David Nightingale

David Nightingale: Herschel (1738 - 1822)

Jul 4, 2013

Choose a career, and stay with it for life?

Perhaps that's what many people used to do and maybe still do  --  but consider this man:

David Nightingale: L'Hopital's Rule (l'Hopital, 1661-1704)

May 27, 2013

There's been talk over the years about whether or not a famous rule, called l'Hopital's Rule, after the French nobleman Guillaume-Francois-Antoine Marquis de l'Hopital, Comte d'Entremont, Seigneur d'Ouques-La-Chaise – which is not even his full name – possibly 'bought' the rule from the famous mathematician Johann Bernoulli, who was born in 1667.

David Nightingale: Homestead

May 26, 2013

Three young deer, the same three that had touched their noses to my front windows in the snowy months, while I was at the computer barely 8 feet away, and who later ate the emerging hyacinths of March/April, today chewing at low-branched green leaves …

David Nightingale: 50 Shades of Grey

May 2, 2013

The 500 pp book “50 Shades of Grey”, by E.L.James – a pseudonym for the 50 yr old writer Erika Mitchell[ref.2] (who lives in London with her husband and two sons) -- has been variously slanged by critics. Despite these criticisms the book and its 2 sequels have been selling (last year) like wildfire, with the majority of the readers being women. So somehow, worldwide, there is a deep need.

They've released [ref.1] the final report for the disappearance of Flight 447, a 200 ton Airbus which disappeared in June 2009 on its way from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. About 4 hours into the flight, somewhere over the Atlantic, in night-time stormy weather, contact with the airliner was completely lost.

Wikimedia Commons

There've been musicians like astronomer Herschel, and there've been chemists like Borodin – but all my life a favorite mathematician has been Tom Lehrer, whose songs began to come out when he was a graduate student in the '50s.

David Nightingale: College Degrees

Mar 1, 2013

How important is a college degree? It's an age-old question, and it's related to  unequal pay, useful work in a society, and many other factors.

David Nightingale: Asteroid DA14

Feb 15, 2013

The asteroid “DA14”, which will hurtle past us sometime after lunch today, was discovered by Spanish observers last year.

Our highest satellites, used for GPS, are just over 22,000 miles up, and DA14 will pass underneath that level – coming about 17,000 miles from us. Fortunately, NASA assures us we are safe.

Now Earth and Moon have been hit many times, over the eons, by asteroids.The explosive 1908 Tunguska asteroid, a similar size to the one passing us on Friday  (which for a while many suspected might have been a mini-black hole) damaged 800 square miles of Siberia.

David Nightingale - Oliver Heaviside (1850-1925)

Nov 30, 2012

   Oliver Heaviside received not much more than a middle school education, leaving school at 16 -- yet became one of the most famous mathematical physicists of his time [ref.1.].

   In a short biography by Appleyard [ref.2, p.218-9] there are a few drawings of horses by the 11 yr old Oliver, perhaps because his own father was an artist. as well as a wood engraver. The family lived in an impoverished part of Camden Town, London. Nevertheless, his mother's sister was the wife of Charles Wheatstone, famous for the Wheatstone Bridge circuit used in telegraphy.

Anyone who's jumped off a haystack or played on a trampoline, knows the pleasurable feeling of weightlessness, wherein there are, for a fleeting moment, no more sagging body parts.

Felix Baumgartner, a 43-year old Austrian military parachutist, intentionally jumped from a capsule 24 miles up, on Oct 14, thus certainly knowing weightlessness for a decent amount of time. And what a fascinating lot of physics the man who fell from space experienced!

   And who was the 25th President of France?

   Well, I guess this is information for TV's “Jeopardy”, but it was the physicist Dominique Francois Jean Arago, born 50 years after the birth of another statesman/scientist – Ben Franklin.[Ref.1].

   Some may remember from high school a demonstration called “Arago's disk”, wherein a copper or aluminum disc is spun underneath an ordinary compass, and the compass needle begins to swing round also. This is just one of the many experiments Arago did.

You had a lot to say on the WAMC listener comment line this week on everything from Joe Donohue's interview with Jesse Ventura, Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney's '47 %' remarks, and several of our WAMC commentators. Segments of these comments ran Friday Sept. 21 on Midday Magazine and Northeast Report.

David Nightingale: 2 Hospitals

Sep 18, 2012

 In the 19th century, Joseph Henry, first director of the Smithsonian, refused any salary increases, saying that public servants were there to serve, rather than to enrich themselves.

 Now, there are two hospitals in Kingston NY – the Benedictine Hospital, a Catholic hospital (founded on its present site in 1906), and the non-sectarian Kingston hospital (founded in 1894), institutions in which, over the years, my family and I have had sundry  procedures, such as appendix, hernias, and so on.

David Nightingale - Lucretius (~99 - ~55 BCE)

Aug 31, 2012

Lucretius, Roman poet, was born around  99 BCE.

 Sometimes people are remembered for one thing – and with Lucretius it was his  long poem “De Rerum Natura” -- “on natural things”.

David Nightingale - SSTs

Aug 17, 2012

Settling into my seat on an Airbus, I wished that the 8-hour return from Europe could be more like 3 1/2 hours, as I'd heard the SSTs used to take.

 Those SSTs -- Tupolevs and Concordes -- first flew in the late 60's. The Tupolev was first, in 1968, and then the Concordes in 1969. The latter went for 31 years without a crash – with the huge exception of the French Concorde that hit a piece of metal on the runway while taking off from Paris and crashed in flames, killing all on board.


 In an earlier essay I mentioned that there was no reason why pure scientists such as myself shouldn't have a say in politics -- particularly since law-making is sometimes regarded, wrongly I believe, as being just in the province of those trained in law.

The word 'etiquette' reminds me of vicarage ladies discussing which way their pinkies ought to point when holding a tea-cup, but I use the word here with respect to the problem of friends who don't, can't or won't, respond.

I don't email much, and typically my 'you have mail' box may have anything between zero and three new emails each morning. I know people who apparently receive as many as 80 a day, excluding advertising! (How such a phenomenon occurs I'm not sure. They must be very talkative.)

There are at least two famous airlifts associated with World War II. In 1942, when the last route from India to China was cut off, FDR made the decision that it was imperative China receive armaments and supplies for the Army Air Force in China, which was struggling to pin down Japanese forces. Both the US and UK began the appallingly dangerous air lift over the Himalayas -- from Assam (famous for its tea) in India to Kunming in China.