May Pieces Of My Mind #2

Re-doing the roof
  • Movie: Ida (2013). A girl who has grown up in a church orphanage learns from her aunt about their family history in a road movie about post-war Polish guilt and accommodation. Grade: great!
  • On the Left, many despise Israel’s nationalist government but are not hostile to Jews in general. On the Brownshirt Right, it’s the other way around.
  • There’s no longer a phone connected to the landline we get for free with our broadband subscription.
  • I’ve signed an agreement with the Royal Academy of Letters today: they are publishing my annotated translation into modern English of Nils Mattsson Kiöping’s African and South Asian travelogue from 1667! To my knowledge it’s the first translation of this colourful and fascinating work into a foreign language, and I hope it will make a splash among 17th century historians worldwide. This will be my second book with the Academy. In 2011 they published my study of Östergötland’s Late Iron Age in the antiquarian series of their Proceedings, and Nils Mattsson will appear in the history series.
  • Wonder if plant geneticists have identified the secret ingredients in Coca-Cola by means of trace DNA.
  • Surprised to find that for the first time in my life, I have a longing to take part in a pub quiz. I guess that’s what 14 months of social distancing will do to you.
  • The battery in the wireless headphones is not running out. It’s the microwave oven that’s interfering with the bluetooth.
  • You know the distance from the earth to the sun? Almost exactly 1 astronomical unit. Makes you think!!!
  • Today’s porn cam operator on Messenger: Burnzee Cokidonk.
  • Reading the current issue of Fornvännen, I learned among other things that bakelite is still made and used. When preparing a sample for sectioning and metallographic study, scientists will encase it in bakelite. It was the first synthetic plastic, discovered in 1907.
  • My new album project is a collection of Julio Iglesias covers that will be marketed primarily towards the Baltic States. Working title: Latvian Lover.
  • For some particularly beautifully written interactive fiction / text adventures, check out Chandler Groover!
  • There’s an urban legend among archaeologists about a tourist in Sweden who asks if the Vikings are all living on reservations these days.
  • Another archaeological urban legend. An awestruck tourist picks a stone out of the spoil heap and asks the archaeologist: “Is this stone Medieval?” “You know what”, replies the archaeologist portentously. “It’s even older than that!”
  • “Broken crockery brings happiness, but only to archaeologists.” /Agatha Christie
  • Two fifths of adult Swedes have had the first shot.
  • Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki stories are silly. But the Electric Pentacle device is fun. (Thank you Birger!)
  • Movie: First Wives Club (1996). Three women get dumped by their husbands for young girls, then band together for revenge. Rich in snappy one-liners and completely unrealistic in style. Grade: OK.
  • Revered fantasy author Erik Granström has a degree in veterinary medicine. He once told me about watching Carpenter’s The Thing and being quite entertained when the autopsied man in the film proved to have calf kidneys.

Author: Martin R

Dr. Martin Rundkvist is a Swedish archaeologist, journal editor, skeptic, atheist, lefty liberal, bookworm, boardgamer, geocacher and father of two.

13 thoughts on “May Pieces Of My Mind #2”

  1. “You know the distance from the earth to the sun? Almost exactly 1 astronomical unit.”

    Isn’t it supposed to be that way?
    (checking definition of AU)
    Ah, yes, our AU is defined (in short) as the average distance between earth to the sun. While the unit is a specific number, the actual earth-to-sun distance varies. So, well, almost exactly…
    Very human-centric, but until an extrasolar sentient species shows up and proposes their own unit, I guess that this AU will have to do.
    Where the universe goes crazy is that there are suns longer in radius than one astronomical unit…
    Vega, IIRC, is one such big sun.

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    1. Actually, it’s a bit more complicated, as the current definition is slightly different. While it might make sense to define, say, speed of light, I’m not sure what the motivation is for the AU. No sort of astronomy needs the sort of precision which would notice any sort of variation in the actual distance.

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    2. This was in response to a possibly parodising Twitter Christian who was very worked out by the theological implications of water freezing at 0 and boiling at 100 Celsius.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. There was a long period, even before Newton, where astronomers understood enough about planetary orbits to work out all the ratios of the various orbits and many planetary disk sizes, but no one knew the absolute scale. For simplicity everything was done in terms of AUs, since the Earth was the only available observing platform.

      One of the goals of Captain Cook’s journey to observe the transit of Venus in 1769 was to get measurements that could be used to figure out that scale, that is, determine the value of the AU. The AU is still a useful measurement for astronomers, so it is going to stick around.

      The parsec is another weird unit based on the particulars of the Earth’s orbit. It’s defined as the distance to an object displaced in view by one second of angular measure at the extremes of the Earth’s orbit, that is, one half year apart. That was the longest surveying baseline available. Obviously, it is based on the AU. More modern sky surveys, like the one being done by Gaia, use more precise units and don’t worry about AUs, but when a new exoplanet is spotted, the first questions are how big is it compared to Earth and how does its orbit compare with Earth’s.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Almost. The displacement half a year apart is two parsecs, since the baseline is 2 AUs, the AU being the radius, not the diameter, of Earth’s orbit.

        Note that the AU, and hence the parsec, is now strictly defined by the International Astronomical Union, so it is infinitely precise.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. “You know the distance from the earth to the sun? Almost exactly 1 astronomical unit. Makes you think!!! ”

    And the circumference of the Earth is almost exactly 40,000 km. And a litre of water weighs almost exactly 1 kilogram.

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    1. The density of water depends on temperature. The warming climate will make water lighter. All that immense amount of sea water will get lighter, and therefore also the Earth. The decreasing gravitational pull towards the Sun means that AU must be redefined. That will mess up all astronomical tables! Not to mention what the increasing volume will do to the circumference!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Presumably a joke. However, even if the density decreased (which would be very,very slight), it wouldn’t change the mass. And even if it changed the mass, that would affect the AU only slightly (because both Sun and Earth orbit about the centre of mass, which wouldn’t be that much different even if the Earth weight half as much as it does).

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  3. “There’s no longer a phone connected to the landline we get for free with our broadband subscription.”
    Since you live in a residential area, your broadband is probably implemented with ADSL, which uses the same wires as the phone. I got rid of my wired phone in 2003, and since my broadband uses cable modem (i.e. TV coax) the phone wires a truly useless. AFAIK the building regulations still require them.

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    1. Even if it uses the same wires as the phone, it could still have an analog phone connection (which works even with no electricity in the house). Alternatively, the “analog phone connection” could actually be VOIP (which won’t work without local electricity).

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      1. Of course. In Sweden.

        Once in a conference arranged by the European Touring and Sightseeing Institute (ETSI, the organisation that wrote the GSM standars) three engineers were, after a hard day of standardising, having a well-deserved relaxing drink at the hotel bar. The engineer from Siemens boasted that German archeologists had found pieces of copper in the ground, which proved that ancient Germans had telephones. The engineer from Ericsson had to add that Swedish archeologists had found pieces of glass in the ground, which proved that ancient Swedes communicated with optical fibers.

        The engineer from Nokia had to admit that Finnish archeologists had not found anything in the ground, but that only proved that ancient Finns used wireless communications.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Agatha Christie’s second husband was an archeologist in the Mid-East. I gather she did some work with him in the field, but by then she was an established mystery writer.

    The First Wives Club was a much better book than a movie. It had a lot more bite, and a lot more time for clever scheming.

    I doubt Coca Cola has any trace DNA in it. (BTW Coca Cola was still made with cocaine into the 1990s and may still be today. Stepan Labs in New Jersey used to do the processing to strip out the illegal part. Cocaine is still used by doctors in the US for pain relief in intractable cases. A friend of mine is an anesthesiologist who needed some. The delivery man was handcuffed to the supply case and was admitted to the OR for the procedure.) Your best bet for analysis would be GC/MS (gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy. I’m guessing that the folks at Quest, IFF and the like have already done this analysis just for hack value. I’m sure they could cook up an excellent Coke-alike, subject to legal issues.

    Congratulations on the vaccinations in Sweden. In the US, the biggest uptake has been on tribal reservations. Native Americans went through enough with foreigners bringing in diseases. They’re pro-vax. Have the Vikings been helping out in Sweden?

    Liked by 1 person

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