David Nightingale

David Nightingale: A Walk

Feb 11, 2018

I left home and parked at the side of a little-used off-road. Where my tires had been in 5” of snow a week ago, there was now only muddy water. Maybe a walk would clear the mind of a degree of hopelessness, concerning world news, rampant flu, and/or the hopelessness of the current administration.

David Nightingale: Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) Part 2

Jan 21, 2018

Three weeks ago I described some of Fred Hoyle's rebellious childhood, which included truancy from school and wandering in the fields as a little boy, making toxic phosphene in his mother's kitchen -- but I didn't describe how, after failing twice, he won a full scholarship to Cambridge. There, partly because his heroes, James Jeans and Arthur Eddington had trained in mathematics, he also decided for the grueling 3 year math tripos. He was awarded the Mayhew Prize, and a year into graduate work the Smith Prize. Paul Dirac took him on as a research student, on the understanding that Hoyle would work on whatever he wanted and that they would never bother each other. His 'official' advisor was German-educated Rudolph Peierls, who had studied under Heisenberg.

David Nightingale: Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) Part 1

Dec 31, 2017

This essay is about Fred Hoyle, but first we should say who he was.

The late Walter Sullivan of the New York Times called Hoyle 'one of the most creative and provocative astrophysicists of the last half of the 20th Century' as well as a 'lifelong rebel, eager for intellectual combat' [ref.2,p.339].

David Nightingale: Elihu Thomson (3/29/1853 - 1937)

Dec 10, 2017
Elihu Thompson, circa 1880
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

From time to time, in the history of science, especially when reading about giants like Edison, one comes across the name Elihu Thomson, and, if one passes through Swampscott, MA, there's a brick Georgian Revival national historic building that was his home for 40 years.

David Nightingale: November '17

Nov 19, 2017

October changed into November. The leaf peepers came to the mountains, took photos, and left. I'm not sure if they saw the peak of colors they wanted, for many roadside trees still have leaves -- brown and orange. Despite low temperatures, nature still shows bright red bushes and full green trees.

David Nightingale: A Few Pet Peeves

Oct 29, 2017

Let's get away from trumpitudes and politics for a moment. This essay is about brights, loud ads, passwords, and 'unavailable'.

David Nightingale: Marco Polo (1254-1324)

Oct 8, 2017
photo of a mosaic representing Marco Polo at Villa Hanbury, Ventimiglia, Italy
Lotho2 / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

As a follow-up to my essay on Ghenghis Khan, here's another from the 13th century. As to why someone with only a training in physics would write about these things -- well, the answer might be simply 'so as to work upon my own ignorance'!

David Nightingale: Genghis Khan (~1160 - 1227 AD) (Temujin)

Sep 17, 2017
Portrait of Genghis Khan
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Imagine standing somewhere on the Great Wall of China and looking north. Before Russia there would be the Gobi desert, and Mongolia.

David Nightingale: Lucretius, Philosopher

Aug 27, 2017
Sculpture of Lucretius, 1859-1861, Parco del Pincio, Rome
photo by Colle Pincio / Wikimedia Commons

This essay is about Titus Lucretius Carus, a Roman, who was born around 99 BC.

He is known for a long poem “De Rerum Natura” -- “on natural things” -- or on natural philosophy.

David Nightingale: Pool in the Woods

Aug 6, 2017

A hot humid day, and as I walked through the forest toward the pool I saw someone was already there -- but I could only see the head and a small hat. Perfectly motionless.

David Nightingale: Wrong Way Corrigan (1907-1995)

Jul 16, 2017
Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan's plane returning to the US via ship
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Douglas Corrigan, son of a school teacher and an engineer involved in bridge construction, submitted his flight plan to the NY authorities in July 1938, and this plan was to fly non-stop from Brooklyn back to California, which he'd left ten days earlier. That prior 27-hour cross-country trip was amongst the longest non-stop flights he had ever made, and he had fitted special extra fuel tanks to his plane.

David Nightingale: Angela Merkel (1954 - )

Jun 25, 2017
German Chancelor Dr. Angela Merkel
Jacques Grießmayer / Wikimedia Commons

When the first-born child of a Lutheran clergyman, 7 year old Angeela Kasner corrected her music teacher's mispronunciation of her name, she already exemplified that she could be a perfectionist as well as a bit of a pain. But her East German teacher was not too put out -- she knew that this pastor's daughter, whom she had mistakenly called Angela was rather bossy but a good pupil.

David Nightingale: Politics 2017

Jun 4, 2017

As an Independent, I believe that the greater good has to be the fundamental aim of government in a healthy and successful society.

David Nightingale: Father Divine (~1879 - 1965)

May 14, 2017

Old-timers in the Hudson Valley sometimes talk about properties that belonged to Father Divine -- or rather, to the Peace Movement led by George Baker. These properties were referred to as 'Heavens' rather than houses.

David Nightingale: Sojourner Truth (1797?? -1883)

Apr 24, 2017
Sojourner Truth, c. 1870
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution / Wikimedia Commons

Why write an essay on the well-known Sojourner Truth, especially well-known in New York? Well, my motivation is none other than a long-felt comment about mankind's inhumanity towards mankind, and I use her to illustrate the rare power of honesty and truth.

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.

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