Monday, April 21

Call yourself a geologist?

You get some really daft people managing to get stories into the media. Fundamentalist Christians in the US are very good at this. Not to be left out, some twit claiming to be a geologist has managed to have their declaration that Mecca time should replace GMT because Mecca was in "perfect alignment to magnetic north" get reported by the BBC.

He's clearly not a geologist, as any *real* geologist knows that Magnetic North moves. Currently by about 41km a year. It moved 1100km over the 20th century. I'm not an expert on Saudi Arabian cities, but I'm pretty sure that Mecca doesn't move around the desert anywhere near as much (and it'd have to move rather faster than magnetic north, given that the fixed point on the circle, the north pole, is much closer to Magnetic North than it is to Mecca).

Also - and I haven't bothered to work out exactly, but there's probably a nice Great Circle mapper on Google somewhere - the great circle that passes through wherever Magnetic North currently is and the North Pole will also pass through a number of other places. At a rough guess from looking at the map, I'd be pretty confident that a Great Circle that passes through Mecca and the North Pole is going to go pretty close to both Moscow and the west coast of North America. So - why Mecca time and not Moscow time? Or even Hollywood time? At least we'd know when the latest TV shows will appear on the internet...

Or what if they mean a line where magnetic north and true north are the same? Well, this is a complex beast, due to local effects, but again, one such line passes through the US - from Lake Superior and across the western panhandle of Florida - and another through Europe - in 2000, this ran pretty much slap bang through Copenhagen (you know, the place with the cartoonists) and nowhere near Mecca.

Thursday, April 3

Cricket in the lost nation

Once upon a time, the English ran the game of cricket. The time had come for the game to expand beyond three Test playing nations, and the then Imperial Cricketing Council made its decision - not for arguably the best of the non-Test playing nations, but for a side that wasn't a nation but a confederation of parts of the Empire. So the West Indies, then a white-dominated side, started playing Test cricket, and the US didn't.

Perhaps if the Americans had been let in they would have continued to play at the high level - you could imagine the Ivy League universities fielding teams, with top players from Philadelphia and New York also making the Test side. But the fear of the ICC that if the Yanks were let in they might take over may well have helped the sport slide into obscurity in the US.

Fast forward eighty years. Eric Goldstein, chief executive for school support services and overseer of the sports programs for the Department of Education in New York decides to add a new sport to the official public school leagues, one that will appeal to the large Asian and Caribbean immigrant community - cricket. He expects four teams to be possible. He gets fourteen.

Story in the NY Times