Search This Blog

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Web robot words

As a typical grumpy old man I get fed up with being asked to prove I'm not a robot by entring two words that I can hardly read on the screen. This way of checking for humans seems to have become a lot more common in the last 12 months. Isn't there a better way?

Sunday, 26 February 2012

The scale of time

A few days back I mentioned this link which demonstrated the physical scale of things in the universe from the very very tiny to the huge on a cosmological scale. Se /589217_scale_of_universe_enhanced.swf .

Now this got me wondering about the real nature of time. We think of time as running at a constant rate, although relativity suggests this is not true. We happen to be human beings on a certain physical size scale and to us time goes, more or less, at the speed we are used to. What if time itself was somehow as strange as the physical scale of the universe and ran at rates so divergent that a second of our time was almost an infinity for some things in the multiverses? That our concept of time could be akin to the flat-earther's incomplete view of a multi-dimensional world?

What I'm saying is our concept of physical size and time flow is just how it is for us. One can imagine other universes where time runs incredibly fast or incredibly slowly. Is it really so odd to think that we are just a sub-atomic particle in another universe, or that other entire universes both in all space and time are contained within each sub-atomic particle that makes us and every other bit of star dust?

I'm finding it hard to put into words the sort of concepts going through my head, but in summary I think the whole nature of space and time is far more of a wonder and a mystery than we think or can ever imagine.

Spring has arrived

Feb 26th 2012 and it now feels as if spring has arrived already. After a week or so of very cold snowy days we have the garden springing back to life with bulbs pushing through, the birds singing and looking at nest sites and the grass growing. This morning I even cut my front lawn for the first time this year - just a trim to even out the growth.  March 1st marks the first official day of spring according to the Met Office, so not long now.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Family history

Many years ago my brother, my father and I set out to research our Lapthorn family history in South Devon. In those days there was no Internet so the research was done by looking through transcripts of parish records and reading gravestones. We managed to get right back to the mid 1500s and even found some other, unconnected, records in the same parishes back to 1428. Luckily our family stayed within an area of around ten miles although back in the 1700s some moved to the Southampton area and established a successful sail making business (Ratsey and Lapthorn) who made some sails for very famous yachts.

At the moment my wife is doing the same sort of research using on-line resources and is already back to 1686. We've found out some branches of her family come from nearby Norfolk where her ancestors were farm labourers before they moved to the industrial north when work on the land was hard and the agricultural  depression was at its height. So, today we took a trip to some of the places in Norfolk where her ancestors hailed from.  We saw and touched the very font in which our grandson's great, great, great, great, great grandfather was christened in a lonely Norfolk church way back in 1797. My wife was visibly moved to "connect" to her forefathers in this way.

Isn't it amazing to think that each and every one of us is here because of a series of encounters stretching back to the beginning of time. If just one of these encounters had not occurred then each one of us would not be here. Our very existence is precious and truly wonderful.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Litter - we are a MESSY country

There is no getting away from it, England has become a messy, untidy, litter ridden place. I remember being appalled at the plastic bottles that were strewn about the roadsides and olive groves in mainland Greece some years ago, but England is not too far behind now. Why?

Visit New Zealand, Iceland, France and Sweden and there is hardly any litter in rural areas. France used to be different, but they have become a nation with pride in their countryside and I was amazed how clean and tidy the country looked last year. If they can do it why can't the UK?

What has changed in the UK? Why are we now so prepared to accept a scruffy and litter ridden roadside? Most of it is takeaway rubbish: cans, food packaging, etc which is thrown out of windows by idiots who could not care less. It saddens me that these people, lots of them, do not care. Do they like living in a rubbish dump?  Have we no pride any more?

What is the solution? Education? Punishment?

Although in my political views I am a liberal at heart, I find myself thinking that, rather than dole out benefits to those unable (or unwilling) to find a job, people should be required to undertake something useful to earn the benefit. Seeing how bad our roadsides have become, why not ask people to spend a few hours a week with a yellow jacket on picking up some of this detritus? Oh, of course not, that would be a "health and safety" risk! As so much of the rubbish originates in takeaway food shops why not put a tax on takeaways that are packaged in non biodegradable materials? Or maybe make local takeaway establishments responsible for roadside "scattered" litter collection locally?

Sunday, 12 February 2012

The scale of things

This quite wonderful website brings to life the scale of things in our incredible universe from the smallest strings and branes to the largest galaxies and nebulae in the cosmos. And we are somewhere in the middle of all this.  Zoom in both directions (smaller and larger) and be amazed.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Winter Sun

It has been a glorious day here in Cambridgeshire. We've now had snow for about a week and after the fresh falls on Thursday night and overnight temperatures between -10 and -14 deg C it is crisp, powdery and white.  It looks like this will last a couple more days before the thaw sets in.