A Bewildering Barometer

I bought an old aneroid barometer at a local estate sale many years ago.  It still works well.
Full barom_0723 (2)The convex glass cover was cracked so I replaced it with a piece of very old window glass, after slowly drilling a hole for the pointer.

The aneroid mechanism became popular in the early 1900s.  It uses a sealed and flexible bellows chamber that changes size with variations in atmospheric pressure, instead of the mercury filled fragile glass tubes of older designs.

I thought the case must have been changed at some time because the face references a thermometer (“Thermomètre selon Réamur”) and yet there is none present.  There are no markings on the wood case other than a cryptic “#61” engraved in the back surface. But the dial is very interesting:Dial_0721 (2)

For many years I wondered, and have repeatedly asked guests, what the scale reading from “28” to “31”, and in divisions of 1/12s, could represent?  It must surely be inches of mercury – sea level atmospheric pressure is about 29.5 inches of mercury – but why would the scale be subdivided into twelfths instead of the usual tenths?  None could explain.

The language on the face is surprisingly all in French, although the fine print says “P. F. Bollenbach” and “Barrington, IL”– not a known US francophone location.

At last Philips’ friends, Geoff and Dave, with a little help from King Google, have cracked the code: Before Napoleon’s time, and France’s great conversion to the metric measurement system, it seems the French used an inch measure, called a “pouce” (not the similarly sounding “puce”. That is a French flea!) which they subdivided into 12 “lignes”.  A ligne began about 1,200 years ago with German button makers and was “…the measurement of a round wick, folded flat…”.  It is still used today by some button and snap makers, and a few French and Swiss watch people, according to Google.  Around the same time England was actually dividing their “inch” into 10 subdivisions.  The English inch was then defined as 3 medium size dry barley corn grains laid to end to end, but that turned out to be about 12.6% longer (depending no doubt on the year’s harvest!) than the French inch.

A recent estate sale (it’s hard work being retired!) yielded a fine 1969 Nicholas Goodison 388 page book, “English Barometers 1680-1860”, for a few dollars.  It shows a 1772 Ramsden mercury barometer with a dual scale of quote “..both English and French inches divided into 1/10in. and 1/12in. (i.e. 12 ’lignes’) respectively..”

Ramsden 1772_0728 (2)

The other scales on it are Fahrenheit and Réamur thermometers and a conversion scale.

The earliest example of 1/12 divisions that I can find is the scale on this beautiful Robert Hooke 1665 wheel barometer. The scale here somewhat mysteriously reads “M, N, O, P” for the main divisions, but each gap between letters is subdivided into sixths and twenty-fourths.  Hooke was not French but he did come from the Isle of Wight so perhaps there was a little vin rouge nearby to help his studies?
Hooke Wheel 1665_0725 (2)
The final evidence comes from eBay where a few hundred $ might get you this very fine 1749 Louis XVI instrument.  It also has 1/12 divisions in the scale.Ebay old Barometre 27-29 12 div_0584 (2)So it seems that very old French barometers used the 1/12 divisions when most of the English ones were using the 1/10 parts of their fine scale.  My, perhaps 50 to 100 year old, Illinois instrument appears to have used French wording and one twelfth divisions to give an antique air to a modern aneroid mechanism.  I note too that the face is simple printed paper rather than the engraved metal of genuine antiques. I shouldn’t complain, Goodison’s book says that for accuracy an old mercury barometer needs periodic maintenance by “boiling” (sic) the mercury to remove absorbed water and oxygen!

Isn’t it ironic that despite being partly decimalized before continental Europe (as shown by the tenths divisions on their old mercury barometers) England stubbornly held on to their colorful, but so confusing to me in my school days, non-decimal: fathoms, firkins, furlongs, fortnights, farthings, etc., etc.  (Did you know there are about 5,600 “scruples” in one “strike”, whatever they may be measuring?).  France dropped it’s “lignes” in Napoleon’s time and went metric, or so they claim.   But they have yet to fully adopt the ‘true’, internationally agreed decimal system, “S.I.” (System International).  Although France does agree with the rest of the world that the current inch is now exactly 25.4 mm, many French people will insist on writing it as “25,4 mm”  This can be very confusing if you want to write a dimension of say 1 meter plus 1/4 millimeter (or metres and millimetres depending on whereabouts you happen to float in the Atlantic ocean) in millimeters (thank you very much David for pointing out the ‘mm’ omission) into an international technical drawing:  in SI it should be written “1 000.25 mm”; in France it is often written “1.000,25 mm”; and here in the US it is typically shown as “1,000.25 mm”.  So no wonder that international space probe crashed into Mars a few years back, while trying to land, because its computer thought the planet’s surface was further away than it really was! When flying above the surface of planet Earth it is very important to know what your barometer is actually measuring because that is the instrument which gives you your height above ground.  On the ill-fated trip to Mars I imagine other types of instruments, than mercury filled barometers, were used but sadly they did not give correct final values!

Some Fierce Finns and a Few Ferocious Fliers

In June a Eurail pass took us around Finland.  Dogs are welcome in their own section of the train:eDogsOnTrain_6009

But I saw they are treated even better in Washington Dulles airport:

e 6463 HydrantOne very remote station close to the Russian border was so small there was no platform, or even rail staff – just this dog guarding everything:

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On seeing us he looked happier thinking fresh meat might have arrived:

eSmilingStnDog_6259 copy

That station was only about 10 km from the Russian border where Rubles seem to have leaked across judging by the size of the Dachas, some with trilingual “Keep Out” signs in their gardens in Russian, English and then finally Finnish.

A fine trail through the woods, where we fed the meat-eating mosquitos,eMosquito_6230

had this surprising sign:

eNo Ski_6233

I’d thought we were in the original home of cross country skiing?  Or perhaps the sign just means don’t squat when skiing?

The Finns have a great new (to me) “nano-material” waxless ski base which is reportedly very effective between and freezing and -10 C snow temperatures. The material feels like the finest texture seal skin with its one way slide and stick in the other direction.  It totally replaces the large fish-scale waxless surfaces of old.  I found some in overstocked sports stores because, thanks to last winter’s climate change, the Helsinki snow was so sparse that I had more days skiing in Toledo, Ohio than they had.  I was thrilled to find a great set for about 300 Euros, and tried to ship them Fed Ex because we were flying with just hand baggage.  The only problem was that Fed Ex would have wanted 800 Euros just for the shipping!

Way north, at the Arctic Circle the sun never set on June 20th.  This photo taken at 11:00 pm searched for a small gap in the leafy trees to show the sun’s position, without over-saturating the iPhone’s pixels.

ePinholeSun_6025 Turning around, to face due South (think about it!) the tree acted as a pinhole light source and gave this nice sharp shadow.

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Even at 2:00 am this view looking due north shows an ever-present sun:

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The irony was that right then there was a huge solar storm with Northern Lights visible elsewhere (at night) as far south as Atlanta, Georgia.  Of course, in Lapland in June we saw absolutely nothing because there was no darkness to the night!  In their long nights of winter they typically see the lights weekly.

Near Santa’s village right on the Arctic Circle there is a line in the ground to prove it.  Sorry I forgot the check its accuracy with my phone GPS!  We were still only about ¾ of the way from the equator to the North Pole (about 22 more degrees of latitude needed).

eArctic Circle_6050

We met “Rudolph”. He did not look too fierce, but was definitely grumpy,

ePoppaRudolph_6077

so we only fed this young one:

eFeedingRudolph_6067

The reindeer are herded in for tourists for a few months and then turned back out into the Taiga to keep them “fresh”.

This young herder is drinking his coffee from his traditional birch wood “kuksa”

eHerder

– same design as the one this delicious (reindeer!) soup was served in,

eReindeer Soup_6016

followed by (pseudo) Lichen and ice cream:

ePseudoLichen_6018

Magnificent Lupins were everywhere, alongside highways and railroad tracks:

eLupin_6092

Some Finns say they come from Russia and are not always welcomed!  Only in the special sand of Oak Openings can we grow them in Ohio. I have repeatedly demonstrated they do not like the Maumee River clay of my garden.

The trip included my presenting a paper on breaking glass (spandrels) at the big biennial GPD meeting in Tampere.  The noisy end-of-conference party nearly added some more broken glass. Click the link below to see:

10 sec Bartender

Back home in Perrysburg my bees are doing battle with small hive beetles, robber bees from some other hive, an emerald color fly, and wasps.  My best hive only had a few beetles, but the other hive had swarmed, taking the queen with them.  It now looks like the rascals went to my neighbor’s empty hive about a quarter mile away.  The remaining large number of workers seemed unable to keep the beetles out without a queen to guide them, or to keep out robber bees who stole almost all the honey.  I’m not in favor of monarchies but on occasion it seems that they might have some utility!

At this time of year the hives smell of honey, especially on a sunny hot day, and it attracts others.  Here are three clips of the fights you see at the front door as others try to enter, including pretty rough treatment of a darker color alien robber bee from another hive. Amazingly the attacked bee seems to suffer no damage and usually eventually flies off.  I think bees do have little teeth. They certainly can shred a newspaper barrier when I put one between different levels.  I would have thought their bites to antennae and wings would do damage?

Mobbing a Robber Bee.mov

http://341ontheriver.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Mobbing-a-Robber-Bee.mov

I like the speed of the emerald color fly, but I don’t think he succeeded in entering.

Green Robber Fly

The half dead wasp was easily handled:

Robber Wasp

Winter Fliers

Cross-Country Skiing in Perrysburg.

There are now 2 Cross-Country ski trails open along the Maumee riverside at Perrysburg for would-be winter fliers.
I groom both trails, usually on a daily basis, unless I’m out of town, or the temperature is below 15 F ( -10 C).  This week the “Frisky Fox” trail certainly qualified as a ‘Winter Flier’ because of its awesome speed.  A week ago the temperature rose to 50 F (+10 C) and then quickly dropped below freezing, but not before the set tracks froze firm.  After that both trails had the lightest dusting of fine, flour texture, powder snow and have been awesome fast.  Fortunately “Bunny Hop” is mostly level and can be easily handled, but the Fox is almost too frisky right now for all but the most reckless!

Bunny Hop Feb 2015

The easy 20 minute “Bunny Hop” run starts at Riverside Park just upstream from the Perrysburg Boat Club at Louisiana Ave.

The groomed trail runs west along the grassy path of Water Street and follows a wild life corridor around the old abandoned skating rink in Orleans Park.  Watch for deer hoof prints in the snow. They, and the coyote, like that trail.  They also leave droppings which may or may not alter your ski wax application!  Here are the prints of goose wing feathers as they made a hurried take-off down the slope. The snow was too soft for them to get a good foothold:

Goose wings_4086

The more challenging “Frisky Fox” run takes an hour on a good day.

Frisky Fox Feb 14 2015

It starts at the cannons, from the original USS Constitution, on the hill at the east end of Riverside Park.  Follow the groomed trail down the hill to the river’s edge, then up and down through the trees, back and forth across the straight and level Bunny Hop trail.
At Orleans Park the trail goes under the Maumee/Perrysburg bridge, around Fort Meigs, and back.  The north face of the Fort is steep and fast so clockwise around the Fort gives the fastest run down the slope.  I’ve just reset that part further west to avoid the toboggan runs which quickly get very icy.  Anti-clockwise around the fort is recommended if you like it a little slower.

These two trail maps were created with the free “Trail Explorer” iPhone ap from the Sierra Club.  It plots your trail, to within 30 ft (10 m), records altitude climbed and descended, and calculates average and peak speeds. (So far it says I’ve only attained a miserable 12 mph  but that’s quite fast enough on cross-country skis for now).

When it warmed up last Sunday many bees flew out to relieve themselves for the first time in months:
Pooped Bees_4134

Don’t eat the yellow snow!
Some landed on the snow which cooled them too much and they could never fly again.  Hopefully they were only the feeble old ones who are not needed for the spring rebirth?

Down by the river two swans did fly by, but this elegant winter flier has hung around for a week.  The Ringed Kingfisher was diving down to the last of the unfrozen water. He can swivel his head nearly a full circle while searching for food:

K fisher beak open_4122

Looking Left_4109

Looking Right_4132

Preening_4120

 

I get the feeling I’m helping replicate the evolutionary development of the flying squirrel.  Not content with eating on the ground the spilt seed from the birdfeeder, the squirrels now insist on eating at the source.  They climb along the window sill, past the powerless cats,
They evade the deterrent wires I put there, and then leap to the feeder.
With lines and pulleys the feeder is now about 25 ft (8 m) up in the air and at least 8 ft  (2.5 m) out from the house.
Hanging Feeder_4001

All it does is select the more agile animals. When I bang on the window the squirrel leaps from the feeder, spreads 4 paws and does a good, aerodynamic, laminar flow, glider-suit style descent.

Flying Squirrel_3993

(The following 2 videos may need you to click OK for Quicktime to play them)

http://341ontheriver.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Banging-on-Window_4229.mov

With a good launch they land at least 10 ft out from take-off point. Now a glide angle of 10 forward for a 25 drop would not have satisfied the Wright Brothers, but it is a definite start in evolutionary progress. Some though, when stuffed with bird seed, are too fat to fly and do drop straight to the snow.  As you can see, no squirrels were harmed in these feedings!

http://341ontheriver.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Slippery-Roof-4010.mov

I Foolishly tried to connect through Chicago airport while travelling last month (January) – big mistake. Winter flying demands a few good books to help with the inevitable 2, 4, and 18 hour weather delays of the last 3 trips. Following images are from some of those flights.
The deicers can spray all they want,

Spray deice_4018
but it is still not comfortable when you can’t see out the window for ice and slush as you taxi for take-off.

Icy Window_3718

Once airborne the air stream slowly blows most of it off,

Ice blowing off_3720

but even an hour after take-off there was still deicing fluid oozing out of the wing .

Oozing_4026

I tried to photograph the snow in the flash of the plane’s strobe every 5 seconds but could not catch it.  One can’t hold an iPhone ‘shutter’ open for a time exposure, so I simply took a video and deleted all the frames which had no strobe flash to get the following photo:

Snow in Air_3738

You know coming in for a landing in snow is an issue when the pilots turn on the spotlight to see if snow and ice are accumulating on the wings:

Landing_3835

Back home Pinot

Copter_4163

finally downed my little miracle $35 remote controlled helicopter ‘Winter Flier’.

Down Chopper_4218

No damage – it’s virtually indestructible. What an amazing toy for boys!

And finally I have to admire this elegant ice crystal ‘Winter Flier’ apparently trying to jump like the squirrel
Ice Crystal_3985

or perhaps more like the drones being ejected from the hive.