Monday, 28 March 2011

Another Early Spring

I've just noticed that one of my plum trees is coming into flower. The gardening books, which base their judgements on the experience of past generations, suggest April as the usual time for plums and cherries to flower, with apples following in May. I shall be interested to see when my apple blossom appears.

At the time I thought that last November's snow and the cold December that followed could indicate a cold Winter of the sort I grew up to expect. Not so apparently.

If it goes on like this for another 50 years, it will start to look like climate change, a change for the better in my judgement, though I shan't be around to enjoy it.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Dining on Iodine ?

In several recent news broadcasts I've heard 'iodine' pronounced to rhyme with 'dine', suggesting that some media folk completed their school-days without acquiring avoided even a smattering of science.

Iodine, together with its companions fluorine, chlorine and bromine, should be quite prominent in even an elementary course in Chemistry, and iodine is also used in Biology to test for starch. It would be a feeble education in which it is never mentioned.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

A Strange Obsession with Faces

I've often been irritated by television reporting in which the centre of the picture is occupied by a reporter's face, instead of the events being reported.

I was particularly infuriated by part of the BBC 24 hour news programme this evening. There was a press conference in which a military spokesman reported on events in Libya, illustrating his remarks with a series of slides. Only occasionally did the programme allow us to see a slide; usually, when he referred to a slide, the television picture ignored the slide and continued to show us his face.

If they must focus on the speaker, why just on his face? Why not on his hands to see if he's fidgeting nervously, his feet to see if he's shuffling, or his crotch to show his state of arousal?

Friday, 18 March 2011

Praising Wine Gums

Wine gums are very effective cough sweets; not much inferior to the remedies that are claimed to act on the brain to dull the cough reflex, and markedly superior to the cough sweets that work by soothing the throat.

I recently bought some wine gums to test the hypothesis that they do not taste of wine; they don't. When I contracted a cough I found that sucking them almost completely eliminated the urge to cough while the wine gum lasted, and they last a gratifying long time.

I suspect they contain a lot of gelatine, some sugar and a little citric acid, or perhaps tartaric acid. Perhaps gelatine has some medicinal value. That is an example of what C. S. Peirce would have called an 'abduction' - a generalisation with little support so far, that may still be worth testing.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Counting Calories

I've starting using the electronic kitchen scales to estimate the energy content of food.

An interesting conclusion is that just one slice of brown bread, with butter and marmalade, is about 240 kilo calories, about an eighth of my daily requirement and enough energy to lift something weighing a ton to a height of a hundred metres 1.

35 grams of bread accounted for 90 k cals, 11 grams of margarine for 77 k cals, and 30 g of marmalade for about 75 k cals. I spread margarine quite thinly; many people would use twice as much. Some people use low calorie margarine substitutes. Those contain extra water, for which the manufacturers charge extra, and I suspect that people who use them spread them so thickly that their energy intake (at about 5 k cals per gram) is even greater than it would be if they used ordinary margarine or butter.

Incidentally, note how many people say just 'calorie' instead of 'kilo calorie', thus wishfully dividing their intake by 1000.

1 Originally I had that as just one metre, but realised my error while checking the calculation in bed the night after posting. I have always been a little accident prone, alas.