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Person staring into distance on beach

Naming that indescribable ache to be somewhere else: Fernweh in days of lockdown

magical misty seascape

Dreaming of faraway lands

Many of those locked away in long days of lockdown feel an indescribable ache to be someplace else, not just anywhere, somewhere nice and new and interesting. The German language already has a precise word for that aching far away feeling, and the German word has lately been been filling a void in the English language: Fernweh.

Fernweh isn’t just a case of “Get me out of here” or “Beam me up Scotty” or a desire to be nowhere at all, it’s a longing for faraway places that erase the ache and relieve the longing, and so the word is used in German travel adverts and even printed prominently on brands of activity clothing.Continue reading full article…

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…