Friday, July 2, 2010

Unfair to Huygens

I’ve read the Huygens book again and in fact he does recognise that it’s most unlikely there are inhabitants on the Moon, due its dryness and no atmosphere.  When he talks of the sights the inhabitants can see, he says the view both from our Moon and from other solar system moons, “must occasion great many very pretty, wonderful sights to their Inhabitants, if they have any: which is very doubtful, but may for the present be suppos’d …” and then goes on to describe what they would see were they to exist.
So I apologies to Huygens and will rewrite the post of a few days ago.  I'm still disappointed by the way and shall explain why.

Telling the story of Adam and Eve

This is one of the stories I tell Martha.  I've decided to write these stories down, sell them, and get rich. Feel free to tell me if you think this is (a) a likely or (b) an unlikely outcome.  This particular story starts with …
When God had finished making the world and had rested – which by the way he did on Saturday – he brought all the animals to Adam to name. Whatsoever name Adam called a particular animal, that would be its name always.
At this juncture, there's an opportunity for endless diversion where I describe an animal and Martha says what Adam called it – big yellow cat with a mane – Lion! Huge grey animal with legs like tree trunks and the biggest nose Adam had ever seen - Elephant!  In fact we normally don’t get past this point in the story.  I've written an unfinished draft see it here.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tory bashes the Mail - a Nixon in China moment

I won't see Newsnight tonight, or any night for that matter as I rarely watch TV, but the Newsnight newsletter tells me that the one phrase from the Tory handbook on crime-fighting that no-one ever forgets is, arguably, Michael Howard's mantra that 'prison works'.
But that was old Tory, it says, and today Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has torn up the handbook and called short term sentences an expensive failure. He accuses previous Labour home secretaries of building up the prison population with 'a chequebook and a copy of the Daily Mail'.
This is a real Nixon in China moment.  When was the last time a Labour politician dared to deride the Daily Mail?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tidal power – the earliest proposal?

Is this the earliest instance of a scientist advocating tidal power as an alternative to burning fossil fuels?

A book published in London in 1874 calls attention to “the stupendous reservoir of power that the tidal waters constitute, a form of power which has not as yet been sufficiently called into operation, but which may be invoked by-and-by, when we have begun to feel more acutely the consequences of our present prodigal use of the fuel that was stored up for us by bountiful nature ages upon ages ago.”
The book is “The Moon: considered as a planet, a world, and a satellite” by James Nasmyth &  James Carpenter.
Other benefits of tides are that they clean the ocean shores, and move ships up and down the Thames which otherwise would consume steam. For the port of London alone, the authors claim this represents a money value “reckoned in millions sterling, seeing that if our river was tideless all transport would have to be done by manual or steam power”. (p 188).
I read this book in the British Library on 21st June.  It contains amazing illustrations of the Moon which you could swear were taken from an orbiting satellite but which are actually photographs of clay models, themselves based on drawings made in the course of 30 years of observing.