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Friday, September 28, 2012
Cameron on the Letterman TV Show in USA
Rule Brittania. And then Letterman - giving Cameron a hard time - asked him if he knew who composed "Rule Brittania". Cameron didn't and hazarded a guess "Elgar". Turns out that was wrong, the poem "Rule, Britannia!" was written by James Thomson and set to music by Thomas Arne in 1740. So the composer was Arne.arlier this week, the British Prime Minister - David Cameron - was a guest on Davis Letterman's TV show in the USA. As Cameron walked on, the band played
I would not have known that either, even though I know the first verse and chorus and sing along during the TV broadcast of the Last Night of the Proms every year. I guess Cameron confused it with Pomp and Circumstance Marches, indeed composed by Elgar, and also patriotic music played during the Last Night of the Proms.
Now imagine if Letterman had had Dubya or Romney (or even Obama) on the show and had asked them who composed the music for The Star Spangled Banner (aka the US National Anthem). I bet you neither Dubya nor Mittens (and probably not even Obama) would have known that the music was composed by an Englishman(!) John Stafford Smith who called it The Anacreontic Song. Francis Scott Key stole Stafford Smith's music adding his own lyrics around 1783 ultimately to give The Star Spangled Banner.
Letterman continued quizzing Cameron, asking him if he even knew what Magna Carta meant and when and where it was signed. Cameron got this right, knowing that it meant 'The Great Charter of the Liberties of England' and was signed at Runnymede in 1215. I knew that too and have even visited the acre of US territory at Runnymede given to the USA by the UK government and celebrating the Magna Carta. The Magna Carta is often thought of as the document establishing democratic rights in England, but in fact it only granted rights to the barons, not to the common people :-(
Now imagine if Letterman had had Dubya or Romney (or even Obama) on the show and had asked them when the Declaration of Independence was signed. I bet you both Dubya and Mittens would chorus "Fourth of July 1776", whereas the actual signing took place on August 2nd 1776, as any fule kno. Obama may know the right answer, having actually studied some history.
So what was Letterman trying to establish? That all politicians are ignorant? That may be true of many US Republicans/Tea Partyists but is not necessarily true of visiting foreign dignitaries. Most impolite of Letterman, I thought!
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Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Interstellar navigation perspective
Pergelator was fantasizing in his blog about interstellar spaceship drives. He was using a reaction drive though, which I'd blogged about elsewhen. No Warp drives or Wormholes like in StarTrek or Dr.Who; but it got me wondering about how Drs. Who and Spock navigate. After all, they can't use GPS, so it has to be by angles to known(?) stars.ust recently
For thousands of years mankind had a geocentric (Earth as centre) view of the universe and the planets, comets and stars were presumed to be on the surface of concentric celestial spheres. The 'fixed' stars being on the outermost sphere. As the Earth orbits the sun, positions 180° apart in the orbit are only 16 light-minutes apart so there is almost no parallax enabling us to measure the distance to the stars.
Since the fixed stars did not change their positions relative to each other, it was argued that they must be on the surface of a single starry sphere. From about 1250 through the 17th Century, virtually all educated Europeans were familiar with the Ptolemaic model of nesting spheres and the cosmic dimensions derived from it, which claimed that the single starry sphere was only about 73 million miles away. Ptolomy had the distance of the fixed stars being at least 20,000 earth radii. In the 13th century the astronomer al-'Urdi had the sphere of the stars at a distance of 140,177 Earth radii.
Not until the 20th century did we (Slipher et al) become capable of estimating (measuring?) the distances to individual stars and galaxies and so switching from a 2-dimensional (all on the surface of a single celestial sphere) to a 3D view of the stars. Now in the 2D view, constellations were patterns formed by prominent stars within apparent proximity to one another on the single celestial sphere. But in the 3D view, the angular proximity is accompanied by distance information and the individual stars of a constellation may be quite far apart. Let us look at the constellation of Lyra as an example. Lyra is one of 48 listed by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy, it contains Vega, one of the brightest stars in the sky. Lyra contains Vega, Sulafat, Shelyak, and R Lyr to name but the first four by decreasing brightness. It turns out that Vega is only 27 lightyears away, Sulafat 634, Shelyak 881, and R Lyr 349.
So if the StarTrekkers warped say 400 lightyears towards the (2D) constellation of Lyra then Vega and R Lyr would be behind them and Vega would no longer be one of the brightest stars in their sky. The constellation Lyra (and several others ) would thus be unrecognisable by shape. The StarTrekkers would need to identify brighter stars (nearer to them?) by their spectra and periodicities (binary stars and variable magnitude stars) and then use their 3D star catalogue to establish their position using only angular information.
And that was just interstellar navigation within the local volume of the Milky way (our galaxy). I imagine that intergalactic navigation would be considerably more difficult. After all, the accuracy of the distance measurements depends on the accuracy of the Hubble constant measurements which vary between 67 and 77 (km/s)/Mpc depending on whose experimental results you trust most.
Of course, for Dr.Who it is considerably harder. He needs not only to know where he is, but also when he is. Albeit the Tardis seems to have a predilection for landing up in Victorian London ;-)
It should be noted that I am not an astronomer (like Neil deGrasse Tyson), nor do I play one on TV (like Kunal Nayyar), so this article is just guesswork from first principles. I asked NASA, but have no reply so far. Any astrophysicist readers are welcome to mail me their comments :-)
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Monday, September 24, 2012
Is Reality 3-D?
logreader Gudrun (A) tells me that she "...recently went to watch a movie in 3D and realised that 3D is just an illusion. So how do we know that Reality (with a capital R) is 3D and not 4-,5-,6- or even 26-D as our favourite string theoretician Sheldon Cooper insists?"
You're talking about large spatial dimensions. String theoreticians generally think of their other 23 dimensions as being small (rolled up tightly). Think of yourself as being in a tight pipe, you can only move in the one large dimension - along the pipe - the others are too small (aka Planck length) to allow movement in them.
How can you tell you are in 3 dimensions? Count the number of legs on a bar stool! A bar stool needs N legs to stand stably in N dimensions. Consider the 2D case. Take a sheet of glass, place it on a flat table and lean it back very slightly from the vertical. Now make a cardboard cutout of a barstool (in 2D) with 2 very thin legs. It stands stably when placed on the table leaning against the pane of glass. Make one with one very thin leg and it falls over. In 4D stools would NEED 4 legs, in 5D five legs etc.
How can you tell you are in 3 dimensions? Take a strip of paper, put in a ½ twist and tape the ends together making a Möbius strip. Note that the Möbius strip has only one surface and one edge. Try to tape the edges of two Möbius strips together. You can't in 3D, but you could in 4D.
How can you tell you are in 3 dimensions? Tie some knots. All of the knots that work in 3Ds fall apart in 4D.
So we conclude that our reality has only 3 large spatial dimensions :-)
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Thursday, September 20, 2012
English as she be writ/spak ;-)
Xtreme English, is a retired English teacher and current editor and proofreader. So she is much better qualified to examine and comment on David Crystal's telling the story of English in 100 words than I am. But (partial) ignorance of the subject matter never stopped me from having an opinion, or, as Penny from TBBT put it "Not knowing is half the fun" ;-) So, at Mary's request, here's my take on David Crystal's list.ary (USA), who blogs as
David Crystal writes for the Daily Telegraph (UK) in which he shamelessly plugs his new book in which
he (arbitrarily?) chose a list of 100 English words to represent its development.
That is the sort of self-
The history of English is traditionally divided into 4 periods: Old English, from the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons in AD 449 until the 11th century; Middle English from then until the 15th century; Early Modern English from then until the 18th century; and Modern English thereafter. All four need to be examined separately.
Old English vocabulary would enable you to say "What an Arse!" as Crystal appropriately implies. But most people nowadays (myself included) cannot even read Anglo-Saxon (fluently) let alone select common or useful words in it, as I pointed out elsewhen. Crystal's list is imho not representative here.
Regarding Middle English - Chaucer's English - , I would disagree with Crystal. He leaves out words like Lord, liege, feudal but includes a gaggle of money swain going to gaol, surely a first mention of bankers' crises ;-)
Early Modern English gave us Debt (before Dubya) and the Matrix, but not the Matrix Reloaded. I could agree with that ;-)
It is when we come to Modern English that I disagree most with Crystal. He includes such (imho) frivolous words as Dude, Mipela (=not you. WTF?), Doobry and Twittersphere. Of the million plus words in English, ¾ belong to the various domains of science and technology. These he has sadly neglected. Surely Relativity, quantum, and nuclear have been more important in the last century than Dude, Doobry and Twittersphere? Nor does he mention newer 21st century words like Islamofascist, surely more relevant than Twittersphere in most of the world?
You want serious wordlists (English Corpora)? Look here.
I rest my case ;-)
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Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Blog Outage warningOur existing website provider is quitting the business and has served us notice that after 31/10/2012 he will no longer host our website or blogs or email. So I am looking for a reliable provider (thanks to Renke for the hat-tip) and - as soon as the existing provider mails me the Auth-codes - will move our domains to the new provider. So, there may be a short hiatus whilst this happens and I get all the content saved and moved. During the hiatus you will not be able to mail us either, unless you use my emergency Email addy : givenname(dot)surname(at)web(dot)de
Once moved, all your existing bookmarks should continue to work and the mail should resume under the same addy.
First attempt will be at the weekend...
Monday, September 17, 2012
Ibbenbueren Motorcycle Museum
Ibbenbueren, has a well-maintained motorcycle museum, many of the 170 old bikes are in roadworthy, even concours, condition. I took a bunch of photos, so I'm just showing you a few.aturday's motorcycle tour took us to the motorcycle museum in Ibberbueren.
The first bike we saw was this rigid-framed, side-valve flat tank Indian, hand gear-change, restored to concours condition. The bikes are not dated :-(
This is a TTS built by Friedel Munch in the 1960/70s. It uses the NSU 1100cc engine. Less than 500 Munch exist. The superbike of its era.
This birds' eye view of a BMW boxer shows the cylinder offset.
The photo on the left is a cutaway of the (German) Triumph two-stroke engine, whose cylinders shared a common combustion chamber. On the right, Frank is seen holding a valve from a ship's diesel engine, above said ship's piston. For contrast - between the no-smoking sign and Frank's belt buckle - is the piston of the smallest diesel in the museum; tiny isn't it :-)
Most people only know Opel as a car maker nowadays (part of GM). But they also made sewingmachines, rocket-powered record cars and this motorcycle.
Representing the UK, there were two DBD34 Goldies, 1950s Cafe´ Racers.
This is a cutaway of the Yamaha Bulldog TR1 motor, a 90° V-twin.
This 1930s 2-stroke Puch has two cylinders bolted together with separate finning and features the infamous 'High-rise, wave-in-the-wind' pillion seat.
This is THE Diel. THE Diel, because there was only ONE ever built and this is it. Water cooling was an afterthought, so Diel had to cut a slot in the radiator to make room for the exhaust pipe! What a contraption! :-(
By contrast, this is the elegant 2-stroke twin water-cooled DKW; a much better contemporary design. Still rigid-framed though.
This is a Steher, a clutchless single-gear huge-engined V-twin. The rider rode standing up, providing a larger slipstream for the racing bicyclist who followed him around a board track. Open exhaust stubs and a 3 inch wide beltdrive.
This is the post-war KS601 Zundapp, known as the 'Green Elefant', usually used with a sidecar. Klacks owned one of these, kept it in his living room :-)
The NSU OSL as a single-seater.
This is a Wanderer, from the 1930s I believe, leaf-spring front suspension, rigid at the rear, rear brake on the kardan shaft, hand-change gears.
The German superbike of its day, the BMW R60. Earles fork & jampots.
Progress? The belt-drive Klotz (sic!) and the cardan-drive Stock bike (sic!).
Friday, September 14, 2012
Weekend Brainteaser :-)
local bistro has a bunch of circular tables of different sizes. One of the larger tablecloths, shown here in blue, got a straight horizontal 2 meter long crease (shown in black) in the cleaning press. While trying to iron out the crease, the tablecloth got scorched by the iron (yellow triangle).
So they cut out two smaller circular tablecloths (shown in red) along a diameter at right angles to the tangential crease. The cusp shaped pieces (in blue) to the left and right were discarded.
The tight-fisted insurance company refused to pay for a new tablecloth, but would only pay for the discarded area :-( What was the area discarded?
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Wednesday, September 12, 2012
MZ files for insolvency :-(
erenially troubled German motorcycle manufacturer MZ has filed for insolvency. Again. What a pity! :-(
Back in 1906 the Dane Jörgen Skafte Rasmussen bought an old weaving mill in Zschopau. In 1920 they built a 1 hp bicycle motor, the first DKW. At the time the company was called Zschopauer Motorenwerke J.S. Rasmussen. Their first post-war bike was the IFA-DKW RT 125 from 1949. It was widely copied across the world, from Japan to the UK (think BSA Bantam). Motorenwerke Zschopau (MZ) was the national motorcycle manufacturer of communist DDR and won several 6-days world champion trial competitions. They also produced - on a limited budget - some great road-racing bikes, e.g. the 250cc disc-valved twin ridden to vice-world-championship by an acquaintance of mine, Heinz Rösner.
During my active racing days I competed against this machine. After Degner defected to the West in the early 60's it was his MZ knowhow which Suzuki used to build their world championship racers. I modelled the 500cc disc-valved square four in my (lousy) novel Howl of the Mountain King on the MZ and Gamma designs. However, the DDR's MZ 2-stroke workhorse could not survive under capitalism.
On 01.07.1992 MuZ was relaunched by another acquaintance Petr-Karel-Korous (he and I had both worked for the same company). From this era I have a photo of SWMBO riding in the world champion's sidecar. Petr-Karel-Korous is the guy standing behind the driver. I owned an MuZ Skorpion Tour 1994-1996 in an attempt to show some solidarity with them. However, this effort failed too and MuZ was taken over by the malayan manufacturer Hong Leong in 1996. Skip forward to 2009, ex racing riders Ralf Waldmann and Martin Wimmer bought the company and raced MZs in the Moto2 and Moto3 series. However sales did not suffice to keep the company above water and a hoped-for bank loan was not forthcoming, and so now they too have filed for insolvency. What a pity :-(
Monday, September 10, 2012
The Mill Garden @ Gieselwerder
Gieselwerder (a part of Oberweser) has an old (water-powered) mill, in whose garden there is a magnificent collection of some 60+ open-air scale models (1:25 and 1:40) of various famous old buildings in Germany, mostly medieval water-mills, castles, forts, churches and town halls. Water from the river Limbach is diverted through the garden and powers all of the scaled-down old water-mills. Richard Wittich founden this garden as a hobby in 1969 and has been steadily adding buildings over the past 43 years. It is an idyllic and peaceful place to bring your own picnic; there are no fast-food stalls at all, although the lady at the entrance hut will sell you bottled water and orangeade. Entrance was €2 per adult; parking is free. I took a bunch of photos, so I'm just showing you a few.unday's motorcycle tour took us to the little village of Gieselwerder.
The entrance gate to the mill garden dates from 1723.
L2R : Frank(sunglasses), his redheaded wife Ulrike, SWMBO (in the Berlin T-Shirt) and yours truly on the right.
SWMBO giving you an impression of the size of the scale model buildings. This one is Schloss Karlstein in the Czeck republic in scale 1:25.
Yours truly with the model of the Wartburg. The Wartburg is a castle situated on a 1230-foot (410-m) precipice to the southwest of, and overlooking the town of Eisenach, in the state of Thuringia, Germany. In 1999 UNESCO added Wartburg Castle to the World Heritage List as an "Outstanding Monument of the Feudal Period in Central Europe". It was here that Luther hid from Pope Leo X's persecution from May 1521 until March 1522.
Disneyland visitors will recognise Neuschwanstein castle. The original is a 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau near Füssen in southwest Bavaria, Germany.
This is typical of the moated castles of the landed gentry in the Spessart area of Germany. I forgot to note the name of this one, sorry.
This is a typical town hall building, there is one like it in Quedlinburg, in Einbeck, in Kirchhain etc. The three pointy spires are typical of the design.
This one is the 1825 Witches Hole mill (Hexenlochmühle) in the Black Forest in SW Germany. Note the attention to detail, such as the washing lines, the cows in the millyard, the stones to hold the roof on during stormy weather and even the flower boxes on the window ledges :-)
Here is an impression of the peaceful pastoral nature of the mill garden.
On the way home we had to cross the river Weser. We took one of the unpowered wire-ferries across the river. The ferry has two ropes (fore and aft) attaching it to an elevated upstream wire across the river. Elevated so that all boats can pass beneath the wire. The ferryman shortens the fore-rope and lengthens the aft-rope, whereupon the ferry takes an angle to the flow of the river and the transverse component of the vector of this angle drives the ferry slowly and serenely across the river. No engine, no noise! The girls dismounted and boarded first, then photographed Frank (Yamaha FJR1300, right) and myself (Triumph Street Triple, left) as we rolled engineless onto the ferry. The ferry would take 3 or 4 cars, or a lorry or bus, but we were the only passengers on that trip. Traditionally, two coins (€2) for the ferryman, per person. Shades of the Styx tradition!
And I had been talking too much at each stop - as is my wont - so when we came to Gottsbeuren pillory, the other 3 wanted to lock me into it; which is why I'm screaming. Luckily for me, the key for the shackles was missing ;-)
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Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Cameron @ Letterman TV
Is Reality 3-D?
English as she be writ
Blog Outage Warning
MZ files for insolvency
Gieselwerder Mill Garden
Richard Bach down :-(
Quantum Daleks ;-)
Quality Time Survey
Swiss Army Knife
Tiger kills keeper
RIP Bill Thurston
Model Aircraft photos
Why stuff has colours
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FWIW, 153 is a triangular number, meaning that you can arrange 153 items into an equilateral triangle (with 17 items on a side). It is also one of the six known truncated triangular numbers, because 1 and 15 are triangular numbers as well. It is a hexagonal number, meaning that you can distribute 153 points evenly at the corners and along the sides of a hexagon. It is the smallest 3-narcissistic number. This means it’s the sum of the cubes of its digits. It is the sum of the first five positive factorials. Yup, this is a 153-type blog. QED ;-)
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