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Energy and power

I was 10 when I started my first year in the Secondary Grammar School in the UK.

The school system at that time saw us spend 2 years in the Infant School (I missed out on optional kindergarten because I was ill!), and in our time there we learned how to read and write and recite our multiplication tables.

The basic 3 Rs!

Then, normally, another 4 years in Junior school where Arithmetic was almost exclusively spent doing calculations involving the Imperial measurement system – and learning useful short cuts like 12 stamps at tuppence ha’penny cost 2 shilling and six pence, while 1 cwt (hundredweight) of coal at £3/10s per ton cost 3s/6d, there being
12 d (pence) in a shilling (s) and 20 s in £1.

Older, Anglo readers may remember the mass of arithmetic this involved! Non-Anglo readers will wonder why the hell we did not latch on the the metric system – or, better still the Système International – a whole heap sooner!

That is by the by – except that is helps to explain that, while we did study some history and geography, as well as reading and spelling, during that 4 years, we did not get round to science until secondary school.

My recollection is that in my first year at the Grammar school, we studied Art, Biology, General Science (as a precursor to Chemistry), English (Language and Literature, separately), French, (Latin came with Chemistry in the second year), History, Geography, Mathematics (as 3 strands – Arithmetic and Trigonometry, Algebra and Geometry (which was the beautiful logic of Euclidean geometry), Music and Scripture (that was a requirement of the Charter of the C of E school I attended). And, of course some form of Physical Education – sport or gymnastics, nearly every day.

No time for boredom when you add on homework!

But a fantastic background to learning across the board.

Later we streamed into Arts and Sciences and I dropped Latin, Art and History while keeping Biology, Chemistry, English, French, Geography, Maths, Scripture, Phys Ed and Music (goes with maths I will come back to this later), Geography and, later, Physics.

Early learning (PLEASE TAKE NOTE IF YOU ARE THE MINISTER RESPONSIBLE FOR PLANNING EARLY EDUCATION) is really important as it is usually the most firmly embedded. I have had no occasion since I originally learned about photosynthesis to describe it in detail, but it is firmly fixed in memory!

So I come to the crux of this exercise ~ solar energy and sources of power generally.

In Biology, among other things, very early on we studied the oxygenic version of photosynthesis. This explains how, employing the chlorophyll in the green leave of plants as a catalyst, the plants use the energy from the sun to combine the water drawn up through the roots and the carbon dioxide entering the leaves through the stomata (I was not sure I had remembered that term correctly, so I checked it out before writing this, 70+ years later) to form carbohydrates for use in growth, and in storage, sometimes in roots – all the root vegetables – or in fruit.

A bi-product of this daylight process is oxygen, exhausted via the somata, from which we benefit. At night, some of the carbon dioxide is excreted through these same stomata.

This is a simplified version of a complex process and there are other varieties of photosynthesis, since, among other things, not all plants have green leaves.

The important constituent of the air we breathe is, of course oxygen, and the damaging part, is the greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane.

Destroy the trees and reduce the oxygen available, while retaining the carbon dioxide, no longer required for photosynthesis. LUNACY!

Solar energy is readily available to us in most parts of the world – the North and South Poles are a bit short during their winters while the sun stays below the horizon – but it is far from being the only available form of natural energy.

We grossly under-use wind energy, which, in the Northern Hemisphere is providing an increasing source of renewable energy.

The strongest winds in Australia are not necessarily blowing in areas of high occupancy, but we are surrounded by sea, and most of our major cities are close – sometimes too close! – to the coast. Tidal energy is a constant source of energy which is greatly under-used, and even the currents in streams and rivers – provided our inefficient water policies have not destroyed the flow of water – can be enough to generate a modest amount of energy.

I sometimes wonder how much Australians know about what is happening elsewhere in the world?

I know that social media has, sometimes quite reasonably, become a pariah, yet I have found Tweeters of high educational value. One is @MikeHudema and if you opened a Twitter account to browse through his site, you would find the exercise valuable beyond measure. His theme is “We have the solutions. Let’s implement them.”



Now, Tom Lehrer, is the link to tie music and maths together.

When I did my maths degree, my thesis was on Non-Euclidean Geometry.

The very word ‘maths’ has the effect of making many shudder and tune out. Please hang in there!

Euclidean Geometry is a series of propositions and theorems which relate strictly to relationships between lines, shapes and angles on a flat surface. You will all have encountered several aspects of this in school geometry, and if you have ever used an atlas, you will have seen the problems that arise when you try to transfer a portion of the curved surface of Planet Earth on to a flat piece of paper.

This situation can be handled by using spherical geometry, and while for ease of use, if we are trying to calculate distances from a map, we can use trigonometry, if we want to be more accurate, we need spherical trigonometry – which I have taught in the past to those studying cartography.

But when it comes to space travel, we are in a whole new place!

Now please – just hang in there because I want you to enjoy Tom Lehrer as much as I do, but you need a bit of background to do so!

The two branches of non-Euclidean Geometry which I studied were one which was developed by Bernhard Riemann, on which Albert Einstein founded his Theory of Relativity. Hence the reference to space!

The other was more curious, in that it was developed, simultaneously and independently by a Russian called Nikolai Lobachevsky and a Hungarian called Janos Bolyai.

Scientific research of any kind abhors plagiarism, but the existence of that in this particular case has never been substantiated.

But it makes a delightful basis for imagination to run away!

So enjoy Lehrer’s take on the possibilities!

And never again say maths is dull – but PLEASE take scientific research seriously and tell the government to act on global warming!

I end as always – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

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  1. New England Cocky

    Thank you Rosemanry, now I understand the Tom Lehrer reference to Botachevsky.

  2. leefe

    I obviously lost interest in maths too early – my only previous acquaintance with the term “Non-Euclidian Geometry” was in my own recurring reference to Tasmania as being “The Home of Non-Euclidian Geometry” (because the maxim about shortest distances and straight lines is irrelevant here – particularly for bushwalkers – as the island just doesn’t do straight lines). Now I find there really is such a thing. Rather takes the fun out of it.

  3. totaram

    Rosemary: Not Bolachevsky, but Lobachevsky. Just because he was Russian doesn’t mean we don’t give him the right credit! Ha,ha!
    Great to have you pushing the maths. A losing struggle in my view. Sadly!

  4. David Stakes

    I remember the horrendous 11plus exam which determined whether you went to a Grammar school or a Secondary Modern. I failed by 2% and so ended up at a Secondary Modern. The school dunce all thru the year passed and went on to Grammar school. Even the Headmaster said I should have gone on to Grammar school but the rules were rules. Life s outcomes was changed from that moment.

  5. Kerri

    Tom Lehrer was brilliant!
    If you have never heard of him look him up on YouTube.
    Masochism Tango. Poisoning Pigeons In The Park. The Irish Ballad. The Elements (that Daniel Radcliffe memorised).

  6. RosemaryJ36

    Totaram – thanks for the correction

    David- in some areas, students in your situation were able to transfer to the Grammar stream later on. Subsequently the theory underpinning the 11+ exam was debunked.

  7. RosemaryJ36

    Totaram – thanks for the correction

    David- in some areas, students in your situation were able to transfer to the Grammar stream later on.

  8. David Stakes

    Was not known in disadvantaged circles, 60yrs too late now. Damage has been done.

  9. RosemaryJ36

    Educational theory is still making serious mistakes – eg Naplan. and refusing to accept alternatives – phonics vs look and say. Like Finland, we need properly educated teachers at ALL levels.

  10. Matters Not

    Just for the record. NAPLAN didn’t come from the world of educational theory but from the grubby sphere of populist politics. Any history of same would recognise that the rot started under Brendan Nelson with his National Curriculum (not a bad idea in itself) and the hugely non-standardised and ultimately meaningless A to E reporting system. The decay accelerated under Rudd largely via Gillard then subservient to the toxic influence of her new best friend at the time Joel Klein who was the head of the New York city Department of Education. Klein then went off to join the Murdoch Empire which hoped to make a killing in this new world of standardised education. Said Klein as he slammed the door behind:

    “I’ve long admired News Corporation’s entrepreneurial spirit and Rupert Murdoch’s fearless commitment to innovation,” Mr Klein said, adding that he was excited by “the chance to bring the same spirit of innovation to the burgeoning education marketplace”.

    From that unholy liaison came the bastardized NAPLAN child. (Who said she was barren by choice? Was that Latham? ) Then there was Pyne with his back to basics … politicians one and all and not a … whatever … between them.

    (PS – there are alternative views of course but this short history is the truth. LOL.)

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