Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Contrary weather. Sound barriers. The consequences of progress. Twins.

Here are two photos of the same hill, taken from the same spot, just outside my front door, on two consecutive days. This is what the weather is doing around here at the moment, alternating between bright and sunny cold and dull, damp and soggy cold. I suppose it keeps life interesting.

It’s sometimes hard to tell what the day will turn out like when I go for a run first thing. That’s assuming I go for a run first thing and don’t give in to the urge to snooze the alarm, sometimes twice(!), thus setting back the start of the day. But as the sun is not set to rise until after 8.00 and then it has to get over the hill opposite the house, it’s usually still rather twilightish when I go out. And considering that the sun sets before 4.00, there is not actually a lot of daylight time in a day at the moment. 

Yesterday we took advantage of the fine weather to walk up Lark Hill again, admiring the views and deploring the state of the path, which looks as though something large and tractorish has churned it up, sometimes in places where you would not expect a tractor to go. Between the huge wheels gauging out great trenches and the almost continual rain washing soil away the path surface is very poor! But the views are still good!

When I was a child we would occasionally hear a huge BANG! reverberating around. When we asked what it was, my father would explain that it was a plane breaking the sound barrier. I always imagined an invisible wall in the sky. If there was such a thing it must have been self-repairing, getting ready for the next plane to come along. This is something that no longer happens. Nobody has ever explained to me why not. No doubt clever, scientifically-minded people can do so. I was reminded of all this because Chuck Yeager, the first person to break the sound barrier has died at the age if 97. He was an American pilot and his story was told in a book and then a film called The Right Stuff. Obviously being a man of daring-do is good for longevity!

Will planes of the future fly on electric-powered systems? They will probably have to find some way of flying that is less polluting than the current system. I don’t see us all giving up the speed of travel that flights affords us - once we feel safe to travel around the world again. Which might happen soon as the first vaccinations against Covid have taken place today.

They’re already working on the electric car, ironing out the glitches so that it can become a normal way of doing things. But though this will reduce pollution it might still cause environmental damage. To make the batteries lithium is needed. Lithium needs to be mined. This article explains some of the problems of extracting lithium from the ground, largely leaving huge quarry-like scars on the landscape. Apparently Portugal has a good supply of lithium and some people are getting concerned about their countryside being exploited. Some are not bothered at all, however. This seems to be because many of the inland villages are being abandoned and people who live on the coast are not too worried about it: a touch nimbyism! It seems that we can’t develop something new without making a new kind of environmental damage. Such a shame! Is it not possible to find a way of mining without spoiling the countryside?

Here’s an article with pictures of twins, always intriguing! Apparently there is a region of China where there is a 25% chance of a pregnancy resulting in twins, as opposed to a worldwide 0.3% chance of identical twins and 1.5% chance of non-identical twins. In one village in the region out of 100 families there 10 sets of twins! So the region has a yearly twin festival and is visited by twins from all over the world. 

I remember one year when the college where I worked had three sets of identical twins in the same cohort. It was quite disconcerting to walk down the corridor and see first one twin and then a short while later the other. Quite fascinating though! 

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

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