Île d’Orléans

“Île d’Orléans had long been inhabited by the indigenous tribes. The Huron called it Minigo, the enchanted island. In 1536, explorer Jacques Cartier renamed the island Orléans, in honour of the Duke of Orleans.
The island’s fertile soil attracted French settlers, yet its colonization proceeded slowly. During mid seventeen century, it was ground to fights between Huron and Iroquois tribes. According to the census conducted in 1685, the island’s population consisted of 1205 people and 917 heads of livestock.
Until the bridge to the island was inaugurated in 1935, the island’s inhabitants were relatively isolated in the middle of the St. Lawrence. The only way to reach the mainland in the summer was by boat, and in the winter, by crossing the ice bridge formed when the river froze up.
Summarized from tourisme.iledorleans.com and Wikipedia

Île d’Orléans is no longer isolated.

Quebec City is clearly seen from the island:

but looking around, one sees wildlife:

and farms and fields:

and flowers:

The island is known for its produce and food-tourism.
There is a place for lovers of chocolate,

and for those who want a meal with a view on the river:

Yet, for the freshest food, pick your own:

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Where the river narrows

“The name “Québec”, which comes from the Algonquin word kébec meaning “where the river narrows”, originally referred to the area around Quebec City where the Saint Lawrence River narrows to a cliff-lined gap.”  Wikipedia

Our next leg of the “lazy vacation” was Quebec City. Imagine a city built on a cliff, narrow streets and the river…

Château Frontenac – extravaganza, many years before Disney World:

The marina:

The farmer’s market at the marina:

Pretty in the day and glamorous at night:

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A lazy vacation

What it was that was actually the matter with us, we none of us could be sure of; but the unanimous opinion was that it – whatever it was – had been brought on by overwork.
“What we want is rest,” said Harris.
“Rest and complete change,” said George. “The overstrain upon our brains has produced a general depression throughout the system. Change of scene, and absence of the necessity for thought, will restore the mental equilibrium.”
From Three Man in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog!),
by Jerome K. Jerome

Harris and George almost nailed it. Almost, because change of scene from where I live requires at least a few hours of driving. And in the heat of the summer, the destination should be somewhere peaceful, with a variety of scenery and the benefit of good food. A leisurely trip along the banks of the great St. Lawrence river was almost the obvious choice – another country and language, only a day of traveling from home, and since this would not be our first visit, we could, with good conscience, skip some museums. Picturing chocolate eclairs in Montreal, quaint streets in Quebec City, and lazy food-truism in-between, we crossed the Canadian border.

Montreal met us with construction:


Old edifices:

Even older houses with gables:

The old port:

And houses one actually would want to live in:


A meditating gargoyle (is he thinking about food?):

Fresh pastry

at Atwater market

Next stop: Quebec City

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George Green’s birthday

When one is asked to name prominent English scientists who forged our understanding of electricity and magnetism, the two giants that immediately pop to mind: Michael Faraday (1791– 1867), who established the basis for the concept of the electromagnetic field, and James Clerk Maxwell (1831 – 1879), who formulated the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation. (That theory unified electricity, magnetism, and light, showing that they are manifestations of the same phenomenon). The name of George Green (1793-1841), who was the first to attempt to devise a theory of electricity and magnetism, is usually forgotten. So, who was he and why would anyone care?

George Green was born on 14 July 1793, near Nottingham. Green’s father, a wealthy baker, recognized his only son’s mathematical aptitude and, having the financial ability, enrolled young George in Robert Goodacre’s Academy. At the age of nine, Green’s school days were over. He spent the next five years in his father’s bakery, then at fourteen he was apprenticed to his father’s mill manager. The next known milestone in George Green’s life was his becoming a member of the Nottingham Subscription Library at the age of thirty.

In 1828, at the age of thirty-five, Green published An Essay on the Application of Mathematical Analysis to the Theories of Electricity and Magnetism. In the essay for which Green is most famous today, Green generalized and extended the electric and magnetic investigations of the French mathematician Poisson, introduced the term potential and what is now known as Green’s theorem, which is widely applied in the study of the properties of magnetic and electric field potential.

We can only speculate what would be the impact of Green’s work if he published it through one of England’s established journals. Without academic qualifications and contacts with the scientific establishment, Green published it privately at his own expense. The Essay was sold on a subscription basis to 51 people, most of whom were friends and probably could not understand it.

Members of the Nottingham Subscription Library who knew Green repeatedly insisted that he obtain a proper University education. In particular, one of the library’s most prestigious subscribers was Sir Edward Bromhead, with whom Green shared many correspondences; he insisted that Green go to Cambridge.

In 1832, aged nearly forty, Green was admitted as an undergraduate at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. He graduated BA in 1838 as the 4th highest scoring student in his graduating class. Following his graduation, Green was elected a fellow of the Cambridge Philosophical Society. The next two years provided an unparalleled opportunity for Green to read, write and discuss his scientific ideas. In this short time he published an additional six publications with applications to hydrodynamics, sound and optics.

In 1840, an ailing Green returned home. He died at the age of forty-seven, just about the time when his work was about to be recognized.

After Green’s death, his Essay of 1828 was practically forgotten. It was rediscovered by William Thomson, the future Lord Kelvin. In 1845, Thomson showed Green’s Essay to leading French mathematicians. The Essay was re-published between 1850-1854. By 1900, Green’s functions were well known to German mathematicians. William Thomson did more than re-discover the Essay. He developed a life-long admiration for Green and did much to establish his posthumous reputation. He further developed Green’s theories in his own research in electromagnetism. His friend G. G. Stokes likewise developed Green’s work on wave theory in his own studies in hydrodynamics.

On a visit to Nottingham in 1930, Albert Einstein commented that Green had been 20 years ahead of his time. Green’s theorem and functions are important tools in classical mechanics. Schwinger used Green functions in work on quantum electrodynamics that led to his 1965 Nobel prize (shared with Feynman and Tomonaga). Green’s functions also proved useful in particle physics and in condensed matter.


Green’s Mill

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Ricketts Glen is a state park in Pennsylvania. It is a National Natural Landmark known for its old-growth forest and 24 named waterfalls. (Wikipedia).

Here are pictures from a trip taken on the Memorial Day weekend.

Above the waterfalls, the view of Lake Jean:

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Who said it? Jude or Jane?

“Some people want to believe that the only difference between achievement and failure is luck. They like to sit on their couches and say that some sort of predetermined fate was why others made it and they didn’t. They never want to admit that hard work did it.”
From The Girl from Summer Hill, by Jude Deveraux.

“Her performance was pleasing, through by no means capital. After a song or two, and before she could reply to the entreaties of several that she would sing again, she was eagerly succeeded at the instrument by her sister Mary, who having, in consequence of being the plain one in the family, worked hard for knowledge and accomplishments, was always impatient for display.
Mary had neither genius nor taste… Elizabeth, easy and unaffected, had been listened to with much more pleasure, though not playing half so well;”
From Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.

In the world of inherited wealth and privilege, working hard isn’t the best recommendation either for a young man or a woman. A “very fine young man, with family, fortune, everything in his favour,” does not need to work or even have a profession to be allowed to “think highly of himself.” The expectations from a gentlewoman are even stranger to our modern sensibilities. “A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, all the modern languages…and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.” And why would she make such an extensive effort? The only “career option” for a woman of certain social class was to attract a man who would marry and consequently support her. Sounds like a relic of a bygone era, not something relevant to the contemporary American society that glorifies hard work. Continue reading

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Can a nymph, an Amazon, a playwright, and a poet bring peace to Athens?

“Before the comedies were presented at the festival, it was customary for one of Athens’s great lyric poets to entertain the crowd with a few well-chosen pieces, to get them in the mood. As with everything connected with the festival, it was an honour to be selected.
“Luxos, before my actors walk onstage, the crowd will be entertained by one of Athens’s great poets. Does that include you?”
“Only in your own mind.”
“But I could do it if I got the chance.”
“Come back in a few years when you’ve made your reputation, and I’ll consider it.”
“It’s not fair,” said Luxos.
“We’ve been at war for ten years. Nothing’s fair anymore.”
From The Goddess Of Buttercups And Daisies by Martin Millar

“It’s not fair” isn’t, by any means, a new statement, and even in 421 BC, it was unlikely to be original. So why would Aristophanes, also known as the Father of Comedy, waste his valuable time on an untried poor guy with no formal training, connections or credentials, when he desperately needs the best actors, props and an acclaimed poet to win the first prize with his controversial play Peace?

The role of an Artist at wartime is a deep question, and Martin Millar could have used the backdrop of Dionysia festival during the Peloponnesian War to explore the topic for a few hundred pages, adorning his premises with a plethora of historical information and elaborate literary contemplation. Luckily for me, the characters in the novel have much more to do than lament the hardships of artists in a materialistic society hardened by a decade-long war. Continue reading

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