Random Thoughts

Sing a Song of Politics

I was testing my memory, trying to remember things that I learned way back when I was a small kid, and I realised that my most intense memories are of or related to poems and songs.

I seem to remember it was Ogden Nash who wrote this little ditty during the early years of the cold war:

Rock of ages, cleft for me
 Let me hide myself in thee.
When the bombers thunder past,
 Shelter me from fire and blast.
And, though they say all men are brothers
  Let the fallout fall on others.


How many songs can you remember from your childhood?
My activity as a chessplayer has seen a steady decline in the past three years, due to overwhelming work obligations. To play in chess tournaments at a decent level, you not only need to be physically fit and well trained for the occasion, but also have your mind free from other thoughts. Alas, I have been failing miserably in the second and third of the above requirements. So I have essentially retired from competitive chess, and my only connection to the chess world is through the occasional 5-minute blitz game over the internet.
In 1952 my uncle Antonio, then 18 years old, left his family home in Venice, Italy to never return, running away from the humiliation of a failure at school. With a friend he reached the border with France and crossed it during the night, chased by border patrols and wolves. Caught by the French police Toni - that was the abbreviated name with which was known by everybody - was offered a choice: be sent back to Italy, facing three months of jail, or enrol in the French legion. Afraid of the humiliation and the consequences, he tragically chose the latter.
Back from vacations, I think I need to report a few random things before I get back into physics blogging. So I'll peruse the science20 article category aptly called "Random Thoughts" for this one occasion.
My summer vacations took place just after a week spent in Ecuador, where I gave 6 hours of lectures on LHC physics and statistics for data analysis to astrophysics PhD students. I did report about that and an eventful hike in the last post. Unfortunately, the first week of my alleged rest was mostly spent fixing a few documents that the European Commission expected to receive by August 31st. As a coordinator of a training network, I have indeed certain obligations that I cannot escape. 
Tragic Elevator Accident in Seville

A woman has died in a tragic accident shortly after giving birth by caesarean section.  It is unfortunate that, due to a new Spanish Law which requires media to invoice Google for even a small snippet of copyright material, Google no longer feeds Spanish news to its Google News pages.
The NCP Theory of Gravity

It seems that NCP (National Car Parks) has a theory that a thin concrete floor can support the weight of a van because, hey, gravity's only a theory, right?  Science, who needs it?

News reports show what happens when concrete isn't up to a task it was never intended for - like making airmail envelopes and such.
No, this is a theoretically based rant about TSA. My students can get credit for reading it!

When "Guardians of the Galaxy" was in development, I was skeptical. When I was a kid, they were simply different Avengers, in space. Seriously, they had a Major from America, an archer, a strong guy, etc. And everyone knows Marvel had sold off the movie rights to the popular characters to prevent bankruptcy so they had only B level characters left.

But one of those B-level characters was Iron Man, and Jon Favreau, Robert Downey, Jr. and a whole team of four writers (usually a bad sign) turned in arguably the best superhero movie of all (1). And it just so happened other B-level characters made up The Avengers, and a boom was born.
Wonky Rockets? Wonky Theory!


The British tabloids Express, Metro, Daily Star, Sun and others seem to think that some or all of the rockets displayed in North Korea recently are bogus.  The "proof" is the wonky nosecones shown in a BBC video.

It's not the Rockets that were wonky.  Rather, the "news" reports demonstrate wonky thinking. Media reports about wonky rockets prove only that some reporters tend to write stories based on their own lack of knowledge.  Due diligence is obviously not a term with which these scribblers are familiar.

I was not supposed to start this piece using the pronoun ‘I’.