A Pendulum Day

“I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.”
― Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum

But if fell later as they tried to move another piece. Note the rare “suspended section” of blocks. I’m not sure of the physics of leaving a few behind for a handful of microseconds.

Along with my Difficult Reading Book Club I’m plowing ahead through Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum – ten pages or so a day. It’s enjoyable, though truly difficult. I feel I should be looking up every odd word – searching out details on every unique concept – but there are pages to get through so I soldier on. Have to come back later. I’d take notes – but they would be longer than the tome itself.

One concept that haunts my dreams is the eponymous swinging orb. I knew about the Foucault Pendulum, of course. I have even seen one – a big, famous one – at the Smithsonian in Washington (though it looks like it isn’t there any more). I knew the theory, that the pendulum is actually always going in the same plane, but the earth moves under it. The more I thought about it the more I realized it isn’t that simple.

What follows is some boring, technical crap. If that doesn’t interest you, here’s some cute cat photos.

Ok, I can imagine a Foucault Pendulum at the North Pole. I can see it moving around in 24 hours.

But, I thought, what about one at the equator? Wouldn’t it be stationary?

So I looked it up online and I was right. It would not move.

But what threw me off were the latitudes in between. Because there is an angle between the string of the pendulum and the rotation of the earth – it rotates, but slower. The closer to the equator, the longer it takes to go around. The precession period for an ideal pendulum and support system is 23.93 hours (a sidereal day) divided by the sine of the latitude. In the middle of the US, this is about 32 hours. This period of time is called a pendulum day.

sidereal day(23.93 hours)<solar day(24 hours)<pendulum day(varies by latitude) (though I guess there is a latitude near the north pole where the pendulum day is the same as the solar day….)

The problem that I have is this: imagine the pendulum at our latitude… it goes through a 24-hr. cycle… now the pendulum is in exactly (more or less) the same spot that it was at the beginning… yet the pendulum, because the pendulum day is longer than 24 hours, is not at the same spot.

If the pendulum is truly staying the same… and the earth moving beneath it… why doesn’t it return to the same relative spot in 24 hours?

I spent way too much time thinking about it. I kept thinking about cones.

I’m not sure I’ve completely worked it out – but this site helps. Here is the meat of the text:

The ‘plane’ of the pendulum’s swing is not fixed in space

It is worthwhile correcting a common misunderstanding about Foucault’s Pendulum. It is sometimes said (perhaps poetically) that the pendulum swings in a plane fixed with respect to the distant stars while the Earth rotates beneath it. This is true at the poles. (It is also true for a pendulum swinging East-West at the equator.) At all other latitudes, however, it is not true. At all other latitudes, the plane of the pendulum’s motion rotates with respect to an inertial frame.

It is easy to deal with this misunderstanding. Consider a pendulum at the equator, swinging in a North South plane. It’s obvious from symmetry that the plane of this pendulum doesn’t rotate with respect to the earth and that, relative to an inertial frame, it rotates once every 24 hours.
description

Alternatively, consider the motion of a point on the earth at a place that is neither at the poles or the equator. During a day, a vertical line at that place traces out a cone, as shown in the sketch at right. (If the earth were not turning, the half angle of the cone would be 90° minus the latitude.) During each cycle of the pendulum, when it reaches its lowest point its supporting wire passes very close to the vertical. So, at each lowest point of the pendulum, its wire is a different line in this cone. This cone is not a plane, so those lines do not all lie in the same plane!

For yet another argument, consider the motion of the pendulum after one rotation of the earth. With respect to the earth, the period of precession of the pendulum is 23.9 hours divided by the sine of the latitude. For most latitudes, this is considerably longer than a day. So, after the earth has turned once, the pendulum has not returned to its original plane with respect to the earth. For example, our pendulum in Sydney precesses at a rate of one degree every seven minutes, or one complete circle in 43 hours.

(I apologize for emphasizing this rather obvious point. I only do so because a correspondent has pointed out to me that many web pages about the Foucault pendulum – and even, allegedly, a few old text books! – make the mistake of stating that the pendulum swings in a fixed plane while the earth rotates beneath it.)

So, what is the path of motion of the pendulum? Remember that the point of suspension of the pendulum is accelerating around Earth’s axis. So the forces acting on the pendulum are a little complicated, and to describe its motion requires some mathematics. (Indeed, even talking of a ‘plane’ of motion on a short time scale is an approximation because even in half a cycle the supporting wire actually sweeps out a very slightly curved surface.)

Now my head hurts. Unfortunately I can’t relax. I have my reading to do.

Sweet dreams.

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Spring Fever Dreams, by Suzanne W. Vincent

“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”

― Pablo Neruda

Artwork, Dallas Area Rapid Transit Spring Valley Station, Richardson, Texas

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Monday, August 6, 2001 – Almost Exactly twenty years ago.

Spring

A long time ago I noticed a sign along the Interstate Loop along my drive to work. The sign promised “Pure Texas Spring Water” and sure enough, by the sign, water ran out of the ground, bubbling up and then running down to stain the gutter of the highway and down to a street curb drain. I parked and walked to the spring, taking a picture of the sign and writing about it in my journal.

In the time since, almost a year, I have driven by that spot almost every day (though I’ve changed jobs, that part of my commute is the same). I allowed myself the fantasy of imagining that it really was a spring, an old relic of geology, a fold of shale, maybe an ancient beach, forcing a bit of water to the surface, surviving the excavation and grading of the giant loop road.

Now, the illusion has been shattered. There are four little tiny blue plastic flags mounted on short wires stuck in the ground – squaring off the spot where the water gurgles up.

Now I know that it is a leaky pipe and someone is getting ready to finally dig it up and fix the thing. I’m glad they will stop the waste but somehow, my morning commute will be even a bit more dreary.

Some humor concerning a water leak on the highway.

And a piece of flash fiction for today:

Spring Fever Dreams, by Suzanne W. Vincent

from Flash Fiction Online

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Everything They Are Running From And a Few Things They Are Running Towards, by Matt Kendrick

“Think of the fierce energy concentrated in an acorn! You bury it in the ground, and it explodes into an oak!”

― George Bernard Shaw

Running of the Bulls, New Orleans

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Sunday July 27, 1997 – Exactly twenty four years ago.

Pissing in the Street

My house is a set of two rectangular blocks. One for the main residence and another, set at right angles, for the garage. Simple, cheap, boring. The only break in the monotony is one corner of the house is missing; a space carved away for the front door. This space also is a cube; a square negative room. We put a little bench there, I’m growing English Ivy up the brick wall side and around the edges on the ground. Crape Myrtles line the west side, bushes line the front. I have been letting the plants grow, trimming them when necessary but mostly letting them find their own way; painting in with green. The Crape Myrtles are now big enough to develop the smooth, curvy bark that is so attractive. I am trying to create a little restful garden spot here; a connection with the outside world.

Late Saturday night I sat out there on the bench to do some writing. I had put in an outlet for Christmas lights, it powered up my laptop so I didn’t have to worry about batteries. It was after midnight and surprisingly warm and muggy. I was sweating through my T-shirt but it was still nice to get out into some more or less fresh air. I expected some peace and quiet out there.

The entire neighborhood is a fractal expansion of my rectangular house. Rectangular lot; rectangular block; rectangular subdivision. It is set on a bias. Parallel to the closest Interstate. All laid out for the maximum profit for the long-bankrupt developer; subject to the sacred call of the auto. The suburb was literally thrown together, get ’em built, get out. Now it is a boring, sleepy village within a city. Full of families (who would live here if they didn’t have kids?). Lawns mowed, identically edged, trees, shrubs, cars, trucks, boats, RV’s.

I expected silence out there. The walls of the house are a powerful barrier; more mental than physical. Within the cocoon, the illusion of suburban life is complete; kitchen (fridge and microwave), couch, TV, (computer) the stops on the limited journey of an illusion of life. The background A/C hum supplies the white noise that destroys any vibrations leaking in from the real world. Simply walking through the door and sitting outside the walls is subversive, against the tenets of American Suburb Family Law.

I expected silence out there. There was a rumble in the distance. The isosceles triangle of Interstate Highways that mark out the area where we live provide a clamor of rubber on concrete, creaking steel, squealing tires, booming horns, the hiss of eighteen wheel compressed air leaving brake cylinders. The call of a race of steel giants racing along; my presence unknown and unimportant; life itself rushing along the asphalt, going to God knows where.

Against this rhythm in the distance the symphony of my neighborhood was completed by the melody and accompaniment of local sounds. Someone was having a hell of a fight. I couldn’t tell where it came from; it sounded like the house directly across, but that house was dark; sound does travel on a calm, warm night. The sounds of battle might be coming from a long way off. Male voices, female voices, maybe six or so in all. Screaming, cussing (I couldn’t pick out individual words, but somehow the shouted obscenities could be identified for what they were), the sound of tinkling glass. This went on for ten or fifteen minutes; then the sound of squealing tires and it ended.

I expected silence out there. A house across my street has some teenage daughters, there are always guys in cars hanging out there at night; like alley cats or dogs in heat. A pickup truck roared down the road and screeched to a halt in front of their house. As the truck rumbled the horn honked on and on. Then it sped off, returning in a couple minutes with another car. The honking resumed. I couldn’t see much, I was screened by the bushes, but I could tell by the sounds that a bunch of people were out milling around. Nobody paid any attention to me as I typed; I’m not sure if they saw me or not but I’m sure that if they looked I was visible, my face lit by the screen on the laptop.

I expected silence out there. I heard a noise, liquid, running. Someone was pissing in the street. It was a lot; I know that kind of a piss, beer piss. Looking out through the leaves all I could see was a bare stomach and chest; young, slim, bejeaned; illuminated bright red from the filtered brakelights of the still idling pickup. The cacophany didn’t lessen with the urinating. I couldn’t tell how many voices were mingled in a melange of obscenities, lies, boasts, teasings, the usual testosterone late night drunken summernight pickup revelry.

The little impromptu party continued. It sure didn’t sound like fun, or sexy, or youthful. It was almost tired, frustrated, even mean. There was some stupid shoving, the house door slammed twice, tinkling of broken glass on the sidewalk, and the vehicles roared away. They circled the block twice and were gone.

I finished my typing and found that Candy had woken up and discovered the front door unlocked. I rooted around in the ivy for a half hour until I found the hiding place for the extra key. I didn’t want to ring the bell, It would wake the kids and scare my wife.

Candy says that all kids hang out like those folks were, it’s harmless. She’s right, of course, twenty-odd years ago I spent more than one night hanging out near some cute-young-thing’s house, drinking beer and boasting. They must be out there a lot; it’s not unusual to find beer cans or brown broken glass in our yard, the Mazda has an extra dent where someone bounced a quart bottle off the hood, a couple times there’s been tire tracks in our yard.

Maybe I’m being an old fuddy-duddy but I’m not entirely at ease with those kids out there, only a few feet and some sheetrock and siding away from my sleeping sons. Or maybe I’m jealous, wishing my days of hanging out weren’t receding so far into the past, that my stomach doesn’t look like the one on the guy pissing in the street.

And a piece of flash fiction for today:

Everything They Are Running From And a Few Things They Are Running Towards, by Matt Kendrick

from Cheap Pop

Matt Kendrick Homepage

Matt Kendrick Twitter

Homeward Bound

I’m sittin’ in the railway station
Got a ticket to my destination
On a tour of one-night stands
My suitcase and guitar in hand
And every stop is neatly planned
For a poet and a one-man band

—-Paul Simon, Homeward Bound

The view from the parking lot as I go home from work. Dallas, Texas

I was driving in to work – I often listen to podcasts in my car, but today I had KXT 91.7 (listen here) on the radio. I always love that station – no commercials, no stupid DJ yakking yet DJ curated, and a wide variety of tunes. As I pulled into my parking spot and began to put my mask on the Simon and Garfunkel chestnut Homeward Bound came on. A great song. I sat there and listened to it before trudging across the parking lot.

Afterward they said, “Homeward Bound, an early Simon and Garfunkel tune, from 1966.”

1966. I was nine years old. I remember 1966. I wasn’t listening to very much music then and don’t remember Homeward Bound when it came out. But I was starting. I do remember a television documentary on the burgeoning folk scene featuring interviews with Simon and Garfunkel. I didn’t know who they were and wondered if I’d ever hear anything from them. Four years later Bridge Over Troubled Water was released and I remember the exact spot where my father’s car was when I first heard it on the radio.

Sitting down and looking through the hit songs from each year – I started listening in 1967. My family was not musical and I had to pick it up on my own, mostly from friends. By 1968 I was listening to the radio a lot and by 1969 I eagerly awaited every Friday and that week’s top forty announcement on WHB (the wet hamburger station) out of Kansas City.

So I guess I can say I started listening to popular music in 1966 or so. That was fifty five years ago.

It doesn’t seem like that long. Things have changed (especially the digital revolution) but 1966 wasn’t that much different. One way to look at it was they were playing a song from 1966 on the radio on my way to work and nobody thought much about it.

I was born nine years earlier, in 1957. That does seem like a different age. The sixties were a real watershed – where things changed in a significant, permanent way. But still… there was rock and roll, at least the stirrings of rock and roll, in 1957 (Rock Around the Clock came out in 1954).

But go in the other direction – fifty five years before 1957 was 1902. That’s hard for me to comprehend. One year before the Wright brothers first flew. World War I was a decade away. The Roaring twenties two decades – the depression and dust bowl three decades away. WWII a nightmare far into the future. Now, I did look at the top songs of 1902 and was shocked that I was familiar with a few of them – and the #18 song won an Academy Award in 1974 and rose to #4 on the charts at that time….

But still, I can’t even imagine 1902. My grandfather wasn’t born yet. Yet it’s the same distance in time from my birth as Homeward Bound is from today. Years and years.

Every day’s an endless stream
Of cigarettes and magazines
And each town looks the same to me
The movies and the factories
And every stranger’s face I see
Reminds me that I long to be

Homeward bound

Amazon Dreams of Time and Happiness

“We live as we dream–alone….”

― Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Sculptures, Clarence Street Art Collective, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

I had a terrible time sleeping – finally at the early hours of the morning I was able to fall into a deep slumber.

The dreams I had were vivid. I was receiving a constant supply of Amazon boxes at my front door. They were of wildly varying sizes and shapes – some were long and thin, almost sticklike – others vast and bulky. They were all light in weight – as if they held nothing, or air, or ghosts.

As a matter of fact, every one contained on of two items. Half contained time and the other half contained happiness.

I guess these are the two things we really wish we could order online, but can’t.

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Across From her Dead Father in an Airport Bar, by Brian Trent

“Now I know what a ghost is. Unfinished business, that’s what.”

― Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses

Sundance Square, Fort Worth, Texas

High quality cameras in our phones, cloud storage, VR goggles, Artificial Intelligence, DeepFakes…. can we make our own ghosts?

Across From her Dead Father in an Airport Bar, by Brian Trent

from Flash Fiction Online

Brian Trent Homepage

Brian Trent Twitter

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, End of the Line, by Matt Kendrick

“Think of the fierce energy concentrated in an acorn! You bury it in the ground, and it explodes into an oak!”

― George Bernard Shaw

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth Conjoined, Roxy Paine

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Tuesday, September 22, 1998

Ground Stump

We had this big ash tree in the back yard. Not a very good tree. It had obviously been cut down once before and sprouted back with these multiple trunks splayed out in all directions. A “junk tree,” it grew fast and weak. Invaded by borers, several big limbs had already fallen off.

The final straw was the summer’s drought. This ash had a shallow root system and was way too close to the house. It sucked water out from under our foundation, helping to worsen the cracking and moving as the drying expansive clays pulled out from under the slab. The tree did provide some nice shade, but the live oak I planted a few years ago is growing up, it will be a stronger, longer-lived tree.

Ordinarily, I would cut it down myself. About a week of work. But I don’t have the time or energy. We gave in and hired a crew to remove the tree and grind the stump, three hundred fifty bucks. Today was the day.

Poor Lee was upset. He is still young enough that all things, especially living things have personality and soul and are valuable. Lee didn’t want us to kill the tree. I explained about the foundation and the fact that it would give us a lot more room in the backyard, but he wouldn’t give in until I agreed to let him plant an acorn.

I came home from work to find an enormous pile of wood and leaves along the front of our house, waiting for the city to come pick it up. It is amazing how different the back yard looks. Bigger and wide open. Almost naked. Lee was out there collecting sawdust, the soft remnants of the ground up stump, in a big bowl that he conned Candy out of.

And digging a hole for his acorn.

And a piece of flash fiction for today:

End of the Line, by Matt Kendrick

from Splonk

Matt Kendrick Homepage

Matt Kendrick Twitter

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, The Ferris Wheel, by Jason Herrington

A Boat

O beautiful
was the werewolf
in his evil forest.
We took him
to the carnival
and he started
crying
when he saw
the Ferris wheel.
Electric
green and red tears
flowed down
his furry cheeks.
He looked
like a boat
out on the dark
water.
― Richard Brautigan

Pond at Fair Park
A pond in Fair Park. The red paths are part of a massive sculpture by Patricia Johanson – I have always loved those concrete walkways running through the water, weeds, and turtles. A neglected jewel in the city.

When I was in high school and living in Nicaragua a carnival used to come to Managua a couple times a year and set up in the dusty field across the highway from our school. It has a lot of memories to me, not all of them exactly and completely good. The thing is, a Third World Central American carnival leaves a lot to be desired in cleanliness, maintenance, and safety. The smell of ozone from electrical arcing was mixed with the fume from the spicy food, and the miasma of people getting sick from the crazy nauseating rides – all probably bought second-hand when they failed safety inspections from more civilized carnivals – and only washed off with a thrown bucket of water through the hot humid tropical night air.

Still, it was a magical time and place. Maybe are carnivals are.

The Ferris Wheel, by Jason Herrington

Jason Herrington Homepage

Jason Herrington Twitter

Flash Fiction of the day, Different Shades of Yellow by Teddy Kimathi

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Sunflower

A friend called me one Saturday morning to tell me there were fields of Sunflowers blooming, vast, beside the Interstate on the way to Austin. I drove down there to take photographs. It was amazingly beautiful, the miles of yellow faces looking into the sun.

Today’s story reminded me of that day and these photographs.

Different Shades of Yellow by Teddy Kimathi


Sunflower
Sunflower

In Praise of Spotify

“What you got back home, little sister, to play your fuzzy warbles on? I bet you got little save pitiful, portable picnic players. Come with uncle and hear all proper! Hear angel trumpets and devil trombones. You are invited..”
Alex, A Clockwork Orange

There was live music at the start.

There was an apocalyptic time, long long ago, when I lived for a while in a tent with a couple of other guys. All we had for music was a little plastic battery-powered record player and two albums – Santana Abraxas and Traffic Low Spark of High Heeled Boys. We would listen to them over and over – and buy a lot of batteries.

When I was in college I didn’t have a stereo. I was jealous of friends that did and would spend as much time as I could wrangle at their places listening to music. I was a pest. Listening to good quality music was an expensive luxury.

On my own, as a working stiff – there was a long series of music related technological advances that came and went (and some times came and went again) – 8-Track, Cassettes, LP Vinyl, Reel-to-Reel, Dolby, subwoofers, CD, 5 – channel… on and on. The Walkman was particularly amazing to me – personal, portable, decent quality affordable music – a revelation. This was truly the best of all possible worlds.

And now, in the midst of my old geezerhood, I have finally caught up and have a paid membership to Spotify. And it is amazing. Desktop, laptop, phone, tablet – the entire history of music spread out before me like a groaning buffet table of sound.

Sure, it’s more than a little unnerving to have a giant computer somewhere checking on what I’m listening to and devising playlists that it thinks I might like… unnerving but also useful.

And now I have hooked my Spotify account up with a bluetooth soundbar and a couple of Amazon Echo Dots…. I can lie in my bed and call out, “Alexa, please play album Santana Abraxas,” or “Alexa, please play album Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.” I don’t know why I always say “please.”


I stumbled across this odd song and now it’s stuck in my head.

It’s called Prisencolinensinainciusol.

A big hit in Italy – the lyrics are gibberish, but designed to sound like English to non-English speaking listeners. It’s strange, but weirdly addictive. Believe it or not but Alexa will find it on Spotify.