Friday, 22 July 2011

Bankrupt States

When individuals or companies go bankrupt, their assets are administered, and usually sold, by agents of the creditors to pay as high a proportion as possible of the debt.

States are treated with surprising leniency. Discussion of the possibility of a Greek default rarely mentions the sale of Greek Government assets, yet those must be considerable.

Governments usually own many buildings in prime city centre sites and considerable tracts of land. Military installations alone take up considerable space.

It would be amusing to see all that auctioned by the liquidators.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Plumbers Beware!!

I was unhappy to learn that the recent turmoil in the Metropolitan Police Force has resulted in a promotion for Ms. Cressida Dick.

It was she who presided over an anti-terrorist operation in the course of which armed police arrived three and a half hours late, and made up for lost time by shooting a plumber.

Should that become the standard way of dealing with crises, Londoners with blocked pipes may find it hard to get anyone to unblock them.

Friday, 15 July 2011

The Korean Alphabet

At a recent meeting of the Leicester U3A a visiting speaker talked about South Korea.

What most impressed me was what he told us about the Korean Alphabet This was apparently designed so that each letter represented the physical process by which we make the corresponding sound.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

What is the point of Mascarpone Cheese?

Curiosity recently led me to buy a carton of mascarpone Cheese.

It tasted like cream, with the addition of just a hint of cheese. For many purposes it would be an acceptable alternative to cream or even to butter.

It seems to go well with jam, and when I spread some on a slice of bread it formed a perfectly good basis for my breakfast marmalade,

However, at £2-25 of 250 grams, it costs nearly £10 per kilo, much more expensive than cream, butter, or marg.1, so what is the point of it?

1 note that the pseudo abbreviation 'marge' is plausible only to people who can't spell 'margarine'

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Muddle about Osmosis.

Quiite frequently I hear someone claim that either that person, or people in general, have aquired some idea 'by osmosis'

Osmosis is a process occurring when two solutions of different concentrations are separated by a semi-permeable membrane, that is a membrane that allows the passage of solvent but not solute.

I see no analogy between that process and the transfer of ideas from one person to another.

As ignorance about osmosis seems to be widespread, I add a short explanation.

In osmosis, solvent usually moves from the dilute solution into the more concentrated, tending to equalise the concentrations. The process can be stopped, or even reversed, by applying pressure to the more concentrated solution. The pressure needed to just prevent osmosis between a solution on the one hand, and pure solvent on the other, is called the osmotic pressure of the solution.

Solutions we regard as quite dilute may have surprisingly high osmotic pressures. The osmotic pressure of sea water is around 27 atmospheres, that is around 2.7 million pascals.

Osmosis involving the transport of water is very important in the operation of living things.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Virgin Media in a tizzy

Two friends who use email addresses reported trouble with email much of which was being misdiagnosed as spam.

Although I have an ntl email address I don't use it, but I decided to log on to my ntl account and inspect the mail. Examining the spam box I found just one message - an email from Virgin Media telling me about a new security system they've just introduced.

Meditate carefully on the situation.

The software designed to secure their email system suppresses the messages they have sent out to tell us about it.

At this point I ought to say something rude about virginity, but words fail me.