Wednesday, October 8, 2014

From unaccustomed praise, to wind-blown leaves, to the mind-freeing scientific method.

This science bod was paid a big compliment today, probably the biggest he's been paid in his entire life. I'll spare you the details, dear reader, except to say that I try to let compliments, like brickbats, fly over my head, so as not to be too distracted by what other folk think of me and my peculiar mission in life. Which is what you may ask?

Fortunately, I had my camera and the pictures it took in a blustery Lyon this morning to demonstrate what turns me on, what gives me a buzz (recalling this site calls itself science buzz).

First, those pictures.

There I was with my dear wife, crossing a bridge that separates Old  Lyon from the Presque Ile (peninsula) that separates the Rhone and the Saone just short of their confluence. Suddenly a fierce wind  got up from downstream (the south) a short way from the confluence of the two rivers, which made the River Saone under the bridge become flecked with foam, seeming to flow against its N-S direction.

The river is flowing AWAY from me, despite those white-capped waves that seem to be coming towards the camera
Here are autumn leaves that have collected on the lee side of that wind coming from the right, with very few visible elsewhere.

Here's the same view a short while later, where a fresh gust of wind has caused a few of those leaves in the sheltered side of the footbridge to become airborne. A minute or two later they were back where they started. Why?

My wife offered  an entirely reasonable and commonsensical explanation for what you see in these pictures. "The wind has blown the leaves into that area on the right".

But how can that be, when the wind if blowing right to left in these pictures?

An entirely different explanation occurs to me, one which is apposite at the present time, given attempts by some in Shroudology to re-invent chemistry as 'stochastic physics'. (Chemistry has always featured a random element where molecular collisions, productive or unproductive are concerned, but does not generally try to track the path of individual molecules, being content merely to explain and predict the end-result in gross terms of billions of such collisions).

The leaves are not being blown into that sheltered side. The leaves are being blown into the air, and are settling all over the place. But when  leaves just happen by chance  to land in that sheltered spot, they tend to stay put, whereas leaves that land elsewhere, in less sheltered spots, tend to get lifted back into the air. Bit by bit, leaves tend to fall at random into the sheltered spot, so with time, one sees more and more leaves there, and fewer and fewer leaves elsewhere. The leaves were NOT blown preferentially into that sheltered spot.

Methinks there's a parable there, not only for chemistry, but biochemistry too (my specialist subject).

I got a buzz this morning for seeing macroscopic objects (dead leaves) behaving like atoms and molecules.

I get a buzz too from looking at the claims made by fellow 'Shroudies' and thinking to myself: "Suppose the process of image formation were not as 'intuitive' as one might think. Suppose the end-result came about by processes that are not intuitive, dare one say "commonsensical". Suppose the TS image has a thousand possible explanations, only one of which is correct? How can one set about determining which is the correct explanation?  For some of us, the buzz comes from meeting that challenge.

For scientists like myself, there is a simple answer to that question (which may or may not lead to the correct end-result, at least in one's own lifetime).  It requires no great feats of imagination or intellect - one must simply get experimenting. It matters not a jot whether the initial working models are right, or possibly right, or indeed possibly or even probably wrong.

The important thing is to keep EXPERIMENTING.  It keeps the mind (reasonably) free of preconceptions  and dogma. It makes one more amenable to ideas and possibilities that take time to incubate.

Addendum Friday October 10

 Here's a piccy I took yesterday morning at the end of the tapering spit of land midstream where the Rhone (left) and Saone (right) come together a short way south of Lyon city centre.

And here's your blogger at that same precise spot, whose troosers don't always look like that (please believe me when I say there's still that fierce wind blowing from the south that is REVERSING the current, at least on the surface, with dead leaves and other detritus being gently moved UPSTREAM).

No, I don't have ambitions to be the next Pope, practising for an appearance on the balcony at St.Peters.  The gesture is a standard one I routinely employ when standing as so often I do at the confluence of major rivers. It allows my small band of admirers (and larger army of detractors) to deduce the direction from which the two riversconverge.

Afterthought (for Hugh Farey in Comments in the first instance ): I do in fact have a short video clip, showing the behaviour of those leaves on the windy bridge, which I'm studying at the moment to try and decide how much of the shift to the wind-sheltered side is random, v. how much was assisted by Bernouilli effect, eddies, vortices etc. etc. (given the wind was in the wrong direction to blow them there directly). Sadly the video will not upload to this blog (despite there being a button that's supposed to make that possible). Here's a screen grab still image to be getting on with.

I've now learned to clip videos in MS Movie Maker, thereby cutting my windswept wife out of the picture, and still my now diminished 10 second video file fails to upload, despite an on-screen icon that suggests it's supposed to be happening (shame about the static progress bar). Don't you just hate clunky software that doesn't work, and, more to the point, keeps you hanging around for 10-15 minutes to realize it does not work.

 My loathing for all things to do with Californian software is exceeded only by the French public transport system, once the envy of Europe, and now in free fall.


Hugh Farey said...

Did you notice how the leaves arrived? Did they just drop out of the air or did they swirl in from left to right in an eddy caused by the Bernoulli effect as the wind blew over the wall? Just askin'...

ps. See all that stuff about singlet oxygen on shroudstory. All Greek to me...

sciencebod said...

How very perceptive of you Hugh. It did occur to me after posting that the leaves may indeed have been "sucked" into that sheltered spot via some kind of aerodynamic effect (I'd forgotten about it being systematized by Bernoulli). Indeed, they probably were, so it's not entirely random if there's a pull effect. But I'd still maintain that the leaves are not being "blown" by the wind into that sheltered spot, and that once there they find themselves in a dead zone from which it then takes an exceptionally fierce gust of wind (and extra-strong Bernoulli effect) to dislodge them.

Singlet oxygen? It actually has a surprisingly long survival time - an hour or more, it not being a free radical, but something rather more subtle re configuration of spin-paired electrons. See tail end of a posting I did a while ago: