Forty years ago on Tuesday it was D-Day. No not that D-Day – the other one – Decimal Day. Over-night, a system of currency essentially in use since Roman times was swept away. Instead of 12 pennies in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound to make 240 pennies in a pound, the shilling was discarded in favour of 100 New Pence to make a pound.
This is one of the ways it was introduced to the nation by the Decimal Currency Board.
While it made a kind of sense to go decimal, for supposedly making it easier to do currency calculations, I can’t help thinking that we lost something. Yes it is a shame that we lost denominations such as the Shilling, Guinea, Crown and Half-Crown but we lost something more than the cultural. The £SD system was not just random – twelves are far more versatile for dividing-up than tens (1,2,3,4,6,12 vs 1,2,5,10). Even the Guinea (21 shillings or 252 pennies) has the versatility of division by 7. There is a school of thought which says that our mathematical brains are far-less nimble at basic calculation because we’ve lost the knack switching between bases which the £SD system forced on us. Calculators and computers would have played their part there too. That said, now having easy and cheap access to versatile computing machines in business and personal life also makes much of the justification for going decimal moot.
Monday night, myself and Mr 0tralala braved the cold to make some astronomical observations. Were taking the GCSE in Astronomy at the moment, spending two hours a week at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich for lessons. The coursework deadline is rapidly approaching and it doesn’t help that our endeavours have been hampered by the British winter weather – lots of cloud.
But Monday was clear. We’ve also managed to find a nearby spot which is relatively free of street lamps, even if you can’t escape London’s appalling light pollution entirely.
The pointers we’ve been learning about in class also worked perfectly. Orion, the Hunter is really easy to find in the winter sky, and from his belt it’s a short hop to the red star Aldebaran - the eye of Taurus the bull. Following the line a bit further takes you to M45, better known as The Pleiades or The Seven Sisters.
To the naked eye, especially in South London, they look like a fuzzy blob but it’s the first time I had found them and was really chuffed. Then I got out my binoculars. They are only small, with objective lenses of 25mm, so not perfect for night-use but the view was still stunning. This was the first time I’ve seen The Pleiades live rather than in pictures and could easily make-out the group of six brightest stars as well as many others.
Image (C) NASA - Found via Wikipedia
That brings me to another point – six brightest stars? But these are the Seven Sisters. Where is number seven? Even in professional photographs, there are certainly six conspicuously bright stars. According to Wikipedia, the nine brightest stars are named for the daughters of the Titan Atlas, from Greek myth along with Atlas himself and their mother Pleione. So that’s now nine stars, all very confusing, especially as numbers seven to nine appear to be randomly assigned from a plethora of choices.
Somehow, I think that’s missing the point. Whatever the mythic origin of the name, they are still a stunning sight.
I spent part of the weekend playing with QR Codes, thinking that it would be something a bit different to add to my add to my CV. However gimmicky, I think it’s useful to be able to demonstrate the uses of such things. The example on the left, if you scan it with a smart-phone, will offer to add my contact details to your address book and give you a link to this blog.
You’ll probably have noticed these little squares appearing on your pastage and any mail-order items you receive. They’ve been used for tracking packages for some time. Apparently, in Japan, they have been appearing everywhere and much more visibly in the world of but Marketing for some time too. That’s a use that’s only just starting to gather pace in the US and UK and of course relies on there being a critical mass of smart-phone users able to scan them.
A couple of years ago, Google sent stickers with the codes on to 100,000 businesses in the US to tie them to their Places project in Google Maps. Closer to home, the codes have started to appear on-screen in Waitrose TV ads. They have even popped-up on the back of DVD boxes linking to a mobile trailer so you can see a little of what you’d get inside the pack while shopping.
They’re really easy to create too. There’s a plethora of aps for iPhone and Android as well as online generator such as this one from delivr.com
Back in the spring, myself, Mr 0tralala, Miss Nyssa1968 and Miss KB put together a weekend event – a session of fun and games for a group of chums like a weekend-long pub quiz.
One of the games I put together for this event was a version of the old TV gameshow Wipeout. Rather than leave it languishing on my hard-drive forever more, I have put it up here for anyone to have a go.
Just like the gameshow, the player must choose a grid of clues to try their luck against from a selection of cryptic topics. Then, once faced with the grid, decide how many correct answers they can see amongst the red-herrings. Picking a single wrong-answer wipes-out their accumulated score.
Obviously, here, it’s difficult to reproduce the full gameplay of the TV show but it’s possible to have a go.
So try your luck against the categories below. Click the letters in the answer-squares to make your choices:
Time for another fresh start here. It’s been a while but there have been behind-the-scenes problems which have now been fixed. A whole new hosting package with a new host too. So this is more of a soft-launch as most changes are invisible, or at least should be.