Saturday, December 26, 2009

(259) Shoemakers impacts: craters on the Earth and the Moon and comets on Jupiter

In the earliest hours of Boxing Day 2009 I was looking up details of St. Crispin and his patronage of shoemakers.

I was moved to do so because of a lingering interest generated by my £250,000 question on Who Wants to be A Millionaire? some four years earlier (see Entry 224).

I then thought about looking up more details of the astronomer Shoemaker, after whom, I understood, the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 had been named.

I discovered facts about him that surprised me by their significances, not least in the context of the next question I was to face on the show; the one which stopped me -
(Which of these astronauts has never set foot on the moon?) - and also relating to Entry .

Eugene Merle Shoemaker (1928 – 1997) was best known as an astronomer.
But he began, I learned, as a geologist and studied the impact dynamics of Barringer Meteor Crater, Arizona for his Ph.D (1960).

In 1993, he, together with his wife Carolyn Shoemaker and David Levy, co-discovered Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. This provided the unique opportunity to observe the planetary impact of a comet when it collided with Jupiter in 1994. It caused a massive "scar" on the face of Jupiter. Most scientists were dubious of whether there would even be any evident markings on the planet.

So -
a) Gene married Carolyn Spellman in 1951. A visit to Meteor Crater the following year set him toward the view that both it and lunar craters were due to asteroidal impacts. In 1956 he tried to interest the United States Geological Survey in the construction of a geological map of the moon. He then did seminal research on the mechanics of meteorite impacts, awarded a master's degree in 1954.
Shoemaker was the first to show that Barringer Crater was formed not by volcanic activity but by an extraterrestrial impact. Hence it is now Meteor Crater.
b) He studied the impact dynamics of Barringer Meteor Crater for his Ph.D in the year of my birth (1960).
He did more than any other person to advance the idea that sudden geologic changes can arise from asteroid strikes and that these are common over geologic time periods.
Previously, astroblemes were thought to be remnants of extinct volcanoes – even on the Moon.
c) He was a pioneer in astrogeology and prominently involved in the Lunar Ranger Moon missions,
which showed that the Moon is covered with impact craters of many sizes.
From an early age he was passionate about going to the moon and became a candidate for an Apollo moon flight. Set to be the first geologist to walk on the Moon, diagnosis of Addison's disease in 1963 prevented him.
d) "Which of these astronauts has never set foot on the moon?"
Shoemaker, an astronaut intended to set foot there, didn´t.
Walking on the moon requires careful preparation and equipment.
You may not do it barefoot.
He was involved in training astronauts, e.g. during field trips to Meteor Crater itself and at Sunset Crater, Arizona.
e) Shoemaker began as a terrestrial geologist, suggesting that craters were formed by meteorite impacts - a very innovative idea.

He then suggested that lunar craters were too.

When the USGS Center of Astrogeology was founded in Flagstaff in 1965, he was appointed its chief scientist and organized the geological activities planned for the lunar landings.

In 1969 he became interested in extending his geological knowledge of the formation and distribution of terrestrial and lunar impact craters to the study of the objects that formed them. His search resulted in the discovery of several such families, including the Apollo asteroids.
In 1983 the first of the record 32 comets associated with the Shoemaker name was discovered. By the time the program ended it had produced 40 of the--now--417 known Amor, Apollo and Aten asteroids (the orbits of this last group being smaller than that of the earth).
The Shoemakers ensured that Palomar is likely to remain the leading site for the discovery of asteroids, having found more than 13% of those numbered.
A few months before the Shoemaker program ended came its "defining moment", with Gene receiving the thrill of his lifetime when 20 components of one of his comets crashed into Jupiter with astounding results.

So he ended his scientific career searching for the extraterrestrial objects that caused craters.

Above all, he was truly the "father" of the science of near-earth objects, to the discovery and study of which The Spaceguard Foundation is dedicated.
He also spent his later years searching for meteor craters. During one such expedition he died in a car crash in Australia.
He was killed instantaneously by a violent impact when investigating the sites of violent impacts, a tragic irony that would not have been lost on his accompanying wife and co-explorer of the terrestrial and astronomical, Carolyn.
f) On July 31, 1999, some of his ashes were carried to the Moon by the Lunar Prospector space probe in a capsule.
Shoemaker's memorial capsule is inscribed with images of Comet Hale-Bopp, the Barringer Crater, and a quotation from Romeo and Juliet -
"And, when he shall die
Take him and cut him out in little stars
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun."

My wife helped me by phone to answer the Shoemakers question.

Shoemaker is the only person buried on the moon.
g) Although these insights came to me in the early hours of Boxing Day 2009, in Shoemaker´s homeland it would still have been Christmas Day.
... ... ...
To walk on the moon the first prerequisite, more important than health, piloting ability, intelligence or any other quality or attribute, is simply the demonstration that one really WANTS to walk there.

(As I changed the last two words of that sentence from "do it" to "walk there" at 3:48 P.M. on Jan 29th 2010 my wife called out to me to ask if I had seen what Catherine Warwick had just added at a Facebook thread that Fiona had started -

It was a link to this -

Underwater chess Curacao
Dutch chessmasters 'Hans Böhm' and 'Robin Swinkels' take up a chess match 4 meters below sealevel having stingrays and fish as their specta
Ayer a las 22:19

Fiona Pitt-kethley
Wonderful film. Made my day. My husband has met one of the guys
Ayer a las 22:26
Catherine Warwick
Great fun. Now all we need is chess on the MoonHace 37 minutos
... ... ...
And not just to ponder on it or gaze at it or dream about it or be hanger-on to a moonwalker.

(258) "origin of christmas for veni vidi vinci" and other ´incorrect´ Latin quotes

On the early evening of December 16th 2009 I checked the Statcounter statistics for this blog and saw that someone in Beirut had very recently accessed it by putting
the origin of christmas for veni vidi vinciinto a search engine.

Here are the hits thrown up by that implausible Lebanese search -;_ylt=A0geu_UjCSlLBmcBOctXNyoA?p=origin of christmas for veni vidi vinci&fr2=sb-bot&fr=ush-mailc

My blog is the first hit. I noted the fourth -

and browsed it briefly. I was surprised by how frequent a misquotation this seems to be, although I had noticed at least one other occasion when my blog had been thrown up by a similar search.

In Entry 44 here the misquoting is deliberate.

I left a comment about the misquote and pointed Karen Christensen to my blog.
About five hours later I turned to the Chessbase report by John Saunders on that day´s final round of the London Chess Classic tournament.

I noted in the second paragraph a different and new incorrect quoting of Caesar.
But then I saw that the coincidence is more specific still.

The opening paragraph is about the Norwegians´ annual gift of a Christmas tree to London as gratitude for British help during World War Two. (My father had served in "that fracas" as he put it in Norway in the early days of the war.)

This year the... tree was sent... but Norway also thoughtfully sent another present – not as tall but every bit as impressive to anyone who appreciates top-quality chess. 19-year-old Magnus Carlsen came, saw and conquered at the London Chess Classic and, in the process, launched himself to the top of the official world chess ratings. Nobody has ever achieved this at a younger age.

So, “Magnus venit, vidit, vicit” (I knew all that school Latin would come in handy one day)...

The Berkshire Blog´s misquote comes in an entry about the launch of the book
This Fleeting World: A Short History of Humanity
... our first book for teachers... This Fleeting World: A Short History of Humanity... by the brilliant and eloquent world historian, David Christian... covers not only the history of humanity but the origins of the universe and of life, the “big history” David is known for.

... I snagged the title... when David told me UCP had decided not to use the quotation...

Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.

[... from the final verse of the ‘Diamond Sutra’, c. fourth century CE, as translated by Kenneth Saunders, cited in Christmas Humphreys, ed., The Wisdom of Buddhism, London... "] I know I’m supposed to... in order to choose a book title, not simply fall in love with a line of poetry. But this one... sounds so much like Shakespeare... and... the author, suggested it... The book is a companion to the Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History and... appears in it as an overview introduction...

... William H. McNeill, Professor Emeritus, University of Chicago, says about the book:

Julius Caesar famously summed up the surprises and confusion of ten years of war in Gaul with three Latin words: veni, vidi, vinci I came, I saw, I conquered... David Christian performs a similar feat by summing up the surprises and confusion of 250,000 years of human history in 56 pages... and improves on Caesar’s boast by showing how persistent collective learning expanded human skills, and enlarged our numbers, wealth, and power across the ages. What a quick, convenient, and persuasive way to begin to understand the confusing world in which we find ourselves! ...

: Posted under Publishing & media, World history.
Comments: 4

Pingback from Berkshire Blog by Karen Christensen » This Fleeting World is published
Time: 30 June 2007, 12:09

[...] I’m at the World History Association conference in Milwaukee and have the delightful experience of meeting some of the Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History authors and also being... with David Christian, author of our hot-off-the-press This Fleeting World: A Brief History of Humanity, and... Bob Bain and Lauren McArthur, who wrote the foreword. It’s... available... Monday... In the meantime, some background at a previous post. [...]

Comment from Marci Ziese
Time: 30 December 2007, 15:01

I noticed you did not cite a reference for the translation of the last four lines from the Diamond Sutra, quoted above. Do you know the source of this particular translation? I have seen other ones that are similar but not quite as poetic.

It would be a good idea in the future to give references.



Comment from Karen Christensen
: 2 January 2008, 7:36

It comes from the final verse of the ‘Diamond Sutra’, c. fourth century CE, as translated by Kenneth Saunders, cited in Christmas Humphreys, ed., The Wisdom of Buddhism, London: The Buddhist Society, 1987, p. 122.

Comment from James Plaskett
: 16 December 2009, 11:40

Veni, vidi, VICI, not vinci, Madame.
See my blog.

I note:-
a) My encountering the misquoting of Veni, vidi, vici twice within five hours.

b) That in each case it is associated with Christmas. In John Saunders´ Chessbase piece he chooses an intro about the Norwegian annual Christmas gift. Karen Christensen´s piece is
about a book by David Christian.
The book´s title is taken from a line from a c. fourth century CE work cited by Christmas Humphreys as editor of The Wisdom of Buddhism.

c) Both "misquotes" are in the context of a man conquering the world.

d) In the chess article, John Saunders firstly alters the Caesar quote in a way that I had not seen before and also, if you like, thereby ´mistranslates´ his own Latin quote.
The translation of the Diamond Sutra, as Marci Ziese adds, it is a different (and nicer) translation than any she has seen before. It was made by Kenneth Saunders.

John Saunders´ version of the famous Caesar quote is also unique, but- as he made clear in his comment here - it was (as I suspected it might be) deliberate!

But illustrations of what Peter Vaughan called the Synchronicity of Synchronicity or what Roderick Main termed Synchronicity´s self-referring tendency, i.e the tendency of coincidences to spawn coincidences are provided by subsequent e mails -

Yes, I meant "The great one [Magnus] came, saw and conquered". It is correctly rendered Latin... To say that I am somehow "misquoting" or "mistranslating" Caesar is to impute a level of ignorance on my part of quite staggering proportions. An addendum has... been put... on the ChessBase site just in case other people think I'm a total ignoramus. For the record, I achieved S-Level distinction in Latin, studied it at Cambridge and... taught it at a posh London prep school for a... while (... you may conclude that my reference to "school Latin" was a tad disingenuous). .*

P.S. * actually there IS a coincidence accruing from all this ... I was discussing your 'misquotation' allegation with my wife... Oddly enough, she does a Latin lesson herself every week... Just after our... chat, she needed to look at a website for the residential nursing home where her uncle is being cared for and found this...
... on the right hand side... you will find some testimonials... - in Latin! This is one of the funniest things I have ever seen on the web. What has happened is that the web programmer deputed to set up the page has used a standard template... which... often include Latin so that they can be assessed for suitability. Latin is used for random text. But the idiot... has simply forgotten to replace the Latin gibberish with meaningful text. As I said to the missus... "testimonials in Latin? Just how old are some of the patients?"

And the final (and minor) codicil stems from my reply to John -

... Studied it at Cambridge?...
I got an O Level with Grade B, I´ll have you know!
But the coincidence is still patent - strengthened in fact - and your Missus´ addendum does it no harm. Working on it (and what you commented on at the blog was hardly complete; a magnuS opus still very much under construction!).

When I published - d) In the chess article, John Saunders firstly misquotes Caesar in a way that I had not seen before and also, if you like, thereby mistranslates his own Latin quote. I was very much aware that it might have been deliberate on your part.
Hence the wording " ...if you like thereby mistranslates..."
At Entry 44 we encounter TWO deliberate alterations of Caesar´s famous quote.
The quoted Prof. at Christensen´s site would seem to have just got it wrong.You are now the third deliberate fiddler with the quote. Work still in progress...


His reply -

James ... go and stand in the corner, 'Owl of the Remove' Plaskett Minor - it is 'magnuM opus' - a third declension neuter noun, not second declension masculine. Hmm, perhaps I would have grown into the Mr Chips role after all...
Incidentally I don't believe Caesar had copyright on those three Latin verbs and, even if he did, it would have lapsed a couple of millennia ago. What I choose to do with them isn't 'mis-anything' - it's a play on words, jeux d'esprit or something of that ilk...

My final salvo -

Even I know it´s MagnuM opus.
That was MY deliberate error and play on Latin words.
(Noteworthy that it should have escaped YOU...
Think about it, Teacher...)

Your missus has a codicil re caring and incorrect Latin.
That coincidences so often tend to generate coincidences is, in the categorisation of Dr R. Main, "Synchronicity´s self-referring tendency" i.e. synchronicity is emphasising its essentially spiritual nature.

See... elements of this in Entries 253, 240 point (g), 235, point (e), 224 (linking with Entry 40), 218, 211, 204, 192, 189, 188, 187, 186, 172, 167, 164, 154, and 49.

But the instance of this that might seem most striking to you involves Hartston.
It involves THIRD generation coincidences and is in the
Part Two: The Narrative, Epilogues and Appendices
section, scanning points (45) - (51).

Dr I. Grattan-Guinness.also mentioned the category of ‘Second Order Coincidences’, i.e. those that lead to coincidences, claiming that when a coincidence leads on to another coincidence then it has become an object in its own right.


(257) Knight from g3 to h1

On the afternoon of October 31st 2009 I found myself making a comparison between the reaction of Raymond Keene to a knight manouevre executed by Aaron Nimzowitsch and inserting the odd, perhaps rare expression learnt in a foreign language into one´s attempts to converse in it.
The move N(g3)-h1 was eulogised by Keene in his 1973 biography of Nimzowitsch. He wrote that when he first saw the game in which this retreat was executed (the knight quickly re-emerged via f2 to play a key part in his victory) he was so impressed that he kept trying in his own games to create situations in which he too could play N(g3)-h1.

That, to say the least, could not easily be effected. In the thousands of games that I had played I did not think that I had even once played N(g3)-h1 and, apart from the Nimzowitsch game, could not think of any other where I had seen it deployed.

I later determined that this was the game

Knights are hardly ever sent into corners except to make captures, although I could recall a Kaspàrov win over Piket where the final move was (from black) ...N(g3)-h1!.

A few years earlier I had been forced to play N(b3)-a1 against Veselin Topalov, but that was an abject retreat and I lost the game.

The game Korchnoi Vs Fischer from the World Blitz Championship in Herceg Novi 1970 came to me as one very rare example of a knight being pùrposively retreated from the third rank into the corner: Fischer playing ... N(g6)-h8, then ... N(h8)-f7, then ... N(f7)-g5 and going on to win.

It struck me as almost a metaphor for my knowledge of Spanish. Seven years after moving to Spain my command of the language was rudimentary, but every now and again I might encounter a phrase and however improbable, think of how I might subsequently deploy it.

A couple of hours later I was playing a game for my club in Lorca. The position arose -

I played my attacked Knight from g3 to h1 to soon redeploy it at f2.
And I went on to win.

(256) James Marsh and the responsibility of doing your own thing

On the morning of June 5th 1991 I was selling advertising space for Cornhill Publications. I began introducing myself for the first time to sales prospects as ´James Marsh´. Many salespeople used pseudonyms although in my few months in that job I had never before adopted one. The name was partly inspired by Plaskett´s meaning ´marsh dweller´.
That afternoon through the hubbub in the office I heard colleague Tim Preston ask to speak to "... your President, James Marsh."
It transpired that out of the hundreds of potential leads he had chosen to call one with which he had no previous dealings and their President was James Marsh.
... ... ...
Some months later I had a dream which was scripted around an episode of the 1970s BBC drama Colditz which I had seen in the early 1970s.

The series was set in Colditz castle which was being used by the Germans during the Second World War to house hard case P.O.Ws. My dream was framed around an episode in which an Englishman hoped to exploit a clause in the Geneva Convention which permitted the repatriation of any P.O.W. determined insane. The officer planned a unique escape attempt by feigning insanity.
He was so convincing that many of his fellow inmates even were taken in and the Nazis sent him home.
Not long after the British Commanding Officer in Colditz reads out to some of his senior officers a letter he has received from the released prisoner´s wife. They are smiling as he begins the recital but then visibly shocked upon hearing that "... Doctors think a cure unlikely." i.e. his feigned insanity has slipped, unnoticed by his comrades, into the real thing.
The C.O. forbids any more escape attempts of that kind.
The ambience of the dream was somehow that my own attempts at yoga had led me to too isolated, unnatural and indeed dangerous a way of life, and damn near the brink. A more wholesome, social and integrated lifestyle such as that upon which I had embarked in 1991 was much better.
Shortly after the dream I was to see that episode of Colditz rebroadcast.
I noted that the "crazed" and crazed escapee was Wing Commander George Marsh.
... ... ...
On October 27th 2009 I tried ringing at work someone with whom I had worked at Cornhill but with whom I had had no contact in 13 years. I was asked by the person who took the call for my name. For some reason I gave the one that I had never deployed since 1996: "James Marsh". I was then asked for my company name and improvised; "I work for my own company."
My erstwhile colleage proved unable to take the call.
The next day I (re)e mailed Byron Jacobs requesting he send me a diagram of a chess position.
He did, also asking if I had given up with the Internet Chess Club, presumably because he often frequented it and I, who had been apt to hang out there, now rarely did.
I replied, sullenly and very inaccurately, that I had given up on life. He responded that if a man had become fed up with the ICC then he had probably found something better to do. I sent back again (untruly!) that I had given up on life.
But at the end of his response Byron had asked if I had seen Man on Wire, saying that he had watched it the previous evening - the 27th - and that it was stunning; "Man´s got balls of steel."
I seemed to recall hearing something about this film, and so looked at its trailer on Youtube.
I was amazed and went on to view the entire film that day, blown away by the fairy tale story of Philippe Petit´s illegal tightrope walk between the two towers of the World Trade Center of New York in 1974.
I noted that the director of this 2008 Best Documentary Oscar winner was 46 year old Cornishman, James Marsh. His name had never registered with me before.

The trailer for this breathtaking film spoke of striving for the impossible ("That is what we´re here for") and how life is for living and the film concludes with the 57 year old Petit speaking of the importance of not repeating yourself and of making "... every day, every year, every idea a true challenge, and then you live your life like you are on a tightrope."

Earlier that morning I had been adding some quotations to a file of such that I was making under the heading Responsibility. Most of the quotes I had already there were about punctuality and reliability, but this new batch was for the most part from respectable people I knew who were in agreement that 9 to 5 routine was nothing to be proud of and that one could be perfectly responsible and respectable without subjecting oneself to such straightjacketing.

James Marsh´s film proved a timely motivational fillip!

The BBC Colditz series ran from 1972 to 1974, so it was showing in the same year as Petit made his walk, although the epsode featuring Wing Commander Marsh´s escape aired on December 21st 1972.

(255) Predicting the National Lottery numbers

A codicil to Entry (6)
happened in September 2009.
Derren Brown performed a TV stunt in which he appeared to have predicted the 6 balls drawn in the National Lottery.

I contributed to various threads about it at the Comment Is Free site.
One, by Vicky Frost, invited readers to vote on how he could have pulled it off.
I chipped in with a post which became, at 16 Sep 09, 11:01pm, the penultimate -

Vote: How did Derren Brown do it?
Quite late on September 9th I posted at Vicky Frost´s CiF piece of September 7th re Derren Brown´s staking his career on predicting the lottery.

I pointed out that it had been done before and gave a link to Entry 6 at my Blog. The number of hits the Blog got that day was over 1400. It was averaging less than 100.

Also on September 9th James Meikle posted one of several other CiF articles about Brown´s attempt to predict the lottery later that day. He indeed mentions there that Paul Daniels advocated Brown deliberately getting one number wrong, perhaps to add verisimilitude.

Mine was one of the last comments, and on September 11th -

JamesPlaskett 11 Sep 09, 4:06pm
Camelot said in a statement. "It is impossible to affect the outcome of the draw and Derren Brown is not suggesting he is doing this."

But of course it is impossible!

Makes you wonder then why Camelot tried, unsuccessfully, to take legal action to prevent Paul McKenna from doing precisely that, doesn´t it?

Also, after McKenna´s psychokinesis experiment made 3 of the 7 "willed" balls manifest - an event with odds of about 2.8% chance of happening - they immediately changed the lottery rules so that getting 3 of the 6 balls did not automatically guarantee a ten pounds prize.

I wonder why?

"It is impossible to affect the outcome of the draw..."

Still, just in case....

I have made some similar comments about the 1996 McKenna psychokinesis experiment at other CiF threads anent Brown´s stunt.
The number of hits on my blog on Sep 10th was almost 8,000.

Now see what else happened that day -

Note that Brown´s "Prediction" happened on September 9th. The "revelation" happened on C4 on September 11th.
The Bulgarian real life 4.2 million to one replication of the six numbers occurred on September 10th, i.e. in between Derren´s "miracñe" and his "explanation".
Three of the numbers also appeared in the September 13 draw.
An unprecedented 18 people guessed all six numbers when they were drawn the second time on September 10. The winners each get 10,164 leva (5,197 euros).
In the first draw on September 6, nobody got all six numbers right.

Those were -
2 11 23 28 35 39


Would you Adam and Eve it!?
... ... ...
In fact the odds on those same six numbers of the forty-two used in the Bulgarian draw reappearing were higher still: 5,245,786 to one.

And that is without even taking into account the chances of Mr Brown´s "magical prediction" coinciding with the recurrence.

McKenna´s psychokinetic experiment was designed to test whether a concentration of focused minds could will the lottery outcome, just like Wogan´s earlier attempt to marshall mental power.
On the day of Brown´s "prediction", September 9th 2009, this blog got over 1400 hits.
On the following day, September 10th 2009, when the same numbers were drawn again in the National Lottery of Bulgaria, it received 7851.
Almost all hits on both days were from the Guardian threads directly to Entry (6).

Also consider -

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

(254) Same car, same key

On April 23rd 2008 I turned the key in the door of my parked, dark blue, Hyundai Accent, stepped inside ... and saw a mysterious magnetic religious icon on the dash.
Also, I then noticed, it was in a far more spruce condition internally.
This was not my car!
Although mine was parked just 10-15 metres further along this road in Cartagena city centre, this was a car of identical make and colouring and, somewhat disturbingly, my key opened it.