Wheels on fire ?

I believe most children (well most boys at any rate) will have played at some point with Hot Wheels the toy from Mattel.

I can remember getting a few sets for various Xmas / Birthday presents – some just a basic oval some a bit more advanced in that there was a jump or even a loop allowing the cars for a fraction of a second to effectively defy gravity.

Well at the X-Games someone decided that it would become not just a small boy toy anymore but a BIG BOY toy.

Roller Coaster engineers recreated one of the double loops in full size and two dare defying drivers drove actual cars on the scaled up Hot Wheels track looping the loop and leaping themselves (and their cars) into the record books. Travelling at the prescribed 52mph they experienced G-Forces of circa 7G something normally only experienced by fighter pilots or astronauts.

The challenge saw the pair racing to finish first in a head-to-head, with the host of Top Gear US  ‘Tanner Foust’ representing the “Yellow Team” and ‘Greg Tracy’ the “Green Team”.

All it took was a great deal of creativity and a lot of hard work and it took these two to a place as a child I would never of dreamed of !

I would never have imagined that this would even be attempted for real , let alone actually work but you can witness the event below.

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And the rockets’ red glare

Congreve Rocket

Today being Independence Day in the United States I’ve no doubt that the national anthem will be played over and over again.

I actually found out at the Smithsonian that the words of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ were written by a ‘hostage’ who witnessed the event from the British side’s viewpoint. He only knew as dawn broke the following day that the flag still flew.

“And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

It was the use of Congreve rockets by the British in the bombardment of Fort McHenry in the US in 1814 that inspired that famous fifth line of the first verse of the ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.

“…And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air…”

HMS Erebus fired the rockets from a 32-pound rocket battery installed below the main deck, it’s sister ship HMS Meteor providing some of the mortar barrage – ‘the bombs bursting in air’.

Had Francis Scott Key not been held hostage for a few hours – if he had been behind the lines during the assault we may never have got to hear those famous words as the very rockets and bombs he subsequently wrote about may well have killed him.

All I can say is thank goodness because personally speaking I have to say ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is far better than ‘Hail, Columbia’

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Quote for today 04.07.12

We don’t see things the way they are. We see them the way WE are
– Talmud.

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Travel Theme: Art

This week’s travel theme posted by Ailsa is labelled Art.

http://wheresmybackpack.com/2012/06/29/travel-theme-art/

Now obviously the Louvre contains many pieces of Art but I am overlooking them and concentrating on something different instead. Something made famous in the ‘Da Vinci Code’ film which suggested beneath it was the resting place of the Holy Grail – Mary Magdelene’s sarcophagus.

La Pyramide Inversèe (The Inverted Pyramid) is a skylight constructed in front of the Louvre Museum in France. It may be viewed as a smaller sibling of the more famous Louvre Pyramid proper, although its upturned base is easily overlooked from outside.

Directly below the tip of this downwards-pointing glass pyramid you find the small stone pyramid situated on the floor, as if acting as a mirror to the larger structure above which in itself is effectively acting as a mirror to the external pyramid.

La Pyramide Inversée was designed by architects Pei, Cobb, Freed and Partners, and installed as part of the renovation of the Louvre Museum.

Is it art ?

Well in my opinion it is certainly a symbolic use of design technology and would argue despite the modern appearance in juxtaposition with the Louvre building itself it is in reality a true piece of sculpture, a true work of art.

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Quote for today 03.07.12

“Ignorance is bliss. If you don’t know something, that’s probably why you’re happy. If you’re unhappy, it’s usually because you know something that you wish you didn’t.”
― Gabrielle Shiozawa

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A case for Mulder and Scully ?

Apparently the ‘Truth is out there’ and with today being designated International UFO Day unless they happen to be already here walking amongst us and I’ve simply missed the breaking news story then I guess that’s the only place they could be.

What’s so special about the 2nd July I don’t know but I guess it’s as good a day as any to pick as the day for celebrating the existence (or not) of UFO’s.

Just outside Rachel (That’s the place in Nevada not a person) you’ll find the famous ‘Black Mailbox’ where UFO hunters will undoubtably gather to seek out new life – they do most days but tonight I guess the place will be heaving. Groom Lake or Area 51 is ‘the’ must stop for all budding UFO hunters and tourists alike.

For those that go there for the first time they will undoubtably be disappointed not as you may think because of a lack of aliens but unless someone has repainted it recently I remember the mailbox as not being ‘Black’ as the name would suggest but actually being ‘White’ – shucks !

Now I’m not personally a believer in extraterrestrial green men / green women (why green ?) as such – I have never been abducted and experimented on (unless they also wiped my memory), I have never seen unidentified lights in the sky nor have I ever had an inclination like Richard Dreyfus in the Close Encounters film to build a mock up of Devil’s Tower in Wyoming out of mashed potato in our kitchen (my wife would not be quite as understanding as his was as – at the very least I’d have to clean up before being allowed out on a road trip !).

But as for the theory that out there somewhere in the cosmos there is some form of intelligent life then yes I suppose I subscribe to that. I mean we live on such a small piece of real estate when compared to the vastness of the universe that by the law of averages there has to be something else. The odds against the circumstances for life just happening on Earth are just too great – a bit like winning the lottery every week in every country forever multiplied by a googolplex (and probably then some).

But there in lies the problem in my mind….I believe we will never know because the odds of either we finding them or vice-versa are also as great – not so much a needle in a haystack more like a needle in a multi-star system.

Our own galaxy the Milky Way apparently contains 200 billion stars or more (rough estimate) of which we on earth can only see about 8500  – that in itself is a lot of potential places to look but when you add in that the Milky Way is one of billions of galaxies then you can see the problem. It always reminds me of a quote from Douglas Adams

“Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

So as for the search for extra-terrestial life, I think we should ask them to reform and just hand over the case to Mulder and Scully. It only took them an hour or so each week to resolve something equally as mysterious. So for me, I’ll leave it to them and see if they can solve it – I have much more important things to do.

But that said, maybe just for tonight, just in case, I’ll be keeping an eye on the sky as well.

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Quote for today 02.07.12

“It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.”
― André Gide, Autumn Leaves

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Don’t waste it

Believe it or not this is really a clock !

Today is a very special day but one that will largely go forgotten so to ensure you don’t waste even a second of it ( no pun intended) I thought I’d let you know.

Before the invention of the Atomic Clock we all coordinated our measurements of time on the rotation of the earth – the rising of the sun and all that.

Now this caused many issues as it is a bit inconsistent to say the least. We have advanced technologically by leaps and bounds over the last 100 years or so and therefore consistency of time has become ever more relevant to our daily lives. It is now actually important that aside from the time zone implications changing the designated hours, clocks in Tokyo are set to read the same ‘time’ as those in New York or London or Sydney.

This is the reason that every so often we must actually add a second to make sure that the world continues to revolve correctly and planes don’t crash into each other due to a scheduling mismatch.

Technically speaking although it isn’t today nor was it yesterday, at Midnight (in a made up addition to our space-time continuum) it happens to be one of these times when even our highly accurate atomic clocks need to add a ‘leap second’.

I believe this to have been at midnight UK  Time as the Atomic Clock at the National Physics Laboratory is recognised (currently) as the most accurate in the world. It was at 23:59:59 on the 30.06.12 (June the 30th for those that use alternate date designation) that the atomic clock didn’t suddenly click across to 00:00:00 but in a quirk that only scientists really understand we added a second.

So for a fraction of a minute (1/60th to be precise) the atomic clock read 23:59:60.

So whatever you do don’t waste it – this added time in your life. Use it to email to say Hell (if like me you probably can’t type Hello quick enough !), or just maybe to think of someone special or do something else that takes hardly anytime at all.

But if for whatever you didnt realise your massive opportunity and have done nothing about it don’t worry too much as there will be another one along relatively soon – just don’t blink as you may miss it !

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Quote for today 01.07.12

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.”
― Albert Einstein

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting Moment

Outside of Los Angeles, just down the coast from Huntington Beach you will find Laguna Beach. It contains a secret place that’s absolutely made for this week’s challenge.

Well not quite as the photos don’t depict a street scene as such, more like an ocean view however they do have a couple of very apt references as you will see from the photos.

This ‘secret place’ isn’t exactly secret but I’m sure many people have just wandered by without paying it a second thought. The place is called Brown’s Park.

Instead of rebuilding after his grandfather’s beachfront property was destroyed in a storm Joseph (Brown) donated the area to become a park for the people.

Local artists have produced sculptures that you can find within it and if you wander down through towards the sea you will come across two railings acting as windbreaks that are each inscribed with part of the same poem.

In this fleeting moment, what extravagant respite as promethean sunsets blossom, blaze and secede from splendour to mystery. In this fleeting moment, what extravagant respite as booming surf speaks its mystical passage across the undreamed depths.”

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