Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Looking at the Sun, Cancelled Mining Health Study, EU-UK Laws

Looking at 2015 partial eclipse in Milton
 According to IFL Science, yesterday's eclipse was followed by a Google search surge in terms involving looking at sun and related comments, like "My eyes really hurt after looking at sun". Despite all the warnings, as ever, the message did not get through to some, including President Trump - until someone handed him a viewer.

Looking directly at the sun can cause temporary eye damage (retinopathy), Ironically, it is during an eclipse that damage may be more likely as your pupil widens as the eclipse progresses and you are tempted to watch longer. There is a relevant article here.

But apparently temporary blindness was not the cause of President Trump changing his opinion on military intervention in Afghanistan from being against it to reluctantly planning to increase it. Sitting behind the President's desk was the deciding factor. Reporters were wondering if this was a more presidential response, based on his expert advisers.

What was not in the mainstream news was another domestic decision. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine issued a statement yesterday, that "the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement informed the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that it should cease all work on a study of the potential health risks for people living near surface coal mine sites in Central Appalachia." The US Departments funding of projects over $100,000 was being reviewed. Imminent planned public meetings will still be permitted to go ahead. According to The Independent, "The White House has proposed slashing the interior department’s budget by 13 per cent, or $1.6bn, including 4,000 staff positions. The academy was going to conduct the $1m study over a two-year period." Is this a reflection of the pro-coal Trump policy?

The UK has released another Position paper today on Brexit, the "Providing a crossborder civil judicial cooperation framework". My summary of the paper is:
  • We currently have deep existing judicial agreements (civil & commercial, family, EU civil and family matters, other international arrangements like the Hague Convention - OK, its complicated)
  • Contracts and agreements initiated before Brexit will continue under existing laws
  • We will reach an agreement with the EU on the best way to keep our close relationship that is not the current position but gives us all the benefits.
  • After Brexit, the new system will be used.
Again, we want to have our cake and eat it.

It was Community Cafe day today which occupies most of the day. In the evening, watched the animation film Kubo with Jane. Very good.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Eclipse, Silenced Bongs, Brexit Positions, and Surrogacy Book

Today people looked up to see momentous events. In the US, it was a total eclipse of the sun than ran from west to east across the whole country. Millions traveled to see the phenomenon.

In the UK, hundreds travelled to London, to look up at a clock and listen to the last chimes of Big Ben as the tower falls silent for four years.

President Trump has now disbanded his climate change advisory committee. The committee is supposed to give its assessment every four years and it has submitted the Climate Science Special Report, a key part for the assessment, to President Trump for his review. Despite the administration's skepticism  about the human impact of climate change, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in a statement that “this action does not impact the completion of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, which remains a key priority.”

By the end of the day, the UK Government issued two new position papers. The first was Confidentiality and Access to Papers. It appears to reflect the governments concern that information it has shared with the EU to date could be released upon Brexit and asks - please could we agree to keep our secrets secret afterwards?

The second is the Continuity in the Availability of Goods for the EU and the UK. Boiled down, this basically says - we have a good and very important trading relationship. Could we please agree to apply the past rules to products and services initiated before Brexit and could we please look forward to having practically the same benefits after we leave?

I met up with Author Manuela O'Reilly, author of the most recent book published under Milton Contact Ltd, called 'Whose Tummy was I in?' It is a board book, beautifully illustrated by the author. The story is about a fox couple who cannot have their own children and are looking for a mother who could help. Born out of the author's own experience of only being able to have children through surrogacy, the story aims to help the young children of other surrogate families understand how they came into the world, through the help of another mother. We had the official handover of the archival copies for registration.

In the afternoon, produced a Hall End picture demonstrating how an eclipse really works.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

£135bn Brexit Benefit? Ramsey Museum and Abbey Kitchen Gardens

Display in Chemists Shop at the Ramsey Rural Museum
The UK could benefit by £135 bn if it goes over to free trade, according to a pre-release of new report by the group 'Economists for Free Trade' (EFT), called 'From Project Fear to Project Prosperity'. Interestingly, their summary is written referring to themselves in the third person (Illeism), though it's spokesperson is Professor Patrick Minford, a macroeconomist and long time Eurosceptic based at the Univeristy of Cardiff. The group was previously known as 'Economists for Brexit' and they continue to advocate the benefits of free trade, without restrictions.

Economist Monique Ebell from the National Institute of Social and Economic Research (NIESR) responded. The NIESR is Britain's oldest independent economic research institute and think-tank. She said that Prof Minford "ignores decades of evidence on how trade actually works".

As previously with such economic arguments, it comes down to who in the  UK will suffer job loss and exposure to increased competition, depending on how we Brexit.

The US and South Korea will start their annual joint military exercise tomorrow. North Korea has already issued dire warnings that "reckless behavior driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war." and that nowhere in the US can "dodge the merciless strike."

With the promise of a reasonably dry afternoon, Jane and I set off for Ramsey (Cambridgeshire, not Ramsey's cafe, Northern Ireland, which my old SatNav helpfully tried to direct me to). We visited the Ramsey Rural Museum (http://ramseyruralmuseum.co.uk/), which fortunately had a free entry to coincide with Ramsey's 40's Weekend, taking place nearby. We lunched at the cafe and wandered around the many displays in buildings scattered over the site, with the refrain of 1940's songs sung by a competent duo, as a musical backdrop. 

We were also told that the Ramsey Abbey Walled Kitchen Garden (http://www.ramseywalledgarden.org/) was also open and a short walk from the museum and well worth a visit. We spent another happy hour wandering around the gardens, taking photographs and chatting to the volunteers. We left with a punnet of damsons.

As we left after a last tea at the Museum cafe, there was a growing roar. At its crescendo a low flying spitfire drew a couple of loops around the museum and 40's Weekend before rapidly ascending and disappearing into the horizon.

The days pictures are here: https://goo.gl/photos/bE9CPUQDfMZv4FRq6

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Fidget Spinner Speed and How to Make Yours Spin Longer

Using Camera to measure spin speed - at 1/200s exposure = 17.78 rotations per second
I finally succumbed to the inner child, curious about the fidget spinner, and bought two different models at a St Ives market stall, one for a £1 and the other for £3 (allegedly better quality and being "Sold for 13 quid in Cambridge, metal bearings, will run for several minutes". One's pretty and the other's shiny. Both spin smoothly and the £3 on does run for almost 4 minutes. After the novelty wore off, curiosity set in.

How fast can I spin my spinner?

To measure how fast I could spin my spinner, I picked up my SLR camera. You can set many cameras to take pictures at a fixed shutter speed. I set my spinners running on the table and played around photographing them at anything from 1/500 s to 1/10 s. At 1/100 s I could see a motion blur from the shiny parts of the spinner on my photos, taken immediately after setting the fidget spinning. Initially, this the motion blur was about 1/6 of a circle. 
Therefore in 1 second, the spinner would spin 100 x 1/6 revolutions
This equals (100/6) revolutions per second
which is 16.67 rps or about 1000 revs per minute!

Playing with both spinners at the same table, the speeds they could reach were very similar. I had to glue white spots onto the £1 spinner to measure this accurately.

This was interesting. Both spinners were accelerated to the same speed but the £1 stopped after about one minute, whilst the £3 spin for about 3 minutes.

I moved to the kitchen and set up the camera to 
  1. Get the best strike of the spinner for maximum speed. This turned out to be: hold spinner centre with one hand to table and sharply strike a glancing blow on a spinner projection with a forefinger, the swing coming from the arm.
  2. Measure the decay speed of the two spinners over time.
From the above graph you can see that I could now reach initial speeds on both spinners of 24 rps, or 1,440 rpm. The £1 spinner (1 in the chart) would now spin up to just under 2 minutes from this starting speed. The £3 spinner (2 in the chart) could spin for nearly 4 minutes. The spinners would lose  just over half their speed in the first quarter of their run time (down to 10rps), then halve that speed again to about 5 rps by half their run time and then coast to a stop. Their decaying speed approximated the shapes of inverse square curve.

Increasing run time

My maximum speeds and run times were pretty consistent for each spinner. I wondered how else I could get them to spin longer. I could not do much about the bearing friction. Perhaps I could change the effect of braking by the air?

I tried placing a transparent round tub over a spinning fidget. The reasoning being, the fidget would start the air in the tub spinning with it. This would reduce the drag. Repeated experiments showed that on average, I could extend the run time of the £1 fidget by up to 20 seconds and that of the £3 fidget to 30 seconds or longer. The video below shows a typical result of the same spinner out in the open on the table and under a plastic tub. The unexpected benefit of the video are the different visual patterns created as the spinners slow down, in relation to the video shutter, working at 60 frames per second.

There was some BrexiTrump news today. In Boston, a planned far right demonstration was swamped by a largely peaceful counter demonstration. All 17 members of White House arts panel resigned in protest after his reaction to Charlottesville, issuing a dramatically scathing letter reproduced here https://www.scribd.com/document/356620864/Members-of-the-President-s-Commission-on-Arts-Humanities-resignation-letter-to-President-Trump. The President and First Lady would also be the first for a long time to miss the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors evening.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Two Reports that No Brexit Deal is a Good/Bad Thing

Jungle House at Oakington by the Guided Busway
The shockwaves of yesterdays killer van attack in Barcelona were compounded by a further attack on the coast. There was also a knife attack in Turku in Finland. In Spain, it is possible that this was all part of a larger group planning a more serious attack, but were prompted to alternative action when there was an explosion in the house they were thought to be plotting.

Two alternative reports on the impact and benefits of different Brexit scenarios were published today. The Institute of Economic Affairs went with the title "'No deal' with EU on trade post Brexit does not mean disaster for the UK" (https://iea.org.uk/publications/a-trade-policy-for-a-brexited-britain/). The Institute for Government went with the more serious "Frictionless trade? What Brexit means for cross-border trade in goods" (https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/5704%20IFG%20-%20Frictionless%20Trade%20Web.pdf).

I don't think they differ much in thinking that there would be negative consequences for business without tarif free trade with the EU. Brutally summarised, the difference between the two report is, that the IEA thinks that if no barrier free trade can be agreed with the EU, then leaving and trading on WTO terms is worth the pain for the benefit of cheaper imports from other sources.

President Trump has fired his Alt -right tending chief strategist Steve Bannon. He may still be very influential on the Trump administration.

With the prospect of a bright but windy day, I set out to cycle to Longstanton and catch the guided bus to St Ives from there. Google maps said it was a 9.3 km journey. My odometer measured 12 km. I felt that I'd earned the bacon sandwich when I reached the Taproom.

Volunteering at the Norris involved sitting in and helping with the children's activities. There were Roman board games, Ludo and Snakes and Ladders. The favourite for visitors was colouring-in flying models of butterflies, birds, pterosaurs and planes. A number of parents were actually back for a second week, in response to children's demands - and because it was such a child friendly environment and activity during the summer holiday.

The cycle ride back from Longstanton was delayed until one of the unexpected afternoon showers had just passed. It was a race back home to avoid being hit by the next major shower.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Killer cars, Controversial Statues, Static Migraine

Statues - Good or Bad?
Another car/van attack on crowds, this time in Barcelona, with 13 killed and scores injured. Three men were in the white van that drove for half a mile through crowds in the pedestrianised Las Ramblas. arrests have been made but the news is still confusing, with tourists told to continue hiding in Museums as the search goes on for the perpetrators.

President Trump is still receiving flack for missing the point about the difference between the divisive, discriminatory Nazi & white supremacists and the protestors against them.

Instead, he shifted the focus to the statues used by the far right as their justification for demonstration.

Echoes of an older conflict reverberate in the US, with statues of Confederate leaders like General Robert E Lee forming the focus from the alt right and on the opposing side, human and black rights campaigners.

The ugly legacy of the slave trade and apartheid/racism is also present in UK statues of Cecil Rhodes and successful businessmen of the 18th/19th century.

Should statues of a different time and morals be removed, perhaps to museums, or do they serve as reminders of different attitudes and ethics being preferred today? That's a debate to be had. It is not a justification for race hate and division.

I had a gentle day today, having woken up with pre-migraine/migraine - erratic images flitting though my waking dreams and disconnected thoughts on waking. I was conscious but unable to move, not because my limbs would not work, I simply lacked the volition to connect thought to action. Eventually managed to get up to take tablets and then returned to bed till midday. The lassitude and exhaustion gradually decreasing throughout the afternoon. I took time to create another 'Unusual Occurrence at Hall End' photograph, the first for several months.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Ireland-Brexit Position Paper. Business Abandons Trump

Box of gift chocolates before mass defection by contents
The Northern Ireland Position paper by the government seemed to say the following: 'The UK and Ireland have special arrangements and agreements predating the the UK joining the EU. These include the Common Travel Agreement. So we could have free travel for all Irish, North and South when the UK leaves the EU. This would leave difficulties in terms of travel of EU citizens and of course goods. The UK wants to have an unrestricted Border as any restrictions could re-ignite the old problems of division. So , there is this wonderful idea which would solve all this once we leave the Customs Union, that novel solution of a unique EU UK negotiated Customs union
 - see our previous paper from yesterday'. You can see the position paper here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/northern-ireland-and-ireland-a-position-paper.

What I did learn today was, that there are more border crossings between the UK and Ireland that there are crossings between the EU and the East of Europe (275 crossings v 137).

The feeling is growing that a decision by the EU on progress with the existing negotiations on EU and UK citizen rights, the UK and Ireland  border and outstanding payments by the UK, could be delayed till December.

President Trump's business Manufacturing Council began to fall apart when the heads of 3M, Campbell Soup, Johnson & Johnson, and United Technologies announced their resignations on Wednesday following the earlier head of Merck. This was in response to Trump's Trump Tower press briefing yesterday, where he was interpreted as defending the Alt right, Nazis and KKK. As a result, the President disbanded the two existing business councils, before more damage was done by further resignations. POTUS seems to be the centre of ire for his own party and US business. Unusually, the two Presidents Bush also roundly condemned a divided US and race hate by right wing organisations.

It was almost a shame to be working on what was a sunny day. In the evening, I decided to go out on a longer test ride on my repaired bicycle.I sped down Fen Road to the River Cam and then continued south, looking for the new path from the river to the new Cambridge North Station. There were numerous rowing eights on the river with their trainers keeping pace on shore on bicycles , shouting instructions and encouragement. The turn off from the River was further south than I expected, almost in Chesterton. Then it was the ride back home along the new cycle path, then across the Jane Coston Bridge to Milton and home. A round trip of 7.5 km, which took 25 minutes. I need to build up a bit more stamina.

As I end the day, the weather front has finally reached Milton and rain is drumming on the windows.