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Sunday Musings #170

Light travels faster than sound. That’s why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

– Alan Dundes


This really appeals to the scientist in me.

It also reminded me of a funny incident at school once.

In physics class one day, we were doing an experiment outside, attempting to measure the speed of sound. The teacher stood with a group of girls, who had a starting pistol (firing blanks). My friend and I, both equipped with stop watches, walked a measured distance away from them.

The experiment was to time the difference between seeing the puff of smoke as the pistol was fired and hearing the actual gun shot. We could then calculate the speed of sound, as we also knew the distance travelled.

Well, school was hard work and extremely tedious. I was a bit of a clown at times, just to relieve the boredom.

So, I spoke quietly to my friend and told her what I was going to do.

When the shot fired I dropped to the ground and lay still.

I thought this was hilarious! The teacher not so much. In fact I still remember her white face!

I was told to stop messing around and we got on with the experiment.

We got a fairly decent result in the end, considering it relied so much on human accuracy with the stop watches.


And for those few who might be interested, the speed of sound (which varies according to air pressure and temperature) is 343 m/s in dry air at 20C.



Sunday Musings #169

You have not experienced true fear until a poster falls down in the middle of the night.

– Anon


I had first-hand experience of this as a new student at university, away from home for the first time.

I had rented a tiny room on the third floor at the top of a large house; a little garret right up under the roof. Half the ceiling sloped down towards the back wall to a height of about a metre. I put my desk in that area as you could only fit there if sitting down. I bashed my head on the ceiling every time I got up. It only took me a few weeks to remember to keep my head down when rising from the desk!

The bed was along one wall and there was a tiny square window opposite that looked out over the rooftops. It was absolutely freezing in winter, but pretty to see the snow-covered rooves.

To make the garret a little homier, and also to cover up some of the ugly wall, I bought many posters and stuck them on the wall with prestik.

I had Clint Eastwood, Pete Deuel (From a TV series “Alias Smith and Jones”, a take-off of the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid) and David Bowie. David’s poster was on the wall where my bed was.

In the middle of one night I woke up in a panic. I heard a sound and next thing I knew something was falling on top of me, sort of folding over me and smothering my upper body and face.

I flailed around in blind terror for a moment, before freeing myself and rushing to put the light on.

I surveyed my bed to see – David Bowie’s poster had slowly peeled itself off the wall and curled over my sleeping form.

Yes, it was hilarious in retrospect, but I will never forget that feeling of panic on being woken up that way!


Sunday Musings #166

I’m not lazy. I’m just on my energy saving mode.

– Unknown


Right now I am on energy saving mode most of the time.

February is our hottest month here in Cape Town. On these long, sweltering, breathless days all you can do is survive. Any exertion is exhausting.

Some of my Northern friends may be envious of our heat and be wishing they could swap places. You are probably imaging a lovely summer’s day in your part of the world.

But down here in Cape Town, we are closer to the sun, which is directly overhead, the ozone layer is thinner, there are no clouds and no breeze and the UV index is mostly at its highest of 11.

Northerners who visit CT for a holiday are frequently seen walking round in the middle of the day, with no hat and their shoulders uncovered, basking in the heat. Those who have been here more than one day are seen sporting a bright red lobster ‘suntan’ !

We locals cover up, wear factor 50 sun cream and do not go out in the sun in the middle of the day (10 am to 4 pm) unless we absolutely have to.

I am sure I would be equally at a disadvantage in the Northern snow drifts. You are used to what you know, after all.

post script: Why do I mention this today? I went out to do some gardening earlier this morning, for half an hour in the shade. Two hours later as I write this, I am still boiling!