*be sceptical - take nothing for granted!
Unless otherwise indicated all photos © Richard McKie 2005 - 2019

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(Born Wednesday 14 May 2014 at 5:23 AM, 3.3 kg 53 cm)

 

Marvellous.  Emily, my eldest daughter, has given birth to my first natural Grandchild (I have three step-grandchildren).  She and Guido have named him Leander.  Mother and child are well.

According to Wikipedia, the original most famous Leander is the central character the the Greek Myth of Hero and Leander.

In the myth, Leander (Ancient Greek: Λέανδρος, Léandros), a young man from Abydos on the Asian side of the Dardanelles fell in love with Hero a priestess of Aphrodite (Roman equivalent: Venus the goddess of love) who dwelt in a tower in Sestos on the European side of the Hellespont

His soft words, and his argument that Aphrodite would scorn the worship of a virgin, persuaded the beautiful Hero to take Leander as her lover. Every night he would swim across the Hellespont to be with her. Hero would light a lamp at the top of her tower to guide his way. These trysts lasted through the warm summer.

On Hellespont, guilty of true love's blood,
In view and opposite two cities stood,
Sea-borderers, disjoin'd by Neptune's might:
The one Abydos, the other Sestos hight.
At Sestos Hero dwelt; Hero the fair,
Whom young Apollo courted for her hair.

from Christopher Marlowe's poem Hero and Leander

 

But one stormy winter night, the waves tossed Leander in the sea and the breezes blew out Hero's light.  Leander lost his way and was drowned. When Hero saw his dead body, she threw herself over the edge of the tower to her death to be with him.

 


The Last Watch of Hero by Frederic Leighton,
depicting Hero anxiously waiting for Leander during the storm.

 

According to Wikipedia, people named Leander include:

A number of warships and warship classes of the Royal Navy have been given this famous name:

  • HMS Leander, various Royal Navy ships

    • Leander class, three ship classes

     

  • HMNZS Leander, a Royal New Zealand Navy light cruiser of World War II, originally HMS Leander of the British Royal Navy

  • SS Leander, a number of ships with this name

  • Leander (clipper), a clipper built in 1867

 

I like the Myth of Hero and Leander.

When we were in Turkey in 2005 we crossed the Hellespont twice in a rented car. It didn't float on water but there was a convenient ferry. We were there principally to visit the battle site at Gallipoli but the whole region is interesting.  The Hellespont (Dardanelles) has been famous in history, myth and religion since the invention of writing; and maybe earlier.  The ancient city of Troy was nearby.

 

 

 

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Travel

Romania

 

 

In October 2016 we flew from southern England to Romania.

Romania is a big country by European standards and not one to see by public transport if time is limited.  So to travel beyond Bucharest we hired a car and drove northwest to Brașov and on to Sighisiora, before looping southwest to Sibiu (European capital of culture 2007) and southeast through the Transylvanian Alps to Curtea de Arges on our way back to Bucharest. 

Driving in Romania was interesting.  There are some quite good motorways once out of the suburbs of Bucharest, where traffic lights are interminable trams rumble noisily, trolley-busses stop and start and progress can be slow.  In the countryside road surfaces are variable and the roads mostly narrow. This does not slow the locals who seem to ignore speed limits making it necessary to keep up to avoid holding up traffic. 

Read more ...

Fiction, Recollections & News

The First Man on the Moon

 

 

 

 

At 12.56 pm on 21 July 1969 Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) Neil Armstrong became the first man to step down onto the Moon.  I was at work that day but it was lunchtime.  Workplaces did not generally run to television sets and I initially saw it in 'real time' in a shop window in the city.  

Later that evening I would watch a full replay at my parents' home.  They had a 'big' 26" TV - black and white of course.  I had a new job in Sydney having just abandoned Canberra to get married later that year.  My future in-laws, being of a more academic bent, did not have TV that was still regarded by many as mindless.

Given the early failures, and a few deaths, the decision to televise the event in 'real time' to the international public was taking a risk.  But the whole space program was controversial in the US and sceptics needed to be persuaded.

In Australia we knew it was really happening because Tidbinbilla was tracking the space craft, as it had previous Apollo launches, and the Parkes radio Telescope had been requisitioned to receive the live television signal, so that an estimated 600 million viewers could watch it too.  Nevertheless for a wide range of reasons, ranging from religious orthodoxy and anti-scientific scepticism to dislike of the Kennedys and big government in general, conspiracy theorists in the US and elsewhere continued to claim that it had been faked for decades later.

 

 

The Houston Apollo Control Room - now a National Monument and the Apollo 11 crew
my photos - see Houston on this website:  Read more...

 

The immediate media reaction to Armstrong's: 'one small step for man one giant leap for mankind', statement was a bit unforgiving.  In the heat of the moment, with his heart rate racing; literally stepping into the unknown; Armstrong had fumbled his lines.  He should have said: 'a man'.

As it was the recording, that will now last, as of a seminal moment in history, into the unforeseeable future, is redundant and makes no sense - an added proof, if one were needed, that it wasn't pre-recorded or faked.

I've talked about Kennedy's motivation for the project elsewhere on this website [Read more...] but the outcomes for the entire world turned out to be totally unpredictable and massive.  Initially engineering in the US had not been up to the task and the space program stumbled from one disaster to the next, with the Russians clearly in advance, but now some centralised discipline needed to be imposed - to herd the cats.  Simply using a single standard of weights and measures was a challenge. 

Yet the incredible challenges involved required new technology and an open cheque had been committed.  Billions of dollars funded tens of thousands of research projects that led to many thousands of innovations.  New materials and methods of manufacture were developed.  Perhaps the most important were semiconductor electronics at companies like Fairchild and Bell Labs and computer science at the previously mechanical card sorting and calculating companies: NCR and IBM that had once been sceptical of this newfangled electronic stuff.  Engineering and science educators expanded to provide the young researchers, engineers and programmers.

Unlike the wartime 'Manhattan Project' much of the research was published. Scientific American was required reading among my friends. In any case the speed of innovation rendered advances redundant in a matter of months. Thus quite a bit of this taxpayer funded technology 'fell off the back of the truck' and computer engineering entrepreneurs like Hewlett Packard, who had got their start making sound equipment for Walt Disney, quickly took advantage, soon to be joined by many others. So that today electronics and communications related industry has become the core of the US economy.

Today the computing and communications technology you are using to read this is several millions of times more powerful than that employed to put Neil Armstrong on the Moon and this is indeed a testament to that 'giant leap' that, in part, enabled 'one small step for (a) man' 50 years ago.

 

 

Opinions and Philosophy

Carbon Capture and Storage

(Carbon Sequestration)

 

 

 


Carbon Sequestration Source: Wikimedia Commons

 

At the present state of technological development in NSW we have few (perhaps no) alternatives to burning coal.  But there is a fundamental issue with the proposed underground sequestration of carbon dioxide (CO2) as a means of reducing the impact of coal burning on the atmosphere. This is the same issue that plagues the whole current energy debate.  It is the issue of scale. 

Disposal of liquid CO2: underground; below the seabed; in depleted oil or gas reservoirs; or in deep saline aquifers is technically possible and is already practiced in some oil fields to improve oil extraction.  But the scale required for meaningful sequestration of coal sourced carbon dioxide is an enormous engineering and environmental challenge of quite a different magnitude. 

It is one thing to land a man on the Moon; it is another to relocate the Great Pyramid (of Cheops) there.

Read more ...

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