Tuesday, June 1, 2010
This Equinox looks at the Nobel Prize winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann. Gell-Mann was a contemporary of Richard Feynman (they shared the same secretary at CalTech) and coined the 'Quark' model of elementary particles which he called 'the 8-fold way' - both names reflect his other interests (Quark was a word that originated from James Joyce and the 8-fold way was from Buddhism; Gell-Mann wanted to study archeology before he opted for physics). His second wife says he is also known to practice bush-man clicks when taking a shower.
In his later years Gell-Mann has shifted from exploring fundamental particles to exploring the relationship between the simple and the complex (popularly known as 'Complexity' theory) and developing a multi-disciplinary research centre for the purpose - The Santa Fe Institute (which the latter part of the film explores).
Channel 4 - 2000
Sunday, May 23, 2010
The threat of a nuclear war in the late 1940s and 50s prompted a leap in the capability of aircraft and defence systems.
This, together with developments in jet propulsion and the technical lessons learned from the Second World War, led to the development of a trio of extraordinary and beautiful aircraft: the V-bombers.
With swept, delta and crescent wings and names beginning with 'V' they captured the public imagination, and have remained objects of fascination ever since.
The dropping of nuclear bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945 changed the world forever - any nation that failed to harness the power of the atomic bomb suddenly seemed extremely vulnerable.
The concept of Mutually Assured Destruction - or 'MAD' - dictates that if two warring nations have access to nuclear weapons, then it would be folly for either side to use them - as the inevitable retaliation to a nuclear strike is, of course, a nuclear strike.
So it was that Britain needed to become a nuclear power, and the Hydrogen Bomb - or H-bomb - provided the ultimate destructive force.
-3- Blue Streak
While having access to nuclear bombs provides an immense advantage - they are still limited by the method of delivery - which for Britain in the early 1950s was the V-bomber.
Ballistic missiles provided the more effective solution, capapble of carrying nuclear warheads over vast distances, even between continents.
So in 1954, Britain began the development of Blue Streak, a mid-range ballistic missile capable of launching nuclear strikes at ranges of up to 3700 km.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Antonio Carluccio travels to Sicily to discover more about one of the most successful novels ever written in the Italian language, The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. Whilst tracing the locations that inspired the book, Antonio cooks the food that is such an integral part of the lives of its characters.
Giuseppe Tomasi, Prince of Lampedusa, who died in 1957, had seen his family fortune disappear during his lifetime. The Palermo palace he lived in as a child had been destroyed by American bombing in the Second World War and the family's country villa was reduced to rubble by an earthquake. Lampedusa was acutely nostalgic for the aristocratic world of his childhood and at the end of his life he wrote a novel, based on the life of his great grandfather, that recreated this lost paradise.
Basing himself in the kitchen of a 16th century villa, Antonio recreates the meals of the 1860s that Lampedusa describes with such artistry. He explores the history of Italian unification that forms the background of the novel and ventures into the vibrant city of Palermo to find the street food that is still an important part of the Sicilian way of life. Antonio discovers the way that food is central to Sicilian culture, with Greek, Arab, Norman and Spanish invaders all having contributed to the island's unique cuisine.
He also meets Lampedusa's adopted son and learns how this eccentric and impoverished nobleman died before his only novel was published, causing a sensation in Italy and sparking a national debate on the eve of the centenary of the unification it described.
3 Dec 2008