David Nightingale

David Nightingale: Tycho’s Death

Aug 19, 2018
Tycho Brahe
Public Domain / Wikicommons

Those giants of astronomy, Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler, were both born in the 1500s. It’s never been clearly established how Tycho died, but there have been suspicions that the younger man, Kepler, poisoned him.

David Nightingale: Ole Roemer (1644 – 1710)

Jul 8, 2018
A diagram of Jupiter (B) eclipsing its moon Io (DC) as viewed from different points in earth's orbit around the sun.
Ole Rømer

When I first heard about Ole Roemer I fleetingly thought the speaker was being overly familiar – but not so. Ole is a Norse and Viking name. For example, there is the Norwegian-born Ole Evinrude, famous manufacturer of outboard engines for boats.

This essay is about a Danish man born in 1644, just after Galileo died, and who became a student in the University of Copenhagen. Copenhagen was once a little fishing village, across the water from Sweden, (the two countries are now connected by a bridge) but is now the capital of Denmark – although with a population still less than a million. So why is Ole Roemer so highly thought of today?

David Nightingale: Some Old Cars

Jun 17, 2018
64 Chevrolet Corvair Monza
Greg Gjerdingen from Willmar, USA / Wikimedia Commons

My first US car, bought in 1965, was a 2nd hand Chevy Corvair.  Ralph Nader, in his book “Unsafe at any speed”, famously slanged the Corvair – and production was discontinued around 1969. Recently, out in the countryside, I saw half a dozen of them rusting away behind someone’s house.

David Nightingale: The Right To Die

May 27, 2018

We don’t generally like to look at the end of life. Once, long ago, when a young mathematician friend was dying of leukemia, and a bone marrow match had not been found, I was invited to visit him and his small children at home – and I was unable to accept that this was it. As I left I said cheerily, “OK, see you next week”. To my shame, I had been in denial.

David Nightingale: Saving A Lake

May 6, 2018
Tillson Lake
Andrew Hague / SaveTillsonLake.org

In the 1970s, my wife and small sons would, some summers, drive the 15 miles or so to Tillson Lake in Ulster County, NY – which, by the way, is nowhere near the hamlet of the same name. There we could sit on the beach by the pavilion, and watch our three and six-year-olds as they waded out and practiced their swimming, eat our sandwiches and enjoy the scenic backdrop of the mountain, where, further up, is the well-known Minnewaska State Park Preserve.

la Piazza Amendola, Avellino, Campania, Italy
Daniel Jünger / Wikimedia Commons

In the ‘60s, if you were young and had little money, it was difficult to see the world unless (maybe) by hitch-hiking.

I had less than a week, and had slept on deck since Istanbul, no meals – and as the ship approached Brindisi I felt that, after the bare dry stretches of Turkey and Greece, Italy might well turn into love at first sight.

So I walked through Brindisi and waited for two hours at a junction. Three females I’d seen on the boat got immediate rides, and after an hour a sputtering Fiat took me a few miles up the coast before I began to walk again. Reaching Bari after dark I found a cheap room.

David Nightingale: Xi Jinping (1953 – )

Mar 25, 2018
Xi Jinping, prior to a meeting in Beijing China, Sept. 19, 2012
DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo / Public Domain

Many of us know little of 65-year-old Xi Jinping, recently elected ‘President-for-life’ of China. His other titles are “General Secretary of the Communist Party of China”, and “President of the People’s Republic of China”.

David Nightingale: Lake Baikal And Neutrinos

Mar 4, 2018
Sunset in Baikal
Emilianka / Wikimedia

Those who have traveled to Lake Baikal – and I have not – know it not only as long and thin, but also as the deepest lake in the world. Its greatest depth is a mile, and it lies between southern Siberia and Mongolia. The lake is fed by over 300 rivers and contains more fresh water than all the Great Lakes combined.

David Nightingale: A Walk

Feb 11, 2018

I left home and parked at the side of a little-used off-road. Where my tires had been in 5” of snow a week ago, there was now only muddy water. Maybe a walk would clear the mind of a degree of hopelessness, concerning world news, rampant flu, and/or the hopelessness of the current administration.

David Nightingale: Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) Part 2

Jan 21, 2018

Three weeks ago I described some of Fred Hoyle's rebellious childhood, which included truancy from school and wandering in the fields as a little boy, making toxic phosphene in his mother's kitchen -- but I didn't describe how, after failing twice, he won a full scholarship to Cambridge. There, partly because his heroes, James Jeans and Arthur Eddington had trained in mathematics, he also decided for the grueling 3 year math tripos. He was awarded the Mayhew Prize, and a year into graduate work the Smith Prize. Paul Dirac took him on as a research student, on the understanding that Hoyle would work on whatever he wanted and that they would never bother each other. His 'official' advisor was German-educated Rudolph Peierls, who had studied under Heisenberg.

David Nightingale: Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) Part 1

Dec 31, 2017

This essay is about Fred Hoyle, but first we should say who he was.

The late Walter Sullivan of the New York Times called Hoyle 'one of the most creative and provocative astrophysicists of the last half of the 20th Century' as well as a 'lifelong rebel, eager for intellectual combat' [ref.2,p.339].

David Nightingale: Elihu Thomson (3/29/1853 - 1937)

Dec 10, 2017
Elihu Thompson, circa 1880
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

From time to time, in the history of science, especially when reading about giants like Edison, one comes across the name Elihu Thomson, and, if one passes through Swampscott, MA, there's a brick Georgian Revival national historic building that was his home for 40 years.

David Nightingale: November '17

Nov 19, 2017

October changed into November. The leaf peepers came to the mountains, took photos, and left. I'm not sure if they saw the peak of colors they wanted, for many roadside trees still have leaves -- brown and orange. Despite low temperatures, nature still shows bright red bushes and full green trees.

David Nightingale: A Few Pet Peeves

Oct 29, 2017

Let's get away from trumpitudes and politics for a moment. This essay is about brights, loud ads, passwords, and 'unavailable'.

David Nightingale: Marco Polo (1254-1324)

Oct 8, 2017
photo of a mosaic representing Marco Polo at Villa Hanbury, Ventimiglia, Italy
Lotho2 / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

As a follow-up to my essay on Ghenghis Khan, here's another from the 13th century. As to why someone with only a training in physics would write about these things -- well, the answer might be simply 'so as to work upon my own ignorance'!

David Nightingale: Genghis Khan (~1160 - 1227 AD) (Temujin)

Sep 17, 2017
Portrait of Genghis Khan
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Imagine standing somewhere on the Great Wall of China and looking north. Before Russia there would be the Gobi desert, and Mongolia.

David Nightingale: Lucretius, Philosopher

Aug 27, 2017
Sculpture of Lucretius, 1859-1861, Parco del Pincio, Rome
photo by Colle Pincio / Wikimedia Commons

This essay is about Titus Lucretius Carus, a Roman, who was born around 99 BC.

He is known for a long poem “De Rerum Natura” -- “on natural things” -- or on natural philosophy.

David Nightingale: Pool in the Woods

Aug 6, 2017

A hot humid day, and as I walked through the forest toward the pool I saw someone was already there -- but I could only see the head and a small hat. Perfectly motionless.

David Nightingale: Wrong Way Corrigan (1907-1995)

Jul 16, 2017
Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan's plane returning to the US via ship
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Douglas Corrigan, son of a school teacher and an engineer involved in bridge construction, submitted his flight plan to the NY authorities in July 1938, and this plan was to fly non-stop from Brooklyn back to California, which he'd left ten days earlier. That prior 27-hour cross-country trip was amongst the longest non-stop flights he had ever made, and he had fitted special extra fuel tanks to his plane.

David Nightingale: Angela Merkel (1954 - )

Jun 25, 2017
German Chancelor Dr. Angela Merkel
Jacques Grießmayer / Wikimedia Commons

When the first-born child of a Lutheran clergyman, 7 year old Angeela Kasner corrected her music teacher's mispronunciation of her name, she already exemplified that she could be a perfectionist as well as a bit of a pain. But her East German teacher was not too put out -- she knew that this pastor's daughter, whom she had mistakenly called Angela was rather bossy but a good pupil.

David Nightingale: Politics 2017

Jun 4, 2017

As an Independent, I believe that the greater good has to be the fundamental aim of government in a healthy and successful society.

David Nightingale: Father Divine (~1879 - 1965)

May 14, 2017

Old-timers in the Hudson Valley sometimes talk about properties that belonged to Father Divine -- or rather, to the Peace Movement led by George Baker. These properties were referred to as 'Heavens' rather than houses.

David Nightingale: Sojourner Truth (1797?? -1883)

Apr 24, 2017
Sojourner Truth, c. 1870
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution / Wikimedia Commons

Why write an essay on the well-known Sojourner Truth, especially well-known in New York? Well, my motivation is none other than a long-felt comment about mankind's inhumanity towards mankind, and I use her to illustrate the rare power of honesty and truth.

David Nightingale: Bloomberg (1942 - )

Apr 2, 2017
Michael Bloomberg
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

What do you have to do to find yourself worth, today, $47 billion?

David Nightingale: Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

Mar 12, 2017
Robert Louis Stevenson in a work by Count Girolamo Nerli
Count Girolamo Nerli / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Let's take a break from politics and trumpitudes, and look at the early life of Robert Louis Stevenson -- for that's about all a short essay can encompass. Specifically, let's go as far as the time Stevenson fell off his horse in California, on his way to his future wife ... and lay there for two days, before a couple of ranchers saved him ...

David Nightingale: Smart Meters And Microwaves

Feb 19, 2017
Talbott/National Institute of Standards and Technology / Wikimedia Commons

This essay is about the 'smart' technology that many utility companies have introduced, and to which there is a degree of nationwide opposition.

David Nightingale: Niels Bohr (1885-1962)

Jan 22, 2017
Niels Bohr
Public Domain / WikiMedia Commons

This essay is about Niels Bohr, so let's take ourselves to the small low-lying country of Denmark -- specifically, its capital, Copenhagen -- on the east coast, facing and close to Sweden.

David Nightingale: Christmas Sale

Jan 1, 2017
Christmas at the River Roads Shopping Center - Jennings, Missouri, 1970
Dwaynep2015 / Wikimedia Commons

I got to the front of the line, with many people heaving and pushing behind me. The woman in front of me had a drippy nostril, spreading down over her upper lip, but had finished signing things, and she performed two more sneezes before leaving. Good-day said the cashier.

David Nightingale: H.L.Mencken (1880-1956)

Dec 11, 2016
H.L. Mencken
Public Domain

After the 2016 US presidential election London's Observer quoted H.L.Mencken on democracy:

"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents more and more closely the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their hearts desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

David Nightingale: "Where does it go?"

Nov 19, 2016
Electrical wiring at the outskirts of Helsinki, Finland.
Aatu Liimatta / Wikimedia Commons

My friend has just hooked up his new rooftop solar panels, and been delighted to see his meter run backwards. "But," he said to me "where does the electricity go?"

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