Solar Eclipse

My children were born after the last solar eclipse that was visible in the UK so this was there first change to see one live.

They were cautiously excited but didn’t get their hopes up too much. Why, you ask?

  • Well it’s March in England so we expected it to be cloudy and raining,
  • and, it was only a partial eclipse (91% here in the Midlands) so we didn’t think we would see a huge amount.

As we expected it to be too cloudy to see anything, I didn’t get any glasses but we did make a pinhole camera when we got up this morning and discovered that the sun was actually shining.

Here it is in all its sophisticated glory: a long box with a small hole cut in one end, a piece of foil with a pinhole in taped over the hole and a sheet of paper taped to the opposite end to view the image.

Pinhole Camera

Pinhole Camera

Partial Eclipse 9.25am

Partial Eclipse 9.25am

This picture was taken about 10 minutes before the height of the eclipse and shows the small crescent still visible.

It was still quite bright and I didn’t really notice any difference to normal light levels.

We watched news coverage of the total eclipse over the Faroe Islands and it did go completely black there.

The kids thought it was interesting but not as spectacular as the total lunar eclipse we saw in 2008 in Wales.

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Review: Spitfire Girl: My Life in the Sky

Spitfire Girl: My Life in the Sky by Jackie Moggridge My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Spitfire Girl: My Life in the Sky We had returned to a different world. We had taken off in peace at nine-thirty and landed in war at noon.Jackie Moggridge was just nineteen when World War Two broke out. Determined to do her bit, she joined the Air Transport Auxiliary. Ferrying aircraft from factory to frontline was dangerous work, but there was also fun, friendship and even love in the air. At last the world was opening up to women… or at least it seemed to be. From her first flight at fifteen to smuggling Spitfires into Burma, Jackie describes the trials and tribulations, successes and frustrations of her life in the sky.

An amazing book by an inspirational woman. Jackie came to England from South Africa in 1939 to further her flying experience and decided to stay and ‘do her bit’ when war broke out. The book chronicles her early flying lessons in South Africa, her wartime service in the WAAF and then ATA and also a few flying adventures afterwards. It saddens me that as soon as the war ended and they were no longer needed, women were pushed back into the kitchen and mostly stayed there for quite a few decades. Thank goodness for pioneers, such as the female Ata pilots who refused to be pigeonholed. Although Jackie died in 2004, she was an amazingly courageous woman and her legacy lives on. British book challenge

Review: A Trail Through Time

A Trail Through Time by Jodi Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Trail Through TimeSt Mary’s is back and is facing a battle to survive in this, the fourth instalment of the Chronicles.

Max and Leon are re-united and looking forward to a peaceful lifetime together. But, sadly, they don’t even make it to lunchtime.

The action races from 17th century London to Ancient Egypt and from Pompeii to 14th century Southwark as they’re pursued up and down the timeline, playing a perilous game of hide and seek until they’re finally forced to take refuge at St Mary’s – where new dangers await them.

As usual, there are plenty of moments of humour, but the final, desperate, Battle of St Mary’s is in grim earnest. Overwhelmed and outnumbered and with the building crashing down around them, how can St Mary’s possibly survive?

So, make sure the tea’s good and strong…

I love this series, although this one wasn’t quite as good as the first three. It s a hard book to review without giving away spoilers.

Max is a fabulous protagonist: a strong, intelligent, funny but flawed woman. In other words: real!

The book is extremely funny, but also sad in parts and poses interesting moral questions about how society would react to the discovery of time travel.

I’m not quite as keen on this time-line as the original one but I will still read the next book to see what happens.

British book challenge

Review: Alan Turing: Unlocking the Enigma

Alan Turing: Unlocking the Enigma by David Boyle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alan Turing: Unlocking the Enigma
Alan Mathison Turing.
Mathematician, philosopher, codebreaker, a founder of computer science, and the father of Artificial Intelligence, Turing was one of the most original thinkers of the last century – and the man whose work helped create the computer-driven world we now inhabit.
But he was also an enigmatic figure, deeply reticent yet also strikingly naïve. Turing’s openness about his homosexuality at a time when it was an imprisonable offense ultimately led to his untimely lo death at the age of only forty-one.

A short but interesting and thought provoking book.

I was aware that Alan Turing was instrumental in helping the allies breaking the German enigma code during the war and that he was prosecuted for homosexual acts, said prosecution probably leading to his suicide.

I was also aware of the ‘Turing Test’ as a measure of a machine’s capacity to ‘think’. I had not put two and two together to realise it was the same man.

The book contained many interesting facts of which I was not previously aware but being so short, did not explore them in the detail that I would have liked.

For example, I knew the Victorian, Charles Babbage was one of the first to conceptualise the computer, but not that he was interested in code breaking, although logically that does follow.

I certainly did not know that Turing, and other mathematicians, were fascinated by Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Why?

It seems highly ironic to me that a man obsessed with whether machines could think was pushed to suicide by the blind, unthinking prejudice of humans who mostly, it seems to me, spend very little time thinking.

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