Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice 2014: What is it – and why will our mornings carry on getting darker?

B-r-r-r! Good day to you. Cold one here...-14C this AM here in Cornwall, ON Canada - the Centre of the Universe! (Yeah? What universe is that and what have you been smokin, there Bob?). If you're half as cold as we are, you'll need a mug of coffee and a virtual treat to get you going so dig in.

The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year. It occurs when the sun's daily maximum height in the sky is at its lowest, and the North Pole is tilted furthest away from the sun. This results in the least number of daylight hours and the longest night of the year.

The Solstice is celebrated by druids and pagans as the ‘re-birth’ of the sun for the New Year. In the UK, thousands gather each year to mark the occasion at Stonehenge in Somerset.

The Winter Solstice occurs in December in the Northern Hemisphere, and in June in the Southern Hemisphere.

The date itself is not fixed:  the phenomenon doesn't always occur on 21 December in the Northern Hemisphere. Sometimes it arrives in the early hours of 22 December, which will happen next year. The hour also fluctuates: last year's Solstice arrived at 17:11, whereas next year's is predicted to be at 04:38.

Why will mornings still get darker after the Solstice?

A solar day is rarely 24 hours exactly.  The sun therefore lags behind the clock for part of the year, and speeds ahead of it for another.

The length of a solar day varies because the axis of the Earth's rotation is tilted - 23.5 degrees from vertical - and because its speed fluctuates as it orbits the sun, accelerating when it is closer to the star's gravitational pull and decelerating when further away.

It takes a while for the clock and the solar days to align: evenings draw in towards their earliest sunset a couple of weeks before the shortest day, and mornings continue to get darker until a couple of weeks after.

Hey, I know what that's like. Takes me a while to get going in the mornings when it's this cold. 

So what's the good news? Only 13 weeks till spring!

See ya, eh!



Saturday, December 20, 2014

In Memoriam...David Kent

Khun Patamaporn, Director of Srisuvit School advised me this morning of the passing of my good friend and colleague, Teacher David Kent, from cancer. When I was appointed Head of the English Programme and Foreign Teachers at Srisuivit School in Banglamung, Thailand, Dave was one of the first teachers to join our new programme.

Dave was an excellent teacher, well loved by his many students. His knowledge and easy-going style were well appreciated by Thai and foreign teachers alike. 

Dave was the voice of reason in the teachers’ room; an enthusiastic participant in our English Camps, student outings and fun festivals such as our New Years and Student Day Event. 
Whenever we were introducing a new textbook or school procedure, Dave was the one whose opinion I counted upon and valued the most. I conferred with Dave on many occasions.

He will be sadly missed by everyone in the school and the ex-pat community in the Pattaya area. We extend our sincere condolences to Dave’s family in Great Britain.

Teacher Bob and Teacher Nong

Friday, December 19, 2014

Quantum Teleportation Reaches Farthest Distance Yet

Do~DO! Do~DO! Do~DO! Earth to cyberspace! Oh there you are...instantly teleported even as I speak (sort of). Just in time, too. Coffee's hot in the pot and the virtual quantum muffins are waiting for you. Did I say Quantum? Read on...

A new distance record has been set in the strange world of quantum teleportation. The pictured crystals captured and stored quantum information at the end of the teleportation.

In a recent experiment, the quantum state (the direction it was spinning) of a light particle instantly traveled 15.5 miles (25 kilometers) across an optical fiber, becoming the farthest successful quantum teleportation feat yet. 

Advances in quantum teleportation could lead to better Internet and communication security, and get scientists closer to developing quantum computers. About five years ago, researchers could only teleport quantum information, such as which direction a particle is spinning, across a few meters. Now, they can beam that information across several miles. [Twisted Physics: 7 Mind-Blowing Findings]

Quantum teleportation doesn't mean it's possible for a person to instantly pop from New York to London, or be instantly beamed aboard a spacecraft like in television's "Star Trek." Physicists can't instantly transport matter (yet, I say), but they can instantly transport information through quantum teleportation.

Quantum information has already been transferred dozens of miles, but this is the farthest it's been transported using an optical fiber, and then recorded and stored at the other end. Other quantum teleportation experiments that beamed photons farther used lasers instead of optical fibers to send the information. But unlike the laser method, the optical-fiber method could eventually be used to develop technology like quantum computers that are capable of extremely fast computing, or quantum cryptography that could make secure communication possible.

Physicists think quantum teleportation will lead to secure wireless communication — something that is extremely difficult but important in an increasingly digital world. Advances in quantum teleportation could also help make online banking more secure.

Beam me up, Scotty!

See ya, eh!


Note: I cut out a lot of the technical info in this post. If you want to read more about it, go here:


Thursday, December 18, 2014

This Muscle Could Save Your Life!

Hello there! I’m delighted that you’re here. I put on a fresh pot of coffee and got some delectable virtual treats for you to try so help yourself to a Christmas cookie, muffin or double double butter tart, why don’t’cha?  I just made up the double double butter tart name but it sounds like something I’d like to try a double double coffee-flavoured butter tart, eh. I’ll report back to you after tested them. 
I just received an email from my pal Dr Al and thought I’d share it. We’re all getting older and especially with the icy conditions we get here in the frozen north, falling down can be hazardous to your health. With that in mind, here’s what Dr Al has to say about it:

Dear Bob,

You probably know someone who’s fallen and broken a hip. But what you may not know is that it’s not just elders who fall.

The risk for breaking a hip doubles every five years after you turn fifty.

And 30% of people who fall and break a hip develop complications and die within a year.1

The good news is you can use the power of your muscles to avoid falling and breaking your hip, starting today. The fact is falling down doesn’t have to be a part of aging. You just have to decide that you’re not going to take it lying down.

It involves strengthening your quadriceps muscles.

You see, the signals to your muscles start to slow down as you get older, making it harder for your muscles to respond.

Researchers looked at how muscles respond when the brain cells that activate them – called neurons – send out electrical signals for the muscles to move.

They found that as you age, not only do muscles respond more slowly, but neurons fire less frequently.

You might think this confirms the conventional wisdom – that “slowing down” is an inevitable consequence of aging.

But it’s not true.

Studies show that quadriceps muscle strength is the number one predictor of how active, healthy and mobile you’ll stay as you get older.2

Studies also show that if you strengthen your quad muscles, it can significantly improve both neuron and muscle response.3

That means you can turn back the clock on what you were told was a feature of aging, and stay mobile and healthy as you age.

And, if you think you’re too old to get these benefits, think again. Researchers at Tufts University’s Human Nutritional Research Center studied the effects of training for power on a group between the ages of 63 and 98. Most needed hearing aids or wheelchairs.

After just ten weeks, these “elders” saw an increase in muscle strength, stamina, and stability. Many were able to walk unaided by the end of the study.4

So here’s something you can do starting right now to boost the power in your legs and hips. It’s my favorite leg workout, and the only one I do every day. They’re Dr. Sears’ Modified Hindu Squats.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Extend your arms out in front of you, parallel to the ground with your hands open and palms facing down.
  • Inhale briskly and pull your hands straight back towards you as if you’re rowing.
  • As you pull back, turn the wrists up and make a fist.
  • At the end of the inhalation, your elbows should be behind you with both hands in a fist, palm side up.
  • From this position, exhale, bend your knees and squat.
  • Let your arms fall to your thighs.
  • Continue exhaling and let your arms swing up as you stand back up to the starting position

Repeat at the pace of one repetition every four seconds. Once you are comfortable with the form, you can increase your speed to one squat per second. Repeat until you feel winded. Rest, recover and do two more sets.

It’s important to keep in mind that increasing your power is what makes the difference. With more strength, you’ll do a lot more for yourself than avoid injury. You’ll also boost your immune system, elevate your mood, increase your stamina, burn more fat, and even prevent chronic pain.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD

Thanks, Dr Al! With my balance sometimes not at its best, I do a modified squat. In the kitchen, I grasp the edge of the sink with both hands and use that to keep my balance as I bend my knees. 10 reps is a good start. I also use the edge of the sink to help with arm muscles and by putting one foot about 18 inches ahead of the other, stretching my calf muscles (alternating after 10 seconds or so with three reps).

Just thinking about it is getting me tired. Think I’ll have another coffee, virtual treat and a nap!

See ya, eh!


1. Thorell K, Ranstad K, Midlöv P, Borgquist L, Halling A. "Is use of fall risk-increasing drugs in an elderly population associated with an increased risk of hip fracture, after adjustment for multimorbidity level: a cohort study." BMC Geriatr. 2014;14(1):131.
2. Swallow, Elisabeth B., et al, “Quadriceps strength predicts mortality in patients with moderate to severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” Thorax 2007;62:115-120
3. Cristopher A. Knight and Gary Kamen, “Modulation of motor unit firing rates during a complex sinusoidal force task in young and older adults,” Journal of Applied Physiology, 102(2007): 122-129.
4. Klatz R., Hormones of Youth, American Academy of Anti-Aging, Chicago 1999 p. 47–48.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Newly-Opened Chinese School of Arts Is a Real-Life Hogwarts

I waved my magic wand and KAZAAM!... you appeared out of the cybersky. Good to see you. Help yourself to a steamingly refreshing mug of arabica juice and a magical virtual muffin while I tell you about an interesting college in China.

Young Potterheads in China are in for a real treat – they have the chance to study at their very own Hogwarts! Well, it isn’t really a school of magic – the building is a part of the Hebei Academy of Fine Arts and will house the school’s animation students. But who cares as long as you get to spend hours inside a magnificent castle that strongly resembles Harry Potter’s famous school, right?

Images of the impressive school went viral as more and more netizens began to notice that its various turrets and towers are a lot like Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But the designers of the structure insist that they weren’t inspired by J. K. Rowling’s magical world; they simply modelled the castle after European architecture in general. They actually prefer to call it ‘Cinderella Castle’, since it features a gigantic clock tower.

Sadly, there won’t be any shifting staircases or talking portraits inside the castle. But it still is a pretty awesome place for a college. “We want our students to be inspired and this impressive fairytale architecture is exactly what they need for working in a creative environment,” a spokesperson for Hebei Academy said. “It’s important for the students and for the staff that they feel part of something special, and that is enough magic to ensure what we have created is a fine institution for furthering interest in the study of arts.”

Pretty neat place to study the fine arts, don't'cha think? Anyone up for a game of Quiddich?

See ya, eh!


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Artist Turns Human Bodies into Living Canvases

A splendiferous day to you wherever you are... cyberspace or elsewhere. Mind the coffeepot as you spiral down for a mugful. Grab a virtual treat ot twain while you're here. You know I'm attracted to artistic endeavours, right? Well here's a pretty foxy artist!

There’s more to the animal portraits painted by Florida-based artist Shannon Holt than meets the eye. If you look carefully, you’ll notice the canvases are actually human bodies contorted into just the right position.

The expert body-painter spends between 6 and 12 hours instructing the models to adopt the right stance and painstakingly painting every little detail of the animal she brings to life through her art. 

After experimenting with various mediums, Holt decided the skin was the perfect medium to express her talent. “The body was the final surface I tried before I decided skin was the key to making my work successful,” she said. “I love it because it happened automatically and beautifully with no planning – it’s a perfect creative example of how cool body painting can be. It can transform into two different images with the repositioning of the model’s arms and hands.”

Remarkable. I suppose the artist would either start with an animal sketch and see how human shapes could be worked into it - or see a human shape and think about how it resembled an animal part. Either way, it's quite ingenious, don't'cha think?

See ya, eh!


Monday, December 15, 2014

The Floating Basket Homes of Iraq

As-salam alaykom! Greetings! Kayfa ḥālak? Good...I'm glad you are well. Coffee? Virtual treat? Of course, eh! Time to relax, kick back and chat a little. Here's something I doubt you know much about. I could be wrong, of course, but...

Little is known to the world about Iraq’s Tigris-Euphrates marshlands – an area that, at one time, covered over 9,000 square miles – bigger than Venice’s lagoon and Florida’s Everglades combined. The marshland was inhabited continuously for over 5,000 years and at its peak, it was home to half-a-million ‘Marsh Arabs’ or ‘Ma’dan’.

The Ma’dan consisted of several tribes that had developed a beautiful, eco-friendly culture that centered on the marshes’ natural resources. One of the truly admirable aspects of their lifestyle was their beautifully elaborate dwellings – floating houses made entirely out of reeds that were harvested from the open water.

These architectural wonders, strongly reminiscent of the ‘casoni’ of the Venetian fishermen, were called ‘mudhif’. They were temporary structures built of reeds in only three days, without the use of nails or wood. Even the islands that the houses would rest on were made of complicated arrangements of mud and rushes.

Aha! Interesting, no? ensuite in the master bedroom? Hey, get that goat outta here! Where is the toidy? Oh, off the back end, is it. That's where it usually is, right?

See ya, eh!


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Time may run backwards in a mirror universe

Hey there, cyberpuppy! How's she going, eh? Great to think that you do take time to spiral on down to keep track of what is really happening in the universe. This universe, I mean. Speaking of which, I'm going to tease your mind a little so you'd better load up on coffee and a virtual treat or two, okay?
Scientists have proposed that there is a universe parallel to our own in which time runs in reverse. Say what?

There is still much to understand about the concept of time, the every present chronological continuum which drives ourselves and the rest of the universe eternally forward.

Now however scientists conducting a new experiment designed to better understand how the cosmos came in to being have proposed that when our own universe was created, so too was a corresponding mirror universe in which time runs backwards. (I may need something stronger than a double espresso!)

The idea was born from the concept that all the fundamental laws of physics work just as well if time is in reverse as they do forward and that this is exactly what is happening in this mirror universe.

While it would effectively be the same universe as our own, events there would likely happen differently and would not simply be the mirror image of what is happening here.

An observer in one universe however would see events in the other going backwards.

"Time is a mystery," said Dr Julian Barbour. "Basically, all the known laws of physics look exactly the same whichever way time runs, and in the world in which we live everything goes in one direction."

Whether we would ever be able to visit this mirror universe however remains to be seen.

Aha! A most thought-provoking idea! Hmmm... the possibilities. What events in our universe happen, they automatically move into that other universe somehow? Don't ask me how. I'm an amateur astrophysicist not an astro-engineer but I’d be interested in knowing what you think about these concepts!

See ya, eh!


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Names in the News

Well, hi there. How're things with you today? Going according to plan? Well go get yourself a mug of coffee and a virtual treat then come join me at the VIP table as I enlighten you as to how names can have a significant impact on a person's career... by association.

Arrested in October for burglary of a Kohl's department store in Alhambra, California: Ms. Josephine Crook, 49. 



Passed away on Oct. 15 in Marietta, Georgia: Ms. Ida Gbye,81.


 Arrested in October and charged with stabbing two men in Regina, Saskatchewan: Ms. Danielle Knife, 24 

Charged in Mississauga, Ontario, in October with sexually assaulting three male patients: psychologist Dr. Vincent Hung Lo

Arrested in November in Gainesville, Florida, on sexual assault charges but then exonerated three days later when accuser Jeremy Foster was caught lying: Mr. Phuc Kieu, 58


Sources: [KNBC-TV (Los Angeles), 10-26-2014] [Marietta Daily Journal, 10-23-2014] [CTV News (Regina), 10-16-2014] [The Star (Toronto), 10-7-2014] [First Coast News (Jacksonville), 11-26-2014] 

Just call me 'Bloodhound Bob'! I track down and sort through a slew of interesting tidbits and decide which ones I think are worthy of passing along to my ever-increasing (he said hopefully) faithful readership.

This reminds me of the name of a Chinese Funeral Home on Spadina Ave. in Toronto that I saw long ago. It is called 'Wing On'...which I thought was quite appropriate.

See ya, eh!