A good working definition of quantum mechanics is that things are the exact opposite of what you thought they were. Empty space is full, particles are waves, and cats can be both alive and dead at the same time. Recently a group of physicists studied another quantum head spinner. You might innocently think that when a particle rolls across a tabletop and reaches the edge, it will fall off. Sorry. In fact, a quantum particle under the right conditions stays on the table and rolls back.
30 November 2008
29 November 2008
27 November 2008
Green woodpecker on our west London lawn; I guess he was enjoying the ants which seem to abound in our garden.
Not wonderful photos as I was having to use my biggest lens at an awkward angle from the open study window in dreadful November light and having to push the ISO rating to get anything I could handhold. This probably the best from at least 150 shots taken over a period of 20 minutes.
A few more from this series on my Flickr Photostream.
25 November 2008
There are other such mini-celebrations coming up: the first time we had sex, 15 or 16 December; engagement on 30 December (well that was when Noreen dropped the bombshell on her mother anyway); Noreen moved in with me the following May; and we married in September 1979.
If you think that’s all a bit quick, well we had known each other for at least 3 years. We both knew, but didn’t tell the other, how we felt for each other. And then we almost lost contact after a disagreement when we both thought we’d screwed up and lost the other. But somehow we managed to stay in contact; just. Then unexpectedly Noreen asked me to her birthday bash in early October 1978. The rest, as they say, is history!
But hey, I realised properly last night that it is just as good as it always was. We’ve had our ups and downs – who doesn’t?! The first 2-3 years were hard – we fought; I was depressed; we had a crummy rented flat. When we bought the house in mid-1981 mortgage rates were very high – people today think they have it hard, we started our mortgage paying 14.5% interest, and after 6 months it was up to 17.5%!! That hurt. Many couples would I’m sure have thrown in the towel. But we stuck it out; somehow. And it’s got better; we don’t fight any more; we discuss, compromise and agree a way forward. By diligence we managed to pay off the mortgage seven years early. And we still have great sex; it’s different now from the early days but it is still great.
How have we done it? We don’t really know; we ask each other this question fairly regularly. But there are a number of key factors: a shared sense of humour; shared interests but also our own separate interests; doing things together but also separately; but perhaps most importantly we talk – all the time! And like all good relationships it is multi-faceted varying between friend-friend, parent-child, adult-adult, child-child, lover-lover. Even when, say, lover-lover is missing (as it will be sometimes) many of the others are there and keep things ticking along. Where relationships hit the buffers seems to be when many of the roles are missing and they degenerate into child-child, parent-child or enemy-enemy. (I’ve written more about this on the Theory of Relationships page of my Zen Mischief website.)
If we could make another 30 years we’ll both be getting on for 90. And who’s to say we can’t? Onward and upward! Here’s to many more happy years together.
24 November 2008
1. 1,001 sex toys from amazon, 2. Sound the Bright Flutes!, 3. In England they're called Fairy Lights., 4. Christmas Tour of Homes, 5. Christmas Shopping, 6. Christmas Gold Organza Felt Tree 1, 7. My Lovely Bookworm, 8. IMG_8708_11242006, 9. Victorian Christmas II (Thomas Kinkade), 10. Christmas card, illustration, 11. weihnachtsmarkt2.jpg, 12. Pope Shenouda III, right, leads the Christmas liturgy held at the Coptic Cathedral of Saint Marcos late Friday, Jan. 6, 2006 in Cairo, Egypt.
As always these are not my photos but please follow the links to enjoy the work of the photographers who did take them!
Yesterday was the Feast of Christ the King (the Sunday before Advent) so this week's meme focuses on the run up to Christmas.
As usual the questions and answers
1. Place you like to buy presents Amazon.co.uk
2. Christmas music Medieval Carols, traditionally sung
3. Something you use to decorate your house Fairy Lights
4. Where (or with who) are you planning to spend Christmas? It'll likely be just us two, at home
5. Who do you like to got Christmas shopping with? Nobody
6. Theme/colour scheme of your Christmas tree Probably red and gold, but it depends what Noreen feels like at the time
7. Someone you like to buy presents for My bookworm wife (and no, this picture isn't my actual wife; she isn't on Flickr, yet!)
8. What are you planning to eat for your Christmas meal? Free-Range Organic Turkey
9. Somewhere you’ll go to a party Is anyone going to invite me?
10. Something you make for Christmas Christmas Cards; for the last several years we've had our own cards printed from one of my photographs
11. What gets you in the Christmas spirit? Traditional Christmas Music
12. Secular or Sacred? Although the Christmas liturgy is wonderful it'll be secular
Created with fd's Flickr Toys.
23 November 2008
Just a little interlude after midnight! Must be getting old disgracefully!
The wine is this years Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau; not cheap but pretty good considering the indifferent summer.
And the glass is at least 35 years old; I bought a set of 6 of these (very cheap glasses; anyone round here remember Green Shield Stamps? - that tells you they were cheap!) when I was either a 3rd year undergraduate or a first year postgrad student. I think we still have 5 of them, and they're used regularly. I wonder how many bottles of wine (not to mention other liquors) these glasses have seen?
Looks good on black too!
22 November 2008
Research has led to the discovery of the heaviest element yet known to science. The new element, "Governmentium" (Gv), has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312. These 312 particles are held together by forces called "morons", which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called "peons". Since "Governmentium" has no electrons, it is inert; however, it can be detected, because it impedes every action with which it comes into contact.
A minute amount of "Governmentium" can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second, to take from four days to four years to complete. "Governmentium" has a normal half-life of 2-6 years; it does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places. In fact, "Governmentium's" mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming "isodopes". This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that "Governmentium" is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass.
When catalyzed with money, "Governmentium" becomes "Administratium", an element that radiates just as much energy as "Governmentium" since it has half as many "peons" but twice as many "morons".
This week's self-portrait: 52 Weeks 39/52 (2008 week 47).
4 AM and I can't sleep, so I figured I may as well get up for a bit and play.
And as this is week 39 of my 52 weeks "self-portrait a week" I figured I'd do a 13 things as well; so ...
13 Things which bore me and which I therefore try to ignore ...
1. Richard Dawkins
2. stem cells
4. embryo research
5. climate change
9. Lord Winston
10. quantum computing
11. the scientific fetish that life can be only water and carbon based
13. Christianity and Islam
17 November 2008
This week's Flickr Photo Meme ...
1. (TB5.) Hope on the Horizon..., 2. Spring Greens 2, 3. lots of things are brown today, 4. blinkie blink blink flowwiee, 5. Okoboji - Grey Cat, 6. the emperor's new clothes, 7. Canary Yellow ~ Lost one!, 8. Pink Pixies, 9. Clotted Cream, 10. linen grey white cotton, 11. Rosa Knicker, 12. Best tandoori chicken
Questions and Answers:
1. free square - you pick a color to start off your meme with! Old Troll Gold
2. fave colour Spring Greens, but it does depend what it's for
3. least fave colour Shit Brown
4. colour of your eyes Blinking Blue
5. colour of your hair Steely Grey
6. colour of your car Emperor's New Clothes; invisible as I don't have a car!
7. colour of your fave flower Canary Yellow
8. colour you like to wear Pixie Pink
9. colour of your living room walls Clotted Cream
10. colour of your pet Russian Blue and White
11. fave 2 colour combination For flowers, Knicker Pink and White, but it really depends on the context
12. colour of your fave food Tandoori Red
Created with fd's Flickr Toys.
16 November 2008
Well I don't know if it was sold out, a quick Google hasn't provided an answer, but having researched a bit more I'm not sure if I would actually call this 1569 effort it a lottery at all! Here's what Wikipedia says:
Although it is more than likely that the English first experimented with raffles and similar games of chance, the first recorded official lottery was chartered by Queen Elizabeth I, in the year 1566, and was drawn in 1569. This lottery was designed to raise money for the "reparation of the havens and strength of the Realme, and towardes such other publique good workes." Each ticket holder won a prize, and the total value of the prizes equaled the money raised. Prizes were in the form of silver plate and other valuable commodities. The lottery was promoted by scrolls posted throughout the country showing sketches of the prizes.
Thus, the lottery money received was a loan to the government during the three years that the tickets ('without any Blankes') were sold. In later years, the government sold the lottery ticket rights to brokers, who in turn hired agents and runners to sell them. These brokers eventually became the modern day stockbrokers for various commercial ventures.
Most people could not afford the entire cost of a lottery ticket, so the brokers would sell shares in a ticket; this resulted in tickets being issued with a notation such as "Sixteenth" or "Third Class."
According to measuringworth.com 10 shillings in 1569 would now be worth around £105 if you pro rata using RPI or £1210 if based on average earnings.
Interestingly lottery-results-info.com claims that the first ever lottery with prize money was held in Florence, Italy, in 1530. But as there are (apparently) references to lottery-type activity in The Bible, we'll probably never know.
But don't things like this make history fun! Much better than all those Corn Laws, Poor Laws, treasons and bloody battles that were inflicted on us at school!
15 November 2008
Jamie over at Duward Discussion has laid down a new meme, so I just have to give it a go!
This is what you do:
Go to The Birthday Calculator, This Day in History and/or Google and enter your date of birth to find all sorts of interesting things about what was happening when you were born.
Now tell us about some of these interesting things.
Then, if you wish, tag a few of your friends to do the same.
And post a comment to this post so we know who’s followed the meme.
OK so here goes for me!
Birthday: Thursday 11 January 1951, 1250 PM GMT in University College Hospital, London. My mother has told me that I was 2 weeks early. This means I was conceived in the early days of May 1950.
Astrological Sign: Capricorn
Birthstone: Garnet; said to be a power stone
Alternative Birthstones: Emerald, Rose Quartz.
(Interestingly I’m not so keen on Emeralds, but I love Rose Quartz)
Fortune Cookie: There is no limit to love's forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure.
Chinese Year: Tiger
Native American Zodiac Sign: Goose
I share my birthday with: Golfer Ben Crenshaw (b. 1952) and Anthony Powell’s younger son John (b. 1946)
Lucky Day: Saturday
Lucky Number: 8
Ruling Planets: Saturn & Uranus
Birth Tree: Fir Tree, the Mysterious. Extraordinary taste, dignity, cultivated airs, loves anything beautiful, moody, stubborn, tends to egoism but cares for those close to it, rather modest, very ambitious, talented, industrious uncontent lover, many friends, many foes, very reliable.
Lunar Phase: waxing crescent
The day I was born:
There appear to have been no major world events, births or deaths.
Arsenal beat Carlisle United 4-1 away in an FA Cup replay.
London Algebra Colloquium met to discuss “Non-Archimedian Normed Spaces”
On this day in other years:
1973. Britain’s Open University awards its first degrees
1946. Enver Hoxha proclaims the People’s Republic of Albania
1922. First use of insulin to treat diabetes in a human patient
1864. London's Charing Cross station opened
1787. William Herschel discovers Titania and Oberon, two moons of Uranus
1569. The first national lottery is held in England; 40,000 lots, at 10 shillings each, go on sale at St. Paul's Cathedral in London
Top Song of 1951: Mockin' Bird Hill by Les Paul & Mary Ford
All in all it seems to have been a fairy dull day, so I guess I fit in well.
11 November 2008
Summerfield was interviewed on BBC TV Breakfast this morning:
Presenter: Are you the first person to do this?
JS: No, I’m actually the second. The previous person did it over 100 years ago.
Presenter: How long did it take him?
JS: About the same as it took me.
In fact Summerfield claims he is the first person to achieve this feat since Thomas Stevens, who was also English, in 1884-7, although he started and ended in San Francisco.Apparently the thing people most asked him was “Why?”, which seems hardly suprising! His reply? “It's pretty much what we English do. It's an adventure.” The mammoth tour was his third attempt at circumnavigation on a penny-farthing.
Oh and along the way he also came second in the novice category of the Penny-Farthing World Championships.
Further news reports on Google News.
10 November 2008
1. Cat Help Needed! Ajuda Felina Urgente!, 2. New Banksy Rat Mural in New York, 3. Bat, 4. Air raid Beano, 5. December 1931 Country Life Magazine Christmas edition, 6. Punch 1957, 7. Icy Waterfall in the Harz Mountains - Germany, 8. Dartmouth Christmas, 9. Calm water at Buttermere, 10. Adnams "The Bitter" (Cask), 11. beaujolais nouveau, 12. All true tea lovers like their tea strong......, 13. Gandalf the Grey, 14. "The Satanic Verses", 15. Evelyn Vaugh, "Decline and Fall", 16. We ♥ Norway, 17. Not of this Earth - The Bubbling Sulfur Pools of Iceland, 18. japan, 19. 69/365- Words are worthless when you're laying in my bed, 20. 49 pigeonholes, 21. day 76: pebble-dashed sky, 22. Holy Water at St. John the Russian's Church, 23. James Turrell, 24. Jabez Rounds House
Questions and Answers, with something about why I chose each sequence:
This week we're going to do 8 rows of 3!
1. Three animals
Cat, Rat, Bat; because they rhyme
2. Three magazines
Beano, Country Life, Punch; I remember them all from my childhood
3. Three holiday destinations
Harz Mountains, Dartmouth, Buttermere; I've been to all three and would like to go there again
4. Three drinks
Adnams beer, Beaujolais Nouveau, Tea; three of my favourites
5, Three novels
Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkein), Satanic Verses (Salman Rushdie), Decline and Fall (Evelyn Waugh); three of many that I can't read
6. Three countries
Norway, Iceland, Japan; I'd love to visit them all but I won't because I object to their stance on whaling
7. Three numbers
69, 49, 76; number of houses I've lived in
8. Three names
John, James, Jabez; three of my great-grandfathers
[Later] Actually four of my great-grandfathers; two were called James!
Created with fd's Flickr Toys.
09 November 2008
In the process of trying to slough off this torment over the last couple of days I was set to wonder about the modern common cold.
Are colds really so much more virulent now? I have no memory of feeling so flu-y, so depressed, so totally incapable and so absolutely wiped out with colds when I was younger. One seems much less able to work through colds these days. Are we becoming less resistant to these viruses? Or are the viruses themselves becoming more virulent? Is it a delusion; a trick of memory? Or is this some effect of ageing; we are affected more as we get older, despite (one would have thought) having built up better resistance? I don't know, but I certainly seem to feel worse with colds now than I did in days of yore.
I was also pondering the art of nose-blowing, as one does! I've always been a sniffer rather than a blower. Nasty habit I know, but more effective for me unless my nose is really full. I remember as a kid always being told "Blow, don't sniff". But blowing my nose was a total waste of time; hard as I tried it did no good and produced little result. By comparison sniffing cleared my nose. Now I'm prepared to believe this may be partly in the technique, and that I never succumbed to best practice in nose-blowing technique; but maybe that's because I'm a sniffer? Is this a slightly circular argument? Could it be that my nose is constructed (I typed "constricted", maybe that's better?) such that sniffing works for me and blowing won't? Something to do with the fine structure of the anatomy? And maybe it all relates to my long-standing history of sinus problems? Which is chicken and which is egg? Do I have sinus problems because I sniff, or vice versa.
Given the amount of time lost because of such stupid little viruses, we demand answers to these fundamental questions of the universe.
Off for another hot toddy or three. Chin-chin!
07 November 2008
Women's hands boast more bugs
Ladies, your hands are a zoo. Sampling the DNA on human skin has revealed that while women's hands get washed more often than men's, they teem with a more diverse selection of bacteria.
Noah Fierer and colleagues at the University of Colorado at Boulder swabbed the palms of 51 students leaving an exam. When they amplified and sequenced the DNA, they found 4742 species of bacteria in total - nearly 100 times as many as previously seen. On average, each student carried 150 distinct species and 3200 different strains. Women had different bacteria and a greater number of species than men (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0807920105).
When the team tracked the bacterial composition of eight people's hands after they had been washed, they found that some bacteria preferred clean hands, while others appeared later. Men always had fewer species, though. The researchers suspect this is because men's skin is more acidic, as in nature acidic environments have less microbial diversity.
Surprisingly, every hand was very different. Only five species were found on all hands, while any two hands - even from the same person - shared just 13 per cent of species. Fierer says it may be possible to tell from the bacteria on an object which individuals have touched it.
Apart from the observation that men's skin is more acidic that women's (I can't even see why this is; must be something to do with hormones, I guess) it is hard to see what might cause this. Basic hygiene is clearly not the answer. Go figure!
05 November 2008
Welcome to the age of the21 st century rubbish bin!
Rubbish bins could make a limited comeback on London Underground stations and city streets, due to a new type that have been built to withstand the blast of a terrorist's bomb.
The steel armour-plated bins have been developed to withstand at least 75% of a blast's force and contain the fireball resulting from an explosion. Hundreds of them are due to be installed through London's financial district next year after the British company behind them spent five years testing them to destruction in the Mexican desert. The bins are designed to have digital screens on the side that will relay news, financial and travel information to passers-by throughout the day. Bins were removed from the London Underground in February 1991 following an IRA blast in Victoria station. Most were removed from the City the following year, and the last few were taken away after a large bomb left in a bin in Bishopsgate exploded in April1993. Environmental groups have blamed the lack of bins for an increasing tide of litter across the country, but with each new bin costing £30,000 and weighing roughly a ton. it is unlikely they will be used in anything but the most sensitive locations!
Thirty Grand! £30,000!! For a litter bin!? How many cleaning staff could we employ for that? Are we really that desperate? What's wrong with transparent plastic sacks as used in other cities? Even if more expensive, recycled or bio-degradable plastic sacks would be a fraction of the cost!
04 November 2008
The journal Science reports that mathematicians from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University and the Free University of Brussels have igured out a better way to wrap spherical pieces of chocolate. There’s a lot of wasted material when wrapping spheres with square pieces of foil or paper. But our intrepid geometers found that by using equilateral triangles rather than squares, they could generate a savings of 0.1 percent. That’s one full square saved for every 1,000 pieces of triangle-wrapped chocolate you eat.
Doh? Well so what? Well let's (very roughly) translate that into something meaningful.
Making some reasonable assumptions about wrapper size and weight ... If every man, woman and child in the UK ate just 10 triangular wrapped chocolates this Christmas the savings in the wrappings would amount enough paper/foil to cover a full size football pitch. Can't imagine Wembley Stadium covered in chocolate wrappers? OK. The weight of that saved wrapping is roughly equivalent to 1,000 ½lb boxes of chocolates! Now that's a lot of over indulgence, even by my standards!
Oh and you can find the full Steve Mirsky article here.
03 November 2008
1. Cat's eye, 2. Jaguar im Manu Nationalpark in Peru, 3. Steve-O, Which Channel is CNN ?, 4. Eeyore, 5. Not Afraid, 6. Alice Liddell and the Cheshire Cat, 7. Aquarium, 8. Sporting Lucas Terrier - Wandle Peter, 9. Morgana a fada!, 10. Animal skeleton, 11. Little Black Cat, 12. Small Fish from the Amazon
Questions and Answers:
1. What is your favorite animal? Domestic cats
2. Laws have changed, you now can own an exotic or wild animal as a pet. What animal would you own? Jaguar, they're just slightly more manageable than tigers
3. Some people are cat fanciers and some are canine cuddlers. Which is is for you cats or dogs? Cats, every time; no question; cats are magic
4. What one word best describes your personality? What animal do you associate with that word? Depressive, so it has to be Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh tho' I'd much rather be Tigger
5. Confess! What animal/insect/reptile/amphibian are you secretly (or not so secretly) afraid of? I don't do "afraid"; I'm certainly in awe of the big cats; and I hate maggots; but I'm not afraid of anything
6. What was your favorite animal character from a children’s book when you were younger? Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland; I never did work out how to do that gradual disappearing trick. :-(
7. You’re spending the day at the Zoo, it’s getting close to closing and you’re tired, but you’re definitely not leaving until you see the . . . Aquarium. Hah! Caught you! You thought I was going to say the big cats, but I've already seen them. :-)
8. What kind of pet did you have when you were a kid or do you remember a particularly unusual pet you had? When I was 7 we got a small dog, a Lucas Terrier; but there were always cats at home too.
9. If you were to be reincarnated as an animal, what would you want to be? Why? Domestic cat with me to look after me
10. Animals in films always seem to tug at our heartstrings. What cinematic animal was your hero or a favorite? No animal hero or favourite 'cos I don't do films; I never did; it isn't in my culture
11. If you had a stuffed animal as a child, what was it (extra points if you remember its name)? Little Black Cat and yes here he is, the original, snapshotted (can I say that?) specially for this occasion!
12. National Geographic has hired you to go on a photo shoot anywhere in the world you choose. What animal would you want to showcase in your full-color magazine spread (and where are you traveling to)? Fishes of the River Amazon and while we're there we'll have a few jaguars and parrots for good measure
Created with fd's Flickr Toys.
01 November 2008
Reality is what we take to be true.
What we take to be true is what we believe.
What we believe is based upon our perceptions.
look forperceive depends on what we think.
What we think determines what we take to be true.
What we take to be true is our reality.
So everything is in the mind.