Tuesday 25 September 2012

So, as I understand things...

There's this great big cloud of dust and gas. We're talking big, here. The dust and gas swirls around, and sometimes accumulates in dense areas. If there is enough matter in one place, gravitational forces generate enough pressure to start a nuclear reaction - and a star is born.

Stars have a limited shelf life, and will die when all the hydrogen at their core is depleted. Depending on the size of the star, various things happen. If a star is big enough, there will be a rather large explosion - a supernova. Supernovas occur around once a century in our galaxy (the milky way).

In the early universe, only the elements hydrogen and helium existed. When stars die, and their hydrogen supply runs out, new elements are formed under the intense pressure and heat. When stars go supernova, these elements are ejected out into space. Every physical thing we can see, know or imagine is made up of these elements, including every atom in our body. We truly are star dust.

Originally the gas and dust that would become our Sun was the core of a cloud much larger than the solar system, probably several light-years across. The core was slowly rotating at first, but as it collapsed it spun faster, like a spinning ice-skater pulling in her arms. The rotation prevented the material at the core's equator from collapsing as fast as material at the poles, so the core became a spinning disk.

Gas and dust in the disk spiraled gradually in to the center, where it accumulated to form the Sun. But because dust is denser than gas, some of the dust settled to the mid-plane of the disk. These dust particles stuck together to make clumps, then clumps stuck together to make rocks, then rocks collided to make planets. In the case of the "gas giant" planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, the rocky cores were massive enough to also attract some of the gas. The outer layers of these planets are made up of hydrogen and other gases.

So the Sun is the collapsed core of an interstellar gas cloud, and the planets, asteroids and comets are small lumps of dust or ice chunks which stayed in orbit instead of spiraling into the Sun. The planets all formed within a very short period, probably a few million years, about five billion years ago.

The sun comprises around 98% of all the matter in the solar system. It is 875,000 miles in diameter, and so distant that light takes around eight minutes and twenty seconds to travel the 93 million miles which lie between us. The next nearest star to us is the faint, red dwarf star called Proxima Centauri. This star is only 4.2 light-years away. 4.2 light years? That's nothing, surely. Only about 266,000 times further away than the sun. The farthest object we know of in the universe is estimated to be (wait for it) 30,000,000,000 light years away. That's thirty billion light years. So if we shine a torch in that direction, 30 billion years later the light will get there. Phew.

Our galaxy, the milky way, contains an estimated 200 to 400 billion stars. There are an estimated 100 to 200 billion galaxies in the known universe. How many stars and potential planets in total? You do the sums, my head hurts... It does put things into perspective :)


I don't have any lessons until 11:45, so I pop up to see Gary about Tina's bike, and it's good news - he should be able to get the one I want before the week-end.

Tim and Peggy pop round for a cup of tea and we have a pleasant chat. When I go to my lesson, the learner isn't there. I send them a text message, and come home. I'm able to finally sort out a photo project for Lesley. Last week or the week before I asked her if she needed anything for her new flat, and she said a photo of the family would be good. I got a nice frame the other day, and have made a print using five pictures of the four of us at different ages. For once, everything goes smoothly with the printing. I make a second print for Jim, which is also successful, then the printer spits out a message saying one of the cartridges is empty.

I see Nicola at 4:30, our third lesson, things go well. Home for dinner, then meet Ben at the station for a late lesson at 6:30. He has his test tomorrow. I'm wondering if anyone will pass at the moment. Ben should, but so should the last two candidates...

Monday 24 September 2012

Jim is 27 today. Bloody hell, how did that happen? Tina goes to work, I text the boy. Get one back, lovely.

I sound like Lee Marvin - Ken's cold is a really good one. It's so good to share things with friends. How can I repay him?

Did a 9 a.m. lesson with Shadreck. I am not happy about his test next week, he's not really ready, so I let him know his options (cancel, or do it in his friend's car), and leave it for him to contact me. I don't feel too bad, as I never asked him to book the test.

I pop into Winklebury cycles and leave a message for Gary to contact me if he can get a ladies model for Tina. I hope he can. I'm trying to work out how old her current bike is, it could be about eight years but who knows?

Two lessons at lunchtime, then home to load up the car and take the hedge clippings to the dump.

A bit of TV in the evening for me n Tina. Les and Jim both call, it's good to chat to them.

Sunday 23 September 2012

Up early and I have to do a lesson! It's Ben, who has just started work and has a test next week. I don't mind working odd hours so long as it's not regular. Then we collect Chris and Nigel and drive to St Catherine's Hill to meet Dotty and Tim for a walk.

The walk is lovely, despite it raining hard. We aim for Twyford, and lunch at the Phoenix, highly recommended.

As we walk back to Winchester I get my camera out in a church and it's wet. Bugger. It seems to be dead (why oh why did I turn it on????) so I remove the battery and put it back in my wet bag. I am so stupid.

We have a coffee in Winchester, head back to the cars, and say goodbye to Dotty and Tim. A lovely day out, excepting wet cameras.

Home again. Camera in the airing cupboard, wet clothes off, heating on. Yes, I know, heating on in September. Whatever next? I spend a little time on Adrian's website adding a Facebook button. I hate Facebook almost as much as Apple :)

Tina and I video chat to Jackie and Paul in Canada. They are going to Paul's Mum for dinner after chatting to us. We share a few jokes, rib each other about our football teams (they are ManUre) and arrange to chat again next week.

Saturday 22 September 2012

Tina has to work today - boo. She heads off and I get up. After breakfast I cycle to see Joyce for a chat. She is busy vacuuming, but stops for me. On my way home I call into Winklebury cycles to see if they have a bike for Tina - a fair swop, I thought ;) (It's her birthday next Sunday). They have just the right bike, but before I commit I realise it's a man's frame. Gary (the proprietor) measures the height of the crossbar for me, and I leave it that I will go home and check Tina's bike.

Crop burnThen it's time to tackle the hedge at the front of the house. While working, I hear the phone, it's Mike. We chat, it's so good to hear him. He's just helped a friend by sharing the driving to make a delivery - a round trip of (I think) 1400 kilometers. Jenny and he are also helping at a big fishing tournament this week-end. They are always so busy - new knees don't slow them down much. Mike is great for a 91 year old. I take my time with the hedge, and am around three quarters done when Tina gets home, around 3 p.m. She notices a huge cloud to the west in an otherwise blue sky. We walk into the road for a better view, just as our new neighbour opposite does. Stuart thinks it's smoke, so I grab my camera and he drives us toward Oakley to get a better view. The source of the smoke seems to be inaccessible, and we head home. The smoke is dispersing now, but at the start it was spectacular. Later, I see on the Guts-ache news page that it was only a controlled burn of crops. The emergency services were inundated with calls, apparently.

Chris and Nigel call round. I finish the hedge, and join them in the back garden for a chat. They have been out cycling, and Chris is on her new custom made bike, it looks marvellous in metallic petrol blue. When they leave, I survey the hedge. It look s like someone has drunkenly attacked it with a blunt instrument, just the effect I am after.

Dinner, Gareth Malone on the telly (he's very good, despite this being the umpteenth series of the same thing), and "The Thick of It" then bed.

Sunday 16 September 2012

What a lovely day! Ken and Carol pick us up at about 11:45, and we make our way to the station. I tell Ken I've been out for a run, just to annoy him. I have my camera, too, which probably has the same effect...  We are in plenty of time for the train, and set off for a day out and an evening of comedy to raise money for a Frank Sidebottom statue in Timperley.

On the South Bank there is a funfair affair, featuring a massive chair ride called the Star Flyer. Chairs are suspended sixty metres high, and it whirls around fast and frightens the life out of it's occupants. Ken persuades me to accompany him, the girls are definite in their refusal to accompany us, and I was SO pleased when it was all over ;)

We wander along the South Bank, then get a train to Camden, where we meet Jim. It's wonderful to see him, but he has a lot of studying to do so after an hour or so he pops off home. The four of us walk along the canal, and eventually find our way to tonight's venue, and locate a nearby pub for a beer or two.

The evening goes very well, the comedy is great, with Stewart Lee being the standout act for me but welcome appearances by Kevin Eldon and Simon Munnery, and Mrs Lee (I think that might annoy her if she knew she was being referred to like that). There were several other acts, including Chris Sievey's band.

Our journey home is successful (not always the case when me and Ken and beer are involved - luckily we have the ladies to sort us out). I took loads of photos during the day, three below:

Saturday 15 September 2012

A perfect day, sunny and warm. Tina and I cycle over to see my Dad. He's ok, a bit sleepy, but does chat a little. I worry that we should take him out or something, but to be honest, he won't enjoy the upheaval.

We then cycle on to Odiham, where we have lunch in the the Bell, a proper pub by the church. We sit outside, but the pub is perfect inside. Light streams in through the windows, and creates a wonderful back lit effect everywhere. It looks lived in, and the menu has proper pub food. Tina has a sausage sandwich, bacon and mushroom for me. Mmmmm. The barman says his in laws run it, and that they've been there for sixteen years. Makes a change, these days every pub we go in seems to have changed hands in the last six months.

After lunch I take a lot of photos inside and outside the church. As we cycle home there are two other churches we visit, and more photos. Lovely.


More Vi Hart fun and games :)

Happy Birthday Tina

Cakes, candles and song!

Wild Rumpus featuring Beardyman - Rock The Joint

Thanks to Ken for this - the wonderful Beardyman and superb animation

Think we need a third runway at heathrow?

Think we need a third runway at heathrow?  Think again.