Friday, April 30, 2010
Currently there is no scientific proof to prove this, however a recent study across 1,000 adults showed that the more chocolate a man or woman ate, the lower their mood would be.
Part of the research saw some people eat more than six 28g chocolate bars a month, individuals who ate this much scored the highest levels of depression".
And I've been munching away on the presumption that it affects that part of the brain right next door to the part where falling in love is perceived. It's all a wash of micro chemical reactions in there anyway and really the old ways of prayer and meds (that's meditations) work best. But since Richard did not buy me an choco latte, I'll have me a short coffee instead and put off dharma practice until tomorrow morning. TGIF.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
My life is returning to normal after three weeks of what my best friend affectionately called "Spring Fever". I really was quite disturbed, but at the same time had greater insight into myself than before and got off my addiction to rather harmful drugs. All prescription of course, but I came to realise that I was over dependant on them, that they worked less well than when I first started taking them and that much of the discomfort in my body was attributable to their side effects.
Tonight it is illness which has me awake before dawn, but, during those weeks, I simply had "rebound insomnia". "Rebound" anything is the theory that, when one stops a drug use, one gets an augmented version of the presenting symptoms. It makes sense to me. God bless Wikipedia and Knol.
All the while I have been reading a simple, excellent translation of the German book, "The Reader". I don't actually read much. Most of my favourite books listed in my profile are simply the books that I managed to finish. I have a little trouble reading and therefor find it well nigh impossible to read something that does not grab my enthusiasm at every page. I read about two books a year and frequently reread old favourites. As often happens to me , apparently the reverse of the normal, I am attracted to books by the films that people make from them. The passivity of cinema suits my mind perfectly. I could, I use to say, watch anything on a screen that moved. Less true now, but I am returning more and more to the habit of my childhood of staring at the world around me as I go through it , but I have overcome the shyness of my youth and now engage with anyone who seems open to a little discussion. Men walking dogs are usually friendly and so it was that after smelling a sweet skunk on the station platform at dawn, I observed tiny shoots emerging from the branches of the tamarisk on the corner and then saw two dogs hassling a raccoon in the park. The raccoon went up the tree so slowly and cautiously that the dog walker reckoned she was pregnant,. She stared down at us with that deceptive cute face and we stared up at her for a good moment.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
They have not made words for it
To go behind things
Beyond hours and ages
And be all things in all time
In their returns and passages
In the motionless and timeless centre
In the white of the fire
How can I express the excellence I have found?
That has no colour, but clearness
No honey, but ecstasy
Nothing wrought, nor remembered
No undertone, nor silver second murmur that rings in love's voice
I and my love are one
No desire but fulfilled
No passion but peace
The pure flame and the white
Firier than any passion
No time but spheral eternity
I have fallen in love outward
(I'm not sure of the line layout and the punctuation and I think he invented fireier, or firier, but this is how I copied it, in long hand, years ago.)
This and others like it are the source of all my privilege. I was sent to private schools, an expensive university and, at least when we were teenagers we had holidays in Majorca and Zermatt. We were never told that we were rich. In fact, on the contrary, we were always trying to save money, but the rich have a way, as Cate Blanchette says in, "The Talented Mr Ripley", of not caring about money. Ha, ha.
It is Sunday today and I don't even have any plans for the day except, perhaps, not to spend any more. My last two had their 21st and 23rd last week and, as before, one present was for us to give them the house for the night and the other was to take them all, plus a girlfriend, out to a swanky meal. I almost ruined both evenings by not being able to sleep in the middle of the nights, talking too much and generally engaging too many strangers in conversations. When I was younger, these bouts of hypo mania could be considerably harmful, but now, thank God , my body is petering out and I simply don't have the extra energy to do some of the outrageous things I did in my younger days. Yet "Still Crazy After All These Years". I wonder if Simon is, or was, or, more likely, knew plenty of people who were. Nice man. His Graceland tour concert at Maple Leaf gardens was the most fun I have ever had at any sort of musical concert.
Fiona Apple singing Paul McCartney is, (was), in my ear as I was writing. The head set is broken and I only hear one channel, (I'm not sure which), through my left ear. That's the less deaf one. Now its the wonderful Pavarotti singing a rather schmaltzy version of "O Solo Mio" with what sounds like a rabble of young boys and a rock and roll audience. Now, wat is dis, wat is dis? "Nessun Dorma". Good selection. An abiding fantasy is that I would have a radio show, maybe on a university radio station. Such an animal was unthinkable in my student days.
My university education, incomplete as it was, was, how shall I say?, somewhat dry, very academic and the tutors prided themselves on being among the best in the land. In those days, there were were only three prestigious universities in the British isles and even Trinity Dublin was mentioned at the end with a downward cadence. Because of my father, I had been steered, coached, bullied and persuaded to squeeze into Oxford. Here is my account that I wrote for my usually secret blog, which I called, "Before I Forget". Actually I had forgotten. The blog is called, "As much as I can remember". Anyway:
I went to university later than my friends who went. Tony Hauser and Stephen Balogh were at Oxford ahead of me. I had tried the year before to get into my father's college, University College. I wrote an exam not well and was confounded at the interview by a don asking me what I felt strongly about. Prejudice and Intolerance, I said. Can you be intolerant without being prejudiced, he asked me. I felt flustered and finally said that I thought I could. Tony was at Christ Church and I spent an evening with him and some friends playing poker. When I was on the train returning to London, I held on to a cut out of a black cat, which I kept in my wallet, and swore I would return in a year as an undergraduate. I remember the towers and spires of Oxford receding as I took my oath. I believed in that sort of magic in those days.
I was tutored in Henfield my a very short, brilliant teacher from Lancing College, Jeremy Kemp. He set me on fire with a glimpse of the latest theories of history and when I went up to try for his old college, Trinity, I wrote about Individualism and Imperialism. At the interview I felt at ease as I was in a suit and waistcoat as was one of the interviewers, Michael MacClagan. Trinity, as my tutor had expected was a little more snobbish and small, the church there was almost Catholic, I thought. Actually, I discovered later, eleven students applied to study history and eleven were accepted. I still had to wait a year to go up, so that Tony Hauser was two years ahead of me and I never saw him again, but my best friend at School, Stephen Balogh, had come up the year ahead of me and I visited him frequently. He lived on Paradise Square, which was soon to be condemned and demolished. He also lived out in the country for a while and I was able to go out on a 250 cc BSA which I had bought for ten Pounds. Hugh Pope, a friend in college, studied engineering and when the monster, as I called her broke down, he tinkered with her. He told me the front axle was completely sheered off the frame and I was lucky to be alive.
Despite failure as an academic, I was lucky to be alive then. It was then that I first seriously considered acting as a way to become eventually a film director. I was in two college plays, one out on the huge lawn behind the college and the other, A Man For All Season's, which we took on tour in the Lake District. I also rowed in an eight for my college and our boat won a race against all the other colleges' boats. My oar with the names of all the crew on the blade was given to me, but I left it behind, or never claimed it. I also had girl friends. In my first term, I was given small invitation cards with the college name in one corner. I handed these out on the streets inviting people to have tea in my rooms. At the second of these parties a bunch of girls from a local private high school came. And then there were women from women's colleges, older and usually more intellectual. I've just realised that elsewhere in these memories, I described my mother as almost an intellectual, I was about to say just now that I always got on really well with women far more intellectual than me. My girl friend from the high school, Gerry, got three A's at A level and easily got a place at Canterbury University. She broke up with me while I was away travelling during the summer vacations. In my last more miserable term I was consoled by a wonderful very tall woman from LMH. Despite an LSD breakdown in her final term, she got a good second in History. The summer of sixty six was glorious. Gerry, the first play, wine from the senior common room with prawn salad and fresh mayonnaise out on the lawn. More than once 1941 Burgundy, rowing in the eight, but also by myself in a skull, exploring the smaller streams that flow down to the Cherwell, visiting Stephen, who was a very early dope smoker and often passionate about some new research in human behavior. Through LMH I slightly got to know Libby Purvis, later famous, who was giving a speech at the union. She wanted a joke about a debating opponent. I had dabbled in surrealism and suggested ,"He likes to watch his pelicans go round and round in washing machines". She put it into her own words and used it. I was watching from the gallery and it got a good laugh. Still very satisfying forty two years later. Riding my bicycle down a hill near the station, I made up a bluesy song which I sing to this day. Probably the best thing about the summer was that I had passed all my first year exams and definitely the worst thing about the fall term that followed was that I failed exams at the start of term, for which I was late, and I was told that if I did not pass that exam at the end of term, I would be sent down. On each essay I was assigned I felt hopeful at the beginning and then hopeless as the essay became due. I was started on my elected special subject and found it way over my head. I was assigned to a brilliant researcher at All Souls, who thought nothing of assigning me to read seventeen books and write an essay in two weeks. I came to realise that up till then I had got by by being resourceful and clever, but that basically I was dyslexic and that serious reading put me to sleep. I remember waking up in the library more times than I remember trudging up the magnificent staircase. As a second year academic, I was totally out of my depth and drowning fast. I actually cheated in my final exam and still failed. The final blow was administered by Dean Norrington, who said that in the old days I would have been allowed to scrape through, but that there was simply no room for me. I agreed with him. I was becoming something between an anarchist and a socialist and I was mortified when he asked me whether I would not consider a career in advertising. Perhaps he was on to something that I could not acknowledge in myself.
I left Oxford with my tail very much between my legs. To lift me out of my depression my mother asked me to come ski-ing one more time. There were only two film schools in Europe and we decided I would learn Italian and apply for the one at Rome's Cinecitta. So it was that I went to stay in Florence and thrived again on too much privilege and too much money. Before I was twenty two I had lived so much of the rich person's life that I had no pressing need to replicate it in the years of ambition which followed.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Friday, April 9, 2010
April 09, 2010
Antimatter Triggers Largest Explosion Ever Recorded in Universe
Late in 2009 year we witnessed the largest explosion ever recorded: a super giant star two hundred times bigger than the sun utterly obliterated by runaway thermonuclear reactions triggered by gamma ray-driven antimatter production. The resulting blast was visible for months because it unleashed a cloud of radioactive material over fifty times the size of our own star, giving off a nuclear fission glow visible from galaxies away.
The super-supernova SN2007bi is an example of a "pair-instability" breakdown, and that's like calling an atomic bomb a "plutonium-pressing" device. At sizes of around four megayottagrams (that's thirty-two zeros) giant stars are supported against gravitational collapse by gamma ray pressure. The hotter the core, the higher the energy of these gamma rays - but if they get too energetic, these gamma rays can begin pair production: creating an electron-positron matter-antimatter pair out of pure energy as they pass an atom. Yes, this does mean that the entire stellar core acts as a gigantic particle accelerator.
The antimatter annihilates with its opposite, as antimatter is wont to do, but the problem is that the speed of antimatter explosion - which is pretty damn fast - is still a critical delay in the gamma-pressure holding up the star. The outer layers sag in, compressing the core more, raising the temperature, making more energetic gamma rays even more likely to make antimatter and suddenly the whole star is a runaway nuclear reactor beyond the scale of the imagination. The entire thermonuclear core detonates at once, an atomic warhead that's not just bigger than the Sun - it's bigger than the Sun plus the mass of another ten close by stars.
The entire star explodes. No neutron star, no black hole, nothing left behind but an expanding cloud of newly radioactive material and empty space where once was the most massive item you can actually have without ripping space. The explosion alone triggers alchemy on a suprasolar scale, converting stars' worth of matter into new radioactive elements.
And we saw this. This really happened. Someday, somewhere, another massive explosion will occur and no one will be left to tweet it.
Most astronomers today believe that one of the plausible reasons we have yet to detect intelligent life in the universe is due to the deadly effects of local supernova explosions that wipe out all life in a given region of a galaxy.
While there is, on average, only one supernova per galaxy per century, there is something on the order of 100 billion galaxies in the observable Universe. Taking 10 billion years for the age of the Universe (it's actually 13.7 billion, but stars didn't form for the first few hundred million), Dr. Richard Mushotzky of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, derived a figure of 1 billion supernovae per year, or 30 supernovae per second in the observable Universe!
Certain rare stars -real killers -type 11 stars, are core-collapse hypernova that generate deadly gamma ray bursts (GRBs). These long burst objects release 1000 times the non-neutrino energy release of an ordinary "core-collapse" supernova. Concrete proof of the core-collapse GRB model came in 2003.
It was made possible in part to a fortuitously "nearby" burst whose location was distributed to astronomers by the Gamma-ray Burst Coordinates Network (GCN). On March 29, 2003, a burst went off close enough that the follow-up observations were decisive in solving the gamma-ray burst mystery. The optical spectrum of the afterglow was nearly identical to that of supernova SN1998bw. In addition, observations from x-ray satellites showed the same characteristic signature of "shocked" and "heated" oxygen that's also present in supernovae. Thus, astronomers were able to determine the "afterglow" light of a relatively close gamma-ray burst (located "just" 2 billion light years away) resembled a supernova.
It isn't known if every hypernova is associated with a GRB. However, astronomers estimate only about one out of 100,000 supernovae produce a hypernova. This works out to about one gamma-ray burst per day, which is in fact what is observed.
What is almost certain is that the core of the star involved in a given hypernova is massive enough to collapse into a black hole (rather than a neutron star). So every GRB detected is also the "birth cry" of a new black hole.
Scientists at the American Astronomical Society's 215th meeting, in Washington DC, said earlier this week that new observations of T Pyxidis in the constellation Pyxis (the compass) using the International Ultraviolet Explorer satellite, indicate the white dwarf is part of a close binary system with a sun, and the pair are 3,260 light-years from Earth and much closer than the previous estimate of 6,000 light-years.
The white dwarf in the T Pyxidis system is a recurrent nova, which means it undergoes nova (thermonuclear) eruptions around every 20 years. The most recent known events were in 1967, 1944, 1920, 1902, and 1890. These explosions are nova rather than supernova events, and do not destroy the star, and have no effect on Earth. The astronomers do not know why the there has been a longer than usual interval since the last nova eruption.
Astronomers believe the nova explosions are the result of an increase of mass as the dwarf siphons off hydrogen-rich gases from its stellar companion. When the mass reaches a certain limit a nova is triggered. It is unknown whether there is a net gain or loss of mass during the siphoning/explosion cycle, but if the mass does build up the so-called Chandrasekhar Limit could be reached, and the dwarf would then become a Type 1a supernova. In this event the dwarf would collapse and detonate a massive explosion resulting in its total destruction. This type of supernova releases 10 million times the energy of a nova.
Observations of the white dwarf during the nova eruptions suggest its mass is increasing, and pictures from the Hubble telescope of shells of material expelled during the previous explosions support the view. Models estimate the white dwarf's mass could reach the Chandrasekhar Limit in around 10 million years or less.
According to the scientists the supernova would result in gamma radiation with an energy equivalent to 1,000 solar flares simultaneously - enough to threaten Earth by production of nitrous oxides that would damage and perhaps destroy the ozone layer. The supernova would be as bright as all the other stars in the Milky Way put together. One of the astronomers, Dr Edward Sion, from Villanova University in Pennsylvania, said the supernova could occur "soon" on the timescales familiar to astronomers and geologists, but this is a long time in the future in human terms.
Astronomers think supernova explosions closer than 100 light years from Earth would be catastrophic, but the effects of events further away are unclear and would depend on how powerful the supernova is. The research team postulate it could be close enough and powerful enough to damage Earth, possibly severely, although other researchers, such as Professor Fillipenko of the Berkeley Astronomy Department, disagree with the calculations and believe the supernova, if it occurred, would be unlikely to damage the planet.
Luke McKinney with Casey Kazan