Thursday, 5 December 2019

Sugar Crystals Viewed in Polarised Light

Nature produces some amazing and beautiful sights. We only have to watch the well-produced nature programmes to see this. Sometimes, however, we need optical instruments to help us see these wonders. 


In this case I've used a microscope to look at simple sugar crystals. The field of view is about 1.05mm by 1.59mm, and the sugar is viewed through crossed polarising filters.


I prepared the microscope slide for this rather simply. It is certainly not elegant, nor is it in any way a professional looking slide - but it works. I dissolved sugar in water until no more would dissolve. I then dripped a small amount onto the slide and waited for it to dry. I built up a rectangular trough around it using some of my wife's nail varnish, and the last coat I used to build up the trough also cemented the cover-slip into place. Simple.




I will do a another post to show the equipment setup I used for this but, in brief, it was a vintage Charles Baker microscope, with Köhler Illumination using a Cooke microscope light and two polarising filters.



For now I just wanted to share the pictures with you in the hope you will enjoy viewing them.

All content and photos © copyright Tony Benson

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

A Walk Around Maidstone – Rootes and the Mill Pond



I recently took a stroll around Maidstone, looking for some of the old bits that had not been bulldozed in the name of progress. I found myself looking at the old Rootes showroom, now earmarked for redevelopment into yet more housing. I first knew Maidstone when my family moved to a nearby village at the beginning of the 1960s, and I well remember Rootes Group and their showroom here by the River Len.

The Rootes motor business dates back to 1897 in Maidstone, and in 1913 the founder’s son, William, formed his own independent motor sales company in Hawkhurst, also repairing and making parts for aircraft engines. William bought his father’s Maidstone business in 1917, later expanding nationally to encompass the motor manufacturers Hillman, Humber, Singer, Sunbeam, Talbot, Commer and Karrier, as well as the Maidstone motor manufacturer Tillings-Stevens. It was here in Maidstone that the showroom, photographed above, was built for Rootes by the architectural firm Howard and Souster in 1937/8.

The building overlooks the mill pond on the river Len, once serving the Corn Mill at its downstream end where the modern road bridge is built over the top of a mediaeval mulit-span bridge on Mill Street. Here you see the bridge pictured from the west where the mediaeval stone arches can still be seen under the modern cantilevered road bridge. When I took this photograph there was a pied wagtail flying in and out of the dark tunnels under the arches.

Turning my back on the Mill Street bridge I get this view of the river Len flowing towards the Medway.

Crossing into the gardens of the Archbishop’s Palace, I see the river Len again, further downstream, now only metres away from where it joins the Medway.

Content and images © copyright Tony Benson

Friday, 4 May 2018

Available Now - Galactic Alliance: Betrayal

Today is the big day! Galactic Alliance: Betrayal is now available on Kindle and ePub from your favourite online bookstore.

The Galactic Alliance has brought advanced technology and trade to Earth. The governments of Earth see them as a friend – why invest in global defences when we have the Galactic Alliance as an ally?

Daniel thinks they're wrong. Nobody, not even Ruth, believes him when he stumbles upon a Galactic Alliance plot to take over Earth and subject humanity to brutal, dehumanising slavery.

Separated from Ruth by Vorth astro-pirates, Daniel is torn between trying to warn sceptical Earth governments and finding Ruth. The astro-pirates, meanwhile, discover that Ruth is not the pushover they expect her to be.

Pursued across the galaxy by hostile aliens, Daniel confronts the Galactic Alliance, plunging himself and Ruth into the heart of the biggest conflict in Earth’s history.


In our galaxy of alien worlds and species it is not always easy to tell right from wrong, or good from bad. Taking on the seemingly invincible might of the Galactic Alliance is more than any sane person would consider, yet it is necessary. If they have their way, human life on Earth will be reduced to a subclass of slaves to a brutal alien species.

This is a story of astro-pirates, love, treachery and fear. You will visit worlds you have never seen before, and meet aliens, good and bad, who all have a part to play in the battle for freedom.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Cover Reveal - Galactic Alliance: Betrayal

Here it is - the cover for my forthcoming book, Galactic Alliance: Betrayal. In my last post I promised I'd show you the cover, so without further ado:


The Galactic Alliance has brought advanced technology and trade to Earth. The governments of Earth see them as a friend – why invest in global defences when we have the Galactic Alliance as an ally?

Daniel thinks they're wrong. Nobody, not even Ruth, believes him when he stumbles upon a Galactic Alliance plot to take over Earth and subject humanity to brutal, dehumanising slavery.

Separated from Ruth by Vorth astro-pirates, Daniel is torn between trying to warn sceptical Earth governments and finding Ruth. The astro-pirates, meanwhile, discover that Ruth is not the pushover they expect her to be.

Pursued across the galaxy by hostile aliens, Daniel confronts the Galactic Alliance, plunging himself and Ruth into the heart of the biggest conflict in Earth’s history.

The release date will be Friday 4th May, and it will be available on Kindle and ePub. You will be able to get the ePub from all the usual sellers, including Nook, Kobo and others.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

There’s life in the old boy yet


Hello again, all! I just looked at the date of my last post, and it’s been three years. I may have been absent from the world of blogging, but I haven’t been idle. I’m currently putting the finishing touches to my latest novel, Galactic Alliance: Betrayal. It’s five years since An Accident of Birth was published, and in that time I’ve written a science fiction space opera story that I hope you will enjoy.

What’s it about? I hear you ask. Here’s the blurb from the back cover:

The Galactic Alliance has brought advanced technology and trade to Earth. The governments of Earth see them as a friend – why invest in global defences when we have the Galactic Alliance as an ally?

Daniel thinks they're wrong. Nobody, not even Ruth, believes him when he stumbles upon a Galactic Alliance plot to take over Earth and subject humanity to brutal, dehumanising slavery.

Separated from Ruth by Vorth astro-pirates, Daniel is torn between trying to warn sceptical Earth governments and finding Ruth. The astro-pirates, meanwhile, discover that Ruth is not the pushover they expect her to be.

Pursued across the galaxy by hostile aliens, Daniel confronts the Galactic Alliance, plunging himself and Ruth into the heart of the biggest conflict in Earth’s history.

I hope that whets your appetite. If you like the sound of it, just wait ’till you see the cover. I’m planning to do a cover reveal very soon, and publication will follow shortly after that.

So, here I am, back from my blogging hiatus, and raring to go. Watch this space for a peek at the cover.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Book Review: The Day Without Yesterday by Stuart Clark

Once we recognise our limits, we can leap beyond them.


This is the third in Stuart Clark's trilogy, including The Sky'sDark Labyrinth, and The Sensorium of God. Each takes a pivotal moment in the evolution of science and dramatises it in fiction.

From The Back Cover

Berlin, 1914. Europe is marching blindly into war and the city is a storm of nationalist fervour and army recruitment.

Albert Einstein anticipates the carnage to come when his university colleagues begin to work on poison gas to 'shorten the war'.

Increasingly isolated, he finds that few people entertain his outlandish new way of understanding the universe, and he can't quite pull the mathematics together.

He needs hard evidence to prove his vision, but the man he was relying on to help him is caught by the outbreak of hostilities and is now facing execution.

Meanwhile, in the mud-soaked trenches of the Western Front, unbeknownst to Einstein, a devoutly religious Belgian called Georges Lemaître has the mathematical ability to help bring his new theory to a triumphant conclusion. But as the German war machine advances, Lemaître's survival looks increasingly unlikely…

The Day Without Yesterday by Stuart Clark

This is an excellent book, and a fitting conclusion to the Sky's Dark Labyrinth trilogy.

With this book, Dr. Stuart Clark has taken on a huge challenge. We all know something of Albert Einstein, and while many readers may not know much about his personal life, we all have a pretty good idea that he was one of, if not the, most influential scientist in modern times. The advances he brought about in science have made him universally admired and respected. But what was he like as a person? What sort of a life did he lead?

These are the questions Dr. Clark sets about answering in this book. The Day Without Yesterday is the story of Einstein's life around the time of the First World War, and tells of his family life, his relationship with other members of the scientific community, and the impact on himself and others of his ground-breaking theories.

The Day Without Yesterday is clearly well researched, and sensitively written by an author who is himself a scientist. He brings Einstein and those around him to life, and furnishes us with a taste of Einstein, both at his best and at his worst.

So, going back to my questions: What was he like as a person? What sort of a life did he lead? If you read this immensely enjoyable book, you'll find out.

About Dr. Stuart Clark, from his website:


Image courtesy: Simon Wallace,
www.meltingpotpictures.co.uk
Stuart Clark is a widely read astronomy journalist. His career is devoted to presenting the complex world of astronomy to the general public. Stuart holds a first class honours degree and a PhD in astrophysics. He is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and a former Vice Chair of the Association of British Science Writers. On 9 August 2000, UK daily newspaper The Independent placed him alongside Stephen Hawking and the Astronomer Royal, Professor Sir Martin Rees, as one of the ‘stars’ of British astrophysics teaching.

Currently he divides his time between writing books and, in his capacity of cosmology consultant, writing articles for New Scientist. He is a consultant and writes for the European Space Agency where he was Senior Editor for Space Science for some time. Over the years Stuart has written for amongst others: BBC Sky at Night, BBC Focus, The Times, The Guardian, The Economist, The Times Higher Education Supplement, Daily Express, Astronomy Now, Sky and Telescope and Astronomy. He has written text for an issue of stamps for the Royal Mail. He writes an online blog for the Guardian called Across the Universe, read all around the world.
*

Stuart Clark's website is www.stuartclark.com, where you will find more information about his writing, fiction and non-fiction, his journalism and much more.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Book Review - 2016 An Astronomical Year (UK Edition)

2016 An Astronomical Year (UK Edition) – A Reference Guide to 365 Nights of Astronomy

Who doesn't love to gaze at the sky on a clear night? Whether you have a telescope, binoculars, or are just using your naked eye, there is always plenty to see when the clouds clear. The sky not only changes from hour to hour as the Earth rotates, but from day to day and month to month as the Earth works its way around the Sun. What's not so easy is knowing what to expect to see on any particular day.

That's where 2016 An Astronomical Year comes in. It is essentially a day-by-day calender of astronomical events, what to see and whether to look for it in the evening sky or the pre-dawn sky. Here,  I'm reviewing the UK Kindle edition. There is also a US edition for those of you who live across the pond from here. There's some useful introductory information about how to use the guide, and an excellent glossary.

The main body of the book is a monthly guide, giving an in-depth account of what to see during the month. This includes a sky diagram; naked eye highlights; lunar phases; pre-dawn planets and asteroids; what's not visible; evening planets & asteroids; meteor showers; constellations; bright stars; deep sky objects.

Within each month's guide there's also a day-by-day account of events to see. Naked eye objects are highlighted for easy reference, and there are plenty of excellent graphics and images to help with identification of objects.

All in all, my conclusion is that this is an excellent book, and it's 'the book I've wanted all along'. A go-to reference guide for beginner or experienced sky-gazer.

It may seem a little early to be thinking of the night sky in 2016, but get it now, because when the time comes, this will be the guide to own. Meanwhile, how about getting 2015 An Astronomical Guide – A Reference Guide to 365 Nights of Astronomy, also by Richard J Bartlett. You know you want to…