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Fred Widmanstatten pattern

Widmanstatten meteorites

Article by Dr Fred Starr PhD, FIMMM, FIE, MIMechE, CEng

In an earlier posting I mentioned the barely explicable Widmanstatten structure, seen in the iron-nickel Marburg meteorite, which was found by local people as result of Alfred Wegener offering a reward. Although a good deal is known about the Widmanstatten pattern or structure, I want to explain, why, in my view, there are some unanswered questions.

Fred Widmanstatten pattern

Etched section from part of a meteorite discovered near Muonionalusta, northern Sweden

To see the Widmanstatten structure one must take a slice from the meteorite, grind and polish the surface so it gleams like a mirror, and then gently etch it using a weak solution of nitric acid, dissolved in alcohol. The underlying structure is then visible to the naked eye. It has the appearance of a pattern consisting of fine strips of paper laid on top of one another. Sometimes the strips are at right angles. Other times they can be at 30° or 60°.

The German Professor, Fritz Heide, published the “Kleine Meteoritenkunde” in 1934, one of the first books on meteorites. It was subsequently brought up to date by Frank Wlotzka and translated into English in 1994. Although missing more recent accounts of meteor phenomena, and in situ investigations of the asteroids and planets, it remains one of the standard works on the subject. Nevertheless, this book, and what I have read on the internet, doesn’t really tell us where Widmanstatten meteorites come from. Heide and Wlotzka were more interested in the stony meteorites, that are much more common.Continue reading full article…

Alfred Wegener: Die Entstehung der Kontinente und Ozeane, 1929

Alfred Wegener: author of the theory of Continental Drift

Article by Dr Fred Starr PhD, FIMMM, FIE, MIMechE, CEng

It was just a mention from our Welsh Geography master, in one of the better schools of Stockton-on-Tees, where, back in the 1950s, I first heard of what is now loosely called Continental Drift. It was also from this teacher that I learnt that there was a paper called the “Manchester Guardian”. The only paper you can trust, he affirmed. Since 1961, under its new name, “The Guardian” I have been buying this left wing rag ever since. His purchasing of the Guardian and his espousal of what was then a somewhat weird account of Earth’s geological history, suggests that my Geography master was in a small but thinking minority. He was also against nuclear power, when the rest of Britain was all for it!

It was years afterwards, when I took up a casual interest in geology and fossil collecting that I learnt that it was the German, Alfred Wegener who was behind the idea of Continental Drift. But learning about the geology of Britain, I was struck by the fact that that hundreds of millions of years ago this country was covered by deserts. If it was that hot, at 55 degrees north, what was it like at the equator, I wondered? Literally boiling hot??? Continental drift would explain it all, but why didn’t died in the wool, professional geologists ask such an obvious question, instead of rejecting the theory.

Continue reading full article…

Glass of mulled wine and pinecones

Glugging glue wine as Christmas comes unstuck

Glass of mulled wine and pineconesDon’t sniff, but are spicy Brits glugging glue this Christmas? Bountiful bottles of Glühwein selling from UK supermarket shelves might suggest people who come unstuck in extended isolation are reaching for a remedy or trying to put a broken Christmas back together, but in fact this import is the traditional German equivalent of mulled wine, also known as spiced wine, and has no known connection to glue. A humble red wine heated with cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg and even raisins is a widespread winter drink in Europe and nicely disposes of otherwise undrinkable dregs of cheap wine. Although traditionally this potion goes by different names in different lands, now in English it is flirting with a hot new name from abroad, and we are provisionally adding it to our growing list of German words used in English.
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Paper glider

Ludwig Prandtl 1875-1953 – The man behind the science of aerodynamics

Article by Dr Fred Starr PhD, FIMMM, FIE, MIMechE, CEng

Ludwig Prandtl with his fluid test channel

Ludwig Prandtl is shown next to the water channel which he used in his early boundary layer investigations.

Ever wondered why you have to brush the dust off a piece of furniture? Not being able to blow it away? And were you puzzled that golf balls are knobbly rather than smooth? Surely a smoother ball should be more streamlined, and fly further? Or when boarding a jumbo jet, asked yourself why do the wings have to be so long, almost to the point of being floppy? Wouldn’t square shaped wings, attached along the length of the fuselage, be more sturdy?

The man who supplied us with the answer to these questions, the last one, being at one time a state secret, was Ludwig Prandtl, the greatest of all German Aeronautical Scientists. And a great bunch they were. Prandtl was there at the start of the business, when, although Lilienthal had died in his glider experiments, and the Wright Brothers had flown, there was no clear idea what kept an aircraft in the air. No one, in fact, had any idea, how best to design the most important attribute of an aircraft, the wings.

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Portrait of Johannes Kepler

Kepler: the first cosmologist

Johannes Kepler 1571-1630

Another view

Article by Dr Fred Starr PhD, FIMMM, FIE, MIMechE, CEng

Johannes Kepler was, arguably, the first and most important scientific son of Germany, long before it came to be a nation. Kepler was a true genius, who had to move from one country to another to earn a living and to avoid religious persecution, and he can also be claimed for Europe itself.

Kepler’s insight into how the planets move round the sun showed the need for a new physics of the Universe. That is, one that proposed a rational and testable scientific theory. Before Kepler, the belief that the sun, moon, planets and stars revolved round the Earth once a day, being kept in position with invisible rotating crystalline spheres, required no further discussion. Copernicus was stuck with circular motions for how the planets moved, as was Galileo.Continue reading full article…

Plugin or plug-in?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

We remember reading somewhere that there is a demonstrable pattern in English: two separate words become a hyphenated compound, then eventually the hyphen disappears. In other words, most if not all hyphenated versions are ‘on their way out’, the only question being how long it will take.

In the case of plugin vs plug-in, the hyphenated version still seems to be the clear winner in the hybrid car market, for example – see Wikipedia page here. Google Ngram Viewer also shows the hyphenated version in the lead, although the rapid decline of the hyphen is obvious from the chart here. See also the pertinent discussion at English Language & Usage Stack Exchange here.

Conclusion: we will write plugin henceforth, except in cases where we want to differentiate something from a (code) plugin, e.g. “they were looking for a plug-in charging point”, which makes it clear that they were not looking for a piece of software 🙂

Binoculars

Do we have a British Covid Stasi?

By HE Translations team member Mike Gayler

BinocularsDuring the Coronavirus crisis there have been a number of allegations that people in Britain are ‘behaving like the Stasi’ or that we have a ‘Covid Stasi’, but how do these claims stack up against the reality of Germany’s past, and how does it relate to Britain today?

The Stasi was the official state security organisation for the German Democratic Republic (GDR), or East Germany. The full name was Staatssicherheitsdienst, and is acknowledged to have been both pervasive and effective. Its main task was to perform surveillance on the citizens of the country in order to quell dissent, although it operated in foreign countries through espionage and covert operations.

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Hamster with hazelnuts

Happy hamsters squirrel away supermarket stocks

Hamster with hazelnutsHamsters have been emptying shop shelves across Germany and now seem set to cross borders as other countries take up the telling term Hamsterkauf. Wise advice to stock up on essentials before being confined to home by an anti-coronavirus diktat, combined with an angst attack in the face of a pandemic, has seen runs on toilet paper, pasta, flour and hand gel – snatching away all available wares. The German language term for this buying more than you need is Hamsterkauf, meaning literally hamster buying, or buying like a hamster. The tiny hamster with its puffy cheeks full of nuts is a lovable symbol for sensibly storing what you need for later, like its bigger cousin the squirrel, but neither actually pay for what they accumulate and have never been seen panic buying.Continue reading full article…

Quarantäne

Covid-19 update from HE Translations

QuarantäneWe are pleased to report that HE Translations continues to operate as normal at this challenging and surreal time. After all, we have been practising home working for 25 years, as illustrated in a Leicester Mercury article back in 2009.

We are regularly in touch with our technical translation team members in various countries, and it is interesting to hear the experiences in different locations. On the whole, we are impressed by the way Leicester, the UK and indeed the world is coping with the unprecedented situation. That said, the long-term consequences are unfathomable, both economically and otherwise. Our sympathies to all those struggling in these difficult times, when many are losing so much. Let’s hope that when this is over some good may also come out of it, and that the path to sustainable living for all will be clearer. All in all, we remain cautiously optimistic.

If you would like to get in touch to discuss a potential translation project from or into German or a wide range of other languages including Chinese, Dutch, French, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Swedish, please email us at Herb@HETranslations.uk or call our usual office number, +44 (0)  7808 967196.

Best wishes to you and your families and friends.

Three unicorns running

Unicorn Bets Set in Race to Carbon Zero

Are capitalists hoping to harness unicorns to lead the charge to a zero carbon economy? Some experts think so and are calling for investment in unicorn incubation programmes with the promise of great returns. Recently the unicorn has lent its name to the elite group of billion dollar startup tech firms, and now looks set to sire a whole new breed of firms focused on facilitating low carbon living. As icecaps melt, sea levels rise, and global overheating threatens human extinction, can a magical horse with a pointed hat save the human race? Some hard-headed technologists are advocating this, so is it time we understood this beautiful beast and its future a bit better?

Three unicorns runningThe unicorn has captured the human imagination since the earliest days of India, appears in the Christian Bible, in medieval bestiary books illustrating beasts of every alleged kind, and has often been harnessed as a symbol. Typically understood to be a forest-dwelling white horse with a single, spiralling and pointed horn sticking out of its forehead, it might initially have been the ancients’ remote misinterpretation of actual one-horned animals such as the ibex or rhinoceros, or of profile representations of cattle, but it developed a mythical presence in the Middle Ages in Europe which lives on to this day.

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