Archive for January 4, 2014

A Perihelion Poser

Posted in Cute Problems, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on January 4, 2014 by telescoper

Today (January 4th) the Earth is at perihelion, ie its closest approach to the Sun. This may surprise folk in the Northern hemisphere who think that winter and summer are determined the Earth’s distance from the Sun…

Anyway, here’s an easy little question. The eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit is 0.017. Estimate the percentage difference in the flux of energy arriving at Earth from the Sun at the extremes of its orbit (ie at perihelion and aphelion). Is this difference likely to have any significant effect?

Answers through the comment box please..


40 years since the beginning of the ‘three day week’

Posted in History, Politics with tags , , , on January 4, 2014 by telescoper

Is it really 40 Years ago?
I wonder how many of you are old enough to remember the “Three Day Week”? I am. In fact I remember sitting my 11+ examination right in the middle of the period (from January to March 1974) in which electricity supplies across the UK were restricted to three days per week. Although it meant reading books by candlelight, it wasn’t as bad as it may sound to younger readers because we didn’t have that many electrical gadgets in those days and at least our house was heated by coal, not electricity. I dread to think what would happen nowadays if we should experience  problems with fuel supplied similar to those caused by the Oil Crisis of 1974. But such an event is not altogether impossible…

Hatful of History

sold out

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the ‘three day week’, which lasted from 1 January to 6 March 1974. The ‘three day week’ was an initiative by the Heath Government to avoid the stand-still of Britain’s industry in response to the Oil Crisis of late 1973 and the threat of a strike by the National Union of Mineworkers (who were on a ‘work to rule’ basis at the time). It involved cutting electricity supplies to three consecutive days per week to conserve coal stocks, which was threatened by a strike by mineworkers.

A search of the digitised Cabinet Papers available through the National Archives show how the Heath Government approached the looming threat of a strike by the NUM and the energy crisis faced by Britain in 1973-74. One Cabinet meeting from 20 December, 1973 outlined the problem facing the Heath Government and the basis…

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Book Review: Cosmology: A Very Short Introduction by Peter Coles

Posted in Books, Talks and Reviews with tags , on January 4, 2014 by telescoper

Here’s a review of my book “Cosmology: A Very Short Introduction” that I found a couple of days ago. I’m reposting as an excuse to remind folk that a new edition will be out later this year, or as soon as I’ve finished writing it, because my proposal has been formally approved by Oxford University Press.

The Alethiophile

It is rare for me to walk into a bookshop and walk out again without buying at least one book; more often than not, it’s two or three at a time. This was one I picked up in the summer when I went to visit the royal observatory and national maritime museum in Greenwich, as there was an exhibition on at the latter which was on the subject of cosmology. There were various options open, though I chose not to get the enormous hardback book full of images from the Hubble space telescope.

For those of you who are unaware, I studied maths at university, with a particular emphasis on mathematical physics. In my first year, I took a free elective module in cosmology. So while I do review this book as an expert in the field, I do review it as an informed and educated amateur.

Of all branches…

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Lines on the Death of Phil Everly

Posted in Uncategorized on January 4, 2014 by telescoper

So farewell, then,
Phil Everly.

You were one
Of the

Or was that
Someone else?

Anyway, now 
All you have
To do is
For ever

by Peter Coles (aged 50½).