1. Stephen Hawking: a legacy of paradox
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.
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.