Friday: Hili dialogue

It’s Friday, and the good news is that it’s not Friday the 13th, which we we narrowly missed. It’s Friday, December 14, 2018, with 11 days to go until Coynezaa. It’s National Bouillabaisse Day, but I trust you won’t be eating that stuff as it’s pure cultural appropriation. And it’s World Monkey Day, so celebrate these primate relatives. I have below:

Monkey 1&2:

Monkey 3&4:

On December 14, 1542, after the death of her father James V of Scotland, Princess Mary Stuart became Mary, Queen of Scots at the age of only one week. She reigned until 1567 and then was executed at age 44.

It was on this day in 1900 that quantum mechanics could be said to have begun: Max Planck presented the derivation of his law of black body radiation, to wit:

The central assumption behind his new derivation, presented to the DPG [Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft] on 14 December 1900, was the supposition, now known as the Planck postulate, that electromagnetic energy could be emitted only in quantized form, in other words, the energy could only be a multiple of an elementary unit:

where h is Planck’s constant, also known as Planck’s action quantum (introduced already in 1899), and ν is the frequency of the radiation.

On December 14, 1903, the Wright Brothers made their first attempt to fly the Wright Flyer airplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The plane was in the air for 3 seconds but then stalled. The first successful flight, which lasted 12 seconds at about 7 miles per hour, took place three days later, and is regarded as the first powered flight by an airplane. (There were two more short flights that day.) And someone was there to take a picture of the first one!

(From Wikipedia): First flight of the Wright Flyer I, December 17, 1903, Orville piloting, Wilbur running at wingtip.

On this day in 1911, Roald Amundsen and four of his men, as well as 16 dogs, became the first humans and canids to reach the South Pole. Here’s a photo of four of the humans (someone had to take the picture) looking at the Norwegian flag planted at the Pole. A month later, Scott and his men made it there, but they found that they were too late, and died of cold on the way back.

On this day in 1940, Plutonium (Pu-238) was isolated at Berkeley, California. 18 years later, a Soviet Antarctic Expedition became the first to reach the southern pole of inaccessibility. (That’s the place in Antarctica most distant from the edge of the continent.)  On December 14, 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in the case of Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, that the Commerce clause of the U.S. constitution could be used to enforce desegregation.

Exactly 8 years later, Eugene Cernan, during the Apollo 17 mission, became the last person to walk on the Moon. It’s amazing that we haven’t been back in 46 years! Finally, it was on this day in 2012 that the Sandy Hook (Connecticut) Elementary school shooting took place; 28 people died, including the shooter Adam Lanza (that figure includes his mother, whom he shot before he went to the school).

Notables born on this day include Tycho Brahe (1546), Edward Lawrie Tatum (1909; Nobel Laureate and one of the three profs who interviewed me when I applied to grad school at Rockefeller University), Spike Jones (1911), Raj Kapoor (1924) and Jane Birkin (1946).

Those who bought the farm on December 14 include George Washington (1799), Louis Agassiz (1873), John Harvey Kellogg (1852; yes, the cornflakes inventor), Lupe Vélez (1944), Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1953; please read The Yearling), Dinah Washington (1963), Walter Lippmann (1974), Roger Maris (1985), Andrei Sakharov (1989; Nobel Laureate), Myrna Loy (1993), Ahmet Ertegün (2006), Peter O’Toole (2013), and Bess Myerson (2014; the only Jewish woman to ever become Miss America). The New York Times quoted Susan Dworkin in the paper’s obituary, “In the Jewish community, she was the most famous pretty girl since Queen Esther”. That obituary also says this:

Ms. Myerson won the bathing suit preliminary contest wearing a white number stretched by her sister to fit her frame. She also won the talent event, playing Gershwin’s “Summertime” on the flute and excerpts from Grieg’s Concerto on the piano.

As the crown was set on her head, the announcer shouted, “Beauty with brains, that’s Miss America of 1945!”

Ms. Grant said: “When my mother walked down the runway, the Jews in the audience broke into a cheer. My mother looked out at them and saw them hug each other, and said to herself, ‘This victory is theirs.’ ”

But their pride was soon tempered by her encounters with anti-Semitism. Few sponsors, it turned out, wanted a Jewish Miss America to endorse their products. Certain country clubs and hotels barred her as she toured the country after the pageant. Appearances were canceled.

“I felt so rejected,” Ms. Myerson once said. “Here I was, chosen to represent American womanhood, and then America treated me like this.”

Cutting the tour short, she returned to New York, where she agreed to embark on a six-month lecture tour for the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, speaking out against prejudice with a speech titled “You Can’t Be Beautiful and Hate.”

I suppose today those people would say they were “anti-Zionists”!

Here’s a one-minute clip showing Myerson’s crowning. Sadly, she fell on hard times, and in later life wound up being tried for federal crimes (she was acquitted), subject to domestic abuse, and pleading guilty to shoplifting.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is messing with Andrzej

Hili: Did you count these stones?
A: Of course not.
Hili: And you said that you are interested in hard facts.
In Polish:
Hili: Czy policzyłeś te kamienie?
Ja: Oczywiście, że nie.
Hili: A mówiłeś, że interesują cię tylko twarde fakty.

A tweet from Steve Stewart-Williams; very clever!

Tweets from Grania: The first is from comedian (and former President of the British Humanists, now Humanists UK) Shappi Khorsandi. She was almost scammed but made a nice cup of tea.

I heard this Virgin Galactic flight was successful: it went up 50-odd miles, to “the edge of space”, and landed successfully. The view was okay, but it wasn’t like you could see the whole Earth, or even much of its curvature. Now if you want to pay $250,000 for that experience, fine, but I wouldn’t give up that kind of dosh unless I was going to the ISS:

What is that cat doing in the ad?

This is the best thing I’ve seen all day:

Tweets from Matthew. The thread below is hilarious as the Brits respond to the NYT’s request as only they can:

The Guardian summed it up (click on screenshot):

A few more responses from Brits:

And to close, some street art:


  1. Posted December 14, 2018 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    London is not the same as the rest of England. If you can take the commute there, you can take anything

    • Mike
      Posted December 14, 2018 at 7:02 am | Permalink

      You can say that again.

    • Posted December 14, 2018 at 7:16 am | Permalink

      In the late 90s I worked with an executive jet company who’s headquarters were located in the west end and I used to go to the office perhaps twice per month on average.
      The aircraft were located in north Oxfordshire and the distance to the office was about fifty miles or so.
      I must have wasted many valuable hours of my life during this journey. My “commute” was intermittent and how anyone could do this journey either by rail bus or private car on a daily basis I just don’t know. I tried them all. The only way that sort of worked was helicopter to Battersea Heliport but even this was weather dependent and the journey from Battersea to the west end difficult.
      I for one could not take this commute.

      • GBJames
        Posted December 14, 2018 at 10:21 am | Permalink

        Back in the days before laptop computers and wifi I commuted between Milwaukee and Chicago for a year. It was awful. I felt like three hours of my life was being stolen from me every day despite the fact that the client was paying my travel time.

        Since 2001 I’ve worked from my home. The commute is about ten feet from my bedroom to my office. The best commute is no commute.

      • Posted December 14, 2018 at 10:53 am | Permalink

        People seem highly variable in the length of commute they will accept. I have known people who commute to work 1.5 hours each way every weekday. I would never do that. The most I have ever commuted was 35 minutes each way and that was too much.

    • David Coxill
      Posted December 14, 2018 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      Try being a motorbike courier in London ,i could tell you tales that would make your hair turn white.

  2. Mike
    Posted December 14, 2018 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    I think we missed an opportunity when we stopped going to the moon, we could have a Base by now as a staging post for onward Space Travel.

  3. Terry Sheldon
    Posted December 14, 2018 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    “On December 14, 1542, after the death of her father James V of Scotland, Princess Mary Stuart became Mary, Queen of Scots at the age of only one week. She reigned until 1567 and then was executed at age 44.”

    Being that it’s early in the morning, I was confused by this paragraph, until I looked it up and discovered that she was not executed until 1787, when she was indeed 44. Obviously, I need more coffee.

    • Terry Sheldon
      Posted December 14, 2018 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      *1587 (I told you it was early)

  4. CNH
    Posted December 14, 2018 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    It was Pu239, not Pu238.

    • Posted December 14, 2018 at 7:42 am | Permalink

      Tell it to Wikipedia:

      Plutonium-238 was the first isotope of plutonium to be discovered. It was synthesized by Glenn Seaborg and associates in December, 1940 by bombarding uranium-238 with deuterons, creating neptunium-238, which then decays to form plutonium-238. Plutonium-238 decays to uranium-234 and then further along the radium series to lead-206. Plutonium-238 was produced by irradiating neptunium-237 (half life 2.144M years), which is a by-product of the production of plutonium-239 weapons-grade material. As produced by Savannah River in their weapons reactor, shut down in 1988, plutonium-238 was mixed with about 16% plutonium-239.

      • CNH
        Posted December 15, 2018 at 5:26 am | Permalink

        I bow to thee.

        I had assumed the synthesis was by bombarding U238 with neutrons [the way it is done today] which gives U239 which decays to Np239 then to Pu239.

  5. Vita206
    Posted December 14, 2018 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    George Washington (6 feet and 3.5 inches) had nearly half of his blood drained due to several bloodletting interventions. The condition being treated was swelling and inflammation of the epiglottis. Bloodletting was practiced in Europe going back to the Greeks and came to America with the European immigrants. Washington’s death by bloodletting was part of the turning point in the growing skepticism of this practice and the emergence of evidence based medicine. The English journalist, William Cobbett, was sued by the renowned Benjamin Rush, a great promoter of bloodletting, for declaring that Rush’s methods had ‘contributed to the depopulation of the Earth.’ Cobbett lost the case and was ordered to pay Rush $5000. Nonetheless, the balloon was popped and here we are today receiving scientifically based medicine and still having to deal with pseudo-science and quackery. (Cf. Trick or Treatment: the Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst, MD).

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted December 14, 2018 at 7:34 am | Permalink

      Washington was truly an 18th century man having died right at the end of it. Also dying due to 18th century medicine. The last thing you needed was a doctor.

  6. David Peters
    Posted December 14, 2018 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    The crocodile is in Atlanta, near the MLK Jr federal building (the old post office) on Forsyth Street.

    In a case of ruthless practicality, Roald Amundsen’s team included their dogs as part of their provisions. As other provisions were utilized and they needed fewer dogs to haul the sleds, they slaughtered and ate some of their dogs. Which included feeding them to the remaining dogs. The British team man-hauled their gear, which certainly didn’t improve their chances to survive.

    • rickflick
      Posted December 14, 2018 at 8:02 am | Permalink

      The Wikipedia account says Scott was idolized as a tragic hero following the attempt until a book was written(1970?) criticizing his management decisions. But, they point out that he had a lot of bad luck working against him, the most critical was terrible weather.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted December 14, 2018 at 8:10 am | Permalink

        I recall reading a good book and then a TV documentary on all of this. Certainly much of the problem with the Scott attempt was the methods use. Dragging sleds with human power was just a killer. The clothing was really not good enough. I believed they staged food supplies at specific points and then had trouble finding them. It was a great but sad story.

        • David Peters
          Posted December 14, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink

          I remember something about Scott adding a last minute team member, but didn’t add provisions for them. They were under provisioned even if they found all their food stocks, and basically started starving from the moment they left camp. On the return trip, according to a diary found later, one team member told the others he was going to step out for a moment during a blizzard – effectively committing suicide, likely with the hope that it would let some of the others survive.

          One of the reasons weather became a factor was that it took Scott’s team so much longer to reach the pole. The speed that the dogsleds allowed Roald’s team to move (plus they were all skilled cross country skiers) was a major factor in both their success and their team’s survival – they all made it except for the aforementioned four legged transports/field rations. They were in & out before the weather window closed, unlike Scott’s team.

      • James
        Posted December 14, 2018 at 9:08 am | Permalink

        There is something about Ohio that makes people want to leave the planet. The first successful airplane was built there, and a significant number of astronauts (22, last I heard, but the number may be higher) come from the state, including the first man to walk on another celestial body.

        It may be confirmation bias, but I’ve met a fairly large number of folks from Ohio in my travels. Doesn’t matter if I’m in the middle of a desert, in an Alabama swamp, on a snow-covered mountain in the Northeast, a cave a mile below the surface of the Earth, or trampsing around a Romani camp in Romania–everywhere I go I seem to find someone from Ohio.

        • Andy Lowry
          Posted December 14, 2018 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

          Yep, same here. I run into Ohioans everywhere, and I’m part of the problem– I’m from Columbus, but now I live in Arizona. I think it’s all that flat green land that just gives us itchy feet. Green, green, green, everywhere you look, and no hills or mountains to break the horizon. It’s maddening!

          The first time I took my Arizona-born wife to Ohio for a visit, she asked “Who planted all this grass?” 🙂

        • Bob
          Posted December 15, 2018 at 8:01 am | Permalink

          I too am from Ohio, Youngstown to be precise. Currently, I reside in southeast Alabama. When asked how I ended up in Alabama, I respond with “I ran out of gas.”

    • David Coxill
      Posted December 14, 2018 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      And didn’t they take early tracked vehicles with them?Not a lot of use when the petrol ran out.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted December 14, 2018 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

        Yes, that’s right – MORE ABOUT THE TRACKED SLEDGES [PICS]

        three caterpillar tracked, motorised sledges capable of carrying [& hauling] an enormous weight of supplies, but one went through ice shortly after being craned from the ship & the other two were unserviceable shortly afterwards. The sledges were unavailable before the journey to the pole began – they were U/S at the start of the phase where depots of food & other supplies were being laid down.

        Thus the fuel being unavailable [not running out, but in the wrong place] had no effect on these sledges. The untested sledges & the poor quality of the ponies should have resulted in a major rethink of the plan.

        The sledges could not be steered & only had two set speeds. Had they been used as planned [for the first part of the journey to the steep Beardmore glacier where they were to be abandoned] that would have required a big chunk of the 2,000 gallons of fuel budgeted for.

  7. Caldwell
    Posted December 14, 2018 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Every day is Colobus Day!

  8. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 14, 2018 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    The Wright Brothers were initially turned down in America, the military was not interested. So they packed up and traveled to Europe and hit success in France.

    • James
      Posted December 14, 2018 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      The history of the American military’s views on air warfare are very interesting. As late as the buildup to WWII the USA was skeptical about the usefulness of airplanes in war–they admitted they were useful in recon, but as actual weapons the top brass thought they were very limited. Warships–destroyers–were what the top brass considered to be the be-all, end-all of weapons. That is, until it was demonstrated to them that a single plane could sink the most heavily-armored warship. It cost a man his career, and the USA delayed buildup of air power for far too long, but eventually we did get our act together.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted December 14, 2018 at 9:25 am | Permalink

        Yes, often it is who is promoting what and for self-interested reasons. The Navy was in love with the battleship until Pearl Harbor. The commercial evolution of aviation was stalled between the wars because of the surplus of the Jenny and the OX5 engine. You could buy these things for little money so why spend lots of money on new technology. The first World War was suppose to be the last one. My grandfather learned to fly in 1927 and the airplane he learned in was a Jenny. You still did not need a license to fly at that time and his instructor told him to forget about the license, just go out there and start making money.

        • rickflick
          Posted December 14, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink

          Those were “the good old days” of aviation. We had a local pilot, John Miller, who died a few years ago at the age of 102, who learned to fly when he was 16. He bought a worn out plane from a barnstormer, fixed up the engine, and taught himself to fly by reading a manual written by a flyer in England. On his first take-off he circled the field once and he realized he didn’t know how to land. He went around again and managed to get it down. A passing farmer watched all this and asked him for a ride. Miller charged him a few bucks for a 15 minute ride and he was in business. He had a long career in aviation becoming a airline pilot as well as a test pilot for helicopters.

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted December 14, 2018 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

            Yes, my grandfather told me hundreds of stories and I was glad I got to fly with him quit a bit before he died. When he finally did get a real license it was still much different than today. The guy from the CAA or whatever they called it then just stood on the ground and watched him fly. He had to go up and do a couple of spins and other things and then land and the guy filled out the papers and gave him his license. His first airplane was an American Eagle he bought in Kansas City, 1927 or 28. The engine was an OX6.

            • rickflick
              Posted December 14, 2018 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

              Then it was the daring few. Now, there are 600,000 licensed pilots in the US.

              • Randall Schenck
                Posted December 14, 2018 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

                Frankly, I don’t see how the casual pilot can afford it today. The cost is just crazy to own a plane today. Back when I was first learning and my flying did not last long at all, a good J-3 could be had for $3000. Something like a small 4 place one engine would sell used for $15 grand to maybe $20. Today a new one cost 2 or 3 hundred thousand.

              • Posted December 14, 2018 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

                I think a lot of pilots own shares in a plane. Also, I suspect that there are several online services modeled after AirBNB and the like. For those that must fly, I’m sure there’s a way.

              • rickflick
                Posted December 14, 2018 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

                Yes, the number of pilots has been in decline for decades. Something like 800,000 licensed pilots in 1980. Many are priced out, but, as Paul mentions, there are lots of ways to work it if you want to fly. We sold an old Cessna for around $45K and built a kit plane for about $90K. We saved by adding our own labor – my wife and I spent 2 weeks at the factory assembling the plane with help from technicians.

              • Randall Schenck
                Posted December 14, 2018 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

                Yeah, my dad use to build home-built not only to save money but to get much better performance. EAA, the Experimental Aircraft Association became a big part of private aviation and still is I suspect. They also became a big part of the Oshkosh week if anyone ever attended the big show up there.

              • rickflick
                Posted December 14, 2018 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

                Yes, the EAA organizes the Oshkosh event. We flew in there twice. So many planes attend that the arrivals can be very dicey. Planes funnel in to a large pattern separated by a quarter mile or less. The land one over the other several at a time on the same runway. Nearly every year there are a few fatalities on landing. It’s a great aviation event.

  9. CAS
    Posted December 14, 2018 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Give that “adorable rescue Magpie” a cat to nip, it’s too smart for stuffed mice!

  10. Posted December 14, 2018 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Virgin Galactic’s paying customers are expected to go a little higher, to approximately 68 miles above the surface but I agree $250k is a lot for such a short experience. I’ll wait for it to get much cheaper.

    • rickflick
      Posted December 14, 2018 at 11:24 am | Permalink

      For $250K I’d expect to be fired into orbit. All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.

      • GBJames
        Posted December 14, 2018 at 11:32 am | Permalink

        But we already are in orbit!

      • Posted December 14, 2018 at 11:35 am | Permalink

        Perhaps your wishes can be accomodated. Just tell the pilot, “Drop me off here.”

        • rickflick
          Posted December 14, 2018 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

          I think the SpaceShipTwo only reaches something over Mach 1. I’d need quit a kick in the pants to get me going 17,000 mph necessary for orbit.

      • Torbjörn Larsson
        Posted December 14, 2018 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

        It is different things; I want a suborbital jump over the Karman line at 100 km for bragging rights; some wants an orbit, which is marginally “astronaut”, as in a voyager that “leaves the shore” (or at least circle it).

  11. Posted December 15, 2018 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    I suppose that the reaction of sponsors to the first Jewish Miss America prevented the appearance of a second one.

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