Saturday, September 23, 2006

Autumn Egg-quinox

Today, if you weren't aware, is the Autumn Equinox; the day when there is the same amount of daylight as night (in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway). And there is an old story that you can balance an egg on its end during the Equinox.

What you do is this; balance the egg on its fatter, rounded end and just keep it there. It takes about 10 minutes but suddenly the egg 'settles' (you feel something like a tiny 'clunk' as it happens) and you realise that you can take your fingers away. And voila! One strangely balancing egg apparently in defiance of gravity and all reason.

So I tried it. And, to my utter surprise, it worked.

Just then, my brother-in-law (a very pragmatic and not easily impressed heating engineer) turned up. I showed him my egg. He looked for the blu-tack, wires and evidence of glue. He scratched his head. Then he snorted, grabbed an egg from the basket and, in an 'anything you can do ...' fashion, attempted to balance it on its pointy end.

And it also worked. I was amazed.

So try it for yourselves. But be quick ... the Equinox will be over at 4am tomorrow morning. Saying that, I'm pretty sure an egg will balance tomorrow too. Or, indeed, on any other day.

Guess what I'll be doing tomorrow?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Wheelie clever (sorry)

Another apology. Another break in my blogging. I've been in Falkirk, Scotland, and a very nice place it was too. I visited the Falkirk Wheel while I was there. If you've not seen it before, it's a superb piece of engineering. But it's also a work of art. And an icon of how to be practical and eco-friendly.

The wheel is a boat lift, a phenomenally clever piece of kit that links two canals - the Union Canal and the Forth and Clyde - that are at different heights. In just one roatation, the wheel can lift 300 tons of water and boat 115ft into the air. And it works by balance, gravity and a little electric push that uses no more energy than is needed to boil 15 kettles. As one boat is hoisted up, another is going down on the opposite side. The whole process takes around 15 minutes and, once lifted, a boat then continues its journey along a 100 metre long aqueduct, through a tunnel under the Roman Antonine Wall (built in 140AD), under the main Glasgow to Edinburgh railway and finally through a series of traditional locks to join the Union Canal. I climbed a hill behind the wheel to take a few shots and the sun, obligingly, came out.

Perfect.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Chopsticks for Dummies

Hey ho, here we are again. I've been away for a couple of weeks to such exotic climes as Birmingham and Watford. The postcard's in the mail.

I've had a couple of really, really nice Chinese meals while I've been away. And, as the result, I feel the need to talk about chopsticks. At the risk of sounding casually racist ... what's the big idea, guys?

Yes, yes, I know that the origin has something to do with weapons that can stab and cut not being brought to the table, but honestly ... who ever got stabbed with a spoon?

And why is there always some flash tit on the table next to me who is so dextrous with his sticks that he can separate water molecules?