Sunday, January 31, 2016

Omo, a delightful white giraffe

Here's a fascinating photo of Omo, a white giraffe, from Paul Allen (philanthropist, investor, entrepreneur, author, Seahawks & Blazers team owner, guitarist, neuroscience supporter, space pioneer and Microsoft co-founder):

Hard to believe that this vessel can't be tugged

I know nothing about the task of attaching a cable to an abandoned ghost ship, the Modern Express, and then tugging it to a desired location. But I hardly imagined that it might be rocket science...

The vessel has been drifting around now for six days and nights in the Gulf of Gascony, and we're told that the weather has been too rough to grab hold of the stricken ship. There's a vague possibility, if the weather calms down, that a cable can still be attached to the Modern Express, enabling it to be towed away. If this is not the case, observers believe that the vessel is likely to run aground on a sandy French beach between Monday evening and the following day.

We're told that there'll be no oil spill, since the vessel is carrying a huge stock of timber (which surely shifted during the rough weather, causing the vessel to lean over) and merely 300 tons of fuel. Local people seem to be awaiting stoically, almost calmly, the impending shipwreck. And I keep on wondering what's going to happen to all that splendid timber, as soon as it floats ashore...

BREAKING NEWS [Monday 1 Feb 2016 14h30] The crew of a Spanish tugboat named Centaurus has succeeded in fixing a cable aboard the Modern Express, which is now being towed successfully in a westerly direction towards Spain at a speed of over 5 km/h.

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English Channel seen from space

Here's a photo of the English Channel, looking towards the east, viewed from above the tip of Brittany. The image was obtained by the first official British astronaut, Tim Peake, aboard the International Space Station, orbiting the Earth at an average altitude of 350 km.

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Here are some helpful geographical labels:

I'm not good at identifying landmarks in photos taken from space, but I would imagine that the big dot at the bottom of the photo, above the "o" in Astro, is lighting from the city of Brest. Above it, one of the dimmer dots on the coastline would indicate the city of Saint-Brieuc.

During my recent convalescence with my son François at Plouha (Côtes d'Armor), I was constantly intrigued by our splendid vision of the English Channel, whose waters lapped the base of the granite cliffs just a few hundred metres in front of the house. We were charmed by the presence of all kinds of small vessels: mainly pleasure yachts and fishing boats. But I often wondered why we never caught a glimpse of giant cargo ships and tankers moving along the busy lanes of the Channel. François showed me how to use my powerful binoculars to get a glimpse of an exotic place near the horizon known as the Roches-Douvres Lighthouse.

Inevitably, since this name means "Dover Rocks", I immediately asked my son a naive question: "Is that old lighthouse located in the vicinity of the English town of Dover?" François said no, not at all. So, I never understood (and still don't) why the name of this shelf of rocks, off the coasts of Brittany and Normandy (between the islands of Bréhat and Guernsey), should evoke the distant town of Dover. In the following map, the lower tip of the red blob indicates the location of the Roches-Douvres Lighthouse, whereas a green star marks my viewpoint at Plouha in Brittany.

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This map of the English Channel makes it clear that, from my son's house in Plouha, I was unlikely to catch sight (even with powerful binoculars) of the stream of great vessels moving along the wide sea-lanes between France and England.

The fist-shaped peninsula of Cotentin, jutting out from Normandy, includes a pointed finger that seems to be saying "piss off" to any ship's captain moving too close to the French coastline. Fortunately, no courageous Allied commander was led astray by this warning on D-Day, 1944, when the outstretched hand formed rather a sign of V for Victory.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Earth collided with another planet, Theia, creating the Moon

About 100 million years after the creation of our planet, a collision occurred between the Earth and a baby planet, Theia, The smaller planet disappeared inside the Earth, but fragments of the amalgam flew off into space, where they coagulated into a new body: the Moon.

A recent study carried out by researchers from the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) has revealed that the collision was strictly head-on, which explains why the chemical composition of Moon rocks is quite similar to that of Earth rocks. If Theia and Earth had collided obtusely, then much of the Moon would have been composed mainly of Theia, meaning that the chemical compositions of the Moon and the Earth would have been significantly different.

Dragon robbers in France are thrown into jail

Four people accused of stealing a young specimen of the Indonesian Komodo Dragon have been thrown into jail, to await their trial.

The accused robbers found their innocent victim in a well-known reptile park in Pierrelatte (Drôme). It appears that their sole motivation for stealing the young lizard was their eagerness to keep the reptile as a pet. However the dumb buggers had no idea of how to look after a Komodo Dragon, and they locked him up in a cellar where he soon died.

There are countless sad tragedies of this kind, which reveal that idiotic specimens of Homo sapiens ignore the elementary nature and needs of certain exotic cousins from the animal world.

To my mind, there's an obvious golden rule:
If you don't understand the animal, don't touch it !

Friday, January 29, 2016

Place in North Sydney where I met up in 1957 with my first IBM computer

Towards the end of 1957, after my second year of studies in the Faculty of Science at the University of Sydney, my student friend Michael Arbib informed me of his recent encounter with the Australian branch of a US company named IBM. Michael had been offered a vacation job with this company, and he invited me to make a similar request. And that's how, in a brand-new North Sydney skyscraper (in 1957, the tallest building in the southern hemisphere), I came to meet up with the IBM 650 machine and a programming language called Fortran. I was therefore just over 17 years old when I started my life-long activities as a computer programmer.

The Miller Street building still exists today, looking small and old-fashioned in the vicinity of modern constructions.

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At that time, to travel between the IBM offices and the central Sydney business zone, I used to take a tram across the bridge.

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In that photo of a pair of tram lines on the eastern (Pacific Ocean) side of the bridge, we're looking south towards the main city. The tram on the right is moving northwards to the destination indicated below the driver's window: Frenchs Road in the nearby suburb of Willoughby, just beyond North Sydney. Further to the left, we catch a glimpse of the rear end of a tram moving towards the city, whose surprisingly low skyline can be seen further on. Those two tram lines were soon replaced—as Sydney residents now realize—by automobile lanes.

Today, as I sit here in the French countryside, in front of my computer, it's most moving for me to write a few lines about that distant corner of the world where I came into contact with an archaic IBM computer in 1957. In fact, I spent little time at that North Sydney address, because the company soon moved to a more convenient building in Palmer Street, Darlinghurst. It was there that I worked for much of the time (followed by a short period in the Lidcombe offices of IBM) up until my departure for the Old World at the start of 1962.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

When the guest happens to be carrying a fat checkbook in his back pocket...

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The French president François Hollande makes a diplomatic effort
by wearing appropriate clothes and banning champagne:

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And how many Airbus aircraft do you wish to purchase ?
118 ! That's nice...

Genetic light starts to shine upon schizophrenia

For the very first time in the history of psychiatry, US researchers in genetics and neurology feel that recent studies might reveal the causes of schizophrenia, which has always been a widespread but mysterious affliction in our modern societies. In the USA, there are over two million victims of this psychiatric disorder, giving rise to delusions, emotional withdrawal, hallucinations and a decline in cognitive abilities. Their troubles can be attenuated slightly by medical substances, but cannot yet be cured. Well, promising research has been carried out recently by scientists from the Harvard Medical School, Boston Children’s Hospital and a research institute linked to Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and their results have been published in the journal Nature. But it is still far too early to, in the immediate future, to envisage any revolutionary methods of treatment.

Human synapses between brain neurons, with C4 proteins marked in green.

Researchers examined the ways in which genes can increase a person’s risk of developing schizophrenia. They examined a gene in our immune system called complement component 4, referred to as C4, whose structure varies considerably between individuals. It was found that certain people with specific forms of the C4 gene stand a higher chance of developing schizophrenia.

That risk is tied to a natural process called synaptic pruning, in which the maturing brain discards weak or redundant connections between neurons. And individuals whose C4 genes increase that pruning effect appear to have a greater chance of developing schizophrenia.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Christiane Taubira resigns from the French government

The French justice minister Christiane Taubira resigned this morning, and was rapidly replaced by the Socialist Jean-Jacques Urvoas.

The newspaper Le Monde stated explicitly that she had in fact "slammed the door" on her colleagues, which merely means that she had made a personal decision to leave, as opposed to the idea of being kicked out by the president and/or the prime minister. It's common knowledge that Taubira has been strongly opposed to the government's decision to withdraw the French citizenship of certain terrorists with dual nationality. Indeed, a parliamentary debate will be starting today on that subject, and it's clear that Taubira has chosen deliberately this moment for her resignation.

Christiane Taubira is an exceptionally brilliant individual who has never been accustomed to "suffer fools gladly" (expression invented by Saint Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians).

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Lost children in Australia

In my native land, it's Australia Day, and Google offered computer users an appropriate "doodle" :

We see an Aboriginal lady sitting on the ground and pining for her lost children. How in fact did she "lose" them ? Well, that's a terrible chapter of our Australian history...

The art was created by Ineka Voigt from Canberra High School (ACT).

Here, from the Mirror newspaper, are some comments on Ineka's excellent painting:

Her entry, entitled, "Stolen Dreamtime" was created in response to the theme of: "If I could travel back in time I would …"

Ineka wrote that: "... I would reunite mother and child. A weeping mother sits in an ochre desert, dreaming of her children and a life that never was ...all that remains is red sand, tears and the whispers of her stolen dreamtime".

The "stolen generation" refers to the indigenous children who were removed from their families by the government and church missions.

From 1909 to 1969 the Aborigines Protection Amending Act allowed the Aborigines' Protection Board - later the Aboriginal Welfare Board - to take children away from their parents without needing to establish that they were being mistreated in any way.

The children were cut off from their Aboriginal culture and history. Many mixed-race children placed into white families were never told of their black heritage.

In a blog post, Leticia Lentini, brand and events marketing manager for Google Australia, described it as "a powerful and beautiful image" that "helps bring attention to the critical issue of reconciliation in Australia".

However, it has not been so well received by everyone.

Brisbane-based indigenous rights activist Sam Watson has labelled the artwork "enormously disrespectful" and is calling on Google to remove it immediately.

Speaking to the Huffington Post , Watson took particular offence with the topless representation of an indigenous woman, with tribal markings painted on her nude body.

He believes the representation is unacceptable and offers "very plastic caricatures" of his people.

Marvin Minsky has left us

Marvin Minsky [1927-2016]

My first discussion with Marvin Minsky took place in the grounds of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) at Cambridge (USA) in 1971, when I was looking up individuals who might be prepared to participate in a TV project that I envisaged for my French employer, the Service de la Recherche de l'ORTF. In fact, Minsky never agreed to be filmed in the context of my project. Several years later, Minsky and his wife dropped in for lunch at my place in Paris.

Click here to see an article on Minsky in the The New York Times.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Sarko not necessarily a presidential candidate

In a TV interview published yesterday, the former president Nicolas Sarkozy, in charge of the political party called Les Républicains, has admitted explicitly for the first time that he will not necessarily be a candidate in the forthcoming presidential election.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

An Aborigine talks of "the Australian dream"

The journalist Stan Grant is a descendant of the Wiradjuri tribe.

I love a sunburned country, a land of sweeping plains, of rugged mountain ranges… It reminds me that my people were killed on those plains. We were shot on those plains, diseases ravaged us on those plains. My people die young in this country. We die 10 years younger than the average Australian, and we are far from free. We are fewer than 3 per cent of the Australian population and yet we are 25 per cent, a quarter of those Australians locked up in our prisons. And if you're a juvenile it is worse, it is 50 per cent. An Indigenous child is more likely to be locked up in prison than they are to finish high school. My grandfather on my mother's side, who married a white woman, who reached out to Australia, lived on the fringes of town until the police came, put a gun to his head, bulldozed his tin humpy, and ran over the graves of the three children he buried there. That's the Australian dream. And if the white blood in me was here tonight, my grandmother, she would tell you of how she was turned away from a hospital giving birth to her first child because she was giving birth to the child of a black person. The Australian dream. We are better than this.

Astronaut plays ping pong with a ball of water

In this small demo video produced in the International Space Station, the astronaut Scott Kelly uses a pair of hydrophobic paddles to play ping pong with a ball of water.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Dawkins and his dog

This short video shows Richard Dawkins in the company of his dog Tiger.

"We think we know what it's like to be a dog... and we don't. We delude ourselves. But that's part of what goes on when we love a dog. What am I doing with my dog? I'm empathizing. I'm making an imaginative leap to see the world from a dog's perspective."

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Illegal to patent natural genes in France

France's higher house of parliament, the senate, adopted yesterday an amendment that prohibits the patenting of "products that are the outcome of purely biological procedures".

In the immediate future, this legislation aims to protect open research in the domain, not of animals, but of ordinary plants and crops. For example, imagine that a corporation were to be granted the right to patent a certain gene that was found, most often, in broccoli. These days, the CrispR/Cas9 method of DNA editing developed in 2012 means that a researcher might encounter this same gene in another quite different plant, without being aware that it is indeed the patented brocoli molecule. So, from a legal viewpoint, we're in a totally new ballpark, where the concept of patenting naturally-occurring genes is fuzzy to the point of being nonsensical.

French keyboard

Most of my personal writing of a creative kind (like this blog) is done in English. From time to time, though, I nevertheless have to produce documents in French. So, I've always had to decide upon the preferable kind of keyboard to attach to my Macintosh: either a Querty (for typing in English) or rather an Azerty (for typing in French). Well, I've never hesitated in preferring the Azerty keyboard, which enables me to use English as usual while inserting effortlessly, if need be, all kinds of French-language expressions into my writing. Admittedly, I have to memorize various elementary Macintosh keyboard combinations:

That has always appeared to me as simple. But certain French authorities are starting to complain about the Azerty keyboard as if it were an archaic device that causes huge problems, because it's impossible to use correctly. And they're talking about changing it. To my mind this is a case of typical French egocentricity, which evokes the silly old idea of systematically replacing English technical terms by French equivalents. You might call it a case of Gallic navel-gazing.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Australian couple kidnapped by terrorists in Burkina Faso

Doctor Ken Elliott and his wife Jocelyn, who've been settled in Burkina Faso for some 40 years, were kidnapped last Friday at Djibo by a terrorist group called Sahara Emirat, a branch of Al-Qaïda au Magreb islamique (Aqmi).

These Australians are greatly appreciated in the region, and local folk are devoted to bringing them back to safety as rapidly as possible.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Merely an imbecile… or rather a dangerous imbecile ?

For many years, in spite of tons of superb objects created by brilliant US corporations named IBM and Apple (which have changed and indeed dominated my existence), I’ve often had doubts about the quality of lots of the stuff invented in God’s Own Country. In the case of their latest curious invention, known as Donald Trump, I hear that my doubts are shared by many British politicians. In a nutshell, most of us tend to agree that this spooky fellow is an imbecile. But worse still, is it imaginable, as certain elected representatives in the UK fear, that Donald Trump might be a dangerous imbecile, capable of stirring up trouble with Muslims?

British politicians are aware that they have to combat this fellow who dares to treat Muslims as inferior citizens. But they must be careful not to talk about this big-mouthed nincompoop to such an extent that he might take advantage of the publicity. So, they prefer to limit their analysis of the Trump case to the question of hopefully barring his entry into the UK.

Reinventing the wheel: laceless football boots

Click here to see laceless football boots that the Lotto manufacturer was promoting several years ago. There’s a somewhat  déjà vu feeling attached to the invention introduced, today, by Adidas.

Hotel California has an empty room

The guitarist Glenn Frey, 67, a founder of the US band Eagles, world famous for its title Hotel California, died yesterday of pneumonia in New York. Their song was a splendid creation of what came to be known as California music.

Click on the YouTube icon

Human skydivers versus Airbus 380

This spectacular air stunt is senseless. It has no obvious purpose. And that, in a way, makes it all the more attractive… a little like those old-fashioned matches between a track cyclist and a trotting horse. Here's a short video of this weird winner-less non-match:

Monday, January 18, 2016

HAPS (high-altitude pseudo-satellites)

The expression HAPS (high-altitude pseudo-satellites) is a roundabout way of designating an unmanned aircraft (in other words a drone), flying very high in the sky, that can perform tasks of the kind that are normally in the domain of satellites. Now, one way of creating such an aircraft would be to start with a successful device, the Solar Impulse, and replace the human pilot by a small payload of the kind handled by satellites. And that's exactly what is planned, one of these days, by the Swiss owners of that illustrious aircraft.

On 3 July 2015, the pilots of Solar Impulse, André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, were obliged to terminate their last adventure at Hawaï. The aircraft had suffered considerable battery damage, necessitating major repairs, and their flight will not be resumed until April of this year. That lengthy delay seems to be giving them time to think about a HAPS project, for an unspecified date in the future...

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Holiday idea for spring tourists in Brittany

I've just heard that, for the first time since the creation in 1992 of the Breton King Scallop Festival (fête de la coquille Saint-Jacques), it will be taking place this year, on April 23-24, in the marvelous little port of Paimpol, in the Côtes-d’Armor department. That's in the home land of my son François, and my ex-wife Christine and her companion Michel, where I spent time convalescing last autumn.

This superb scallop, Pecten maximus, is a species of the edible saltwater clam, a marine bivalve mollusk in the family Pectinidae. It is one of the finest foodstuffs in Brittany.

Its shell has always symbolized Christian pilgrims setting out on foot to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain.

Tasty French pastry with junk inside

In France, this particular variety of delicious almond-flour pastry is prepared specially, once a year, for the Epiphany holiday, to celebrate the Feast-Day of the Kings (Adoration of the Magi).

The pastry is cut into slices by an individual selected as the leader of the ceremony (often a child), wearing a cardboard crown, who then offers a particular slice of pastry to each person. In one slice only, a porcelain token (in French, fève) lies hidden. Consequently, children are warned beforehand that they must be careful not to bite into this hard object. Well, customers of certain pastry shops in France phoned up to complain that they were not happy to have found an effigy of the right-wing politician Marine Le Pen in their Epiphany pastries.

As for me, in the fine pastry that my friends Tineke and Serge gave me, I was surprised to come upon an ugly little white and blue cylindrical object that looked like a tortoise. On closer inspection, I concluded that it surely represented a mysterious Star Wars robot, having landed on planet Earth with the intention of breaking human teeth. Maybe, certain innocent pastry-eaters came upon a terrorist...

I regret that we haven't stuck to nice old traditions such as porcelain tokens of the infant Jesus, or maybe a tiny chunk of gold, frankincense or myrrh.

Weird sea creatures

Like all living creatures on the planet Earth, they're our distant cousins. But there's no way in the world that we would invite them home for a cup of tea, because they live in the depths of the oceans. Click here to see a fabulous series of photos from the National Geographic.

Believe in Britain... like you believe in God

That's tough simplistic logic. You should say no to the European union if you believe in Britain (whatever that means... like believing in fairly tales, God and all the rest).

A poll was published in today's newspaper Mail on Sunday, and 53 % preferred a Brexit, against 47 % who wanted Britain to stay in Europe.

Few people consider that the PM David Cameron should resign if Britain were to leave Europe, whereas some say he should be replaced by Boris Johnson.  Recent events that gave many Britons an urge to leave Eueope were the flow of Syrian refugees, the Calais migrant camp, the Greek Euro bailout, the German sex attacks, and the Paris massacre. Some 43 % of people who prefer the Brexit say that they might change their mind before the referendum, whereas the same proportion of their opponents claim that their mind is made up (to stay in Europe). A massive 75 % of people admit that they don’t know whether their heart or their head is affecting their choice.

This latest poll indicates that Britain seems to have become considerably more Brexit-favorable over the last eight months.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Daniel Barenboim

This is an extraordinary performance by Daniel Barenboim who plays the Piano Concerto N° 5 by Beethoven while conducting the orchestra.

Barenboim's exhibition of an incredible degree of musical genius leaves me breathless. To put it bluntly and rather idiotically, I have no idea whatsoever about how he manifests such genius. In fact, if it was easy to understand how he does it, then we might no longer talk of his talent as genius.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Mad primeval scream

More than the Mona Lisa or any other celebrated work of art, The Scream by Edvard Munch was surely the first painting that convinced me instantly and forever that exceptional art could provide us with representations that were infinitely more striking and profound than anything we might see in our everyday existence. It struck me rather as the image of a nightmare. And I would imagine that countless individuals throughout the world have been influenced similarly by this painting... which they've probably seen only as copies in books or magazines.

The mystery remains unsolved: What terrible event has happened, causing the poor wide-eyed fellow to hold his ears, open his mouth and scream ?

Click French video for an excellent French video presentation of this anguishing painting.

Unidentified bombing in Tunisia

A Tunisien website has just revealed that unidentified fighters made devastating air strikes, last night, against coastal sites in Libya in the vicinity of Syrte occupied by Daech. For the moment, no Allied nation has declared itself responsible for these daringly successful attacks. Was it France ? A good question. As some people say at times: No news is good news...

Being offended is a childish game

In France, I've always found that the very British habit of "being offended" is relatively rare. Let's say that taking offence at verbal criticism certainly happens here from time to time, but less so (in my humble opinion) than on the other side of the English Channel. Indeed the following Victorian adage, familiar to all English-speaking children, would not make much sense to French people:

Sticks and stones may break my bones,
but names will never hurt me.

The English intellectual Richard Dawkins is constantly plagued by would-be offended people, particularly when he criticizes religious beliefs. I can understand his reasons for retweeting the following ugly New Year wishes:

At a trivial personal level, I'm bored by nitwits who send me blatant rubbish through the Internet. A few days ago, in the genealogical domain, an Irish fellow tried to tell me that the first Viscount Massereene [1608-1665] had received his lordship because of the assistance he gave to William of Orange [1650-1702] in the Battle of the Boyne [10 July 1690]. I replied politely that Lord Massereene had died a quarter of a century before this battle, whereupon my Irish correspondant apologized curiously for "offending" me. He failed to realize that I wasn't offended at all. I merely found him a boring idiot, incapable of checking dates before sending me rubbish... and this had nothing to do with his strange idea that I might be "offended".

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Where’s the stolen gold necklace ?

In India, a lady told policemen that her precious gold necklace had just been stolen by a fellow who was seen running away. When the police caught the alleged culprit, he denied the crime. The victim repeated her accusation so convincingly that the police had the impression that the robber might have swallowed the necklace. So, they took the alleged thief to a nearby hospital, and requested an x-ray of his stomach. Sure enough, the stolen necklace was there! But how coud the police get the necklace out of the fellow's intestines ?

Well, they made him consume an enormous quantity of ripe bananas. A little later, they gave him a powerful laxative, which soon produced the desired result. All they had to do then was to clean up the mess, extract the necklace and wash it with warm water and soap. Later, when the fellow was brought to trial, I would imagine that the sentence included the cost of all those bananas.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Australia, your lamb chops are ready

As Australia Day draws near, and the summer sun parches local brains, my fellow countrymen in the advertising domain are becoming dimmer and duller. In this idiotic video (with a meaningless title), we see Australian defence forces (transported by a single media helicopter) kidnapping Aussies stranded in foreign lands, so that they can be brought back home Down Under for a good Australia Day meal of barbecued lamb chops.

Critics point out that the video contains no images whatsoever of real live lambs grazing on grass in Australian sheep properties.

Ah yes, if only a few genuine baby jumbucks had been thrown into the casting, it's quite possible that this video would have become a cultural and artistic masterpiece. But then again, maybe not...

NOTE: For my final year at high school in Grafton, my grandparents (who were determined that I become a fine student) invited me to reside in their quiet and comfortable house in Robinson Avenue, where I had a tiny study room. Seeing that I was fond of lamb chops, Ma would often ask me to pick up meat from her local butchery. She always insisted that I ask for a packet of "lean, loin, lamb chops". This expression amused me because of the string of L-words. In fact, I never really understood the meaning of the first two unusual adjectives: "lean" and "loin". But I soon realized that the butcher's lamb chops, supposedly "lean" and "loin", were very tasty when Ma cooked them. I would imagine that my grandmother had picked up this expression as a girl in the bush, when she was living on her family's sheep property at Breeza.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Ripples in the fabric of space-time

Albert Einstein predicted that gravitational waves would be produced in extremely violent events, such as collisions between two black holes. As these waves spread out, they compress and stretch space-time, producing ripples, whose presence could be detected by laser beams.

The physicist Lawrence Krauss sent out a tweet yesterday suggesting that the LIGO laboratory in the USA may have finally detected the ripples of gravitational waves.

We'll have to be patient for a while before learning whether or not this gigantic scientific information is true.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Churchill's atrocious Gallipoli campaign

The Englishman Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, was personally responsible for the disastrous decision to start the Gallipoli land campaign against Turkey, involving more than 400,000 British and some 140,000 Commonwealth and Irish servicemen. At dawn on 25 April 1915, an amphibious attack was launched at Gallipoli, on the Dardanelles Straits, the route to the Black Sea and Russia.

The bloodshed was gigantic. My Australian fellow countrymen have always tended to imagine that the Gallipoli tragedy was largely an Anzac affair, but the deaths concerned many victims from several nations.

• On the enemy side, some 87,000 Turks were killed.

• Some 29,500 troops from Britain and Ireland were slaughtered.

• Deaths of troops from France were more than 12,000.

• Deaths of troops from Australia and New Zealand were 11,000.

By the start of 1916, Britain was aware that the Gallipoli campaign had been an atrocious military error, and all remaining Allied troops were withdrawn. To commemorate that sad centenary, the royal family took part in a ceremony yesterday at Sandringham.