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Blog entries on '09 June 2006'

Friday 09 June 2006

Friday Science: Cosmology

I am currently reading Simon Singh’s Big Bang, and it’s a perfect primer on the whole field of cosmology if, like me, you know absolutely nothing about it. I know the earth is round because I’ve seen the pictures, but how did the ancient Greeks figure it out? How did they then proceed to measure how big it was? How did Einstein prove Newton wrong? How can we know anything about the origin of the universe? As well as getting the basics in cosmology, you also get a lesson in how science works, how it progresses, why people thought the way they did in the past, and how we know they were wrong. How we know what we know, and how we can test if it’s really true. All great stuff.

At the end of the book, Singh lists some websites if you want to find out more. One of the best is the Nasa website’s Cosmology 101 course. It explains clearly and simply the main ideas, and has nice colour pictures, something Simon Singh’s cover artist should have learnt from.

Better for images though is the Nasa gallery. This also has classic images of the moon landings for all you conspiracy nuts out there.

Perhaps more next week. But finally for this week, let’s just look at what you’re letting yourself in for if you start to get into all this stuff. Physicists probe the fifth dimension is a story that takes us into the 11th dimension (via 3Quarks.

Eleven dimensions? If that doesn’t make any sense to you, don’t panic. Getting to grips with relativity will be more than enough to be going on with. As Singh relates, the physicist Ludwig Silberstein once said to Arthur Eddington that he “must be one of only three persons in the world who understands general relativity”. Eddington stared back in silence, prompting Silberstein to tell him not to be so modest. “On the contrary,” replied Eddington, “I am trying to think who the third person is.”

In our more irreverent age, I expect there’s at least one person out there in the blogosphere who has copied and pasted something from Cosmology 101 into their blog, which they think destroys relativity theory. Can you find one? First entry in the comments box wins a ReadySteadyBook bookmark!

Posted by Stuart Watkins

Friday 09 June 2006

Ficowski and Twisted Spoon Press

You may have noticed the sad death of Jerzy Ficowski (October 4th 1924 - May 9th 2006) last month. The Polish poet, translator, and scholar was well known for his essays on the life and work of Bruno Schulz and was "one of the best Holocaust poets" according to Yala Korwin (for more see The HyperTexts). I know little of his work, but I'm boning up. 

The excellent Twisted Spoon Press have just released Waiting for the Dog to Sleep, Ficowski's only collection of prose, which is wending its way to me as I blog. Twisted Spoon is "an independent publisher based in Prague. Focusing on translating a variety of writing from Central & Eastern Europe, our list includes some internationally recognized names as well as up-and-coming authors who are having their work published in English for the first time." They have a great list, so if RSB goes all Eastern European over the next month, you'll know why.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Memorial Tablet

Squire nagged and bullied till I went to fight,
(Under Lord Derby’s Scheme). I died in hell—
(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,
And I was hobbling back; and then a shell
Burst slick upon the duck-boards: so I fell
Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light.

At sermon-time, while Squire is in his pew,
He gives my gilded name a thoughtful stare:
For, though low down upon the list, I’m there;
‘In proud and glorious memory’... that’s my due.
Two bleeding years I fought in France, for Squire:
I suffered anguish that he’s never guessed.
Once I came home on leave: and then went west...
What greater glory could a man desire?

-- Siegfried Sassoon
Collected Poems (Faber and Faber)

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Word of the Day

The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or two

Pre-order Anu Garg's new book: The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or Two: The Hidden Lives and Strange Origins of Common and Not-So-Common Words (ISBN 9780452288614), published by Penguin more …

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October's Books of the Month

The New Spirit of Capitalism The New Spirit of Capitalism
Luc Boltanski; Eve Chiapello
Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM
Steve Lake, Paul Griffiths

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