• Fri. Jul 30th, 2021

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How large is a cubic metre of water?

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Big SIgh

How large is a cubic metre of water? The answer, which comes as part of our persistent series on Unusual Alternative Measurement Units, is that it is location dependent.

An ABC News item about the East Australian current courtesy of Kevin Ritchie notes that it “can carry 40 million cubic metres of water each second – the equivalent of 300 billion pints of beer”.

Meanwhile, the world’s biggest artificial water-filled hole, currently being built in Cornwall, UK, to simulate extreme environments, is said, in a press release forwarded to us by Laurel Stanford, to hold “over 42,000 cubic metres of water – the equivalent of 17 Olympic size swimming pools or 168 million cups of tea”.

Our main concern is with the maths. To present an Australian with a pint of beer that contains just 0.13 litres isn’t a way to make a friend for life. A 0.25-litre cup of tea seems more reasonable, although we prefer drinking our tea in pints, and not those of the Australian variety.

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As we furrow our brow over all this, Roger Lampert writes in to query whether, when we quoted the Mona Lisa’s size as 21 by 30 inches (29 May), we meant modern English inches or the pre-revolutionary pouce, equal to 1.0657 of the Rosbif variety. Roger, everyone: it was exactly this sort of nonsense that led to Louis XVI’s demise.

Unknown cyberwarrior

Hungary Today reports that the first statue of bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto is to be erected in Budapest, celebrating, according to the project’s initiator András Györfi, the creation of “an efficient, fair, and transparent database that eliminates distrust between people and can make the world a better place in many areas, from food supply to aid delivery”.

The fact that no one knows who Satoshi actually is, or whether indeed they are one person, isn’t regarded as a deal-breaker for the statue, which will consist of a hooded figure with a reflective face to reinforce the idea that “we are all Satoshi”.

Well, Feedback isn’t, for one: perhaps we can solve this mystery by elimination. Meanwhile, the article doesn’t state what the sculptors are being paid in.

What vaccines can’t do

Those pesky fact-checkers ruin another great story, as Full Fact runs an item entitled “Getting a Covid-19 vaccine doesn’t mean you can connect to Bluetooth”.

This responds to a spate of reports on Facebook that the jab makes you magnetic at the injection site. This could have been fun, depending on the strength of the magnetism. Ah well.

Meanwhile, we have a “friend” who swears that since they had their jab their phone can get 5G for the first time…

Breaking the mould

Richard VandeWetering writes from another London in Ontario, Canada, apparently in response to our item on a single pixel being sold for $1.36 million of cryptocurrency (1 May), with news of art that is breaking down boundaries.

The Jon Sasaki: Homage exhibition, which can be seen, virtually in the first instance, at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection just outside Toronto, “is a suite of photographs depicting petri dishes with bloomed bacterial cultures derived from swabs of the palettes and brushes used by members of the Group of Seven and Tom Thomson”.

Is this art? We’ll take a punt on “yes”, but if so it is definitely cultural appropriation.

Art warning

Meanwhile, John MacCullum reports some very non-fungible art on a roundabout in Walsh Bay, Sydney, where a large, bright red car has apparently been crushed by a gigantic granite boulder.

This visceral sight is accompanied by roadworks-like signs on entering and exiting the roundabout: “Artwork ahead” and “End artwork”. Now that definitely is art.

A Politzer writes

An email of complaint reaches our inbox from Nobel-prizewinning particle theorist H. David Politzer (“one of many, but the only one with an H.”, in his words).

The discovery of his papers on the physics of the banjo led us to speculate recently on his multiple identities (24 April). It’s not so much this that David objects to, as the fact we got the weblink to his banjo work wrong. “As the record shows, I’m quite enthusiastic about the banjo stuff and happy for it to get publicity – good or otherwise,” he writes in a follow-up email.

There’s also more connection between the two parts of his published oeuvre than you might think, he points out. The same techniques that allowed him to make the first half-way accurate estimate of the unexpectedly long lifetime of the J/Psi particle in the 1970s also allowed him to model from first principles the banjo’s unusual and distinctive resonance characteristics.

“I could continue with how banjo physics theory requires logarithmically divergent renormalization. That story makes contact with why soap bubbles and balloons burst when pricked with a pin. But I’ve gone on more than long enough,” he ends. Not at all, David, thank you for writing. And that link: www.its.caltech.edu/~politzer.

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