Saturday: Hili dialogue

It’s Saturday, March 16, 2019, and National Artichoke Heart Day. In Lithuania it’s The Day of the Book Smugglers; click on the link for an interesting tale.

We have raised almost £1700 pounds for Feline Friends London, for which they (and I) are immensely grateful. The dosh will help pay vet bills for the cats. However, this is only about 10% of what I hoped to raise, so over the next week I’ll be highlighting rescue-cat stories with accompanying photos, hoping that those of you who haven’t coughed up a pound or ten might do so (donate here)

On this day in 1621, or so says that wonky source Wikipedia, “Samoset, a Mohegan, visited the settlers of Plymouth Colony and greet[ed] them, ‘Welcome, Englishmen! My name is Samoset.’” When I read that, I thought “What the hell? How did a Native American learn English before he encountered settlers?” It turns out that Samoset had learned some English from conversing with visiting fishermen. He also asked the Plymouth settlers for beer. Smart guy!

On March 16, 1872, the first FA Cup match was played, with the Wanderers F.C. beating Royal Engineers A.F.C. 1-0 at “The Oval” in London.  26 years later to the day, representatives of five colonies in Australia adopted a constitution that became the basis of the Commonwealth of Australia.  And on March 16, 1926, Robert Goddard successfully launched the first liquid-fueled rocket—in Auburn, Massachusetts.  Here he is with the device (in its “launching frame” and a schematic diagram. (The rocket only went up 41 feet, but the principle of using liquid fuel and oxidizers was demonstrated.)

Reader Frank informed me that on this day in 1934, Congress passed, and Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law, the Duck Stamp Act (formally the “Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act”), specifying that a stamp be purchased yearly for those who hunt migratory waterfowl (ugh). The upside is that the sale of “Duck Stamps” is used to fund migratory bird refuges. There’s a different stamp every year; the first one below, in blue, was designed by Ding Darling, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning cartoonist as well as a conservationist. The mallards do look a bit cartoonish.

There’s a new stamp every year, and not all show mallards or even ducks (geese have appeared). This year’s stamp, which shows the pecuniary effects of inflation, also features mallards. If you see Honey and Frank, do not shoot them!

On this day in 1935, Hitler ordered Germany to rearm, which violated the Treaty of Versailles.  On March 16, 1968, the My Lai massacre took place, with somewhere between 350 and 500 Vietnamese villagers murdered by American troops.  Of the 14 soldiers charged, only William Calley was convicted, and he served only 3.5 years of house arrest.  Exactly 20 years later, Oliver North and John Poindexter were indicted of conspiracy to defraud the government in the Iran-Contra affair.

Here’s a sad fact: it was on this day in 1995 that Mississippi finally ratified the Thirteenth Amendment that banned slavery (it had been ratified in 1865 by 3/4 of the states, but Mississippi dragged its heels). Finally, it was on March 16, 2014 that Crimea voted, in a dubious referendum, to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. Putin!

Notables born on this day include Caroline Herschel (1750, astronomer and namesake of Brian Cox’s calico cat), James Madison (1751), George Ohm (1789), Henny Youngman (1906), Josef Mengele (1911), Traudl Junge (1920), Jerry Lewis (1926), Ursula Goodenough (1943, and a reader!), Kate Nelligan (1950), and Mónica Cruz (1977). Here are two Henny Youngman jokes. He was a funny guy:

A doctor gave a man six months to live. The man couldn’t pay his bill, so he gave him another six months.

The doctor says to the patient, “Take your clothes off and stick your tongue out the window”. “What will that do?” asks the patient. The doctor says, “I’m mad at my neighbor!”

Those who expired on March 16 include Tiberius (37 AD), Aubrey Beardsley (1898), Roy Bean (1903), August von Wassermann (1925), Arthur Godfrey (1983), and Gary Bettenhausen (2014).

Beardsley died of tuberculosis at the young age of 25, cutting short a career that evinced tremendous artistic talent. Here’s his “Pierrot and Cat”:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s occupying Andrzej’s desk:

Hili: Do I disturb you?
A: Only a bit.
Hili: Never mind.
In Polish:
Hili: Czy ja ci nie przeszkadzam?
Ja: Tylko troszkę.
Hili: Nic nie szkodzi.

From reader Barry. This is called a “lose-lose situation”:

From Heather Hastie via Ann German. I don’t believe at all the described behavior of this squirrel, but you have to admit that it has a lovely tail. It turns out (see this article) that there are no observations of the vampire-ish behavior, only tales of hunters.

Tweets from Grania. A great musician is on deck; his birthday was yesterday:

Well this is distressing: maybe the casualties could have been prevented if we didn’t have the Shutdown over the Big Wall:

Look at this adorable little Aby!

Red pandas (Ailurus fulgens, a carnivore) in the snow: an underappreciated animal:

Tweets from Matthew. Did Philomena make a new show that I missed?

This is awesome on many levels:

This is very sad:

There are a lot more species of microbes to be found out there.

I’m pretty brave with animals (I reared a botfly in my head, after all), but I’m not sure I could pose for one of these photos!



  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted March 16, 2019 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Youngman one liner. Take my wife. Please
    Told my doctor, I want a second opinion. Okay, you’re ugly too.

    There was a feral cat hanging around the Martha and George Washington quarters and Martha called the cat Hamilton due to the comparative nature of the cat to Alexander.

  2. Liuba Balaska
    Posted March 16, 2019 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    Dear Mr Coyne
    Why do you think the Crimean referendum was dubious?. I know that it was not. Nor was Crimea annexed as the MSM insist on saying.
    Also the USSR gifted the Crmean peninsula to Ukraine in the early 1950s. Now that Ukraine is independent of Russia you would have thought that the decent thing would have been to return iit back to Russia since the population is over 90% Russian.
    I appreciate your science postings, ‘ The Hili Dialogue and the wildlife photos from readers but your comments on Russia are not based on facts I have only now decided to bring this to your attention.. The US and NATO warmongering comments, breaking of treaties from the early 1990s , and actions are those to be feared.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted March 16, 2019 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      You realize this is not a pro Russian web site? I believe dubious is taken directly from the headline article on the 2014 referendum.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 16, 2019 at 8:09 am | Permalink

      Liuba Balaska:

      “Now that Ukraine is independent of Russia you would have thought that the decent thing would have been to return it [Crimea] back to Russia since the population is over 90% Russian”

      By what magic definition do you get a figure of 90% ethnic Russian for Crimea? Please provide a link to an independent, reliable source! Everything else you’ve written is an assertion that you haven’t backed up with data.

      What sort of troll are you?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted March 16, 2019 at 8:37 am | Permalink

        Greetings from comrade Putin’s troll farm outside Petrograd!

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted March 16, 2019 at 8:43 am | Permalink

          I believe this is just early work on the 2020 election. Took a left turn from St. Petersburg, Russia looking for Facebook.

      • W.Benson
        Posted March 16, 2019 at 10:02 am | Permalink

        It is possible to quickly confirm that in 2014 2/3 of the population of Crimea self-identified as Russian in 2014 and that in 2001 77% gave Russian as their “native language”. These seem to be official census results provided by the Ukrainian central government in Kiev. Although not the 90% claimed by Liuba, it is a significant majority of Russian. I recall, but I must do a web search to document it, that Ukraine’s central government during the rebellion had proposed to revoke the use of Russian as a second official language. Also there was talk of confiscating property of rebels and turning it over to fighters in pro-Kiev militias. Although western nations did not send observers to monitor the Crimean referendum, European socialist political partied from places like Austria did, and there were no reports of election fraud.
        It seemed quite clear to me that the Ukraine uprising against the legally elected government was planned in the US State Department by Hillary Clinton (re taped telephone conversations between Victoria Nuland, a high official with the State Department, and the US Ambassador in Kiev concerning who the US should put in as new Ukrainian president) with the intent of installing a US controlled regime, friendly to US military presence, war ships on the Black Sea, NATO protection until the end of time, US business (fracking), and able to deny Russia its renewal of the contract, to expire in 2019, to operate its naval base in Crimea. Pretty much explains Putin’s antipathy towards Hillary.
        There is a lot more, but I’ll stop here. The link to the Crimean ethnicity data is

      • W.Benson
        Posted March 16, 2019 at 10:10 am | Permalink

        Actually, the population of Crimea is 2/3 ethnic Russian and 77% of the province’s people consider Russian (rather than Ukrainian) to be their native language. That’s not 90%, but it is a pretty impressive majority. The link with documentation is:

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted March 16, 2019 at 11:24 am | Permalink


          I am asking Liuba to support his assertions!

          The fact that he is mistaken, exaggerating or lying about the 90% figure is a possible indicator of the quality of the rest of his commentary – I get pissed off with people who vomit onto the page as he has done. It is the same style as we see from creationists, flat Earthers & anthropogenic climate change deniers.

          What interests me is an answer to the question: “can you present a case unclouded by seemingly emotive bias – can you deal in documented facts?”

          That is why I challenged him ONLY on the 90% figure – so as to not give him the opportunity to ignore that question of fact & babble on about something else! I do not appreciate YOU linking to information about the correct figures – didn’t you twig that I obviously knew that BEFORE I challenged him?

          Moving on:

          It has been established that the ‘phone call between Nuland & U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt took place on January 28, 2014 – almost exactly a year AFTER Hillary Clinton resigned as Secretary of State [resigned Feb 1st, 2013].

          Moving on:

          There is no doubt that the USA was interfering in the Ukraine & there is no doubt that the Russian Federation was also.

          The big picture is the warm water port & the huge Ukrainian arms export business – the Ukraine used to build most of the old USSR’s weapons & the Ukraine still has most of that expertise while The Federation does not.

          Without the advanced factories, knowledge & skills of the Ukraine, The Russian Federation kleptocracy [& Putin personal toy & bank account] is crippled. Ukraine is ‘stealing’ arms sales – it is kicking Russia out of India for example as is the USA. Ukraine is also now building to NATO specifications & standards AND selling spares to ex-Soviet bloc countries saddled with shit, broken Soviet kit… Putin ain’t happy about any of this & the plan is to drag the whole of Ukraine [not just Crimea] back into the loving embrace of Mother Russia. Nobody in the West wants that to happen.

          Standard international politics – The Big Game version.

          Background Reading:


          DEFENCE NEWS

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted March 16, 2019 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

            “I do not appreciate YOU linking to information about the correct figures ”

            Hey Michael – that doesn’t read too well!

            If you look at a map of Eurasia, it should be fairly obvious why Russia is never going to willingly give up one of its few deep water ports, or look on with equanimity while it comes under the influence of NATO.


            • Ken Kukec
              Posted March 16, 2019 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

              “… it should be fairly obvious why Russia is never going to willingly give up one of its few deep water ports, or look on with equanimity while it comes under the influence of NATO.”

              As long as it remains an autocratic kleptocracy. Were it to join the community of man by becoming a legitimate democracy and respecter of human rights, it would have nothing to fear from the West.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted March 18, 2019 at 7:29 am | Permalink

                Oh really? Not even from a USA that can elect a Trump as president, with the power to declare war?

                Now who was it said ‘speak softly and carry a big stick’? Some US president, as I recall.


            • Michael Fisher
              Posted March 17, 2019 at 3:25 am | Permalink

              He should have reasoned that I knew it wasn’t 90% & therefore I didn’t need the lecture on the correct figure. He should also have checked his facts on the other matter [Hillary] – he didn’t.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted March 17, 2019 at 3:29 am | Permalink

              Thank you I’m well aware of the geography & the warm water [which I brought up] & deep water ports situation, but I felt I’d written enough already.

      • Liuba
        Posted March 18, 2019 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

        I apologise for writing 90% instead of 70%. It was written without my reading glasses on the small screen of my mobile phone. The 70% is a roundup of the 66.67% which I am sure you can easily verify. FYI I am neither a troll nor goblin, just an old lady. I also aplogise for all the troubles this comment has caused. It was a question meant for Mr Coyne and I await his reply as to the reasons he thinks the Crimean referendum was dubious.

        • Posted March 18, 2019 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

          Just read the Wikipedia entry, which details all the irregularities, adding this:

          The referendum was regarded as illegitimate by most members of the European Union, the United States and Canada mainly due to Russian intervention.[14] Thirteen members of the United Nations Security Council voted in favor of a resolution declaring the referendum invalid, but Russia vetoed it and China abstained.[15][16] A United Nations General Assembly resolution was later adopted, by a vote of 100 in favor vs. 11 against with 58 abstentions, which declared the referendum invalid and affirmed Ukraine’s territorial integrity.[14] As the plebiscite was proclaimed, the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People had called for a boycott of the referendum.[17][18] The Mejlis Deputy Chairman, Akhtem Chiygoz, felt that the actual turnout could not have exceeded 30–40 percent, arguing that to be the normal turnout for votes in the region

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted March 18, 2019 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

          That’s fine Liuba. You have caused no troubles, but you should back up your facts with links or at least a more detailed analysis IMO. Furthermore Dr. Coyne has answered regarding “dubious” in his comment lower down. I am sorry about assuming you’re a guy too!

    • Posted March 16, 2019 at 8:18 am | Permalink

      Dear Liuba,

      You must be either a Putin supporter or completely ignorant of the history of this referendum, which didn’t even offer the status quo as an alternative. Its legality was dubious, there was substantial election fraud, and here were the questions (from Wikipedia):

      There were two choices to choose from on the ballot. Voters were able to choose only one of these.[58] The choices reflected the following stances:

      Choice 1: Do you support the reunification of Crimea with Russia with all the rights of the federal subject of the Russian Federation?

      Choice 2: Do you support the restoration of the Constitution of the Republic of Crimea in 1992 and the status of the Crimea as part of Ukraine?

      Even the Wikipedia article outlines all this stuff, along with documentation. You are either the Putin-esque equivalent of a creationist, immune to facts, or have remained wilfully ignorant. Please go away.

    • Posted March 16, 2019 at 11:24 am | Permalink

      Ha! Looks like you’ve trolled the wrong site, Mr. Balaska. Get back under that bridge where you belong.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted March 16, 2019 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      Well, Liuba,
      There is some truth in what you say, The Crimea is overwhelmingly Russian, albeit 90% is a gross exaggeration.
      This is particularly true since Mr Stalin deported about all Crimean Tartars (what did become of them?).
      Mr Khrushchev, an Ukrainian, just ‘donated’ the Crimea to Ukraine, something that could be done in totalitarian states.
      However, I think that the recent military occupation was totally uncalled for and unconscionable. It is a clear case that could easily have been settled through international courts.

    • Posted March 16, 2019 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      A referendum in a territory about being annexed by foreign power that is currently occupying the territory is, by definition, dubious. Actually, “dubious” is a too mild word for this.

      The land grab of Crimea by Russia, and the war instigated by Russia in Eastern Ukraine, violated the Budapest Memorandum signed by Russia in which it tricked Ukraine to dispose of its nuclear arsenal by promising never to attack her.

      You are supporting the acts of a wrong criminal regime, Liuba. And I know well what I am talking about, because I am a Bulgarian.

  3. Michael Fisher
    Posted March 16, 2019 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    That US $25 mallards stamp says “void after June 30, 2019” – why would a stamp I paid good money for be worth zero in postage terms from July, 2019?

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted March 16, 2019 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      The Duck Stamp is actually your hunting license for the next or current hunting season. Not a stamp in the sense of postage stamp.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted March 16, 2019 at 8:11 am | Permalink

        Ah yes. It’s obvious now you’ve pointed it out. Thank you!

      • David Coxill
        Posted March 16, 2019 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

        Are these the stamps what’s her names husband in the film Fargo was on about ?

        I know the way the above question is written seems a bit clunky ,but my tiny brain is tired .

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted March 16, 2019 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

          Norm’s painting of a mallard got on the 3c stamp – normal stamps for the mail:

          • David Coxill
            Posted March 17, 2019 at 7:23 am | Permalink

            Hi ,thanks for clearing that up ,been a while since i have seen the film.

  4. Serendipitydawg
    Posted March 16, 2019 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Let us also celebrate the birthdays of Lauren Graham and Aisling Bea today, two people I was delighted to find share my solar anniversary.

  5. ratabago
    Posted March 16, 2019 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Re: “Incredible. Nine entirely new PHYLA of bacteria found living on phones and shoes”

    It’s just new scientist and Hooper showing they don’t know what they are talking about, again. I don’t have a new scientist subscription, so can’t read their article. But the tw**t is nonsense.

    I’m deducing they are referring to this work:, Bacterial communities associated with cell phones and shoes, David A. Coil, and 8 co-authors.

    They found precisely zero new phyla (sorry, PHYLA). They found representatives of MDMs from 9 phyla. In the words of the researchers:

    “In relation to this, we examined how many (if any) of these microbes present in such everyday objects were from any of the so-called “microbial dark matter” branches in the tree of life. The term “microbial dark matter” or MDM for short is used in this context to refer to major evolutionary lineages for which few or no representatives have ever been grown in the lab or studied in detail (Rinke et al., 2013)”

    They found 289 unique bacteria associated amplicon sequence variants including members of 9 MDM Phyla, on common objects from every day environments, whereas it was thought that most MDMs are mostly associated with remote, isolated, and extreme environments.

    There’s a world of difference between rarely grown in the lab and “previously unknown to science.” Now I’m grumpy.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 16, 2019 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      Thanks for the truth! I stopped my New Scientist sub around 30 years ago when I realised that rag is really a jobs magazine that pads the front half with dodgy stories.

      On page 12 of the pdf I found this:

      “…Of the nine MDM phyla for which ASVs were found to be present in at least 10% of samples (Armatimonadetes, patescibacteriam, WPS-2, Entotheonellaeota, Dependentiae, BRC1, Rokubacteria, Latescibacteria, Elusimicrobia), all were found more often in shoe samples than phone samples.”

      You’d think that Richard Gray & Rowan Hooper [both of New Scientist] would have asked themselves how these unknown phyla all have names. 🙂

  6. Serendipitydawg
    Posted March 16, 2019 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Squanto was kidnapped by the English and as a result learned English, so it is entirely possible that Samoset acquired some of his English language skills from him.

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 16, 2019 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    Some people retell Henny Youngman one-liners. Take our host … PLEASE!

  8. Posted March 16, 2019 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Diane Morgan (aka Philomena Cunk) is costarring in Ricky Gervais’ new Netflix series, After Life. It’s pretty good. Her role is not that big (so far), but she has a good line or two.

  9. Roger
    Posted March 16, 2019 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Don’t worry folks eventually Goddard put the exhaust flames beneath the fuel instead of pointing the flames at the fuel.

  10. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted March 16, 2019 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    On March 16, 1872, the first FA Cup match was played, with the Wanderers F.C. beating Royal Engineers A.F.C. 1-0 at “The Oval” in London.

    Hang on – “The Oval” is a cricket ground, isn’t it? Given my lack of interest in sport (OK, I just watched the F1 practice in Oz – no significant changes.) I may be wrong on that, but I can’t see that the churning of the ground from fitba studs as being good for the smoothness of the wicket. Or is that the point?

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted March 16, 2019 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      It is, but as Wiki says:

      In addition to cricket, The Oval has hosted a number of other historically significant sporting events. In 1870, it staged England’s first international football match, versus Scotland.[10] It hosted the first FA Cup final in 1872,[11][12] as well as those between 1874[13] and 1892.[14] In 1876, it held both the England v Wales and England v Scotland rugby international matches and, in 1877, rugby’s first Varsity match.[15] It also hosted the final of the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted March 16, 2019 at 10:16 am | Permalink

        Well, that might increase my number of fun football facts to double digits. In octal.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted March 16, 2019 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

          Mine was in binary.

          The only other fact I know is that the answer to any trivia question about football is usually ‘Manchester United’. You’d be surprised how often that works. 😉


    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 16, 2019 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      Also the Oval [now called the bloody Kia Oval] is far too large for football – the spectators would be wanting binocs! The game was rematched 140 yrs later in 2012 just for fun & below you can see that the football pitch is not central, but shifted over to one half of the Oval near The Pavilion [which didn’t exist back then]. I’m thinking that cricket wasn’t played on manicured lawns in the 19 C, but I’m only guessing.

      • Serendipitydawg
        Posted March 16, 2019 at 10:13 am | Permalink

        My only visit to The Oval was after a rival company ripped off my company’s display electronics for their flip dot display. I went down to install our driver boards and PC software when theirs failed to be reliable and I vividly remember having to walk up a steel staircase to the top of the display (it was substantial as were the catwalks but, being somewhat open, there was just a hint of vertigo).

        The first job I had to do at that company was to go down to Lords to update their PC (last one in always had to go down and do Lords) and my one big faux pas was to ask who Dicky Bird was when he walked in during lunch. Another newbie, who was also ignorant of cricket, ended up having to go down there and sit in the scoring box for an entire test match when they decided to interface our kit with a hired display of the type was that ultimately replaced ours (I believe he blotted his reputation by reading books for the duration of the test instead of being wowed by his exalted position).

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted March 16, 2019 at 11:27 am | Permalink

          I feel you [as the kids say these days!] – cricket is great if one fancies a kip

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted March 16, 2019 at 10:17 am | Permalink

        [Approaching double-digits in decimal. Oh, sorry, one dropped out.]

  11. Peter
    Posted March 16, 2019 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    The Diane Morgan (Philomena Cunk) clip on Dinosaurs is from Episode 1: Beginnings of her series Cunk on Britain. There are 5 episodes in the series.

  12. Posted March 16, 2019 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    One of my ancestors came to Mass. in 1622 on the Mayflower II. He missed the first bad winter. Some of his children and grandchildren were captured or killed by how local Indians. Interesting and tough history.

    I used to watch Gilmore Girls. Good show. Never told anyone outside the family.

    Phones and iPhone are nasty little things. I don’t let anyone use mine or use anyone else’s. Not up mention shoes.

    Henny is annoying but funny. I have always liked to hear his lines. S love hate relationship.

    I don’t know how that Russian found this site. Strsnge stuff pops up sometimes. This is an international site.

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted March 16, 2019 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      I used to watch Gilmore Girls. Good show. Never told anyone outside the family.

      Nothing to be ashamed of! It wasn’t the kind of show I would normally watch but I saw it on one of the UK Freeview stations one time and found it amusing and quirky. That was the first place I saw Melissa McCarthy whom I found hilarious in the remake of Ghostbusters, though some of her other films didn’t quite hit the mark for me (Identity Thief springs to mind).

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 16, 2019 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      There’s people reading WEIT in every country in the World, bar one or two. The Russian has commented here before on two or three posts in an orderly manner – I don’t think he’s on full time Troll Duty, he probably believes what he wrote given that their MSM are effectively organs of the State.

      • Posted March 16, 2019 at 11:24 am | Permalink

        That what I thought also. Sounded like a nationalist Russian.

      • Posted March 16, 2019 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

        I think Liuba is she.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted March 16, 2019 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

          I think you are right 🙂

  13. Hunt
    Posted March 16, 2019 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    We’re coming up on the 50th anniversary of the moon landings, but look at Goddard’s contraption. That was just 50-odd years BEFORE the moon landing. If that’s not a testament to the human ability to collectively do great things, I don’t know what is.

  14. David Harper
    Posted March 16, 2019 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Apropos the sad item about the grandmother with dementia who wrote out pages of collective nouns: these kinds of lists were part of an exam called the eleven-plus which a generation of kids sat in British schools at age 10 or 11 to determine whether they would go on to a grammar school to receive an academic education, or whether they would go to a “secondary modern” or “technical” school to receive an education that was more vocational.

    I sat the eleven-plus in the early 1970s, just before it was abolished, and I remember having to learn many such lists. It’s entirely possible that the grandmother was in one of the early cohorts to sit it at the end of World War 2, and when dementia set in, she took some solace in being able to draw on things learned in childhood.

  15. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted March 16, 2019 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    And on March 16, 1926, Robert Goddard successfully launched the first liquid-fueled rocket

    I’ve seen that picture more than a few times, and always thought “that looks weird”, then left it.
    I’m guessing that having the tanks below the nozzel is to make it dynamically stable, and the side effect of heating the fuel is … well, we’re not talking cryogeic fuels here, are we? (OK, turns out to be gasoline and LOX).
    From Wiki,

    The fuel tank is directly beneath the nozzle, and is protected from the motor’s exhaust by an asbestos cone. Asbestos-wrapped aluminum tubes connect the motor to the tanks, providing both support and fuel transport.

    Clearly Goddard and co were bothered about the heating too.
    It seems that what I’m falling for is the “pendulum rocket fallacy” and there’s no flexibility in the structure to allow the thrust of the rocket to deviate from the axis of the structure. There’s also no intrinsic way of pointing the nozzle directly down. Instead, Goddard had to resort to gyroscope-controlled vanes in the exhaust and such contraptions to steer the rocket. As von Braun and co had to resort to themselves.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 16, 2019 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      That ‘pendulum rocket fallacy’ is, I think, the same in essence as the fact that pilots in cloud cannot tell whether they are in level flight without instruments (i.e. ‘seat of the pants’ doesn’t work)

      So far as I can tell (googling), LOX and gasoline are not hypergolic (self-igniting) so he must have had some form of ignition, though it isn’t evident in the pictures.


      • Michael Fisher
        Posted March 17, 2019 at 4:00 am | Permalink


        “The combustion chamber was equipped with an igniter system containing match heads and black gunpowder to provide the starting fire for ignition of the lox and gasoline when they were forced into the combustion chamber”

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted March 20, 2019 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

        Yes, Goddard did have an external ignition system, but I don’t see it either. “Light Blue Touch Paper And Run For Cover”?
        I had a very weird experience trying to surface from a dive once, when my left ear wouldn’t decompress while my right one did. Which gives a really weird sensation. After that, you’d not trust your internal horizon. Well, I wouldn’t.

  16. Rita Prangle
    Posted March 16, 2019 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the mention of Lithuanian Book Smugglers Day. I hadn’t realized it started so early. But after the Russians re-invaded Lithuania after WWI, there was another ban on materials printed in Lithuanian that extended at least into the 1970’s. Though I don’t think the consequences of violating the ban were quite so vicious.

  17. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted March 16, 2019 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    The 737MAX saga is interesting. To summarise what is generally known (based on extensive reading but I am NOT an expert) –
    The original 737 was designed low to the ground to ease loading and maintenance at small airports. (Later 737s with fatter turbofan engines had flat-bottomed engine cowlings for ground clearance reasons.)
    The latest ‘stretch’, the 737MAX, had still bigger more powerful engines. The obvious answer, to raise the aircraft, was considered undesirable because the whole landing gear system would have had to be redesigned and recertified (expensive) and pilots would have had to undergo full retraining to qualify on the new ‘type’.
    Instead, the bigger engines were mounted further forward and higher in relation to the wing. This allowed the MAX to be regarded as a 737 variant, flyable by existing 737 crews with minimal retraining. Apparently the launch customer, Southwest Airlines, considered this important, and obviously it’s a big selling point with existing 737 operators.

    However, the new engine position brought a snag, that under certain flight conditions a nose-high attitude could develop not easily corrected by the pilots and it could then stall. To avoid this the MCAS system was fitted (no other airliner needs this), which trims the aircraft nose-down if a high angle of attack develops. The suspicion is that the MCAS ‘ran away’ and the pilots either couldn’t, or didn’t realise they needed, to cancel it. Its operation is visible by the spinning of the trimmer wheels but it didn’t have any audible warning. The reason for the runaway could be either software or the angle-of-attack sensor vane malfunctioning.

    So the MCAS system could be regarded as a software fix for an aerodynamic deficiency. Should this have been allowed? Opinions will be all over the shop on that. Worst case – Boeing will have to bite the bullet and raise the aircraft. The economic consequences for them (and their customer airlines) would be considerable.

    Of course it still might not be the MCAS but something else. Still, in modern times, two crashes of a new type in a few months in similar circumstances is not something that has happened to most (any?) other airliner types.


    • Posted March 16, 2019 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

      It happened with some prop planes twenty or so years ago. I flew a Friday morning from Atlanta yo Brunswick. The next Friday the same flight crashed killing all aboard. An ex- Speaker of the House from Texas, a former astronaut, and thirty five or do other people. There had been similiar crash I believe a few weeks before in Pennsylvania. I believe there was a was a malfunction which caused the propellers to reverse as the plane started the descent to land. The planes were grounded and fixed.
      The planes were flown by several commuter airlines in the US and had been also used in South America with several other crashes.
      Something that sticks in my memory.

      • Posted March 16, 2019 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

        April 5, 1991.
        Sonny Carter and John Tower, ex-Senator from Texas. Not Speaker .

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted March 17, 2019 at 9:05 am | Permalink

          Wikipedia doesn’t quite support that. (Embraer Brasilia, Atlantic Southeast Airlines Flight 2311). There was a very similar Brasilia crash 4 years later. The cause was indeed one prop ‘feathering’ which made the aircraft uncontrollable.

          The most famous sequential crashes were of course the Comet back in the 1950’s, and the DC10 cargo doors in the 70’s. There were also two turboprop Lockheed Electras lost due to ‘whirl mode’ mechanical instability in their engines in 1959-60.

          In 1991 and 1994 there were two 737 crashes, and a number of incidents, due to a rudder fault which was extremely hard to find, not being identified till 1999.

          But aircraft have been steadily getting safer, which is why I specified ‘modern times’ when I noted the scarcity of repeat accidents.


  18. James
    Posted March 17, 2019 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Did my best to donate, but your CCard form refused my valid, current, and often used account- sorry.

    Yes, I tried twice- and double checked all required (*) boxes.

  19. Hempenstein
    Posted March 21, 2019 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Ding Darling was a personal friend of Herbert Hoover’s, with whom he shared an ardent conservationist outlook. One of the lodges at the US Fish & Wildlife’s a href=National Conservation Training Center in Shepardstown WV (an awesome facility!) is named for Darling; the others are named for Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson.

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