Of Feathers and Snow

Winter has arrived in Sweden! The snow started on the evening of the 23rd after an incredible ten days of mild weather and heavy rain ~ and it hasn't stopped snowing since!  It is a winter wonderland of white, with around twelve inches of snow already on the ground.

Last year was one of the harshest winters on record with extremely low temperatures lasting for days.  A "warm" day would be when the thermometor showed a balmy -7C.  Most days it was about -20C, which made it almost impossible to be outside for more than ten minutes at a time. Record levels of snowfall meant that it had to be constantly plowed into small hills and then loaded into containers on trucks to be hauled away to the snow dump ~ to put some perspective on it, there was still a sizeable hill of snow that hadn't melted at the snow dump in July when the temperatures were at 30C every day.
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A Russian Biography ~ Vladimir V Putin

Vladimir Putin.  May 2000 ~ May 2008.  President of Russia.  May 2008 ~ Present Day.  Prime Minister of Russia.

Vladimir was born Oct 7, 1952 in Leningrad, to Maria Ivanovna Shelomova, a factory worker and Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin, who was a conscript in the Soviet Navy.  His parents died within one year of each other in 1998 and 1999.  Vladimir was their youngest son and only surviving child.  His paternal grandfather, Spiridon Ivanovich Putin worked as a cook for Lenin at Gorki and after Lenin died, for Lenin's wife.  He also cooked for Stalin when he visited one of his dachas.

From his humble beginnings,
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The De-volution of Socialising

Times change.  Do you remember when socialising was meeting up with people you had known for a long time and passing the afternoon or evening pleasantly chatting about shared interests or memories, or maybe going on a little day trip together?  Do you remember when you were a kid how you played with actual toys, hanging out in the playground or riding your bike on the street with the other kids until your mom called you in for dinner?

And now?  Communication between "best" friends is more commonly reduced to generic Facebook wall posts that look something like this ...
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The Speed of Light, Going a Little Less Fast...

Oklo, Gabon ~ this relatively unknown place is tucked away inland on the west coast of Africa, where for nearly the last 40 years it has been revealing more and more data that questions our fundamental concepts of science.  What is known (and accepted) so far is that between 2 billion to 1.5 billion earth years ago, deep underground in Oklo a series of natural nuclear reactions took place over several hundred thousand years.  According to scientists (and this is a very basic explanation, a proper scientific explanation can be found here) a small amount of water would seep into a vein of Uranium causing an imbalance in the amount of neutrons needed to keep U235 stable causing a chain of reactions to happen until the water was all boiled away.  This would repeat as new water seeped in. So far so good. 

Here's where it becomes interesting, a pair of scientists (Steve Lamoreaux and Justin Thorgerson of Los Alamos National Laboratories) who had been using the measurements in Oklo to prove that Alpha (the speed of light) was constant with our current measurements published a paper in 2004 showing evidence that Alpha as we know it had decreased by 45 parts in a billion, from 2 billion years ago.   This supports what scientist L. Riofrio has been suggesting all along.

Of course, the gloves are off and academics are keen to defend the fine-structure constant which is an incredibly complicated mathematical formula for a fundamental physical constant, which is a dimensionless universal constant.  For the scientific community to accept that Alpha is not constant (even within a small fluctuation) would turn fundamental physical science on its head and leave us with more questions and even less answers.

With all of that said, it's fun to wonder about what is making light slow down, if it indeed is doing so.  Thoughts about the possiblilty it could be related to the hitherto mysterious dark energy scientists know is out there but can't explain; whether the data the hadron collider collected earlier this year will shed any light (ahem) on the subject or whether it will somehow tie in with the expanding universe theory all remains to be seen.

But what's most fun to wonder about, is if the speed of light is slowing down, does that mean that if we put a flashlight on the front of a spaceship and send it out into the universe will it shine ahead of it...or not?

Where Do "You" Come From?

Easy question.  Answer = "I'm from (insert town/country)"  And that's true.  We all are from somewhere.  But what about the word "you" in the question?  What does "you" mean?  In this question it normally means "you" as in the subject of the sentence, identifying you as the person that needs to be indexed to a fixed geographic location in the questioner's mind, presumably so they can proceed to make further conversation with you that is relative to your shared experiences  "Oh really? How nice!  I once visited your home town on holiday..."  etc etc. 

But what if we think about the question another way.  What if the word "you" identifies the very "you-ness" that makes you exactly who you are, individual and unique from all others?  Now the question becomes a lot more interesting.   "From" being the sum total of our experiences.  Even though we can't see it, we are all travelling through time, what is known as the fourth dimension.  It is intriguing to think that maybe our "you-ness" is a way to measure our passage through that dimension.  Like a photograph records our age at a precise moment, we can think of a memory that shaped us and stick a pin in the time map of our "self" where we felt a major shift from one "you" to another "you".  Getting married, giving birth, surviving loss, these things all move us from one place to another, and usually once you cross that bridge it is impossible to go back.  Your "you" changes for better or worse.

So we are constantly changing, physically, mentally, and emotionally as we pass through time.  But most importantly our "you" never stops adapting to all of these aspects.   It is an incredible thing to realise that we are not static at all, and that if we were able to slow time down enough, instead of seeing a person we could suddenly see our true selves, a fluid collage made up of a shifting myriad of memories, perceptions, experiences, triumphs and tragedies.

We can't always control what happens to us which of course will influence how our "you" moves forward, however there are small things we can control, perceptions we hold of ourselves, so the next time you pass a mirror, or reflect on an experience you had remember whatever you think of yourself at that moment, because it will become a part of "you" forever, and ultimately....where you come from.