfest starts.
There will be pretty girls in push-up dirndls and other fairground attractions, plus 7000-man tents full of girls
getting stuck into
Confusingly for foreigners, the Octoberfest actually starts mid-september, which is why I'm giving you a week's warning so that you can get your travel plans set up :-) Do not expect to be able to find accomodation in central Munich though, so try the outskirts where Munich has a good subway system (S-Bahn). At least once in your lifetime, visit the Octoberfest!
NB : It's the 200th jubilee this year, so be sure to take home a commemorative Stein.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
1984 reloaded :-(ince I was talking to you about Tony Blair on Monday (suspected war criminal for whom a jail sentence is recommended : how do I know that? 'Tony Blair' is an anagram of 'Try! No bail!' ;-), I thought I'd refer you to a better Blair today : Eric Arthur Blair, more commonly known by his sheepish pen name 'George Orwell' [sheepish? yes, 'George Orwell' is an anagram of 'Eggroll or ewe', the title of a 1984 parody I wrote back in my student days (and now - luckily - out of print) ;-)].
'George Orwell' is famous for his dystopian novel 1984 which introduced the idea that 'Big Brother is watching you' to its horrified readership. Orwell said in 1949 "My recent novel [Nineteen Eighty-Four] is NOT intended as an attack on Socialism . . ., but as a show-up of the perversions . . . which have already been partly realized in Communism and Fascism. . . . The scene of the book is laid in Britain in order to emphasize that the English-speaking races are not innately better than anyone else, and that totalitarianism, if not fought against, could triumph anywhere."
So, where are we now?
Up until the German reunification a couple of decades ago, East Germany had such a surveillance society. Big Brother - known as the Stasi - constantly spied on the state's citizens. Russia/China still do, but we got rid of that in Germany. Memories of the Stasi still plague us though, which is why the protests arose here about Google Street View spying on everyone's house. We certainly don't want the 1984-esque surveillance societies now prevalent in the US and UK, whether it be spying done by quangos or governments or by large IT-based corporations (Google/Facebook etc).
And so that you can see how your country rates on the Big-Brother surveillance society scale, I reproduce here a map I found on the web recently . . .
Big Brother is watching you! Indeed!
Monday, September 6, 2010
By the pricking of my thumbs...rudite fans of The Bard will recognise today's blogheader line from the Scottish Play (Macbeth Act 4, scene 1, 44-49) and be able to quote the next line to get the subtle humour. The rest of you may google them ;-) BTW: Shakespeare often 'hid' his dirty jokes by such artifices as interchanging verbs and nouns, but his contemporary audience at the Globe got them anyway ;-)
Be that as it may, I want to point you to the active protests being mad(e) now that Tony B.Liar has published his memoirs, called 'A Journey' (which is not to be confused with 'A Gurney', which would perhaps have been a more appropriate title). At his first attempt at book-signing (in Dublin), shoes and eggs were hurled at Tony B.Liar and scuffles broke out, despite heavy security (security heavies?). And the young and seriously gung-ho protester Kate O'Sullivan from Cork succeeded in infiltrating the signing to attempt to make a citizen's arrest for war crimes (sadly, she was bundled out by the heavies who IMHO should have supported her instead).
Those of us not attending any of his signings (with 666 sigils and/or hoofmark?) can make a subtle protest too :
follow the Facebook group called
Subversively move Tony Blair's memoirs to the crime section in book shops, do what they suggest and
subsequently blog a photo of the result or post it to Facebook if you are blogless :-)
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Friday, September 3, 2010
Not her moniker ;-)hat did you say your name was?
"Hillary Sting" ;-)
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Headwinds prevail :-((non-pilot) friend remarked recently on a spot of ill fortune : "Figuratively speaking, life has more headwinds than tailwinds", to which I replied "And that is true literally as well, of course", thinking it was painfully obvious.
But it turned out it wasn't as obvious as I had thought, so here's my explanation:-
Let's say you fly at 120 knots in still air. With a 40 knot head wind your ground speed will only be 80 (=120-40) knots. But with a 40 knot tailwind it will be a fast 160 knots groundspeed (=120+40), twice as fast as when fighting the head wind. That much is indeed obvious and understood by everyone, even USAF Reserve pilot G.W.Bush ;-) Obviously, you spend more TIME fighting headwinds than benefiting from tailwinds.
What is less obvious is that you encounter headwinds on more flights than you encounter tailwinds, even with flights in arbitrary directions! How does that happen?
Let us first define a head wind as reducing your ground speed below your still-air speed. On the diagram on the left, we are flying 100 NM from A to B, and the wind is coming from the right (90°) at 50 knots, at right angles to our track (over ground), so surely THAT can't be a headwind? But to track from A to B we have to aim the airplane on a heading of 030° (heading towards point C) because the crosswind will blow the plane back onto the desired track A-B. We only progress at 86.6 knots along track AB (=cosine of 30°) while flying at 100 knots along heading AC.
So the 'pure' crosswind of 50 knots actually causes an effective headwind of 13.4 knots (100-86.6)!! And so there is an angular sector of 240° from point A where we have headwinds and a mere 120° remain where we have tailwinds. So 2/3 of such flights have headwinds! The actual numbers for these sector sizes will vary as a function of the strength of the 'pure' crosswind components of the wind vector, but it is true that headwinds prevail :-(
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