thinking outside the tank

Posts Tagged ‘environment

recumbent blackberry quantum zinc karma

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A few days ago I walked to the shops to buy a bag of lemons; that’s what you need to make lemon and courgette soup and then 2 kg of bramble jelly. On the way there I stopped to pick some blackberries which weighed in at just over a kilogram. This is not the best photograph ever taken of blackberries, but they are the blackberries I picked.

On the way home, I called in at the estate agent to pick up details of a 1-bedroom apartment in a Grade 2 Listed building which is shortly coming on to the market. It’s set in 8 acres of grounds and will have a security gate controlling access. This is the estate agent’s photograph and I hope the fact that I’m giving them free publicity – click on the photo for more details – will ease my way in the copyright infringement suit.

Manor House

I chatted for a while with the agent, then left and walked towards home. The road goes downhill and there’s a steep bank down to the right of the path which has a crash barrier at the top. Half way down this slope a car approached. When it was nearly up to me, the object shown below detached itself and carved a silhouetted parabola towards me. It flew past, dangerously close, and clattered into the barrier.

wheel balance weight

You may recognise this as a type of weight used for wheel balancing. I recognised it as a very lucky escape. If I had collected one fewer blackberry or exchanged one fewer pleasantry with the estate agent I would certainly have lost my balance as this thing struck me at x miles per hour.

That set me thinking in a number of directions. First, could I have made it in a freak show (those who know me would say ‘easily’) – roll up, roll up; see the man with the wheel balancing weight embedded in his skull.

Next, what was the value of x? In other words, how fast was the weight travelling towards me? I love this kind of problem. The diameter of the wheel was about 2 feet, so the circumference would be 2π or 6.28 feet. The wheel would make 5260/2π or about 837 revolutions per mile. At 30 miles per hour that’s (837*30)/3600 revolutions per second…then it occurred to me (duh!) – if the car was travelling at 30mph then the outer edge of the wheel must also be travelling at 30mph. The rim of the wheel had a diameter of about 20 inches, so the speed of the weight as it left the wheel was about (20/24)*30 or about 25mph. Which just goes to show there are better ways of killing a pig than choking it on π  (blackberry or otherwise).

How many of you budding Sherlocks out there have already identified the projectile from its distinguishing features? The markings on the weight are:

40 Zn 326 X

The 40 is its weight. I know that because I weighed it and it weighs 40grams. Zn means it’s made of zinc. 326, I think, identifies a style of wheel. X is an unknown to me. What is clear is that this particular weight didn’t have my name on it.

So, a lump of zinc went hurtling by my head with a momentum of 0.445kg-m/s. Was it luck or fate that I wasn’t a few more feet along the road? Was it randomness, or some kind of quantum zinc effect where all of the atoms in the weight experienced the probability that they would head off  at a tangent to the wheel?

If I were a Buddhist I might think it was karma. After all I did blog a while back about returning my car to the finance company and taking to my recumbent tricycle (Nil by ear). Was karma saving me with early payback in this lifetime for a virtuous act or was it a shot across the bows warning me what was to come?

What worried me more than anything, though, was that the driver of the car might not notice his loss until he reached a critical speed on the motorway when the vibrations would set in and maybe a considerably greater mass of metal would leave the road. It’s being so cheerful that keeps me going.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst 2010 (pace

Thanks to Frances Hazlehurst for copy editing.


Written by netkingcol

August 12, 2010 at 7:09 pm

How to convert car insurance into cavity wall insulation

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This post is a follow-up to Nil By Ear when I said I was swapping my car for a tricycle. Today was the day I handed my Prius back to Toyota Financial Services. As much as anything, the photographs above are to show that it was in good condition when it left me.

I feel an inexplicable lightness – but then maybe it can be explained by the realisations that: a) I won’t be pumping all that carbon dioxide into the air, b) I won’t be incurring the running costs of a car, and c) I’ll be healthier for walking and cycling everywhere.

Continuing the theme of taking individual responsibility for my carbon footprint, I’ll be spending the refund of the car insurance policy that I’ve just cancelled on the cavity wall insulation that will be installed tomorrow morning.

The article in George Monbiot’s blog last week looks to me more like an excuse to do nothing. He seems to be forwarding the argument, based on an experiment at the University of Toronto, that we licence ourselves to be greedy and to perform environmentally unfriendly acts by taking a few small-scale green actions. He’s more in favour of allowing the politicians – the ones with two houses, two jags, and who never admit to ‘wrong-doing’ – to make the decisions for us and to tell us what to do.

I believe we can, and should, make decisions for ourselves about how we behave. Putting a cross on a ballot paper every 4 or 5 years isn’t enough, especially when you can’t trust the people who get the power. I really hope that Copenhagen is successful, but I’m not waiting for the outcome.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurt, 2009


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SparrowHawkThis rather damp female Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) appeared in our garden this afternoon. It’s a common enough bird across the country, having recovered from a number of threats including guns and DDT. It’s not that common in our garden, though, so it was quite exciting to see it.

The excitement is tempered by the knowledge that the hawk is a threat to the other avian visitors we enjoy. At the base of the fence in the picture there’s a raised pond that we built over the summer. The pond is used daily by blackbirds, pigeons, and others, all of which are part of the Sparrowhawk diet.

RSPB information about the Sparrowhawk

Written by netkingcol

November 10, 2009 at 5:09 pm

Nil By Ear

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Prius Exchanging a Prius for a recumbent tricycle as my main form of transport. Windcheetah 749


Well, because of climate change. According to some web-based calculators, the Prius needs 425 calories per mile which is equivalent to 4.7 small bananas. It’s fantastic that the Prius is so efficient, but those calories come from petrol (0.1 pints per mile if I drive carefully). The Prius puts 166g per mile of CO2 into the atmosphere. The recumbent, however, needs only 50 calories of my energy to carry it for 1 mile; that’s about half of a small banana. Although I’m breathing out CO2 at a higher rate than when I’m standing still, the beauty is I get to eat the banana as well as exercising my heart muscle and keeping fit.

Stephen Fry tweeted recently about a campaign organised by Avaaz to make some noise on 21Sep09 in order to wake up world leaders and urge them to action on climate change:

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Hawthorn – the greenest green

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Hawthorn (05Apr09)
Hawthorn (05Apr09)

Is there any brighter, more welcome shade of green than the new, fresh, unwilted and unweathered leaf of springtime hawthorn, transforming the hedgerows into winter-ending walls of life, promising brilliant white flowers in May and bright red berry clusters later in the year?

The reassuring vivid freshness of this modest plant brings timely cheer out of all proportion to its stature.




 Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst 2009

Written by netkingcol

April 5, 2009 at 7:58 pm

There is a blue hill quite close by

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Thick pinkish moss-clad curling flakes of ancient bark form the skin of a stout sycamore extruding buds to honour the imminent contract to shade the bluebells at its feet; the solid, stable, full expression of a tree. As eagerly awaited as any golden Vermont autumn, the bluebell flower-burst marks the progress of the Wansfell spring and answers the wintry question: why is it called Blue Hill Wood?

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst 2009

Written by netkingcol

March 29, 2009 at 12:27 pm

The First Cuckoo of Spring

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I live in Ambleside in the English Lake District at the head of a cul-de-sac on the lower slopes of Wansfell from which there is no public access to the fells. Today I can report that we had our first metaphorical cuckoo of the spring, by which I mean the first ramblers trying to make their way out of the village and into the hills – and failing the first test of their navigational skills. They reach my house and look around in confusion and bewilderment.

As surely as a lame-duck president is followed by a dream-ticket and the cold wind of recession is followed by the green shoots of recovery, the couple I met today will be followed by a steady stream of the cartographically challenged. They are almost worthy of classification as one of David Attenborough’s Great Events of Nature, the migration reaching its peak in the summer holidays.

Mostly these visitors clutch a printed sheet of instructions telling them, clearly in insufficient detail or in ambiguous terms, how to get from A to B. Some of them are completely kitted-out with map, compass, emergency rations, and two walking poles; the couple today had a GPS – but it wasn’t doing its job because ‘there was only one satellite so he couldn’t triangulate’.

I consider it a service to tourism to help them get where they want to be and I hope they will remember fondly the friendly face that guided them, though sometimes I feel a terrible responsibility. After all, I’m showing them where exactly they can get into the mountains and start to get really lost. I imagine the conversation they will have with the mountain rescue team, trying to describe their position after dialling 999. Maybe this year I will set up a lemonade stall at the end of my drive or, even better, write my own leaflet and hand it out to those who turn up at my door.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst 2009

Written by netkingcol

March 15, 2009 at 8:28 pm

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