The World as a Beach

Well, as some of you will have noticed, I’ve been offline over the long weekend. There’s no internet connection – not one that I could get to work, anyway – at the residence I’m staying in and I couldn’t be bothered to traipse all the way up the hill to the department in the pouring rain to connect from my office. Hence the first gap in my postings this year. I don’t suppose anyone minds that much. Anyway, here are a few pictures and random thoughts from the weekend.

Here’s a picture of the residence, by the way. It’s called Kopano, although when I previously stayed it was called Driekoppen. The old name was a relic of the days of slavery – three slaves were tortured and executedin public  after rebelling against the terrible conditions they were held in. Their heads were displayed on pikes nearby, hence the name which means “Three Heads”. This was in 1724. I’m not surprised that the end of apartheid brought a change in the name, although keeping it as it was would have served as a reminder of South Africa’s terrible past. One shouldn’t  become obsessed by events that took place such a long time ago, but neither should one forget them.

Good Friday was a very Good Friday indeed, starting with a lovely breakfast and a walk on the beach in Muizenberg. Apparently this is something of a surfer’s paradise but, as I said, I didn’t have an internet connection so couldn’t join in. Also, they have sharks here. I mean big ones. Great White ones, as  a matter of fact. None showed up while I was there, though, and in any case I was only paddling along the shoreline. It may not be obvious from the picture, but it was pretty hot. Almost 30 degrees.

 I was watching a chap surfing while we walked along and it reminded me of the post I did a while ago about teaching analogies. Standing on a beach looking out towards the horizon is a bit like doing cosmology. Off in the far distance everything looks smooth; the waves on the surface are much lower in amplitude than the depth of the sea out there, so everything evolves linearly and is quite easy to understand. That’s like looking back in time at the early Universe imprinted on the cosmic microwave background. Nearer to the shore, however, the waves become non-linear because their height is comparable to, or larger than, the depth of the water. These waves evolve in a non-linear way producing, breaking on the beach to produce foam and spray, just as the primordial waves collapse to form galaxies and the foam of large-scale structure when their self-gravity becomes sufficiently strong.

That’s enough of that, I think.

Unfortunately, the weather changed for the worse over the rest of the Easter weekend and torrential rain kept me from doing much on Saturday or Sunday. The finishing section of the  Two Oceans Marathon, which ended on the UCT campus on Saturday, was like a quagmire. As you can see from the picture, I reached the line well in front of the pack. About two days in front, actually. I took this as they were building the stands and hospitality tents a few days before the race.

Anyway, the good side of the bad weather was that I got quite a lot of work done, catching up on things I have let slip for far too long. I also exhausted the reading material I brough with me, so will have to find a good bookshop in the next day or two. Well, that’s about enough for now. I hope to continue regular dispatches from now on until I return to Blighty  next week.

6 Responses to “The World as a Beach”

  1. plindsay Says:

    the camera on that phone seems remarkably good.

  2. Adrian Burd Says:

    Ah, this brings back memories. Peter Dunsby and I shared an apartment just across the road from the beach in Muizenberg when I lived there. It was a beautiful spot, and at times one could see whales just offshore whilst one waited for the train in the morning.

    The residences seem newer though. Are those the ones down the hill from the Rhodes monument? The ones I stayed in when I first arrived there were just a nondescript block of apartments.


    • telescoper Says:

      I don’t know the location precisely, but we went past the small cottage where Rhodes apparently died. There’s a load of new developments around where we were; I think it’s probable you would hardly recognize the place!

      • Adrian Burd Says:

        Looking at Google maps, it seems to have been built up quite a lot since I was there (admittedly that was 20 years or so ago!).

        It would be nice to visit again one day. I liked Muizenberg; it had that rather funky, somewhat other-worldly, slightly disheveled charm exhibited by many English seaside resorts.


  3. Monica Grady Says:

    “Standing on a beach looking out towards the horizon is a bit like doing cosmology…..”

    Agreed – get too far in and you drown….


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