Blackholes & Revelations


As we were driving to the pub from our campsite, we spotted a gert great white thing on the horizon. Actually, not even on the horizon – it was only a mile or so from where we were staying. The sign said Jodrell Bank – having never heard of it, we turned to the wonderful world of Google and discovered that it is the Centre for Astrophysics for the University of Manchester and home to the Lovell Telescope, the third largest steerable telescope in the world and the aforementioned gert great white thing. Not only that, but it had a visitor’s centre. And a cafe. Damn near perfect if you ask me.

As always, we arrived in time for lunch. It doesn’t matter what time we head out for the day, or how far we have to go, we always arrive in time for lunch. Sometimes lunch is at 12 and sometimes it is at 3, but we always arrive in time for it. The cafe was great – fantastic veggie food and definitely a patio with a view.

The visitor’s centre is small but has lots of interesting information about space, the final frontier. Facts like the temperature at the centre of the sun. I have a problem with facts like this, as, to my knowledge, there is no instrument known to man that can measure 15 billion degrees C. Not to mention that no-one has actually been to the centre of the sun to take the measurement. However, I put my faith in more intelligent men and women than me and assume that they know what they are talking about. Actually, I don’t – I wander around the exhibits muttering ‘And exactly how do you know that then?’ much to D’s amusement.

However, the main purpose of our visit was to walk around the Lovell Telescope and ooh and aah at it. It is incredible – a striking piece of architecture even if you don’t think about what it is capable of, which is why it is a Grade II listed building. Not bad for something built in 1952. You are asked to turn mobile phones off when you enter Jodrell Bank – the Lovell Telescope is so sensitive, it could pick up your mobile signal if
you were standing on the surface of Mars (and exactly how do you know that etc etc). In fact, Jodrell Bank was set up after WWII by Sir Bernard Lovell after the work he was doing on cosmic rays suffered too much interference from the electric trams in Manchester. So he moved to the countryside and now we bring the interference to them.

There are loads of facts and figures about the observatory and telescopes available on the web which I’m sure interested parties will research for themselves, so I won’t go on too much about it, but the whole experience was fascinating and one of our best discoveries so far, not least because it made us feel like extras from the film Contact.

We also went to Dunham Massey, another National Trust property – we are determined to get our money’s worth from our membership! Whilst not quite as awe-inspiring as Jodrell Bank, it was another glorious day and we enjoyed pottering around the house and deer park. It was only after we left that we realised we had completely missed the gardens, including the biggest and best winter garden in Britain – just as well it was a sunny day, we can’t have missed much. Perhaps not surprisingly, my favourite rooms were the library and the kitchen. In fact, they had the whole shebang when it came to the ‘engine’ of the house – kitchen, scullery, wet & dry larders, game room, several rooms comprising the laundry, butler’s pantry, dairy etc. I was in heaven. A nice link to Jodrell Bank was the orrery from 1730, showing the position of the planets in relation to each other. It is amazing to think that we knew about the planets back then, but most of Australia is missing from the model of Earth as that hadn’t been mapped yet. The area which is shown is called New Holland.

That’s it. I’ve had dinner (Greek omelette, tomato & onion salad, bread) and a couple of glasses of wine and so am feeling a little sleepy. Time for dessert – Waitrose Pot au Chocolat, which, joy of joy, are suitable for vegetarians. Life is good.

S

Comments;

ENGLISH MUM
Like mother, like daughter. I also prefer the domestic bits of country houses to the posh rooms. Perhaps we were both scivvies in an earlier life.

AUSSIE DAD AND JAN
We also like historic kitchens – especially if they have half a sheep roasting on the spit. Sorry to mention that but half a sweet potato just wouldn’t be the same. Did I mention that you have inspired Jan and me to become more vego? She has been shopping for new cook books. Last night we had a kind of lentil lasagne thing which (I think) came from the “good living” bit of the Sydney Morning Herald. It’s delicious and, because it’s good for me, I can eat heaps of it. Which I did. If you have already read something about us and vegetarianism, it’s because I have been having bloglems with my comments. I wrote a couple which wouldn’t add because the machine kept saying I had the “image verification” code wrong; which I didn’t. After several attempts I adopted the time-honored method of pressing keys at random and lost all my previous work. So I gave up. I don’t know which comments were added and which have gone into the blogosphere so, if I say something twice, it’s not that I’m getting old. OK? Now I’m going to try to add this comment. If nothing follows here, I was successful.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2011 – 10:42 PM
PROF. BRIAN COX
as to the temperature at the centre of the sun I can give you an explanation but it would involve my appearing in Peru one moment and Australia another. Basically though it is all to do with gravity.

‘LITTLE’ SARAH H
Hey cuzzies! I missed the whole bit on why you’re trialling vegetarianism?? Just got back from 6 weeks in sth america and the states – loved every minute but it’s making me very jealous of your never ending travels! ‘Hugs and handshakes’ x Sarah

ENGLISH MUM
Just like Steve and Jan I thought I would try more vegetarian meals. I used soya mince to make a lasagne but really didn’t like it. I found the texture rather bouncy and unpleasant. Dad prefers the meat version, but did finish the soya one, which I couldn’t. In the past I’ve also tried quorn in a dish and hated that. I’m obviously just not suited to substitute ‘meat’. However, I love pulses and like the sound of Jan’s lentil lasagne. Perhaps we could have the recipe?

AUSSIE DAD AND JAN
Well, I am more impressed than I can say. S and D, your provocative blog has caught the attention of the world famous Prof Brian Cox. If it really was you, Brian, please send the SKA to Australia. Thank you. As for gravity; I’d say it has a lot to answer for. Also, could some of your mates please come up with cold fusion soon? Fossil fuels have to go.

DR H B COX
(Brian’s less well-known brother)
Like Sarah I am sceptical about many of the statistics that come out of space. But I do know Professor James Kirk well and he told me that in 2052 he did manage to send a probe about half way into the sun and it measured the temperature as 6.85 billion degrees.

AUSSIE DAD
Ah well, that’s all right then. For a minute there I thought you were all having a lend of me.

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