Archive for December, 2014

My Achievements in 2014

Posted in Uncategorized on December 31, 2014 by telescoper

It’s New Year’s Eve and therefore time for me to reflect on all  the great things I achieved in 2014.

Um…

Well, better luck next year I suppose.

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Geography Quiz

Posted in Uncategorized on December 30, 2014 by telescoper

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The above map of England and its regions is accurate apart from one detail. The first person to point out the deliberate mistake wins a year’s membership of the Ipswich Town FC Supporter’s Club, valid for the rest of the year 2014.

2014 in review

Posted in Uncategorized on December 30, 2014 by telescoper

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 450,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 19 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Conchita Wurst wins 2014 Beard of the Year poll

Posted in Beards, Biographical with tags , , , on December 29, 2014 by telescoper

Many congratulations to the fabulous Conchita Wurst, who has won the coveted title of Beard of the Year 2014. I finished in 3rd place. Huge thanks to everyone who voted for me. I’m quite chuffed to have finished in the top 5 actually, and am delighted that Conchita Wurst was the winner in the end.

In fact I was in the lead until two days before the end of polling. However, on Saturday 20th December, I checked the voting and found Conchita already was on top of me, pulling away. The resulting surge was extremely impressive and exciting to witness…

I would have happily settled for second place but then, on Monday 22nd, the last day of voting, Bartosz Bialkowski, who wasn’t on the shortlist until that point, made an unexpected appearance and quickly romped up the table. I’ve never heard of Bartosz Bialkowski before that day, actually. Apparently he plays in goal for Ipswich Town, in the Midlands. Anyway, although many will be surprised that 2nd place went to someone who isn’t among the list of official contenders, there’s no doubt he has an impressive beard and enthusiastic support from Ipswich Town supporters who no doubt were responsible both for his late inclusion in the list and in the heavy voting on Monday that relegated me to 3rd place.

Anyway, that’s it for Beard of the Year. My brief venture into the limelight is over, and I’ll now return to my normal state of well-deserved obscurity…

Kmflett's Blog

Beard Liberation Front

Press release 28th December

Conchita Wurst tops Eurovision win with Beard of the Year victory

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The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that in the best supported contest since 1995, the winner of this year’s Eurovision in May Conchita Wurst has also won the 2014 Beard of the Year poll with 33.54% of the vote.

The singer narrowly beat Ipswich Town goal keeper Bartosz Bialkowski who made a late bid for the title with 31.89% and University of Sussex academic Peter Coles who polled consistently well throughout the three weeks of the poll to end on 14.58%.

Other well known beard wearers including cricketer Moeen Ali and author Philip Ardagh also polled well.

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, The Beard Liberation Front stands for diversity of dress and appearance and the breadth of appeal of this year’s winners underlines that. Let’s…

View original post 135 more words

Christmas Present

Posted in Uncategorized on December 24, 2014 by telescoper

Well, I made it up to Newcastle on schedule thanks to Easyjet. I probably won’t be blogging much over the next few days as I plan to give myself over to sloth and gluttony.

Anyway I couldn’t resist sharing this lovely Christmas present I got from the inestimable Dorothy Lamb featuringy suitably  dotty headlines from the Brighton Evening Argus…

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Here’s to a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your loved ones wherever you may be!

The Cliffs of Comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on December 23, 2014 by telescoper

I don’t often post pictures from the excellent Astronomy Picture of the Day but today’s is so beautiful I couldn’t resist.

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Image Credit & Licence (CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO): ESA, Rosetta spacecraft, NAVCAM; Additional Processing: Stuart Atkinson

The explanation published with the picture goes:

These high cliffs occur on the surface of a comet. They were discovered to be part of the dark nucleus of Comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko (CG) by Rosetta, a robotic spacecraft launched by ESA which began orbiting the comet in early August. The ragged cliffs, as featured here, were imaged by Rosetta about two weeks ago. Although towering about one kilometer high, the low surface gravity of Comet CG would likely make a jump from the cliffs, by a human, survivable. At the foot of the cliffs is relatively smooth terrain dotted with boulders as large as 20 meters across. Data from Rosetta indicates that the ice in Comet CG has a significantly different deuterium fraction — and hence likely a different origin — than the water in Earth’s oceans. The Rosetta spacecraft is scheduled to continue to accompany the comet as it makes its closest approach to the Sun in 2015 August.

For me, Rosetta has undoubtedly been the science highlight of the year. It has been an absolute triumph, and it’s not over yet as Rosetta will now follow the comet on its journey towards the Sun. With a bit of luck, the lander Philae will also awaken (hopefully in March) as the Sun begins to shine more brightly on its solar panels.

I think we should all wish a special Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone involved with this wonderful adventure!

The Last Song on the Voyager Golden Record

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on December 22, 2014 by telescoper

Totally spontaneously and without any prompting whatsoever from any reader of this blog (?), I’ve decided today to post a piece of music. I don’t usually like posting single movements from classical works. I much prefer listening to them in the context for which they were orginally devised rather than as “bleeding chunks” because the entire composition should be greater than the sum of its parts. That is true of Beethoven’s magnificent late String Quartets, but some of the parts are nevertheless so exquisite on their own that I don’t mind at all hearing them separately. I posted the wonderful Heiliger Danksgesang (the third movement of Quartet No. 15 in A Minor, Opus 132) some time ago. That’s a piece of music that is very special to me for a number of reasons. This time, though, it’s String Quartet No. 13 in  B♭ major, Opus 130.

This is an unusual quartet, consisting of no less than six movements. In the original version the last movement was a very long and intricate double fugue, but for all its magnificence this enormous movement perplexed audiences who were no doubt expecting something closer to the traditional structure of a string quartet. Beethoven then wrote an alternative final movement, much shorter and lighter, and published the original final movement as a standalone work, the Große Fuge (Opus 133).

But it’s the penultimate, fifth, movement that I wanted to share. This is marked “Cavatina. Adagio molto espressivo.” This is one of those pieces of music that makes everything else disappear from my mind whenever I hear it. Its poignancy and lyricism are felt even more deeply when you realise that Beethoven himself never heard it, except in his mind’s ear. He was already profoundly deaf when he composed this work and indeed he died before the first performance of the final version of the quartet, so never even saw it being played.

Of all the pinnacles of European culture and civilisation, Beethoven’s late quartets must be among the very highest, but this short movement transcends even that level of achievement and reaches something utterly sublime. I think it’s entirely apt that this is the last piece of music on the famous Golden Records which the Voyager spacecraft are carrying into the depths of interstellar space. Close your eyes and think of that as you listen to the music.

PS. A “cavatina” is a “short and simple song”, hence the use of the word “song” in the title, but it doesn’t really do this piece justice, but there really aren’t any words that can describe it adequately.