Thursday, February 16, 2006

When nasal hair trimmers go wrong

Very worrying isn’t it? What if it catches a hair and wont let go and you cant find the button to switch it off!! Ive done my risk assessment.
I had an irrational fear that the sun was going into supernova , not even Patrick Moore’s reassuring tones on Sky at Night would stop me waking in a cold sweat. Valium cured that along with a nasty rash on the hand and a curious sinking feeling every time I got the train at Fenchurch Street Station. I have been more or less sane since.
I met Patrick Moore twice and had one postcard from him. First time was in a hotel in London – a charity chess event. You paid £25 and you got to play a simultaneous game of chess with the 8th best Grandmaster in the world – then Dr John Nunn. There were about 20 of us. At the same time Patrick Moore , Stephen Fry, Greta Scacchi and some others played a simultaneous game against some whiz kid – I think it was Michael Adams. Refreshments included!!. What value I cant think it raised a lot . Patrick Moore stood with me in the queue for grub. There was much clicking of the press cameras when Patrick loaded up at the buffet and stood in mid room with vast mounds of tuck balanced on two plates.
We all lost to the Grandmaster but I was not the first one to resign. In fact he looked a bit surprised that I did as I was only a pawn down. But I was about to lose another and remembered that if you are material down and in a bad position against a much stronger player good chess manners demands that you resign not waste his time by demanding proof of the obvious.
Next time I met Patrick Moore was at Hardwicke which is just outside of Hay on Wye and again we met in the food queue. This time he was giving a talk at a house called the Haven which had been the home of a Victorian Astronomer called Webb.
I reminded him about the chess match we had played in and I half hoped he might suggest we play a postal game but he said he wasn’t very good at it and proceeded at once to the refreshments.
Then I got to thinking. From all directions in the sky there is a constant background radiation equivalent to a temperature of 3 degrees above absolute zero. We are told that this radiation is ‘left over’ from the ‘Big Bang’ . But I thought that all electromagnetic radiation travels in a straight line at the speed of light.
Therefore it follows that the energy at the moment of the creation of the universe would have buggered off at the speed of lights and be way beyond Manchester by now and never looking back and so I wrote to Patrick Moore to point this out and ask for an explanation.
He wrote back and said maybe time and space were created at the same instant as matter/radiation. I took this to mean that matter/radiation did not appear in an infinite space but that space too grew.
Later I learned something of Einsteins theory of relativity and the warping of space by the presence of matter and it made a bit more sense.


icedink said...

We like all the same things, though I don't worry too much about the Sun exploding..can't wait, in fact. i have a nice little book somewhere about e=mc2, which is quite easy to understand, and another, Cassall's Laws of Nature, which is a series of essays on the main points of science. I have read and read and read the one on relativity and occasionally have flashes of clarity when i feel i am getting to understanding it, if only fleetingly.

MacDuff said...

I found having done some maths (Maths foundation course – OU) that the Relativity course was much easier to (almost) understand.
What I discovered for myself was that if the maths work then why bother trying to visualise the impossible. For example there are equations that we apply to the 3 directions of space call them x,y and z. If by introducing time t to this equation and it works ie it enables you to accurately predict something about the world then why try and force your mind to visualising how time can be the same kind of thing as distance.
I am sure that scientists who we suppose know their subject cant ‘visualise’ everything. I think Hawking in his book admits as much.

icedink said...

That's a useful tip, the maths. About three years i did a short OU course on materials science, the area i am really interested in. i hope to resume when everything at home is sorted - complete my education. i think i actually prefer materials, particularly metals, to people: their behaviour is so much more predictable.

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