For Berrimilla's first circumnavigation, the International Space Station
and the North West Passage, go to

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Another trawl through the wheelie bin.

In a Eureka! moment, while engaging the neuronic trio in an explanation of the difference between magnetic and true courses I discovered (stumbled across) the origin of phosphorescence. Nothing to do with dinoflagellates, just the detritus of sloppy navigators. Everyone knows that Einstein hated the idea of entanglement in which one of a pair of particles can be shown to be 'known' to the other no matter how far across spacetime they may be separated. He called it spooky and kept trying to find an explanation because it appears to defy his general theory of relativity. Navigators have known about it since Prince Henry set up shop at Sagres - if you draw a line on a chart, all those entangled particles on the chart have their spin established by your pencil and all their partners out here on the ocean fire up and make a glowing line on the water that corresponds to the line on the chart. Then you come out in your ship and sail along it and before you can say dinoflagellisticexpiallidocious you have got to where you were going! Good, conscientious navigators always switch off the excited particles on the ocean as they pass so as not to confuse us lot who follow but we're not all so punctilious and phosphorescence is the result - terazillions of those excitedly spinning particles left behind by sloppy navigators higgledy-piggledy all over the ocean.

The difference between magnatic and true will have to wait - not half such fun.

One for the mythbusters if they haven't done it already, or any competent mathematician who can find the numbers. I have heard it said that there is a significant chance that in any day you breathe air that has been circulated so comprehensively by the world's meteorological systems to the extent that any breath might contain a molecule from Nelson's dying breath, or one of Henry VIII's belches (or worse) or Nefertiti's sneeze or a dinosaur's bellow. Presumably, the further back in time the more likely. So what are the chances that a molecule in the air I'm breathing now was once breathed by a slave building the Sphinx?

Or in similar mode, the human body is mostly water, which is circulated in the same way - what chance any part of me was once in the bilge of Leif Ericsson's Viking ship on the Greenland coast? Or of the puddle that Raleigh spread his cloak over for Elizabeth 1? Or even part of Raleigh before she had him shortened by a head for being presumptuous?

Enough already!