They asked for it

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has revisited one of its most iconic and popular images: the Eagle Nebula’s Pillars of Creation. This image shows the pillars as seen in infrared light, allowing it to pierce through obscuring dust and gas and unveil a more unfamiliar — but just as amazing — view of the pillars. In this ethereal view the entire frame is peppered with bright stars and baby stars are revealed being formed within the pillars themselves. The ghostly outlines of the pillars seem much more delicate, and are silhouetted against an eerie blue haze. Hubble also captured the pillars in visible light.

Phew, bit hot. No sea breezes, apparently due to a big, very slow moving high pressure zone over the eastern part of south west WA, directing easterly winds and blocking the westerlies. I’ve had to use the aircon at night two or three times recently, which is not normal. I can only tolerate an hour or so before having to get up and turn it off, by which time my bedroom is like a cool-box.

I was talking to a friend yesterday who’s very into home automation – lights, alarms, door locks, that kind of thing. I said I’m not much interested, but I’ll admit I’d like to be able to switch the bedroom aircon off with my phone without having to getup and go out to the dining area. It might actually be possible. But would it be worth the effort?

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I read an item in The Guardian today, describing the Trump presidency and the list of his transgressions made my eyes widen: “… savage occupation, butchery, usurpation, religious massacre, civil war, regicide, chaos, theocracy, military coup, foreign intervention, mass migrations, colonial genocides, and a constant cycle of rebellions and repressions.” Worst president in US history. A thoroughly bad person. Vicious, vengeful, selfish, untrustworthy – almost any words you can think of are applicable. He has 400,000 COVID deaths to his name. He deserves to be assassinated, torn limb-from-limb in my opinion, erased from the face of the Earth, like Adolf Hitler. A disgusting person.

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Up to now, electric cars are not selling well and apart from their high price, one drawback has been the time required to recharge the batteries, akin to refuelling with petrol or diesel. Most electric cars need between 30 minutes to two to three hours to charge up. That’s a long time to be sitting in a service station cafe waiting.

Well, a company has developed batteries with five minute charging. That’s not a full charge but it’s about enough for 200km or enough to get you to the next charging point.

The great thing is that it’s not some exotic new technology. All they’ve done is change the way existing materials are used and they’re confident enough that they’ve released manufacturing samples for testing. These are not rare engineering samples with long lead times – the article said manufacturers are being offered details to begin manufacture. And they’re supposed to be no more expensive.

Unfortunately this all sounds too good to be true.

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Vilnius, Lithuania: Orthodox Christians bathe in an icy lake shortly after midnight during a traditional Epiphany celebration. Water that is blessed by a cleric on Epiphany is considered holy and pure until next year’s celebration, and is believed to have special powers of protection and healing.
WHAT??!! Ordinary lake water, with all it impurities and amoebae and viruses but blessed by a “cleric” is considered holy and pure? To have special powers of protection and healing. Goodness gwacious – there are some easily tricked people in Vilnius. I think I might head over there with books of tickets for the raffles for the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. What a load of bollocks!

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From my favourite photo dog/blog today: Idle diversion: what do you think was the greatest artistic accomplishment of the 20th century? In any art. Define it however you’d like.

I added my comment: I nominated the first thing that came to mind – the dawn of the New Millennium on 31 December 1999/1 January 2000. [I still gnash my teeth at the error in the dates but all the TV networks worldwide fell into the same mistake so it couldn’t be helped. The real change of millennium was 31 December 2000/1 January 2001!]

Anyway, I’ll never forget staying up all night to watch the TV coverage, starting with the first dawn from the Chatham Islands (?) east of NZ, the first place in the world to see the new dawn. Then we saw New Zealand’s dawn, followed by the Sydney/east coast dawn and the didgeridoo player standing on the top of the Opera House sail. Haunting. Combined with Midnight Oil and Yothu Yindi, moving on to Uluru – wow, the hairs still stand up on my arms. I stayed up all night, aided by copious quantities of champagne and saw the slow dawn on the east side of my house. I’m ashamed to admit that I was far gone enough to think I would drive down to the beach to see the sunrise over the ocean. Er, wrong side of the continent!

Then the TV coverage moved on to the rest of the world but I think I was too tired and went to bed after that. But that’s what I would nominate as the greatest artistic event of the 20th century for me. I’m so glad I was here to see it. I have a DVD of the TV coverage but the quality was so poor in those days that I don’t think I’ve ever watched it.

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My current book is Fermat’s Enigma by Simon Singh. If you don’t know, the 17thC mathematician Pierre de Fermat left some writings about the deceptively simple equation:

There are no solutions to x^n + y^n = z^n, where n = any integer greater than 2.

I say deceptively simple because you already know this equation – when n = 2, it’s Pythagoras’s solution to the sides of a right angled triangle a^2 + b^2 = c^2. The usual numbers are 3^2 + 4^2 = 5^2 or 9 + 16 = 25. We learnt this in primary school. Other numbers are 5, 12 and 13 and 10, 24 and 26.

However, Fermat postulated that there are no solutions for n >2. None! None to infinity, which is the required standard of proof. In other words, not x^3 + y^3 = z^3, not x^4 + y^4 = z^4 or any other power. But infuriatingly, he wrote a note in the margin of his notebook saying he had found a “marvellous proof, but there is not enough space to write it here.” Unfortunately he didn’t write it anywhere else either, and so for the next 300 years no-one knew if he really had found a solution or not.

And it has proved an extremely difficult proof to find. The greatest mathematicians, including Gauss, Euler and Hilbert tried over the centuries but were unsuccessful. So it remained. Part of the problem was that mathematicians questioned whether the amount of effort, the years of work, justified the result.

Until the 1980s. A British guy, Andrew Wiles had been obsessed bythe problem since he read about it at 10 years of age, and after gaining a PhD in maths from Cambridge, when he moved to Princeton University in the USA and a pair of Japanese mathematicians made a breakthrough in another area of maths, he decided to dedicate himself to the work.

I’m about 3/4 of the way through the book and I must say that although Mr Singh explains things very well, I’m struggling to keep up. The Japanese breakthrough was the Taniyama-Ochura conjecture, but if you asked me to explain it, I don’t think I could. It’s something about linking elliptic equations with modular forms. Wiles realised that if he could prove the Taniyama-Ochura conjecture, that would prove the Fermat theorem. Simple, eh?

Anyway, Andrew Wiles finally announced that he’d succeeded in proving the Fermat equation problem in about 1987 to great acclaim. But a few years later, an error was found in his work and he had to spend more years fixing the problem (don’t ya hate that? 🙂 ). Finally, he released his new solution in 1991 and entered the history books as one of the greatest mathematicians ever. He hasn’t received a Nobel yet but I’d say it’s a certainty. His mentor and maths coach at Cambridge was an Aussie, by the way, Dr John Coates.

I’ll finish the book, but the going’s getting hard.

My next book is Prime Obsession: The Riemann Hypothesis, about prime numbers. Nothing like maths books to put you to sleep.