Saturday salon 17/3

1. Stephen Hawking: a legacy of paradox

That’s how the New Scientist summed up the impact of Stephen Hawking, who died last Wednesday aged 76. An amazing life and an amazing intellect. That link is no doubt pay-walled so here’s Gizmodo.

1962 was a big year for Hawking. He turned up at Cambridge University hoping to land Fred Hoyle as a supervisor. He missed out on that, but landed Dennis Sciama, who he’d never heard of. Turned out that was a lucky break:

    Working with Sciama had its advantages. Hoyle’s fame meant that he was seldom in the department, whereas Sciama was around and eager to talk. Those discussions stimulated the young Hawking to pursue his own scientific vision. Hoyle was vehemently opposed to the big bang theory (in fact, he had coined the name “big bang” in mockery). Sciama, on the other hand, was happy for Hawking to investigate the beginning of time.

Not so lucky, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis that year, a degenerative motor neurone disease that quickly robs people of the ability to voluntarily move their muscles. He was told he had two years to live.

But he lived, and his search for a ‘theory of everything’ led him to black holes:

    Black holes were a subject ripe for investigation in the early 1970s. Although Karl Schwarzschild had found such objects lurking in the equations of general relativity back in 1915, theoreticians viewed them as mere mathematical anomalies and were reluctant to believe they could actually exist.

But they do and in black holes matter gets ripped apart to become ‘no thing’. However, Hawking discovered that there was a thing called a ‘firewall’ which encompassed the black hole and gave off radiation.

Theoreticians still haven’t discovered how that all works and what it means, but we now have “Hawking’s paradox” and “Hawking radiation” which are definitely a thing. Moreover, if we want to pursue a ‘theory of everything’ Hawking showed us where to look.

Caltech physicist Sean Carroll says:

    “Stephen Hawking has done more to advance our understanding of gravitation than anyone since Einstein,” Carroll says. “He was a world-leading theoretical physicist, clearly the best in the world for his time among those working at the intersection of gravity and quantum mechanics, and he did it all in the face of a terrible disease. He is an inspirational figure, and history will certainly remember him that way.”

I liked this quote:

‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’

He also said, that there are 100 billion stars in the Milky Way, which is one of 100 billion galaxies. He said he did not think it was all put there for our benefit.

By the way, one recent theory is that the rules which govern our universe are just an anomaly, basically a fluke.

Vale Stephen Hawking. You done good!

Here’s Hawking in the simulated zero gravity facility at NASA:

Here he is with daughter Lucy:

2. Putin fingered on nerve agent attack

The Brits have accused Putin for ordering the nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal who were sitting on a bench in a shopping centre in Salisbury on March 4.

The US, France and Germany agree, and so do we.

Britain said the nerve agent Novichok, a chemical weapon developed by the Soviet Union in the 1980s, was used in the attack.

Phillip Adams’ interview with Will Englund will send a shiver up your spine. Englund reckons that Novichok would be guarded closer than nukes. Apparently the international agreement not to use chemical weapons did not preclude continuing research. Russia has certainly engaged in such research; Englund thinks the Americans probably did too. And possibly still do so.

The best guess seems to be that Putin is sending warnings. Russians who are disloyal know what they can expect. And the Brits now know, if they didn’t already, that Putin can do as he likes under their noses. Everything here points to that kind of signalling. There plenty of less dramatic ways that Skripal could have been killed, if killing Skripal was the objective.

The fact that Skripal is no danger to anyone gives Putin deniability.

Frankly, if sundry Russian mafia have access to Novichok, as Putin implies, then everyone including Putin should be worried. The Russian ambassador to Australia reckons former Soviet countries which have now flown the coop have facilities to produce these chemicals. That’s supposed to ease our minds.

3. Vehicle manufacturing lives again

From the Brisbane Times four days ago:

    After a three-year tender process, the German contractor will build 211 Boxer CRVs at Ipswich, with a future $15 billion deal also on the cards.

    The Prime Minister said the vehicles would cost $15 billion to acquire and maintain over their 30-year lifespan, with two thirds of the money going to Australian industry.

    He said Rheinmetall would work with more than 40 companies across the country, creating 330 jobs in Queensland, 170 in Victoria and 140 in New South Wales.

Cynics and the Victorians are saying that in Queensland there are around 10 LNP seats in play next election, versus only two in Victoria. Federal Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said it was simply a “vehicle-versus-vehicle” decision and the German company won. As he would.

Certainly a skilled workforce was not the attraction. I heard the workers will be given a trip to Germany to learn how to do it.

That’s Phase one and two. Phase three is still to be decided:

    Phase three was expected to involve the construction of 450 more-lethal infantry fighting vehicles in a $15 billion project.

4. When cricket is not cricket

Cricket claims to be our national sport. It is actually a game for bullies, which could only have been invented by the English. Eleven players attempt to humiliate the opposition, two at a time. Yet those two, if they are brave, skillful and have endurance can humiliate the 11.

In the test cricket format, cricket is also boring, played out over 30 or more hours in five days.

I think Ian Chappell was the first to introduce “sledging”, perfected by the very professional Steve Waugh, who sought the mental disintegration of the opposition. A lot of it is done by the fielding team talking among themselves about the batter, how hopeless he is as player, reminding him of how he has gotten out previously – anything, almost, except his personal life, and it all stays on the field, right?

Well, not when you are playing South Africa.

You probably heard that there was a stink about David Warner trying to attack South African batsman Quinton de Kock as the players came into the change rooms. I won’t give you links, because most of them have wrong stuff in them. Here’s what I think happened.

David Warner and Quinton de Kock were seen walking off the field together, apparently conversing in a friendly manner. Leaked security video shows a scuffle at the top of the stairs. I can’t quite tell what was going on, but I think it was Australian player Usman Khawaja physically removing Warner from the scene, who was yelling at de Kock. Aussie captain Steve Smith was also pulling Warner into the Australian rooms. The media made out that Warner was going to physically attack de Kock. So far I haven’t seen any evidence of that.

Warner says that de Kock, very much in a quiet voice so only Warner and wicket keeper Tim Paine heard, said something “vile and disgusting” about Warner’s wife Candace. If you haven’t seen her here is Candace, from an article that says she can’t cook:

She’s obviously an attractive person, who travels Federer-style with Warner and their two young girls.

A far as I can make out, here is the background.

As Candace Falzon Warner’s wife was a successful iron woman – she won a few, but perhaps not top drawer. Back in 2007, she went into the male toilets of the Clovelly Hotel with code hopping NZ rugby player Sonny Bill Williams, which no doubt seemed a good idea at the time.

What wasn’t good was that some grub with a mobile phone recorded what went on and spread it around. Whoever did that should have spent time in jail behind bars.

Subsequent to that event Candace Falzon drove to The Gap where she sat in the car for three hours, ignoring her mother’s desperate phone calls. In the end she decided to live, and called her brother to come and get her.

No-one should be reminded of that. Yet the English “Barmy Army” group of spectators have a song routinely reminding Warner about Sonny Bill. They should not be allowed into the ground.

By the time de Kock got to the top of the stairs he claimed he said nothing. South African players also allege Warner made remarks on field about de Kock’s sister and mother. So with them, retaliating is OK. I don’t know of any other sport that thinks that way.

Steve Smith, who I don’t think knows how to tell a lie, says he didn’t.

Match referee Kiwi Jeff Crowe investigated the incident, apparently preferred the word of one South African to that of two Australian players, and handed de Kock a slap on the wrist fine of $1500. Warner got fined the match fee of $13,500, plus two demerit points.

SA captain Faf du Plessis has said they will continue to needle Warner, he thinks that is how you play the game, and hasn’t ruled out being personal.

After that some SA officials were photographed posing with some local dills who had made 100 Sonny Bill Williams masks to wear to the ground. OK they apologised, but the fact that they allowed themselves to be photographed speaks volumes.

Some former players like Simon Katich and Adam Gilchrist think that cricket players should just play cricket and the field umpires should see that they do. At present it seems that to the cricket establishment sledging is a legitimate part of the game.

And the South Africans, some of them, will look you in the eye, tell lies, and then simultaneously claim the moral high ground. You can find something similar when Harbhajan Singh called Andrew Symonds a big monkey back in 2008.

By the way, SA captain Faf du Plessis admitted that when he reviewed the teams before the series he found that South African players had more demerit points for bad behaviour than the Australians. What happened to Warner looks like a carefully planned move to either shut him up or get him banned.

23 thoughts on “Saturday salon 17/3”

  1. I’m going to have to think about the length of these posts. I used to have a rule that if an item ran to more than 150 words I’d do it as a separate post. This one averages over 400. So it’s like four separate posts run together.

    However, if I do separate posts I like to upgrade the quality, so it’s not just a matter of splitting the items up.

    Gotta go and mow the lawn now and annoy the neighbours.

  2. A little pedantry on item 2, Brian.

    I think the former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe “flew the coop”, but to write flew the coup is quite poetic, especially as some were democracies which did indeed suffer a coup, for instance Czechoslovakia around 1948.

    It occurs to me that “sledging” is much older, and not an Aussie invention. Cricket does not have to be a game for bullies; it was not taught that way when I were a lad.

    Is bullying a particularly English habit? …. and if so, has it ever affected other English games such as rugby???

    They say you need leather balls to play rugby. That sounds crude.

    Is bullying absent from lacrosse, swimming, hockey, basketball, netball, volleyball, polo, water polo? Or indeed from Aussie Rules football?!

  3. No, no, it couldn’t possibly be Vladimir Hitler and his intelligence wallahs who committed these crimes; they’re not that short-sighted and stupid, are they? Surely it must have been the C.I.A. 🙂

  4. Ambi, when I was in Grade 6 my spelling was excellent, but sadly has been deteriorating ever since. I do like to get it right, however, so thanks.

    In mentioning bullying, I was just warming up. However, I see it in the structure of the sport in a way it isn’t in all those other sports you mention.

    What’s peculiarly English is not so much the bullying, but the notion that one brave lad can prevail against the larger group. I can’t think of anything like it elsewhere in sport.

    My main beef is that cricket is no longer just cricket. I think the authorities could cure it if they had the will.

    As I was writing word came through that a Penrith fan had racially vilified Greg Inglis last night. Gus Gould, head honcho at Penrith, said they would look for said fan and if they found him or her, they would be banned from the stadium for life.

    No other sport would put up with the rubbish that goes on around cricket, not even soccer.

  5. Water polo has been a bit of a problem from time to time, notoriously in the Hungary v Soviet Union game in the Melbourne Olympics.

  6. If you can read it Paul Davies on Stephen Hawking in the AFR is worth a look.

    When Davies first went to Cambridge in 1970 Hawking was still able to talk and had a room just down the passageway.

    He reckons Hawking’s A history of time changed the whole perception of theoretical physics from an arcane backwater, to the centre of our concern as a species.

    Apparently the Hawking radiation theory came out first as late of 2005. At first Davies thought it was absurd, but later came around. He reckons Hawking was particularly brave in following where the logic took him.

  7. Thanks Brian

    I agree with you about obscenities and family-oriented abuse on the field: unnecessary, absurd, thoroughly nasty.

    AFL has put an effort into reducing racial abuse from fans and between players.

    With stump microphones, cricket authorities could do likewise. Considering the effort that goes into measuring the tiny infrared radiation from a pad or bat due to contact friction (hot spot), detecting disgusting human audio (sledge mike) should be a doddle.

    The Hungary/USSR water polo match at the Melbourne Olympics “blood in the water” incident was exactly the one I was thinking of. [As a young resident, it was amazing having the athletic world come to our small city, generally in peace, but with a Cold War overlay.]

    Batsman versus eleven: Thermopylae? Hold-out juror against eleven peers? Lone warrior heading for the VC and death? Or the long distance runner out the front with all sorts of tactics being cooked up just behind her in the field??

  8. VC
    was intended to mean Victoria Cross,
    not “Viet Cong”/ NLFSV/North Vietnamese Army.

  9. Brian (Re: MARCH 18, 2018 AT 10:43 PM):

    Apparently the Hawking radiation theory came out first as late of 2005.

    Per Wikipedia on Stephen Hawking:

    His results, which Hawking presented from 1974, showed that black holes emit radiation, known today as Hawking radiation, which may continue until they exhaust their energy and evaporate. Initially, Hawking radiation was controversial. By the late 1970s and following the publication of further research, the discovery was widely accepted as a significant breakthrough in theoretical physics. Hawking was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1974, a few weeks after the announcement of Hawking radiation. At the time, he was one of the youngest scientists to become a Fellow.

    I watched a TV programme on SBS titled Stephen Hawking: A short history of mine, aired on Saturday, where Stephen Hawking said after he presented his controversial paper to a packed university hall (on St Valentine’s Day) there was silence, then the President of the proceedings stood up and said it was the most preposterous thing he had ever heard.

  10. Geoff M, wouldn’t that be Stephen Hawking: A short history of time?

    On ckecking you are right about Hawking radiation dating from the 1970s. I’ve re-read Paul Davies and it isn’t there. Somewhere I read about a presentation in 2005 that challenged orthodoxies. It could have been about what happens to particles and the information they contain at the event horizon.

    However, the NS article says that, like many mathematicians and theoretical physicists, Hawking did his best work when he was young.

  11. Brian (Re: MARCH 19, 2018 AT 3:53 PM):

    Geoff M, wouldn’t that be Stephen Hawking: A short history of time?

    Stephen Hawking’s (best-selling at the time) book was called: A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes, published in 1988.

    The doco broadcast on SBS TV on Saturday was titled: Stephen Hawking : A Brief History of Mine, released in 2013. My flawed memory misquoted the title as Stephen Hawking: A short history of mine.

    Stephen Hawking and his first wife talk about the reaction to Hawking’s presentation of what became known as “Hawking radiation” from about time interval 0:42:30.

  12. Brian: I was listening to ABC News Radio during the night. It is only three weeks since you posted Saturday Salon 3/3 with its lead post, “1. Someone tell Trump the trade war is over. China won”.

    Get ready for a very rough ride.

  13. C orey Bernardi may disagree with what you say, but he will defend to the death your right to say it. Or not.

  14. Mr Smith of the Australian Test cricket team has admitted that the “leadership group” discussed a plan for ball tampering “at lunchtime”.

    1. Said tampering is caught on video.
    2. Aussie coach radios 12th man. He races onto the field to alert the cheat bowler. Bowler tries to hide the tampering device down his underpants before walking over to speak to the umpires, who have been alerted to 1 above.

    You couldn’t make this stuff up.
    You couldn’t stuff up any worse, after all the tut-tutting about horrid sledges.

    Resign, Mr Smith!!
    Cricket Australia: send Mr Smith home, sack the coach.


  15. Jumpy: You are living in an age when “its not cricket” mean’t that someone was being bad. These days “its not cricket” opens the possibility that someone is behaving properly.
    Get up to date.

  16. In news just to hand, Cheaters Australia Cricket Australia has announced a programme with its broadcast partners to add TAMPERCAM to its range of Tools* (Snicko, Hot Spot, Reverse Swing app, SledgeMike, etc.)

    This will enable commentators to check whether the South African bowlers are interfering with the Integrity of the Ball.

    The new venture will be overseen by CA’s Head of Integrity, who reports to The Division of Angelic Antipodeans.

    * by Tools we mean Technologies rather than persons in the commentary box.


    Older viewers will recall the memoirs of Graham Richardson, Whatever It Takes.


  17. The rot started with Warne and became malignant with Clarke.
    Time for a thorough clean out, start afresh.

    I haven’t the words to express my loathing of Smith and Warner.

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