Universe’s Oldest Galaxies

Yesterday the Sydney Morning Herald ran a piece from Bloomberg called “Hubble ‘Time Machine’ sees universe’s oldest galaxies” the gist of which was that the Hubble had seen these galaxies, the light of which had taken about 13 billion years to reach us. Now they estimated that this was around 600 to 900 million years after the Big Bang which kind of set everything in motion.

As I understand, the speed of light is an absolute in Universal terms. By my reckoning then, that means that these galaxies must have been around 900 million light years away from where the Big Bang actually occurred. That is the maximum distance, they may have been closer.

Now, this is where the whole thing screws up in my head. If they are 900 million light years away from the Big Bang, and it took 13 billion light years for the light from them to get to us, then the closest we can be to where the Big Bang occurred would be, oh, 12.1 billion light years.

This is where I have a problem. This means that assuming there was a Big Bang, we missed out on it as we were already too far away from it to be affected by it.

Me ‘ead ‘urts!

Books in Oz

I like to read. I like to go to the bookshop and wander around looking for a book to buy and to read. I also buy books online – but mostly I buy from the bookstore. The current Australian Labour Government, by a bowing to an interest group, has put at risk my ability to walk around a bookshop and buy a book.

The government has done this by bowing to the requests of the local publishing companies and Australian authors who lobbied for keeping the 30 day rule in place. See Books win for authors and publishers and Books decision a windfall for Amazon, says Fels from the Sydney Morning Herald for details of the decision.

The argument is that this 30 day rule protects Australian authors and ensures that their works will be published. Rot. Does anyone think that Matthew Reilly or Colleen McCulloch and company will really have trouble being published? Goodness, English publishers will publish works written by Swedish authors and then translated into English so if the story is good, it will be published.

It comes down to this. If writing is art, then no protection is needed – indeed, as art, no protection is desirable. If writing is business, then it can learn to compete like all other business has to.

Damn fool thing to keep in place. Write to your member of parliament and complain!

Gotta Love the Sydney Morning Herald … at times

Today there was a report in the Herald with the title Cables cut: CBD phone and internet services lost. This referred to fibre optic and copper cables being cut on the corner of York and Erskine Streets last night. This has caused loss of Internet and telephone communications to many people in the affected area. When there are local interest stories like this, the Herald calls for readers in or near the area to send SMS or email with additional pictures, news, comment etc. The request of this assistance today was priceless:

Have you been affected? If you can … text 0424 SMS SMH (+61 424 767 764), email us at scoop@smh.com.au or direct message on Twitter @smh_news or send a carrier pigeon!

Someone has a sense of humour at the Herald!

Thomo Strikes Again

I picked up my Significant Other (SO) a week or so ago in the city. As she got into the car she said “the car smells a little doesn’t it?” I replied “yeah, I noticed that the other day but wasn’t sure what it was.”

Time passed and each time SO or I got into the car, we’d notice the smell.

Two nights ago I said “I wonder if it is the umbrella in the boot – perhaps I put it in there when it was wet?”

“That could be it” said SO.

Today I got into the car to meet SO at Ashfield Mall. I noticed the smell again but when I got to the Mall I needed to get the shopping bags out of the boot. I opened the boot and sniffed and sure enough, the smell was still there. I grabbed the umbrella, felt it but it was dry. I then sniffed it – still no smell there. I moved the bags and shuffled things around but could not detect where the smell was coming from.

I then stuck my head further into the boot and then noticed, up the back of the boot, was a small tray of chopped lamb – a packet of meat like you would buy from the supermarket. The use by date on it was 15 July 2009. Today is 29 August 2009. Near as I can tell, it must have slid off the other shopping when I was driving back from the supermarket around 10 July 2009. As I would have shopped at night then I hadn’t noticed it.

Of course, it took me two weeks to actually look into the boot to see what the smell was.


Great Email Footers

I’ve mentioned them before here – those sometimes long, sometimes silly footers that are appended to emails to, generally, make a company’s legal folks think they actually have some control and can provide some protection to items sent out into the æther. This is a throwback to the days of mail, delivered by the Post Office and where in many countries, the mail was protected by law.

So, the result today of companies and other organisations trying to reproduce the perceived level of protection they had before is the email footer. Some carry dire threats of the retribution of the law, others are longer than a contract to appear in a Hollywood movie and still others are just plain silly. Take for example, the latest one to cause me a degree of mirth:

IMPORTANT: This email remains the property of the Australian Defence Organisation and is subject to the jurisdiction of section 70 of the Crimes Act 1914. If you have received this email in error, you are requested to contact the sender and delete the email.

Yes folks, the Australian Defence Organisation (ADO) wants to retain ownership of something floating in the æther. What the ADO has said here is that the email (the message transport mechanism) is still owned by the ADO, not the words. This is the same as saying of a snail mail that the sender retains ownership of the paper the message is written on.

The ADO should have tried stating that “the contents of the email remains the property of …”. Of course, it doesn’t protect the ADO from the whole world knowing the contents of an email that is sent to the wrong place but I guess it would make them feel that they were protected that way.

Valentine’s Day

OK, so it is Valentine’s Day. Firstly, to the local councils in the UK trying to eliminate the usage of the apostrophe, that’s Valentine’s, with apostrophes galore but no apologies anywhere.

As for Valentine’s Day itself, I can do no better than to point you towards that mine of misinformation, Wikipedia, which has quite a nice write-up of all things Valentinian.

Will I be sending Valentine Cards to people? I don’t think so – if you are going to profess undying love by cutting your heart out and giving your still beating heart to your lover, then you should do that on any day of the year, not wait for the commercial juggernaut that is Valentine’s Day –  chocolate, flowers and greeting cards.

There are more interesting events from February 14 to interest us, such as the very famous Saint Valentine’s Day massacre when several (actually, I think it was seven) people were killed in Prohibition Era Chicago. Two criminal gangs in Chicago, Illinois, cleverly called the South Side and the North Side gangs (guess which side of Chicago each gang was from) fought it out in the winter of 1929, The South Side Italian gang was led by the famous gangster and racketeer, Al Capone whilst the North Side Irish gang was led by the equally famous Bugs Moran.

Other notable  events occurred on 14 February and these could be an excuse for choclate at least. They include:

  • 1779, James Cook is killed by Native Hawaiians near Kealakekua on the Island of Hawaii – or as they were known in those times, the Sandwich Islands … no chocolate there.
  • 1797 during the French Revolutionary Wars, the Battle of Cape St. Vincent occurred where John Jervis, the 1st Earl of St Vincent and Horatio Nelson (later 1st Viscount Nelson) lead the British Royal Navy to victory over a Spanish fleet in action near Gibraltar – obviously worried about who was importing all that Valentine’s Day chocolate from the Americas.
  • 1804 and Karadjordje (try saying that name with a mouthful of chocolate) leads the First Serbian Uprising against the Ottoman Empire – obviously wanting cheaper chocolate.
  • 1831 in a really obscure one, leastwise for me, Ras Marye of Yejju marches into Tigray and defeats and kills Dejazmach Sabagadis in the Battle of Debre Abbay. Wonder if the fight was over the cutting off of the local supply of chocolate.
  • 1849 – In New York City, James Knox Polk becomes the first serving President of the United States to have his photograph taken and since then, every president seems to have spent a good proportion of his time ensuring that his photographs are more numerous than the president before him.
  • 1879 and the War of the Pacific breaks out when Chilean armed forces occupy the Bolivian port city of Antofagasta and seize the supply of chocolate that was hoarded there.
  • 1900 in the Second Boer War in South Africa, 20,000 British troops invade the Orange Free State after Jaffas (orange and dark chocolate).
  • 1961 and Lawrencium, chemical element 103, is first synthesised at the University of California when they were trying to synthesise chocolate.

So, really, there are many good other reasons to enjoy chocolate on Valentine’s Day, one just has to look hard enough.