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On our return from Europe we spent a few days in Darwin and its surrounds.  We had a strong sense of re-engagement with Australia and found ourselves saying things like: 'isn't this nice'.

We were also able to catch up with some of our extended family. 

Julia's sister Anneke was there, working on the forthcoming Darwin Festival.  Wendy's cousin Gary and his partner Son live on an off-grid property, collecting their own water and solar electricity, about 120 km out of town. 

We went to the Mindl markets with Anneke and her friend Chris; and drove out to see Gary, in our hire-car, who showed us around Dundee Beach in his more robust vehicle. Son demonstrated her excellent cooking skills.

 

Cafe at Darwin Museum
Cafe at Darwin Museum - nice

 

Darwin harbour was named after Charles Darwin by the captain of the Beagle.  Darwin had sailed with the Beagle on the earlier, more famous, expedition of the Beagle to Tierra del Fuego and the Galapagos Islands; and had stopped in Sydney; before taking the southern route, by the Bight, to Cape Town.  He never visited the remote harbour named for him.

 

LNG loader Darwin
LNG (liquid natural gas) loader Darwin Harbour

 

Initially a small settlement was founded on the harbour in 1869, originally called Palmerston, after the British Prime Minister.  A year later the Overland Telegraph connecting Australia to the rest of the world terminated in the town.  The association of science and technology cemented the name 'Darwin' from that time onwards.  This is an interesting Australian affirmation of  Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection; quickly supported and taught by universities and natural history museums in Sydney and Melbourne at the time.  This central tenant of modern biology remains controversial in less scientifically literate societies to the present day.

The contrast between Darwin in Australia and similar sized cities in Britain, Russia and Germany is dramatic.   In early August, in the dry season, temperatures in excess of 30 C are pleasant when the humidity is very low.  And it is just so Australian.

 

Watching the sunset; with take-away Asian meals from the markets
Watching the sunset; with take-away Asian meals from Mindl Markets

 

There is a difference of scale and landscape and just getting there by air from Sydney takes four and a half hours; or four days by road. 

Australia is larger than Europe, nearly 32 times larger than the UK.  While much of Australia is desert, large areas receive more annual rain per hectare than the European average.

Darwin, for example, gets over twice as much rain as anywhere in Europe. But the soils are poor and heavily leached by water and age; including thousands of years of burning of undergrowth and leaf litter; that might otherwise have composted to form topsoil.

Australia is the oldest continental land mass on the planet; scoured by age and mostly flat.  Northern Australia lies in the tropics. The northern extremity of Cape York is just 10 degrees short of the equator; while the southern tip of Tasmania, South East Cape, has a latitude similar to that of southern France.    

 

Kakadu - just 140km from Darwin
Kakadu - 140km inland from Darwin

 

Although Darwin is the most remote Capital city in Australia  it is more famous in Australia for being devastated twice.  It was heavily bombed by the Japanese during WW2; and it was destroyed again by Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, 1974; suffering the worst bomb then cyclone damage ever sustained by an Australian city.

 

 


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Travel

The United Kingdom

 

 

 

On the surface London seems quite like Australia.  Walking about the streets; buying meals; travelling on public transport; staying in hotels; watching TV; going to a play; visiting friends; shopping; going to the movies in London seems mundane compared to travel to most other countries.  Signs are in English; most people speak a version of our language, depending on their region of origin. Electricity is the same and we drive on the same side or the street.  

But look as you might, nowhere in Australia is really like London.

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Fiction, Recollections & News

Announcing Leander

 

(Born Wednesday 14 May 2014 at 5:23 AM, 3.3 kg 53 cm)

 

Marvellous.  Emily, my eldest daughter, has given birth to my first natural Grandchild (I have three step-grandchildren).  She and Guido have named him Leander.  Mother and child are well.

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Opinions and Philosophy

Discovery of the Higgs boson

 

 

Perhaps the most important physics discovery of my lifetime has finally been announced.  I say 'finally' as its existence has been predicted by the 'Standard Model' for a long time and I have already mentioned this possibility/probability in an earlier article on this website (link).

Its confirmation is important to everyone, not just to physicists working in the field of quantum mechanics.  Like the confirmation of the predictions of Einstein's Theory of Relativity we are now confronted with a new model of reality that has moved beyond an esoteric theory to the understanding that this is how the Universe actually is; at least as far as the Standard Model goes.

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