Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Friday, 7 March 2008


A discovery here.

Weill married actress Lotte Lenya, whose reedy, quavering singing voice he called "the one I hear in my head when I am writing my songs." *

More anon once the weekend is over.

Photo of CD cover from Amazon

* To be continued

Thursday, 6 March 2008


BBC Radio 4 In Our Time programme with Melvyn Bragg talked about the role of a 19th century lady mathematician Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace, and her work with Charles Babbage.

Augusta Ada was the daughter of a brief marriage between the poet Lord Byron and Anne Isabelle Milbanke, who separated from Byron just a month after Ada was born. She was was raised by her mother, Lady Byron (who Byron called his "Princess of Parallelograms").

She was well educated and moved in elite London society. At 17 years old (1833) she met Charles Babbage who is often felt to be the 'father of the modern computer' and they began a voluminous correspondence on the topics of mathematics.

Babbage had made plans in 1834 for a new kind of calculating machine (although the Difference Engine was not finished), an Analytical Engine and Ada became interested in this. His parliamentary sponsors refused to support a second machine with the first unfinished, but Babbage found sympathy for his new project abroad. In 1842, an Italian mathematician, Louis Menebrea, published a memoir in French on the subject of the Analytical Engine. Babbage enlisted Ada (whom he called his "Enchantress of Numbers") as translator for the memoir and during a nine-month period in 1842-43, she worked feverishly on the article and a set of Notes she appended to it. She understood the plans for the device as well as Babbage but was better at articulating its promise. She rightly saw it as what we would call a general-purpose computer.

Basically, she described how it could be 'programmed'. She stated "Many persons who are not conversant with mathematical studies imagine that because the business of [Babbage's Analytical Engine] is to give its results in numerical notation, the nature of its processes must consequently be arithmetical and numerical, rather than algebraical and analytical. This is an error. The engine can arrange and combine its numerical quantities exactly as if they were letters or any other general symbols; and in fact it might bring out its results in algebraical notation, were provisions made accordingly." In other words, it was not necessary to limit it to numbers; letters or other symbols could be used. (Calculators must use numbers.)

Text from www.sdsc.edu/ScienceWomen/lovelace.html
Photos from Widipedia.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008


Curly locks, curly locks! Where are you now?
I'm of to Grandmas's house to play in the snow...

Curly locks, curly locks! Where are your friends?
They're at the North Pole, waiting for me!

Tuesday, 4 March 2008


Serene blue hues highlight the view of Saturn's northern hemisphere from the Cassini spacecraft. Saturn's famous rings cast the dark shadows stretching across the frame with the cratered moon Mimas lurking at the lower left. This moon orbits within the outermost (and widest) ring of Saturn.

Meanwhile back on Earth, there is oor wee Alastair who is now one month old. It will have to be another day in the universe for opening eyes.


Photo taken February 11, 2005 by Cassini Imaging Team. SSI, JPL, ESA and NASA.

Monday, 3 March 2008


Why was this Google logo centre stage – or rather, centre screen – today?

Born in Edinburgh March 3, 1847, young Alexander Graham Bell, (Aleck as he was known to his family) took to reading and writing at a precociously young age. He had an expressive, flexible, and resonant speaking voice.

His mother was deaf. Unlike others, who spoke to her through her ear tube, he chose to communicate with her by speaking in low, sonorous tones very close to her forehead. Young Aleck surmised that his mother would be able to 'hear' him through the vibrations his vocal intonations would make. This early insight would prove significant as he went on to develop more elaborate theories regarding the characteristics of sound waves.

Edinburgh, Scotland in the mid-19th-century was brimming with scientific and technological developments. One truth seemed inescapable: through technology came betterment.

He continued his education (after Edinburgh High School and Edinburgh University) at the University of London [1867]. He became intrigued by the writings of German physicist Hermann Von Helmholtz. Von Helmholtz had produced a thesis, On The Sensations of Tone, declaring that vowel sounds could be produced by a combination of electrical tuning forks and resonators. Bell's inability to read German did not deter him from hungrily consuming this information. It did however lead to his making what he would later describe as a "very valuable blunder".

Bell had somehow interpreted Von Helmholtz's findings as stating that vowel sounds could be transmitted over a wire. He would later say of this misunderstanding, "It gave me confidence. If I had been able to read German, I might never have begun my experiments in electricity."

What would he think of all of this internet activity (not to say technology!) were he alive today?! Amazing amounts of new technology; where is the 'betterment'?

Photo of Alexander Graham Bell from website of the same name here. Text from here.
Google logo from Google home page here.

Sunday, 2 March 2008


Ex-Royal Marine, Peter Webb and a companion went off to islands 600 miles south of the North Pole in a light boat.

As the blurb says:
"This is the story of an impossible boat journey that two men made for the fun of it. They rowed through pack ice and polar bears, survived whales, starvation and capsize and in doing so they completed the first circumnavigation of the Arctic island Spitsbergen in an open row boat. Along the way they learned about themselves, about life and experienced a wilderness that will most likely disappear before the century is out. It's a story for small boat sailors, lovers of ice and snow and anybody who knows anybody who wanted to run away to sea....."

It is published by Seaferers Books Ltd of Suffolk, U.K. whose website is here.

Details about the book itself are here. It is worth looking at this for the photographs alone!

It cost £9.95. Reference: ISBN 9781906266035.

Saturday, 1 March 2008


Stained glass window in Jesus College Chapel, Oxford, showing St David. A dove sits on his shoulders. No daffodils in sight but plenty of pearls.


Source: here which is Wikimedia Commons