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Monday, 28 January 2013

Prometheus

A couple of weeks ago I downloaded a copy of "To Set Prometheus Free" (by A.C. Grayling) to my Kindle. I eventually got around to reading it while on a train journey last Saturday. I found the book interesting and it has made me consider my own position after the chapter about Bertrand Russell and his self-description as an 'agnostic'.

Despite the previous paragraph this post is not about Religion, Reason or Humanity but about coincidence. This morning I was sitting in Hillers Café enjoying a peaceful cup of coffee and started reading The Information (by James Gleick ). As I read the Prologue what should appear but a reference to Prometheus!

Prometheus Adam Louvre MR1745

Who was Prometheus and why was he referenced in two such different contexts? I knew that this sort of this just nags away at me, so I'd better find out. While driving home I start to wrack my memory about Greek mythology and gradually it dawns on me that I've been confusing Prometheus and Polyphemus. I now recall reading about Polyphemus while studying Latin at school.

So I've done a little research and realise that I was aware of one reference to Prometheus and that was in the subtitle of the famous book:

Frankenstein,
    or the Modern Prometheus
  by  Mary Shelley

This alludes to the myth that tells how Prometheus makes man from clay and water. He is also known for the theft of fire from the gods for human use and his subsequent punishment by Zeus.

And the second reference in The Information? This is due to Aeschylus who makes Prometheus say:

"Yes, and numbers, too, chiefest of sciences, I invented for them (mankind), and the combining of letters, creative mother of the Muses' arts, with which to hold all things in memory."

Well that coincidence gave me pause for thought and now I feel happier knowing the linkage as well as adding a little to my meagre knowledge of Greek mythology.

p.s. a couple of hours after posting the above I turn on the TV and start watching an episode of Dark Matters and join at the point that they are discussing Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Everyone makes mistakes!


Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
— Albert Einstein

While I would have to agree with Albert, there are instances of mistakes that I find particularly irritating. While out for a walk in the Cotswolds yesterday I stopped for a while at a hut in Lidcombe Wood to enjoy a coffee on this bright but cold day.

From Walks
On the wall were a couple of boards displaying some information about the woods and the Stanway Estate. Both were interesting but the second one - LIDCOMBE WOOD - included one of those irritating mistakes. The mistake appeared in the first sentence:

Lidcombe Wood was, at the time of the Domesday Book (1086), only 3 furlongs long and 1 furlong wide, covering a triangle of about 40 acres immediately north-east of this hut.

An area of the stated dimensions could not possible contain an area of 40 acres! For those not familiar with the units, and perhaps this includes the author of the information board, a brief explanation should help.

A furlong is an imperial unit equal to one-eighth of a mile, or 220 yards.
An acre is an imperial unit equal to 1/640 of a square mile, or 4,840 square yards.

The reason for size of an acre goes back to the Middle Ages when the Anglo-Saxon acre was defines as one furlong by one-tenth of a furlong (i.e. 220 yards by 22 yards) which just happens to be 4,840 square yards. This was roughly the area that could be ploughed in one day by a yoke of oxen.



So with these facts at our disposal we can see that even a rectangle measuring 3 furlongs by 1 furlong would only encompass 30 acres and a true triangle with those measurements half of that.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

All rivers run down to the sea...

Recently, I was talking to someone when the conversation led them to state that "all rivers run down to the sea". This seems to be a widely held belief here in England and I suspect that it is something learnt at school, I certainly recall being taught this.

I took me some time to convince the individual that while it might be true in England (and I'm not even sure of this), and even that the majority of rivers flow to the sea, it is not the case that all rives flow down to the sea. One thing that they insisted on before abandoning this belief was an example, luckily I know of one.

It was while travelling in Kyrgyzstan that I saw a river for the first time that did not flow to the sea. The River Chuy is one of several in Kyrgyzstan that flows into Kazakhstan where it eventually disappears in the steppe.

Earlier today I was reading The Motion Paradox (by Joseph Mazur) which included a quote from King James Bible, Ecclesiastes 1:7
All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.
It seems likely to me that this is the source of the mistaken belief about where rivers end up!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Back to Bredon Hill

From Seasons
I walk quite often with the Harvington Walking group and as luck would have it today's walk was around Bredon Hill, just two days since a New Year walk, also on Bredon Hill. However, this time our start point was on the other side of the hill. We had agreed with Beckford Silk that we could park in their cark park while we walked and that we would eat at Two Jay's Café at the end of the walk.


View Bredon Hill from Beckford 2013-01 in a larger map

We started walking at around 9:30 and at the point at which we should have left the road we were faced with a recently ploughed field that had been turned into a quagmire by the recent rain. This straight segment was only about a third of a mile so we just walked a little further along the road and covered two sides of a triangle rather than one to get to the same point. We had only walked about halfway up the hill when we stopped for coffee some seasonal remnants, i.e. some mince pies and/or stollen. We then continued up the hill to a derelict barn at Shalden Farm, the highest point (~225m) of this walk before heading back down in the direction of the village of Conderton.

Just north of Conderton we turned east back towards Beckford, the lower slopes that we were traversing became very wet, muddy and slippery though, unlike the walk two days earlier, no one fell. Along the route we called in at the Beckford Parish Church of St John the Baptist for a quick look see. I have rung the bells here on occasion so am reasonably familiar with the church but the early Norman architecture was of great interested to a couple of our party. From the church it was but a short walk along Ashton Road to our start point.

After getting out of dirty walking gear we visited Two Jay's Café for lunch. The lady working the café managed to take the order, prepare and serve the food and drinks, clear up and take payment all on her lonesome. It did take a while but we were not in a great hurry. The food was reasonably priced and good value for money. The ladies among us could resist the opportunity afforded by the silk works and shop.

The walk was only a little over 5½miles but with the wet conditions did slow us down.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

A New Year's walk

From Walks
In recent year's we've started the New Year with a walk to blow away the cobwebs. 2012 was, to put it mildly, wet. In England we experienced the wettest year on record. Our local weather station in Pershore recorded  841.09mm of precipitation in 2012 compared with the aveage value of 606.4mm based on the previous 30 years.

New Year's day was forecast to be dry and bright but the ground was saturated, the River Avon was back within its banks but, as seen from our photos, the River Severn had not yet peaked. With this in mind the route chosen was one that minimised the chance of ploughing our way through lots of mud.


Walking on hills rather that lowland seemed like the best way to avoid saturated/muddy ground so we settled on walking on Bredon Hill, a large neaby hill with lots of public footpaths over and around. Our start point was Bredon's Norton, a small village on the western slope of the hill. We parked near the church and then headed up the lane that leads to Woollas Hall. The next leg of the walk up through some ancient grassland to the ridge is much wetter and very slippery. We are not the only people out for a walk on this beautiful New Year's day and most head north for the tower, Parsons' Folly. We instead head south along The Warren with a pretty dry path before heading back down the hill through Aldwick Wood and Norton Park. The lower slopes were again very wet and slippery and one of our party lost her footing and got plastered with mud! Oh well, better to happen near the end of the walk. We looked in at Bredon's Norton, Chapel of Ease before returning to the car.

The walk was only about 4½miles but with the wet conditions it took just over 2hours. A nice refreshing start to 2013.
gps track as GPX