Archive for June, 2010

Prison hostels

June 27, 2010

Crime is through the roof, partly because of the drug problem and partly because of Government policyin regard to saving money on Coppers and on prisons.

News feeds are coming out from Government to the effect that it’s not worth sending most offenders to prison, especially if their sentences are for short periods.

The fact is that we do not have sufficient prison facilities and that those we have would make a pensioner go on a killing spree, if he knew how well treated prisoners are. (I bet John Venables is cursing that he demanded a big screen TV to watch the World Cup, after England’s rout by Germany).

The reason that so many villains are being given short sentences is not actually a reflection of the mildness of their offences but of the desire by Government to reduce prison crowding.

There is also a problem of the cost of operating adequate probationary supervision for those improperly set free to prey on the public.

The next stage must surely be to decriminalise casual violence, muggings, burglary and any other crimes, which do not directly impinge on the lives of important people (e.g. MP’s ).

Until we can afford sufficient prison places or until we displace the notion that prison is supposed to rehabilitate and reform these naughty people, with the notion that prison is actually to keep them away from the public. (much the same as the way Tigers in Zoo’s are behind bars, instead of roaming our streets.), we need an alternative system.

If these criminals are deemed fit to operate under probationary supervision, then try building Hostels, along the lines of those provided for use by the homeless.  The Probationary staff could be based in the Hostels, with their charges required to report in by 7 p.m. and not released until 7 a.m. They can go home for food etc. but would be, at least, partly separated from the Public, and at those times of day, when they are most rapacious.

One extra benefit is that most of their more ridiculous human rights claims would be catered for, by such an arrangement, whilst giving the Probation Personnel a slightly better system of monitoring their charges.

Each Council could be charged with providing or locating suitable accomodation, commensurate with their catchment area.

It might be that this day release system might be abused by those who believe that they can not be sent to a real prison, in which case, our own Devil’s island community might be the answer. Perhaps somewhere such as Guinard Island could be set up with its own self-sustaining community, complete with Poppy fields etc.


Let’s get back to Government considering that their first duty is to protect and to serve the people, not to pander to those with a hobby horse to ride and accompanying attributes of a load voice or deep pockets.

gender stereotypes

June 27, 2010

When I was a little boy, the films that I watched were usually action/adventure types.

Annoyingly they often had stupid girls in them, that the hero got mushy over and who he, unfathomably, persisted in keeping alive, despite every effort on her part to cause the death of both of them. I was reminded of this, by the film East of Sudan, where Anthony Quayle allowed Sylvia Syms live, when I would have cheerfully shot her.

Obviously, I can now see the reason that he tolerated her vacuity but I did grow up with a stereotype image of womankind, which was not fair.

Watching modern films and adverts, which seem to cast all men as Bob Hope’s Painless Potter dupes, protected by smart Jane Russell types.

Bob Hope films had the redeeming feature that they were comedies and such characters didn’t exist in real life, whereas nowadays these roles are played as a true reflection of the gender roles.

Are girls growing up believing that most men are planks, who are open to their emotions (cry a lot) and whom they will be expected to look after, when what they really want is the type of man that my generation was taught to be. Men, who get bullet holes in them but can still climb a cliff-face and fight of their abductors?

bacon butties

June 27, 2010

If you like bacon butties but don’t like paying for expensive lean and trimmed slices that haven’t been pumped full of water, try this.

Buy a tin of luncheon meat. Slice it thin and fry until crisp. Put between two pieces of buttered bread and eat. One extra good point is that the shape of the meat allows a  neat, even filling.

‘erewego…… out

June 27, 2010
Who would have thought that three young, fit, German greyhounds could penetrate England’ s solid two-man, defensive wall , so readily.
The surprise use of such tactics was obviously not designed to fit in with Capello’s well worked diamond formation of 2332.
For the first goal the Germans didn’t even bother trying to slot the ball through our six man midfield, they just by-passed the whole team and relied on the speed of their front man, to get him past the obviously tired and aging John Terry and the almost as slow Upson.
The worst aspect of this game, apart from the moronic drummer, who drowned out the vavuzela’s, was the fact that we have missed a golden opportunity to lambast Sepp Blatter into allowing goal-line technology.
We could have spent hours of punditry, bemoaning the dismissed goal, that was seen to be, obviously, over the line, by everyone in a world-wide audience, except three Uruguayans, who forgot to bring their guide dogs.
As the astute BBC commentator kept telling us, if he (the linesman) didn’t see it (even though he was closer than most of the spectators, who did,), then he couldn’t give it.
Still; on the bright side Capello has promised to stay in charge and presumably, he will coach the next team of England players to cope with this German cunning, by resorting to the four man defensive line-up that was adopted after Germany’s fourth goal.
It would be nice to think that he might even watch The Uruguayan team’s defensive system and possibly learn some positional tactics.
I  feel sorry for our footballers. For those made to play a system unsuited to their abilities and for those, such as Peter Crouch, who might have made a difference.

Stellar evolution

June 23, 2010

Stellar evolution.

I had to teach about Stellar evolution as part of The ‘A’-Level Physics syllabus.

I was concerned that the sources, which I found, tended to skimp over certain aspects such as the evolution from a Red Giant to a White Dwarf. This sort of thing is annoying as it’s not difficult to explain and actually helps to firm in one’s understanding of the process.

So here’s my potted version.

Space is a balloon.

First think about the Big Bang and the Energy that was  released as  being used to make the Universe expand. A poor analogy is that of a balloon being blown up, where energy is stored in the stretched rubber.

Here I’m trying to get you to think of everything in the Universe being pulled towards each other with  Gravity doing the pulling. It may not be a very Scientific analogy but  think of the tension in the ballon’s rubber, as being the same relationship as between Gravity and Space.


As two objects, in Space, move towards each other, this stored energy turns into kinetic energy I.e. they speed up: And just as two magnets will jump towards each other making a loud noise, so these objects in Space will rush together, releasing their energy in various forms.

We see this behaviour in shooting stars (digression: a meteoroid is a rock in Space, a meteor is a shooting star, a meteorite is a meteoroid that has been a shooting star and has eventually reached the Earth’s surface), where the energy released by the collisions between the meteor and the molecules of air is the frictional heating  that causes the meteor to get hot.

Stellar nurseries and proto-stars

Space is filled with Hydrogen, formed from the matter that condensed out of the Big Bang (Think of matter as a peculiar  form of energy, in this case the electron and proton of which each Hydrogen atom is made).

Gravity pulls these atoms together and they form clouds of Hydrogen gas.

Within these clouds the atoms are colliding and getting hotter as they are pulled into clumps of gas.

Eventually some clumps get hot enough to glow and emit light, just like an electric wire does as it gets hotter. These clumps of hot gas are called proto-stars, because they emit light like stars but are not yet big enough to turn into stars.

Birth of a star.

Eventually a proto-star will collect enough gas (or merge with other proto-stars) to create a high enough temperature that the individual atoms are moving so fast that that when they collide, instead of bouncing off each other, their protons join together in a nuclear fusion ( literally the melting of the the nuclei of the nuclei of the atoms). The temperature needed is about 10, 000, 000 °C but, once the first two have fused, the energy released is enough to  enable nearby atoms to get hot enough to merge and Boom! A star is born.  Think of this a like lighting a fire . Rub two sticks to get frictional heating, eventually some of the wood is hot enough to cause a chemical reaction that we call fire. The chemical reaction releases heat energy, which is enough to start  other parts of the wood to burn.

Please try to avoid referring to stars as burning. Fires are a chemical reaction,  stars get their energy from some of their matter turning into energy (i.e. nuclear energy E = mc ²)

Mainstream stars

These stars are called Mainstream stars, because their energy comes from Hydrogen nuclei fusing together. This is not strictly true, as these new atoms (such as Deuterium) can actually fuse together (at a much lower temperature) and form Helium, which can, in turn fuse together to form bigger nuclei. For the sake of simplicity, we say that “Mainstream stars consume Hydrogen” and that is the answer that you give when asked “what is a Mainstream star?”.


Stellar lifespan

The life of a star is dependent on how big its proto-star was.

Our Sun is quite small and its surface temperature is about 6,000 °C. It therefore gives out most of its radiated energy as yellow light, although the spectrum / rainbow shows that it also gives out other colours, which combine to give what we call white light. As our star is small and quite cool compared to other stars, it is not consuming its Hydrogen quite so fast  and is only half-way through its lifespan (barring accidents) of 10 billion years.

Some stars are much, much larger and are much, much hotter. These give out most of their light in the blue end of the spectrum and are called blue giants. They do not last as long and end their lives in a much more spectacular way than our Sun will.


The death of our Sun

Once more consider the analogy of a balloon. The Hydrogen is being pulled towards the core by Gravity (the tension in the balloon’s rubber) but it is prevented from shrinking because photons of light are pushing the Hydrogen atoms back, as they smash into them, on their way to the Sun’s surface and on, out into Space. (the analogy is the atoms of air inside of the balloon smashing into the inside surface of the rubber skin)

So, at present our Sun is stable.

The outward force of the photons balances the inward gravitational pull on the Hydrogen atoms.

(The Sun does vary in size as these forces fluctuate, but on average the forces are pretty constant)

Eventually, all those atoms in the core that are fusing, will have done so and, although there will still be a huge amount of Hydrogen outside the central mass, no more will be able to reach the core  and get to the region where the temperatures are high enough to maintain the fusion of Hydrogen. The forces will become unbalanced.

Those atoms  near enough to the core will be pulled inward and the temperature will begin to rise again as the dominant fusion process will be the consumption of Helium. Our Sun will become a white dwarf. It will be much smaller in diameter but very hot and the two forces will once more balance.

We won’t see this happen, because the Hydrogen that is not near enough to the car will be getting blown outwards by the escaping photon’s.

What we will see is the growth of a Red Giant.

As these gases expand they will cool and just as a piece of Iron in a Smithy changes from white to orange to red to cherry red to black (no visible light), our Sun will appear to get larger and redder until eventually, having engulfed the Earth, these gases cool enough to allow us to see the White dwarf at its core.

The white dwarf  will carry on converting atoms into bigger and bigger atoms, possibly past atoms with nuclei as big as Iron

[Once nuclei are bigger than that of Iron internal nuclear forces come into play that resist Gravity and  there is no release of energy by nuclear fusion. In fact they “soak up” any energy that is being released. That is why very large nuclei such as Uranium  (formed inside very large star) split up into smaller nuclei. ]

The white dwarf will cool into a Red Dwarf, Brown Dwarf and eventually a large black lump of mainly Iron and Nickel, much like the core of the planets.


Death of a Blue Giant

As mentioned earlier these are much more massive than our Sun, so when they die their death is much more spectacular. When their core finishes consuming Hydrogen, the collapse is violent that it passes though the white dwarf stage very quickly and forms one huge nucleus, where the protons and neutrons all become neutrons (protons can turn into a neutron and a positron) and we get a neutron star. From here on I’m waffling. I assume that it’s the positrons (anti-matter versions of electrons) being annihilated by electrons in the outer layers, which causes the huge amount of energy released into the surrounding gases and gives us the appearance of a Supernova  (nova from the Latin meaning new, in the sense of a new star and Super meaning over or above. So a new star in the sky so bright that it may, in some cases, even be seen in day time).

The core of the original star will have been spinning, so the core of the neutron star will spin very fast (law of angular momentum as seen in ice-skaters pirouette) and give out a beam of radio waves  creating a Pulsar.

If the star is really massive, the neutron star will be able to prevent even light escaping its gravitational pull and we refer to it as a Black Hole.

Note just as a Red Giant doesn’t turn into a White Dwarf, neither does a Supernova turn into a Black Hole. It’s just obscured by the blinding pulse of light of a Supernova, which only lasts a year, or so.

The Falklands

June 23, 2010

I enjoyed reading this forum:

some extracts:

Furthermore, and to clarify one of the biggest confusions in our claim for the Islands, Argentina has never legally owned the Islands under international law.

The Islands do not belong to Britain in the sense we think they do, they are self governing. Britain cannot – under international law- give the Islands to anyone.

Our special relationship

June 23, 2010

There are many admirable things about America but our special relationship with them is not one.

As a baby boomer, with a politically oriented father, I was made aware of Lend-Lease, early on.

When Britain was fighting a holding war against Hitler, Americans were arguing about whether we should be left to stew. There were some, who recognised that Hitler would use the conquest of Europe as the basis for an attack on America. There were others, who argued, vehemently, for allowing the conquest to succeed and not to give any aid.

Britain’s request for armaments to fight the war was met by an offer of a fleet of rusting hulks (only six were fit for service by the time Britain built up its shipbuilding program). In exchange the Americans “only” wanted all British controlled territories,  in The West Indies plus a guarantee that when the Germans eventually captured Britain, the whole of the British fleet would be handed over to the U.S. Strange that they wanted a fleet, which they had argued that they wouldn’t need!

This extract from Harold Wilson’s memoirs gives a flavour of how our special relationship helped  destabilise and pauperise this nation, at a time, when The U.S. was actually pouring aid into our former enemies and placing them in a position to out-compete us, commercially.

Lend-Lease also involved Britain’s surrender of her rights and royalties in a series of British technological achievements. Although the British performance in industrial techniques in the inter-war years had been marked by a period of more general decline, the achievements of our scientists and technologists had equalled the most remarkable eras of British inventive greatness. Radar, antibiotics, jet aircraft and British advances in nuclear research had created an industrial revolution all over the developed world. Under Lend-Lease, these inventions were surrendered as part of the inter-Allied war effort, free of any royalty or other payments from the United States. Had Churchill been able to insist on adequate royalties for these inventions, both our wartime and our post-war balance of payments would have been very different.

The Attlee Government had to face the consequences of this surrender of our technological patrimony, but there was worse to come. Congress had voted Lend-Lease until the end of the war with Germany and Japan and no longer. When the European war ended, most people expected the conflict with Japan to last for another year or so. The atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima ended that assumption. Almost within the hour, President Truman, unwillingly no doubt, but without any choice in the matter, notified Attlee that Lend-Lease was being cut off. At that time it was worth £2,000 million a year. There was no possible means of increasing our exports to the United States to earn that sort of sum. Britain was in pawn, at the very time that Attlee was fighting to exert some influence on the postwar European settlement. The only solution was to negotiate a huge American loan, the repayment and servicing of which placed a burden on Britain’s balance of payments right into the twenty-first century

The comment about our war-time “saviour”, Winston Churchill is interesting, as the National Debt has been the key factor in all our budget decisions and in all our elections, since the War.

It was the hold that America had over us, through this debt, which led to our Cotton and Steel Industries being given to Countries in the Far  East. This was part of America’s foreign policy to stem the spread of Communism in that region. Its consequent destruction of the economy in the Northern regions of Britain hardly concerned the Americans, or even our own Southern based politicians, who looked to the City for their teats.

Teacher training days

June 21, 2010

The recent story, about a school spending £40,000 on a teacher training day, points up the pointlessness of these training days.

Do teachers really need five days a year to teach them how to teach, or even how to cope with successive government initiatives?

Remember that these days were taken off school holiday allocations, by Kenneth Baker, as part of the introduction of the New (1979) National Curriculum.

If four of these days were re-instated as holiday periods, or even added to the school year, then that would be four days where Heads didn’t have to fill a potential void with hired speakers or materials for motivational talks etc. Four days where Senior Staff could get on with more directly relevant issues instead of planning and organising these events. 

At a time of national belt tightening, the savings made, especially if the days were re-instated as holidays, would be more beneficial to the schools’ budgets than artificially contrived Whole School teacher training.

Double BST

June 21, 2010

Once more there is the lament that we should have British Summer Time year round. Now it’s for double British Summer Time.

Who wants it? Corporations doing business with the France and a few other nearby European partners. A few of those lucky people, in the South of England, who do not need to work and would like to sleep in and enjoy late Summer Evenings at the Bistro.

Scotland abhors the idea, because it foresees more of its school children dying in the Wintertime journey to school. Scottish politicians don’t make mention of the cost of providing lighting and heating at home, school and work that would be incurred for periods that would last until close to midday.

Other regions, South of Scotland but North of London would have to endure a proportionate version of these problems.

Instead of BST, it would be more practicable if we had informal time zones.

Instead of Office’s in London and the South-East working 9 ‘til 5. Let them work 8 ‘til 4. 

Not all Office’s would want or need to do this but sufficient numbers doing so, would alleviate the cost and problems associated with Rush Hour congestion.

Schools could have more flexible timetables that matched local needs, with facilities provided for care of children, whose parents have ill-matching timetables.

Most associated problems could be dealt with, using a less rigid system of working practices.

IPSA schadenfreude

June 21, 2010

As with your (Daily Express) columnist, I take great joy in hearing of MP’s having to cope with the sort of Bureaucratic machinery and related form- filling that they have imposed on us. From the trivial name and address routine, legally required, when purchasing a TV, through the intrusive and time consuming interrogation by banks and businesses such as Virgin Media, to, allegedly, establish that you are not a terrorist or money-launderer, right up to the lengthy and irrelevant information demanded when applying for a job as a shelf-stacker at Tesco’s.

Most of this form-filling was presumably brought in to persuade us, as to how much easier it would be, if we agreed to buy ID cards.

How much easier would MP’s lives be if they just accepted their more than ample salary and paid for work associated  expenses out of their own pockets. Who else claims such expenses? Certainly not those who are about to bear the brunt of Government ineptitude.