Friday, 31 December 2021
Thursday, 9 December 2021
Erwin Schrodinger, (1887 – 1961), created the most famous thought experiment of all time. However, it has been generally misunderstood. Quantum physics is a subject that’s hard to understand. Indeed, Richard Feynman, one of the greatest of modern physicists is quoted as saying, “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics”. Some of the apparent fundamentals of the quantum world appear to be beyond our understanding; I’ll modify that – ALL of the apparent fundamentals of the quantum world appear to be beyond our understanding! So don’t worry if this short article doesn’t shine a light on your comprehension of this subject. It’s not meant to; it can’t…
But it might help you to understand the function of Schrodinger’s thought experiment. In a conversation with Albert Einstein in 1935, in which Schrodinger discussed his concerns about the most popular interpretation of quantum physics, known as the Copenhagen Interpretation. The problem was with what became known as Quantum Superposition, in which, at a sub-atomic level two different particles appeared to be occupying the same space at the same time. The one that actually was in that place depended on it being looked at! Don’t try to work it out.
In Schrodinger's imaginary experiment, you place a cat in a box with a tiny bit of radioactive substance. When the radioactive substance decays, it triggers a Geiger counter which causes a poison or explosion to be released that kills the cat. Now, the decay of the radioactive substance is governed by the laws of quantum mechanics. This means that the atom starts in a combined state of "going to decay" and "not going to decay". Therefore, the cat is considered to be both dead and alive at the same time but only until it is observed, at which time it will become either one or the other! Here’s where the misconception is: this wasn’t meant to explain quantum theory but to point out the paradox it contains.
I'm listening to the classical guitarist John Williams play JS Bach's Gavotte & Rondo. Andre Segovia said of Williams, when he was still a teenager, "God has laid a finger on his brow." Listen to it here!
Tuesday, 2 November 2021
Andy Warhol, born Andy Warhola Jr in 1928, was an enigma even to those who were close to him. He became well known in the 1960s in the field of Pop Art and filming-making. His images of Jackie Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and even of tins of Campbell’s soup became world-famous iconic images, However, these ten selected images show him as he wanted to be seen by the world. The works are portraits of the artist's masks and their ambiguity lies in whether they are, in fact, accurate representations of the real Warhol or simply a means of deception - an act in pursuit of privacy. See what you think…
I'm listening to the American country singer Iris DeMent with her song Let the Mystery Be which is about whether or not there is an afterlife. She's not everyones cup of tea but I love her voice and her quirky facial expressions. And I also really like seeing real musicians playing. Listen here - it's fun!
Thursday, 23 September 2021
Intriguingly, it could be said that Peter Pan and Captain Hook are buried close together at the church of St John-At-Hampstead. Hampstead has long been a place for the rich and famous of London to live, away from the hustle and bustle. Its location is on a hill elevated above the city with natural spring waters. It is thought there has been a site of worship here since after 986AD when Hampstead was given to the monks of Westminster Abbey. The first record of a church here 1312 with a bishop by the name of John de Neuport.
In 1812, the churchyard became too full and an over-spill graveyard just the other side of the street was procured. It is in one corner of this quiet graveyard that you will find the family grave of the Llewelyn-Davies family. Arthur (1863-1907) and Sylvia (1866-1910) Llewelyn Davies had 5 boys: George, Jack, Peter, Michael and Nicholas. George and Jack were out walking one day in 1897 with their Nanny in Kensington Gardens when they met J M Barrie, future author of Peter Pan. Barrie went on to befriend the whole family and became a big part of their lives. They went on holidays together and he supporting them financially and emotionally after Arthur’s death. After Sylvia’s death in 1910 he became the children’s guardian and was known to them as ‘Uncle Jim’.
The Llewelyn-Davies family became his inspiration for the Darling family in Peter Pan with the title character of Peter being named after Peter Llewelyn-Davies. The character of Peter, Barrie said, was an amalgamation of the five boy’s personalities.Tragically the Llewelyn children had generally unhappy and short lives. George died at the age of 21 as a soldier in the First World War and Michael drowned at the age of 20 in 1921 (thought to be a suicide). Peter also took his own life in 1960 at the age of 63 by throwing himself under a train. He was taunted at Eton for the connection with Peter Pan and believed that Barrie had exploited him. He called Peter Pan ‘that terrible masterpiece’ and it is thought that the association led him to alcoholism and depression.
Captain Hook: The story of Peter Pan was, to begin with, a play and was first performed in 1904 at the Duke of York’s theatre in the West End. The villain, Captain Hook, was played by Gerald Du Maurier. You can find him buried right by the Llewelyn-Davies family grave. But why are they buried so close? Gerald was the brother of Sylvia Llewellyn-Davies and uncle to the Llewelyn-Davies boys. Gerald’s daughter was the author, Daphne du Maurier. Credit: LivingLondonHistory.Com
I'm listening to the fabulous Joni Mitchell singing one of her very lovely songs from the album Blue. You can listen to Carey here.
Wednesday, 25 August 2021
2. The “Warrior gene” has been used in court as a defence for brutal crimes. MAO-A or Monoamine oxidase A to be precise, is a gene that breaks down serotonin, a chemical in our brain that we need to feel good. When MAO-A is less active, explains Dr Sally McSwiggan, the result is a higher concentration of serotonin in our grey matter. Some think this results in us becoming more impulsive, more emotional and more aggressive. Up to 60% of us are walking around with the low activity “warrior” version of MAO-A and most will never commit a crime.
PAX6 is the gene that tells an embryo to build an eye. It is expressed very early on, as Professor Veronica van Heyningen explains, only a week or two after fertilisation in the human embryo. Before the brain is even really a brain – more a tube of nerve cells – the eyes begin to “bud out”. PAX6 is then expressed in all different layers of the eye from the retina to the cornea to the lens.
Huntington’s disease is an inherited neurological disorder which stops parts of the brain working properly over time. Initial symptoms can include difficulty concentrating and involuntary movements of the limbs and body. There's currently no cure for Huntington's disease or any way to stop it getting worse.
Thursday, 19 August 2021
One of the deciding reasons that London won the right to stage the Olympic Games in 2012 was their impressive Legacy Programme. Last Sunday (15th August) I led my charity walking group there for the third time. The Olympic Park is accessed via Westfield Stratford City, Europe's largest urban shopping and leisure destination. Launched in September 2011 creating 10,000 jobs, the £2 billion development is the prestigious gateway to the Olympic Park in London and attracted an unprecedented 48 million visitors in the Olympic year. It features the first large-scale use in the world of Pave-gen flooring, creating electricity from kinetic energy of the footsteps of visitors.
The first major sight in the Park is the stunning London Aquatics Centre designed by the late Zaha Hadid, still the world’s most technically advanced swimming centre where Olympic Diving Gold Medalist Tom Daley has chosen to base himself.
But these days the most impressive thing is the extensive new developments. The former Athletes Village has been turned into ‘affordable housing’ for key workers and a whole new district has grown around it with a community, an Academy School and hard-to-get yet high-priced housing. There will be more than 34,000 new homes built in five new neighbourhoods around the Queen Elizabeth Park by 2030.
The Victoria & Albert Museum will have a branch there in partnership with The Smithsonian, the BBC is building a state-of-the art music studio and its orchestra will have a home in the Park. The London School of Fashion will be there along with a huge new campus for University College London, East. Sadler's Wells are building a new theatre for dance. The former Broadcast Centre from the London Games has become a 1.2m square feet centre for scientific start-ups in co-ordination with the universities. Despite the extensive building and development there is still plenty of green space and gardens with real ecological purpose. The worlds largest and tallest sculpture, the ArcelorMittal Orbit stands in the park and now has a slide around it!
The newest addition is The London Blossom Garden, a memorial to London's victims of Covid-19 and all of the services who are helping.
I'm listening to Handel's Arrival of the Queen of Sheba. It's always uplifting so if you would like a drug-free boost, listen HERE.
Thursday, 29 July 2021
THE HISTORY OF THE CAR RADIO
I have ‘doctored’ this story to make it less technical. Cars haven’t always had radios. One evening, in 1929, two young men named William Lear and Elmer Wavering drove their girlfriends to a lookout point high above the Mississippi River town of Quincy, Illinois, to watch the sunset. It was a romantic night to be sure, but one of the women observed that it would be even nicer if they could listen to music in the car.
Lear and Wavering liked the idea. Both men had tinkered with radios (Lear was a radio operator in the Navy during World War I) and it wasn't long before they were taking apart a home radio and trying to get it to work in a car. But it wasn't easy: automobiles have ignition switches, generators, spark plugs, and other electrical equipment that generate noisy interference, making it nearly impossible to listen to the radio with the engine running.
One by one, Lear and Wavering identified and eliminated each source of electrical interference. When they finally got their radio to work, they took it to a radio convention in Chicago. There they met Paul Galvin of the Galvin Manufacturing Corporation. He made a product called a "battery eliminator", a device that allowed battery-powered radios to run on household AC current. Galvin needed a new product to manufacture. When he met Lear and Wavering at the radio convention, he had found it. He believed that mass-produced, affordable car radios had the potential to become a huge business.
Lear and Wavering set up shop in Galvin's factory and when they perfected their first radio, they installed it in his Studebaker. Then Galvin went to a local banker to apply for a loan. Thinking it might sweeten the deal, he had his men install a radio in the banker's Packard. Good idea, but it didn't work – thirty minutes after the installation, the car caught fire and they didn't get the loan. Galvin didn't give up. He drove his Studebaker nearly 800 miles to Atlantic City to show off the radio at the 1930 Radio Manufacturers Association convention. Unable to afford a booth, he parked his car outside the convention hall and cranked up the radio so that passing conventioneers could hear it. That idea worked; he got enough orders to put the radio into production.
WHAT'S IN A NAME? That first production model was called the 5T71. Galvin decided he needed to come up with something a little catchier.
In 1930, it took two men several days to install a car radio; the dashboard had to be taken apart so that the receiver and a single speaker could be installed and the ceiling had to be cut open to install the aerial. These early radios ran on their own batteries, not on the car battery, so holes had to be cut into the floorboard to accommodate them. The installation manual had eight complete diagrams and 28 pages of instructions. Selling complicated car radios that cost 20 percent of the price of a brand-new car wouldn't have been easy in the best of times, let alone during the Great Depression. Galvin lost money in 1930 and struggled for a couple of years after that. But things picked up in 1933 when Ford began offering Motorola's pre-installed at the factory. In 1934 they got another boost when Galvin struck a deal with B.F.Goodrich tyre company to sell and install them in its chain of USA tyre stores.
By then the price of the radio, with installation included, had dropped to $55. The Motorola car radio was off and running. The name of the company was changed from Galvin Manufacturing to "Motorola" in 1947. In the meantime, Galvin continued to develop new uses for car radios. In 1940 he developed the first Walkiw-Talkie for the U.S. Army. A lot of the communications technologies that we take for granted today were born in Motorola labs in the years that followed World War II. In 1947 they came out with the first television for under $200. In 1956 the company introduced the world's first pager; in 1969 came the radio and television equipment that was used to broadcast Neil Armstrong's first steps on the Moon. In 1973 it invented the world's first handheld cellular phone. Motorola became one of the largest cell phone manufacturers in the world. And it all started with the car radio.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO the two men who installed the first radio in Paul Galvin's car? Elmer Wavering and William Lear, ended up taking very different paths in life. Wavering stayed with Motorola. In the 1950's he helped change the automobile experience again when he developed the first automotive alternator, replacing inefficient and unreliable generators. The invention led to such luxuries as power windows, power seats, and, eventually, air-conditioning.
Lear also continued inventing. He held more than 150 patents. Remember the eight-track tape player? Lear invented that. But what he's really famous for are his contributions to the field of aviation. He invented radio direction finders for planes, aided in the invention of the autopilot, designed the first fully automatic aircraft landing system, and in 1963 introduced his most famous invention of all, the Lear Jet, the world's first mass-produced, affordable business jet. Not bad for someone who dropped out of school early!
I'm listening to Janis Joplin's heartfelt version of Me and Bobby McGee. Listen here.
Sunday, 25 July 2021
Robert Wyatt, born 1945, is a retired English musician. He was a founding member of the influential bands Soft Machine and Matching Mole in the Canterbury music scene. He initially played drums and sang before becoming paraplegic after a drunken fall from a window in 1973. He abandoned band work and began a forty-year solo career exploring other instruments. Wyatt's work became increasingly interpretative, collaborative and politicised from the mid 1970s onwards.
His solo music has covered a particularly individual musical terrain ranging from covers of pop singles to shifting amorphous song collections drawing on elements of jazz, folk and nursery rhyme. Wyatt retired from his music career in 2014, stating "there is a pride in stopping, I don’t want the music to go off”
I think his music is very special, sometimes very moving. If you listen to nothing else here listen to “O’Caroline” by Matching Mole. I have said here before that I like sad songs and this always makes me stop and listen.“Shipbuilding” was composed with Robert Wyatt in mind by Clive Langer and lyrics by Elvis Costello for whom it was a hit single. Listen here.
His cover of “I’m a Believer” is very different to The Monkee’s version. Listen here
“Heaps of Sheeps” is a hypnotic up tempo rock anthem. Listen here.
“O’Caroline” by Matching Mole. Written and sung by Robert. Achingly sad…Listen here.
Tuesday, 15 June 2021
Thursday, 8 April 2021
China BAI DU (Their censored version of Google)
France & Spain AMAZON
Laos (and Niger) MICROSOFT
Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway & Iceland IKEA
Republic of Ireland NETFLIX
Russia & most former Soviet States plus most of Africa GOOGLE
South Korea NETFLIX (North Korea NO INFORMATION)
United States AMAZON
United Kingdom EBAY
Virtually all of Central & South America NETFLIX
I suspect that the following places didn’t have many respondents!
French Southern & Antarctic Lands COCO COLA
Heard Island & McDonald Islands HENNESSY
Pitcairn Islands PEPSI (Population c.50)
South Georgia & The South Sandwich Islands PAMPERS (what?!)
I'm listening to the evergreen song Man of Constant Sorrow by Jackson Browne & Sharron Shannon. Listen here!
Monday, 15 March 2021
I have always been a keen admirer of Poster Art. It is often dismissed as illustration as opposed to Fine Art, which is true. Fine art exists for it's own sake ('Art for art's sake'; it has no utilitarian function), whereas illustration serves a specific purpose, usually commercial or educational. However that does not exclude beauty or being able to derive pleasure from Poster Art. I have previously Blogged about London Transport poster art - another source of great enjoyment and also female poster artists. Here are some of the best early cinema posters with minimal comment. They are purely for enjoyment!
|1913, In the style of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema I would say.|
|1914, With the great strap-line: |
"Upton Sinclair's wonderful story of the beef packing industry"!
|1917, Theda Bara got there before Elizabeth Taylor|
|1917, Reminiscent of Victorian moral painting|
|Mary Pickford was 29 in 1921 when this was made.|
I think it might be considered somewhat dubious today!
|1923, Who knew that Rin Tin Tin was |
around nearly a century ago?
Wednesday, 17 February 2021
I think the largo, (second movement), of Dvorak's New World Symphony is one of the most beautiful and memorable melodies in the classical repertoire. Apparently other's have felt this way too, as I demonstrate below. Dvorak completed the work in the United States in 1893. It's formal title is Symphony No. 9 in E minor, "From the New World", Op. 95, B. 178.
Firstly you can listen to an extract from second movement played by the Dublin Philharmonic here.
Then, my very favourite, the spiritual song "Going Home", which borrows the melody, sung here by the stunning Norwegian soprano Sissel.
Now a song from 1968 by the Scottish group A New Generation (who later became The Sullivan Brothers). Their song, which faithfully reproduces the opening chords from Dvorak is called "Smokey Blues Away". Click here to listen.
Wednesday, 3 February 2021
Peter Gabriel was, along with Mike Rutherford and others, one of the founders of Genesis, the British progressive rock group. Later they were joined by Phil Collins, who took over vocals after Peter Gabriel left to go solo. I was never especially keen on their music but Peter's solo output was much more interesting to me. Solsbury Hill was, in my opinion, his very best creation. Here's the story. The song is about a spiritual experience that Peter had on Little Solsbury Hill in Somerset, England. Gabriel has said that the song is "about being prepared to lose what you have for what you might get, or what you are for what you might be. It's about letting go", not just the leaving of Genesis but of letting go in general. The opening lyric perfectly sets the scene for the story:
Climbing up on Solsbury Hill
I could see the city light
Wind was blowing, time stood still
Eagle flew out of the night
He was something to observe
Came in close, I heard a voice
Standing stretching every nerve
I had to listen, had no choice
But the song is also very interesting musically. It is in 7/4 time, which is very rare in popular music and a difficult tempo which helps to convey the idea of 'struggle' within the song. There is the sense that a beat is missing at the end of every bar. When the song has been covered by other artists, for instance Erasure, they have recorded it in the easier 4/4 time thus losing something essential from the song.
The pulse of the song is the constant drumbeat which is like a heartbeat. The sound is actually made by a single drumstick beating on a telephone book! The time-signature works because of the acoustic guitar riffs played by Lou Reed and Steve Hunter, the guitarist from Alice Cooper's band. The four notes played on flute just before the opening lyrics are played by Peter Gabriel himself.
There's not really a chorus in the song but the last line of each of the three refrains is the nearest thing to it. It's always a variation of "My heart going boom, boom, boom. Son, he said, grab your things I've come to take you home."
It's a song that demands to be listened to. Watch this YouTube video which is a joyful montage of different live recordings over the years showing his consistent high quality of work.
If you would like to listen to the original recording, it's HERE
Tuesday, 5 January 2021
The painting combines elements of still life, portraiture and landscape with a strong diagonal divide provided by the railing, which is still evident in the present day view, below.