Category : Miscellany

2004 March 31

Blast from the past

Fifteen years ago, in January of 1989, Petr Nedved became the last hockey player to defect from Czechoslovakia -- in November of 1989, revolution swept through the Warsaw Pact countries, leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Czechoslovakia doesn't even exist anymore, and hasn't since it broke up in January of 1993.

The newspaper account of the defection at the time read like this:

A Czechoslovakian athlete with dreams of playing in the National Hockey League defected in Calgary Monday.
Petr Nedved, the 17-year-old captain of Chemical Works Litvinov, which he led to victory in the Mac's major midget hockey tournament, went to RCMP headquarters to say he wanted to stay in Canada.
The rest of the team left Calgary as scheduled on a 10:30 a.m. flight to Toronto.

I grew up hearing stories like that. It's hard to believe it's been as long as fifteen years, and it's hard to believe it's been only fifteen years. Time is weird like that.

I'm reminded of this by Colby Cosh, who dug out the story after watching Nedved play the other night. He has more; I don't really have anything interesting to add to what he wrote, but I was struck enough by the nostalgia to want to point it out to people. Go read his piece, Last of the wall-jumpers.

When Canadians get nostalgic for the Cold War, it never takes long to come back to hockey.

2004 March 18

The Moon may be responsible for life on Earth

Interesting nugget in the New Scientist:

No Moon, no life on Earth, suggests theory: A billion years later when life is thought to have arisen, the Moon was still much closer to us than it is now. That, plus the Earth's much more rapid rotation, led to tidal cycles every two to six hours, with tides extending several hundred kilometres inland, says Lathe. Coastal areas therefore saw dramatic cyclical changes in salinity, and Lathe believes this led to repeated association and dissociation of double-stranded molecules similar to DNA.

When the massive tides rolled in, the salt concentration was very low. Double-stranded DNA breaks apart under such conditions because electrically charged phosphate groups on each strand repel each other.

But when the tides went out, precursor molecules and precipitated salt would have been present in high concentrations. This would have encouraged double-stranded molecules to form, since high salt concentrations neutralise DNA's phosphate charges, allowing strands to stick together.

These unrelenting saline cycles would have amplified molecules such as DNA in a process similar to PCR, says Lathe. "The tidal force is absolutely important, because it provides the energy for association and dissociation [of polymers]."

Pretty much pure speculation at this point, but very cool nonetheless. Tides flowing several hundred kilometres inland! Boggle.

2004 March 12

Weirdest spam evah

I just got the following mail in my mailbox this morning.


2003 December 15

2003 November 29

Airship Voyages Made Easy

The web is a wonderful thing, part XVII: Airship Voyages Made Easy, a pamphlet by Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei, c. 1936.

At the beginning, it is hard to realize you are on board a Zeppelin; the comfort and protection from the weather, the spaciousness, the elegance and neat equipment, the well-appointed cabins, the courtesy and deference of the ship's company who are only too ready to help, awake in you a new conception of pleasurable travel. A new anticipation of excitement mingles with the atmosphere of farewell. You are conscious that in a few days, thousands of miles will be traversed and you will arrive in a new country. Instinctively you approach the large windows and become interested in the preparations for departure.

Contains everything from advice on how to get to the airport and what kinds of personal effects to bring ("One hint to the men: a lot of time is spent in looking out of the window at passing ships and other scenes of interest below. Many will find a comfortable cap an advantage."), to a walkthrough of the marvelous vessel.

Dammit, I have to run a game with a scene on a Zeppelin.


Older Miscellany