Archive for the Beards Category

Lorentz-Fitzgerald or Fitzgerald-Lorentz?

Posted in Beards, History, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on December 9, 2020 by telescoper

I’ve recently moved on to the part about Special Relativity in my module on Mechanics and Special Relativity and this afternoon I’m going to talk about the Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction or, as it’s properly called here in Ireland, the Fitzgerald-Lorentz contraction.

The first thing to point out is that the physicists George Francis Fitzgerald and Hendrik Lorentz, though of different nationality (the former Irish, the latter Dutch), both had fine beards:

George Francis Fitzgerald (1851-1901)

Hendrik Lorentz (1853-1928)

One of the interesting things you find if you read about the history of physics just before Albert Einstein introduced his theory of special relativity in 1905 was how many people seemed to be on the verge of getting the idea around about the same time. Fitzgerald and Lorentz were two who were almost there; Poincaré was another. It was as if special relativity was `in the air’ at the time. It did, however, take a special genius like Einstein to crystallize all that thinking into a definite theory.

Special relativity is fun to teach, not least because it throws up interesting yet informative paradoxes (i.e. apparent logical contradictions) arising from  that you can use to start a discussion. They’re not really logical contradictions, of course. They just challenge `common sense’ notions, which is a good thing to do to get people thinking.

Anyway, I thought I’d mention one of my favorite such paradoxes arising from a simple Gedankenerfahrung (thought experiment) here.

Imagine you are in a railway carriage moving along a track at constant speed relative to the track. The carriage is dark, but at the centre of the carriage is a flash bulb. At one end (say the front) of the carriage is a portrait of Lorentz and at the other (say the back) a portrait of Fitzgerald; the pictures are equidistant from the bulb and next to each portrait is a clock.The two clocks are synchronized in the rest frame of the carriage.

At a particular time the flash bulb goes off, illuminating both portraits and both clocks for an instant.

It is an essential postulate of special relativity that the speed of light is the same to observers in any inertial frame, so that an observer at rest in the centre of the carriage sees both portraits illuminated simultaneously as indicated by the adjacent clocks. This is because the symmetry of the situation means that light has to travel the same distance to each portrait and back.

Now suppose we view the action from the point of view of a different inertial observer, at rest by the trackside rather than on the train, who is positioned right next to the centre of the carriage as the flash goes off. The light flash travels with the same speed in the second observer’s frame, but this observer sees* the back of the carriage moving towards the light signal and the front moving away. The result is therefore that this observer sees the two portraits light up at different times. In this case the portrait of Fitzgerald is lit up before the portrait of Lorentz.

Had the train been going in the opposite direction, Lorentz would have appeared before Fitzgerald. That just shows that whether its Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction or Fitzgerald-Lorentz contraction is just a matter of your frame of reference…

But that’s not the paradoxical thing. The paradox is although the two portraits appear at different times to the trackside observer, the clocks still appear show the same time….

*You have to use your imagination a bit here, as the train has to be travelling at a decent fraction of the speed of light. It’s certainly not an Irish train.

Bill Bailey, David Olusoga & Michael Rosen head Beard of the Year 2020 shortlist

Posted in Beards on November 29, 2020 by telescoper

It’s almost time for the voting to start for Beard of the Year 2020. By virtue of being voted Beard of Ireland way back in March I qualified for the shortlist of eight. This year’s field is very strong, but I reckon I’ll be a good contender for eight place.

Voting this time will be via Twitter, as the following post explains.

Kmflett's Blog

Beard Liberation Front

29th November

Contact BLF Organiser Keith Flett 07803 167266

Bill Bailey, David Olusoga & Michael Rosen head Beard of the Year 2020 shortlist

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers has announced the final shortlist for the Beard of the Year 2020.

The list consists of eight names after two ‘trim-off’ votes shaved the longlist of twelve names

There will now be two ‘Beard-Off’ votes for Beard of the Year 2020 which will open on 14th December and close on 22nd December. The winners of each vote will face each other for a final Beard of the Year vote on 23rd and 24th December.

Beard of the Year will be announced on 28th December.

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, we’ve made some changes to the way the Beard of the Year vote runs for 2020. We’ve moved the vote to…

View original post 74 more words

Lá Saoire i mí Dheireadh Fómhair

Posted in Beards, Biographical, Covid-19, Irish Language, Maynooth, The Universe and Stuff with tags on October 26, 2020 by telescoper

Today being the last Monday of October, it’s a Bank Holiday here in Ireland so I’m having the day off (well, at least the morning: I have a telecon this afternoon). This week is Study Week too so there are no lectures or tutorials – real or virtual – until next Monday. Now that I have a broadband connection at home I’ll be working from here much more as the Level 5 restrictions require me to. It won’t be ideal because a lot of my work stuff is still in the office on campus, but at least I’ll be more comfortable than first time round, when I was in the flat.

Normally, most students go home for some or all of Study Week and return to campus the following week. This year I suppose most will stay where they are, although some might go home and stay there until the end of term since virtually all their teaching is online this term. They won’t even have to come back for the examinations after Christmas as these will be online too. It’s anyone’s guess whether we will have teaching on campus next Semester.

Coincidentally, the first campus closure started just before a Bank Holiday too. That was St Patrick’s Day. It seems like an eternity ago. The news of my award of the St Patrick’s Day Beard of Ireland would surely have made front pages across the Republic had it not been for the Covid-19 Pandemic. I think I’ll refrain from trimming my beard for the duration of the new restrictions like I did during the original lockdown.

Incidentally, the Irish word for beard is Féasóg. Also incidentally, I’ve signed up to have Irish language lessons this term; they start in November.

As I’ve mentioned before, this Bank Holiday (as others of its type in Ireland) has a sort of astronomical connection. In the Northern hemisphere, from an astronomical point of view, the solar year is defined by the two solstices (summer, around June 21st, and winter around December 21st) and the equinoxes (spring, around March 21st, and Autumn, around September 21st). These four events divide the year into four roughly equal parts each of about 13 week. If you divide each of these intervals in two you divide the year into eight pieces of six and a bit weeks each. The dates midway between the astronomical events mentioned above are (roughly) :

1st February: Imbolc (Candlemas)
1st May: Beltane (Mayday)
1st August: Lughnasadh (Lammas)
1st November: Samhain (All Saints Day)

The names I’ve added are taken from the Celtic/neo-Pagan (and Christian) terms for these cross-quarter days. These timings are rough because the dates of the equinoxes and solstices vary from year to year. Imbolc is often taken to be the 2nd of February (Groundhog Day) and Samhain is sometimes taken to be October 31st, Halloween.
Another name for the present Bank Holiday is Lá Saoire Oíche Shamhna (Halloween Holiday), although Halloween itself does not occur until next Saturday. Bank Holidays are always on Mondays here so they’re often a few days away from the dates above.

Black ’47

Posted in Beards, Film, History with tags , , , on October 14, 2020 by telescoper

The film Black ’47 was released in Ireland in 2018 (just after I moved here) but although it got good reviews I didn’t get around to seeing it in the cinema. Last Friday however it turned up on TV so I watched it and thought it was excellent.

The film tells the story of Martin Feeney (played by James Frecheville) who returns home to Ireland having deserted from the British Army, in 1847, only to find his native Connemara in the grip of the Great Famine. Witnessing the callous treatment of his people by landlords, their agents and the British authorities he sets out on a trail of violent retribution against the oppressors. In structure the film is very like that of a classic `revenge’ Western, though set in the Wild West of Ireland rather than America. It’s very well acted by a very fine cast and superbly photographed, grimly convincing in its depiction of the extreme deprivation of the time, with gripping action sequences. Among many other things, I was impressed by the realistic portrayal of the unreliability and inaccuracy of mid 19th Century firearms. The rifles in use by the British Army at that time were muzzle loaded, using paper cartridges, so their rate of fire was very low too.

There are some splendid beards too.

I’m sure there will be people to correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think there were any feature films made about the Great Hunger, despite its importance in Irish history, before this one.

Here’s the official trailer for the movie. I think it’s well worth watching if you can get to see it, though somehow I doubt it will be on prime time television in the UK like it was here in Ireland…

World Beard Day

Posted in Beards with tags , , , on September 5, 2020 by telescoper

Today is the first Saturday in September which means that it is World Beard Day.

I quote from official guidance:

On World Beard Day, it is customary for the bearded members of a family to relax and partake in no jobs or chores. The beardless members of the family traditionally show their support by waiting on the bearded hand and foot. World Beard Day is all about promoting and elevating the global status of the the beard. Whilst many countries and cities practice World Beard Day customs specific to their own region, shaving on World Beard Day is universally considered to be highly disrespectful.

See here for a celebratory blog post by Beard Liberation Front Organiser, Keith Flett.

Two Hundred Years of Tyndall

Posted in Beards, History, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on August 2, 2020 by telescoper

Just a short post to mark the fact that celebrated Irish physicist John Tyndall was born 200 years ago today, on 2nd August 1820.

Tyndall made his name initially for his research on diamagnetism but then worked on the scattering of light by atmospheric particles, and on the absorption of infrared radiation by gases. In the latter context he is generally credited with having discovered the Greenhouse Effect.

One should also mention his rather splendid beard.

John Tyndall was born at Leighlin Bridge, near Carlow in Ireland. After a little formal schooling, he gained a practical education by working as a surveyor and engineer. He entered the University of Marburg, Germany, in 1848 and earned his doctorate two years later. His dissertation research interested Michael Faraday, who later brought him to the Royal Institution of London. In 1867 Tyndall succeeded Faraday as superintendent there. He retired in 1887 and died in 1893.

The excellent Tyndall National Institute in Cork is named in his honour.

Van Dyck and Beards

Posted in Art, Beards with tags , , , on April 23, 2020 by telescoper

The 17th-century Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641) is famous not only as an artist but also for a particular style of facial hair, the goatee/moustache combo now known as a “Van Dyke”, as demonstrated by the man himself in this self-portrait:

What I didn’t realise until recently however that van Dyck painted a very large number of studies of men with all kinds of beards. Here is a particularly fine example (Study of a Bearded Man with Hands Raised, 1616).

I’m not an expert but based on the poses I suspect these studies were done in preparation for paintings with biblical themes. Indeed the model looks rather similar to the figure in Jude The Apostle completed about three years later:

R.I.P. Kenny Rogers (1938-2020)

Posted in Beards, Music with tags , on March 23, 2020 by telescoper

I’m not a great aficionado of Country music, but I was very sad to hear at the weekend of the death of one of its icons, and possessor of an iconic beard, Kenny Rogers. Here as a tribute is one of big hits, a song with a message for those of us who like a flutter now and then..

 

St Patrick’s Day Beard of Ireland 2020

Posted in Beards, Biographical with tags , on March 17, 2020 by telescoper

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh!

Today is St Patrick’s Day, a national holiday in Ireland, so I’ve swapped working from home for not working from home.

Anyway it has been officially announced that I am the winner of the 2020 Beard of Ireland poll. Thank you so much to everyone who voted for me!

It is was a nail-biting contest (though we all washed our hands carefully afterwards).

The runner-up was Aodhán Connolly who is from Northern Ireland, as were many of the other contenders. There was a nice piece in the Belfast Telegraph but I haven’t seen anything in the Republic.

Anyway, for those who asked here is one of those selfie picture things that young people do, showing current beard configuration.

Now wash your hands please!

Beard of Ireland 2020 poll sees record turn-out

Posted in Beards on March 11, 2020 by telescoper

I just checked the state of the voting in this year’s Beard of Ireland poll and, no doubt owing to some form of administrative error, I seem to be in the lead!

There are still several days to go however and things often change rapidly as these polls enter the final stages.

The really good thing about this poll is that it’s generating so much interest. I hope this may help counter some of the blatant pogonophobia going around because of the Coronavirus emergency.

Kmflett's Blog

Beard Liberation Front

Press release 10th March

Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266

BEARD OF IRELAND 2020 POLL SEES RECORD TURN-OUT

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that competition for the Irish Beard of the Year title has seen a record turn-out with votes cast so far already more than 500% up on 2019.

The campaigners say this reflects an increased awareness of the importance of beards in public life in Ireland

The 2017 winner was politician Colum Eastwood who bearded broadcaster William Crawley for the annual Award.

In 2018 the DUP’s Lee Reynolds shaved writer Dominic O’Reilly for the honour with Colum Eastwood in a steady third place.

In 2019 Lee Reynolds retained the title

The vote ends at midnight on 15th March with the 2020 winner announced to mark St Patrick’s Day on 17th March

The BLF says that while traditionally a…

View original post 135 more words