Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Susie's Constant

Susie is revising for her physics NCEA, which is almost unlike an A-level, and has cheerily implored me to name a Constant after her. It was a modest request:
'There's Planck's Constant and Rydberg's Constant and I want a Constant named after Me.'

Luckily I can manage one. I was thinking about it on yesterday's ride because John has a Constant, correlating the number of wallets found with the number of years we have lived in New Zealand. John found the first one and we telephoned the owner who was so pleased to have it back intact that he gave John all the money in it as a reward for his honesty and then called once a week with his Bible, disclosing that he was a Jehovah's Witness. - Thereafter we were a bit more circumspect, handing all wallets in and foregoing any reward. In fact my police station visits were so regular that I became, in the words of the local station officer, a Serial Finder. Two weeks ago I found one Campbell Graeme Hearnshaw's wallet stashed between our fence and a tree. Yesterday I found Campbell Graeme Hearnshaw's second wallet, also jammed behind the fence. I was mystified. Perhaps we are not dealing with a thief. Perhaps Campbell Graeme Hearnshaw now stores his private documents in our shrubbery, guarded only by woodlice. Perhaps he's a Serial Hider. So I hopped onto the machine and, via Rocky River which scenic detour turns a two-mile ride into an eighteen-mile ride, went along to the police station and handed it in along with the bracelet I found on Sunday behind the sports shop.

There is a limit to how much Campbell Graeme Hearnshaw's belongings can retain one's interest on an hour's bike ride, so I fell to thinking about naming my new Sprint-Hour, Mile=Kilometre Law Susie's Constant. The Law is this: whatever top speed you can attain on the flat in miles-an-hour, is the same in kilometres-an-hour for an hour's solid riding.

The respective world records stand at more-or-less exactly 80mph for the sprint and more-or-less exactly 80kph for the hour. (It doesn't do to be too precise.)

1. I can hold 28 mph in a fast and furious dash for about a minute, though it was a bit faster when racing a pig dog who suddenly joined in on Wildman Road.
2. I can ride 18.55 miles in 57.58 minutes.
3. 18.55 miles is more-or-less exactly 28 kms and 57.58 minutes is more-or-less exactly an hour. Sort of.

We'll see if the sums survive Peer Review. And if they do, our family's going to be Dead Famous, inventing new Constants, cos here's another one.

We had that Ash Whitehead to tea the other day, an elite young New Zealand cyclist, who hopped on his bike and whipped over the Moutere Hills from Nelson in an hour and a half and, like Mr English before him, proceeded to eat every single thing in the house even though he's skinnier than this gentleman:

It takes me three quarters of an hour to drive from Nelson in the car, and I use four and a half litres of fuel doing it.

Since a litre of oil has the energy of 20 man-days of hard labour, it costs me ninety days' work to go to Nelson by car.

But it only costs Mr Whitehead ninety minutes' work by bicycle.

So that's the Car=Day, Bicycle=Minute Energy Law and because I'm rubbish at algebra one of the children'll have to work out the details and then they can have it as their Constant.

Of course this is all academic. A bloke across the road told me that 'there won't be an oil crisis, because I just read that with all the squids dying in the oceans more oil's being formed than we're using up, and anyway there's two types of oil, there's another sort naturally made deep in the earth's crust by all that heat and carbon.' I leave you to speculate on my informant's views on Climate Change, Social Security Scroungers (tr. the lower paid), and Whether All The Problems Are Because of Those Bloody Environmentalists, but I must remember to tell him about Davena's Constant concerning aerial cats, which is both more imaginative and more probable. - Susie had observed that whenever you drop a piece of bread it falls butter-side-down, and Susie's friend Davena had observed that whenever you drop a cat it lands on its feet. So she proposes creating a Constantly Hovering Cat by the expedient of attaching a piece of bread by its butter to the cat's feet and pushing it off the table.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Schroder's Hat

The bin man calls here of a Monday morning, and from this statement I divine a Great Insight: that I am the vainest person in the world. Paris Hilton thinks America wants to spend its broadband connection examining her limbs and all that pertain thereto; Alan Jones believes Australia wants to listen to his radio show encouraging motorists to run cyclists off the roads; but only I am vain enough to think that the entire Internet wants to know when the dustman empties our bin.

Waste disposal in New Zealand is a private affair: you have to pay for it. Accordingly most people gather their domestic rubbish and lob it out of the car window. (Next time there's a world shortage of used empty paper tubs for Kentucky Fried Chicken, I'll make a fortune just cycling along the Motueka Valley Highway and stopping every ten yards.) The bin man empties an old oil drum for $10.30 - the price occasionally increases to randomly inconvenient sums that aren't to be found in a wallet of a Monday morning - and to get our money's worth there's always a scurrying around at the dawn of the week for stuff to chuck out. Yesterday I remembered a pair of forks which came my way. (Build just one recumbent - one - and people will start to give you old bike bits. I guarantee it.) And I now offer this piece of Wisdom to the World: Unless you are completely stupid, little is to be gained by welding this onto a pair of front forks:

Had I possessed a munted helmet that too could have gone in the bin. Scrolling to the bottom of this discussion
I see there's a photo demonstrating the force of impact of Nigel Schroder's skull on those boulders the other day. (One's concern is, of course, for the rocks. Schroder's a solid beefy sort of lad and if he hadn't had the hat on, I dread to think what might have happened to those boulders.)