David Nightingale

David Nightingale: Bloomberg (1942 - )

Apr 2, 2017
Michael Bloomberg
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

What do you have to do to find yourself worth, today, $47 billion?

David Nightingale: Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

Mar 12, 2017
Robert Louis Stevenson in a work by Count Girolamo Nerli
Count Girolamo Nerli / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Let's take a break from politics and trumpitudes, and look at the early life of Robert Louis Stevenson -- for that's about all a short essay can encompass. Specifically, let's go as far as the time Stevenson fell off his horse in California, on his way to his future wife ... and lay there for two days, before a couple of ranchers saved him ...

David Nightingale: Smart Meters And Microwaves

Feb 19, 2017
Talbott/National Institute of Standards and Technology / Wikimedia Commons

This essay is about the 'smart' technology that many utility companies have introduced, and to which there is a degree of nationwide opposition.

David Nightingale: Niels Bohr (1885-1962)

Jan 22, 2017
Niels Bohr
Public Domain / WikiMedia Commons

This essay is about Niels Bohr, so let's take ourselves to the small low-lying country of Denmark -- specifically, its capital, Copenhagen -- on the east coast, facing and close to Sweden.

David Nightingale: Christmas Sale

Jan 1, 2017
Christmas at the River Roads Shopping Center - Jennings, Missouri, 1970
Dwaynep2015 / Wikimedia Commons

I got to the front of the line, with many people heaving and pushing behind me. The woman in front of me had a drippy nostril, spreading down over her upper lip, but had finished signing things, and she performed two more sneezes before leaving. Good-day said the cashier.

David Nightingale: H.L.Mencken (1880-1956)

Dec 11, 2016
H.L. Mencken
Public Domain

After the 2016 US presidential election London's Observer quoted H.L.Mencken on democracy:

"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents more and more closely the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their hearts desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

David Nightingale: "Where does it go?"

Nov 19, 2016
Electrical wiring at the outskirts of Helsinki, Finland.
Aatu Liimatta / Wikimedia Commons

My friend has just hooked up his new rooftop solar panels, and been delighted to see his meter run backwards. "But," he said to me "where does the electricity go?"

David Nightingale: Bricks

Oct 30, 2016
Stack of bricks
ArnoldReinhold / Wikimedia Commons

On a sunny mid-October Saturday, reading that the Hutton brickyard 'Market' -- Smorgasburg -- was closing down for the year, I drove to Kingston. I'd never visited the Hutton brickyard, but many times when putting my little Sunfish into the river at Kingston Point, had noticed all the broken bricks labelled 'Hutton' lying north of the beach.

David Nightingale: Leon Theramin (1896-1993)

Oct 2, 2016

That was Leon Sergeyevich Termen (tair-MEN), better known as Lev Theramin, born in 1896 in St Petersburg [ref.1]. By the time he was 30, which would be 1926, he was demonstrating his extraordinary invention which made music simply from hand-waving, and he was being welcomed enthusiastically musicians and scientists in Germany, France, England and the US. His instrument, the theramin, was just a small-ish box of electronics, with a vertical rod looking like an antenna (but actually only a rod that was one side of a capacitor, the other side being his body.)

David Nightingale: Hudson River Anchorages

Sep 13, 2016

The Hudson River, all 315 miles of it from the Adirondacks to the Atlantic, has been used by mankind for a long time. Its estuary was explored by Verrazano in 1524, and Henry Hudson sailed his Half Moon up about as far as Albany in 1609. Prior to that, the river was of course home to native American Indians on each of its shores. Some of its viewsheds, particularly from the east looking towards the Catskills prompted the establishment of estates such as Boscobel, Clermont, Vanderbilt, Wilderstein, Olana and so on.

David Nightingale: Late Summer

Sep 4, 2016


Still summer, but I come down this morning and see yellow leaves on the lawn.

David Nightingale: Goldilocks Zones

Jul 16, 2016

Someone said to me a while ago 'all your essays are about science', and I read between the lines that they were consequently of little interest. But what about Borodin, Queen Zenobia, Dorothy Parker, Pickpockets, Granny D, Robin Williams, Selfridge, Adirondack murders, Robert Frost, Julius Caesar, Emperor Aurelius....? ... and it brings to mind the irate Archbishop who once accused the author of Principia Mathematica of only ever writing about sex.

David Nightingale: Wm Henry Seward (1801 - 1872)

Jul 3, 2016

Driving on the quiet Route 20, roughly parallel to the NYS Thruway -- a far more peaceful way to go, at the state limit of 55 rather than the 70+ mph of close-packed semis and trucks -- I stopped overnight in Auburn. Auburn is one of those towns in New York's Finger Lakes region, some with delightful names like Canandaigua, Cazenovia, Skaneateles.

David Nightingale: Elon Musk

May 29, 2016

  This essay is about 45-year-old Elon Musk, a co-founder of PayPal, CEO of Tesla, and founder and CEO of SpaceX, born in S.Africa in 1971 to a Canadian model and a S.African engineer.

David Nightingale: Politics 2016

May 15, 2016
Trump rouses crowd
Pat Bradley/WAMC

I am a registered Independent, and once in a while I cut out a political 'letter to the editor', or a commentary. Right now I have a little pile of such cuttings that I need to get rid of.

David Nightingale: Gerard K. O'Neill (1927 - 1992)

Apr 24, 2016

This essay is about Gerard K. O'Neill.

There are many O'Neills that are better known -- for example Eugene O'Neill, author of "The Iceman Cometh", or the nine-times-married actress and model, Jennifer O'Neill, known especially for her role in the movie "Summer of '42".

David Nightingale: Boltzmann (1844-1906)

Mar 27, 2016

Ludwig Boltzmann was born in 1844. He tried to end his life at age 56, and in fact succeeded (if that's the right word) at 62.

David Nightingale: Our Non-Winter

Mar 6, 2016

This winter, 2015-16, has been a no-show for much of the Hudson Valley. At the time of writing, Feb 29, there's no white stuff anywhere in sight. My snow blower, serviced and ready since November, still stands forlorn and unused in the barn, and misguided daffodils have been perking 3 inches above autumn's leaves since the end of January.

David Nightingale: Gravity Waves

Feb 21, 2016

When flying, it's sometimes possible to look down the domes of ordinary observatories such as in Hawaii or Chile, or onto radio telescopes in Puerto Rico or Jodrell Bank, but now, looking down on Italy or Germany or Louisiana or Washington state, it is possible, if not flying too high, to see L-shaped labs which are observatories for gravity waves. The arms of those 'L's are typically ~2 miles long each, and they house the laser beams that travel inside them.

David Nightingale: John Burroughs (4/3/1837 - 3/29/1921)

Feb 7, 2016

My younger son suggested an essay on John Burroughs, but I told him that probably everyone in the N-E knew more about the famous naturalist than I ever did. Apart from seeing a plaque at the top of Slide Mountain and a long-ago visit to his cabin, Slabsides, I knew very little.

David Nightingale: Granny D

Jan 24, 2016

"Back home in New Hampshire," wrote Mrs Doris Haddock, "I began walking my 10 miles a day with a heavy backpack. I am already a little stooped over, but it was manageable ..." [Ref.1, p.13]

Thus "Granny D", a then 88 year old retired shoe factory worker, described the plans for her walk across America, to raise awareness for Clean Elections and Campaign Finance reform.

  I've been sad, as many have, since Robin Williams chose to leave us, in August 2014. We realized there'd be no more statements like:

David Nightingale: George Westinghouse (1846 - 1914)

Dec 27, 2015
Public Domain

In past essays I've spoken of Morse from Poughkeepsie, Henry from Albany, and now -- George Westinghouse from Schenectady -- although he moved later to Pittsburgh, near where (at Wilmerding, PA) there is today a Westinghouse Museum.

David Nightingale: JJ & GP Thomson

Dec 13, 2015
J.J. Thomson
Wikipedia Commons

This essay is about Nobel prize winning fathers and sons in physics, of which there are quite a few, focussing here on JJ Thomson and his son GP Thomson.  JJ is famous for having discovered the electron, and 30 years later his son discovered that it was a wave. Today we can correctly describe all particles, be they electrons or Volkswagens, either way.

David Nightingale: Charles Dodgson (1832-1898)

Nov 29, 2015

Learn well your grammar, / And never stammer,
Write well and neatly, / And sing most sweetly.
.....
Drink tea, not coffee; / Never eat toffy.
Eat bread with butter. / Once more, don't stutter.

The mathematician Charles Dodgson, who indeed suffered from stammering, wrote those lines when he was 13, and they anticipate his later nonsense verse, such as:

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

David Nightingale: Richard Dawkins (1941- present)

Nov 8, 2015

My essays have been on poets, writers, engineers, not politicians yet -- and here's one on Richard Dawkins, author of "The Selfish Gene" and other books in ethology. (Ethology is a word coming from the Greek word 'ethos' for 'character'.) So although he's an ethologist, it will be simpler to describe him as a biologist.

David Nightingale: Serap

Oct 25, 2015

Serap was attractive, about 26, black haired (like most middle easterners) with neither burka nor chador; and she worked in our physics department at the university. I saw her as somewhat reserved, polite to all, and self-contained. In one course I was the instructor and she the assistant. I was a year or two older, and careful to be reserved myself, very careful actually, because -- in the 1960s anyway -- interactions between opposite sex foreigners and Moslems was an extremely sensitive matter. Westerners were unbelievers – there was a specific word for it in the dictionary – gavur (infidel) – and I had no intention of being attacked or receiving a ritual beating.

David Nightingale: Pickpockets 2015

Oct 4, 2015

In the last few weeks I have been issued a new credit card, because someone else has begun to use the old number -- apparently to order pizzas from Dominos and to buy a $750 item from a company I've never heard of.

David Nightingale: Zenobia (240 - 275?)

Sep 13, 2015

This essay is about Queen Zenobia of Syria.

The setting is Palmyra, a beautiful city on an oasis at the edge of the Syrian desert. While there is a Palmyra on the Erie Canal in NY State, not far from Rochester NY, the Palmyra that Zenobia grew up in is situated between a mountain and the Orontes river -- with a pleasant climate, palm trees, and fertile land for such crops as barley, olives, figs, pistachios.

David Nightingale: Bikinis And Bombs

Aug 23, 2015
nuclear test at the Bikini atoll
Wikimedia Commons

 In 1946 a Parisian engineer, whose mother owned a lingerie business, designed a women's swim suit consisting of 3 -- or at most 4 -- tiny triangles. A little earlier in 1946 explosive testing of nuclear bombs had been resumed after the horrific damages in Japan of 1945. These nuclear tests were on the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The engineer knew his swimsuit design would also be explosive, and he named it the "bikini".

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