Thursday, 1st August, 2013

Will Ye No Come Back Again?

Bonnie Prince Charlie, or Charles Edward Stuart, has been a focus for much sentiment over the years, especially North of the Border, where some regard him as the man who should have been the King, but whose grandfather, James II, was displaced in 1688 by his daughter, Mary II, and her husband William.

Charlie’s subsequent rebellion in 1745 didn’t quite make it, and he remained in exile overseas for the rest of his life, toasted by his supporters in the UK as the King Over the Water.


Some die-hard supporters, or Jacobites (named after James II), continued hoping that one day a descendant of Charlie would take back the throne, and at Traquair House, in the Tweed Valley, in Scotland, the Bear Gates (see opposite) have never been opened  since a visit by Charles Edward, and will never be opened again, it is said, until a Stuart once again sits on the throne.the bear gates at traquair house

The Bear Gates

So far, there is no sign of this happening, partly because a long time has passed, and perhaps because, had there been a movement to restore the Stuart dynasty during World War II, it would have resulted in the King being Rupprecht, Crown Prince of Bavaria, which could have been a less than popular move at the time.



The potential King Rupprecht

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Friday, 28th August, 2009

The Large Hadron Collider Rides Again

large hadron colliderThe Large Hadron Collider, based at Cern, near Geneva, is a huge machine for investigating the deep structure of matter. It’s designed to accelerate beams of heavy particles (protons in this case) round a ring, in two opposite directions, and then to smash them into each other at the tiniest touch off the speed of light.

In September 2008, cooling systems for some of the Collider’s superconducting magnets failed, and their temperature rose, leading to a  loss of the magnetic field which is essential for controlling the colliding beams of particles.

This may not sound spectacular, but the CERN fire brigade were called out after a tonne of liquid helium coolant had leaked into the main tunnel (and it takes a lot of helium to make a tonne).

The good news is that repairs and checks are now coming to an end, and the collider is due to being tentative operations at low energies in November of this year. There will follow a gradual build up of the beam energy over the year 2010. Patience is a virtue.

Will we learn some of the deep secrets of matter and energy, or will the world be annihilated instead? Follow this column to find out (or not, in the latter case).

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Tuesday, 24th March, 2009

Dead Peculiar

Here’s an interesting snippet. coffinFuneral directors in the UK can belong to a professional organisation called the National Association of Funeral Directors, whose acronym is NAFD. Very appropriate.


PS the first line on the site is "Why choose a NAFD member?"

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Sunday, 25th January, 2009

The milliHelen – more Geek Speak

Continuing the thoughts of geek speak that were kicked off with the micro-fortnight, do you know the definition of a milliHelen? helen of troy


One milliHelen is the exact amount of beauty required to launch one ship.

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