David Nightingale

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".

About a century ago there was no switch we could flip to cool things down, except perhaps for a simple fan... but now, in sweltering and humid summers we have much to thank Mr Willis Carrier for.

Willis Haviland Carrier's family came from New England. His male ancestor emigrated from Wales in 1663, and married an early settler from Massachusetts, a woman who was later accused of being a witch because she defied the Andover town fathers in a boundary dispute. Refusing to admit to being a witch she had been hung from the gallows in Salem.

David Nightingale: Adirondack Murders, 1973

Jul 12, 2015

He had been born in Dannemora in 1936. The police ultimately shot him to death after he escaped from his final prison, Fishkill, in 1978. His name was Robert Garrow.

David Nightingale: Franklin's Electricity

Jun 28, 2015

At the time of the Declaration of Independence it wasn't known what electricity was. A fluid, perhaps? Or a fire?

A famous American, Harry Selfridge, opened what is now a well-known retail store, Selfridges, in London in 1909.

One of his biographers is a professor Linda Woodhead, who earned a double first class honors degree in, of all things, Theology and Religious Studies. She's an expert on Christianity, neo-Hinduism and Islam.

David Nightingale: Robert Frost (3/26/1874 - 1/29/1963)

May 24, 2015

Long ago, looking for a particular physics text in a London bookstore, I found, not far from the "P"s for physics and philosophy, a Penguin paperback simply called 'Robert Frost' [Ref.2.]. Browsing through the book, I was completely taken. I really couldn't afford such, from my meager graduate assistantship, but knew I would have to buy it.

David Nightingale: On Energy Independence

May 3, 2015

Let's look at the idea of Energy Independence, and the possibility of no further need for filling the coffers of sometimes unstable fuel-producing nations.

David Nightingale: Steinmetz (4/9/1865 - 10/26/1923 )

Apr 19, 2015

When 24 yr old Steinmetz arrived in New York harbor in 1889 he was nearly turned back. His frail and stunted body, his inability to speak English, plus no money, caused the immigration officials to reject him, for fear he might become a "public charge". Fortunately, the friend he had travelled with, who could speak English, assured the officials that he would personally look after him, and cover any debts, adding that Steinmetz had graduated in mathematics at the top of his class, in the Prussian city of Breslau (now part of Poland).

 Spring has sprung—what better now than a little review of atomic physics.