**Inauguration Countdown Clock**

**FreshDirect - Join now and get a $25 credit**

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

I just joined FreshDirect. It's a delivery service for food and wine. The choice is really amazing. Get wonderful fresh Fruit, Vegetables, Meat, Poulty, Seafood and even beer and wine!

And for those who don't want to cook they also offer prepared food and party platters!

How far will your $25 credit go? Example: you could get a 5lb fresh duckling, or 2 bottles of Indaba Sauvignon Blanc, or 2 Banana-Leaf Wrapped Coconut-Cilantro Salmon - and still have money to spare.

FreshDirect - Join now and get a $25 credit

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

US Covid deaths (to date) - 396,000

US Deaths in WW2 - 418,500

Updated: Jan 17, 2021

You've probably seen pictures of the Covid Virus with lots of spikes on the surface. These are proteins that let the virus trick a human cell and get inside. Once inside it replicates. When all the copies of the virus leave the human cell, in search of other cells to infect, the human cell is killed. OK for the virus. Bad for the human.

So the spikes are essential for the virus to operate. The Pfizer vaccine uses this to its advantage. It consists of a snippet of the virus genetic code - the exact snippet that tells how to produce these spikes.

When the vaccine is injected your cells read the snippet and start manufacturing spikes. This fools your immune system into thinking it's being attacked by the Covid virus. It's not, because the snippet of genetic code is harmless and can only make spikes and not the complete virus. But your immune system is not sure, so it goes ahead and manufactures the antibodies to disable the Covid virus.

These antibodies remain in your system. So if the real Covid virus comes along they will kill it.

The vaccine does not kill the virus. It simply preps your immune system to do the job.

Coronavirus Worldwide Stats

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

You've probably seen pictures of the Covid Virus with lots of spikes on the surface. These are proteins that let the virus trick a human cell and get inside. Once inside it replicates. When all the copies of the virus leave the human cell, in search of other cells to infect, the human cell is killed. OK for the virus. Bad for the human.

So the spikes are essential for the virus to operate. The Pfizer vaccine uses this to its advantage. It consists of a snippet of the virus genetic code - the exact snippet that tells how to produce these spikes.

When the vaccine is injected your cells read the snippet and start manufacturing spikes. This fools your immune system into thinking it's being attacked by the Covid virus. It's not, because the snippet of genetic code is harmless and can only make spikes and not the complete virus. But your immune system is not sure, so it goes ahead and manufactures the antibodies to disable the Covid virus.

These antibodies remain in your system. So if the real Covid virus comes along they will kill it.

The vaccine does not kill the virus. It simply preps your immune system to do the job.

Coronavirus Worldwide Stats

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

I would like to make a conjecture. It says: every elementary particle in the Standard Model (except the Higgs) of spin s has a dual partner of spin 1/s.

So the fermions (spin 1/2) in the Standard Model would have spin 2 dual partners and the bosons (spin 1) in the Standard Model would be their own dual.

Of course, for this to work we need to have at least one spin 2 particle. Maybe many more. So gravity appears automatically.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

I like to estimate systems by doing "back of the envelope" calculations.

My latest is on vaccinations.

The US population over 18 years of age is approx 248 million and lets assume 75% get vaccinated (each needs 2 doses) so that's a total of 372 million doses. Now let's suppose the US does this with one giant drive-through with 5,000 lanes!!! It takes 5 mins for one inoculation (including paperwork) and it runs 24/7.

Then it would take about 8 months to complete vaccinations!!!!!

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

You're a point mass and you live on the x axis. That's your entire world. It's "Lineland". What's your life like?

First, as regards moving, you only have two directions, forward and backwards. And if you meet another point mass you cannot pass. So you can only know two other masses. You have just two friends maximum!

You have no reason to count objects beyond two, so you might be slow in developing the concept of integers. Or perhaps you never develop the concept at all. You simply have no need for it.

What about Gravity in Lineland?

Consider Newtonian Gravity. You're a point mass, so you have mass, let's say m. Another point mass could have a different mass, say M. So at least Newtonian gravity exists, right? It does, but it has a strange form. Newton's formula for the gravitational force F between two masses m and M is..

F=G*M*m/(r^2)

where G is a constant and r is the distance between the two masses.

The r^2 term is good in a 3D space, but in general it's r^(n-1) where n is the dimension of the space. Putting n=1 for Lineland we get..

r^(1-1)=r^0=1 so F=G*M*m

Which means F is independent of distance! Gravity has the same strength no matter how far apart the objects are. So physics in Lineland is very different.

This is Lineland on the x axis. What if Lineland is the circumference of a circle? That's even more interesting. Would you be aware that Lineland had a "curvature"? What does gravity do now that Lineland is a closed loop?

What happens if Lineland is a closed loop that intersects itself at several points? What happens at these intersection points and how do they contribute to gravity?

How do things change as the number of point masses in Lineland changes?

It turns out that even one dimension can be very complex!

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

You're a point mass and you live on the x axis. That's your entire world. It's "Lineland". What's your life like?

First, as regards moving, you only have two directions, forward and backwards. And if you meet another point mass you cannot pass. So you can only know two other masses. You have just two friends maximum!

You have no reason to count objects beyond two, so you might be slow in developing the concept of integers. Or perhaps you never develop the concept at all. You simply have no need for it.

What about Physics in Lineland?

Consider Newtonian Gravity. You're a point mass, so you have mass, let's say m. Another point mass could have a different mass, say M. So at least Newtonian gravity exists, right? It does, but it has a strange form. Newton's formula for the gravitational force F between two masses m and M is..

F=G*M*m/(r^2)

where G is a constant and r is the distance between the two masses.

The r^2 term is good in a 3D space, but in general it's r^(n-1) where n is the dimension of the space. Putting n=1 for Lineland we get..

r^(1-1)=r^0=1 so F=G*M*m

Which means F is independent of distance! Gravity has the same strength no matter how far apart the objects are. So physics in Lineland is very different.

This is Lineland on the x axis. What if Lineland is the circumference of a circle? That's even more interesting. Would you be aware that Lineland had a "curvature"? What does gravity do now that Lineland is a closed loop?

What happens if Lineland is a closed loop that intersects itself at several points? What happens at these intersection points and how do they contribute to gravity?

How do things change as the number of point masses in Lineland changes?

It turns out that even 1 dimension can be very complex!

Just think, there's probably a 4D world somewhere with physics teachers looking for a nasty problem to set on an exam. Finally they come up with one, "explain how physics would have developed if our world was constrained to only 3 dimensions".

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

When I studied mathematical physics at Sussex University back in 1967-70 one of my math professors was Bernard Scott.

I remember his lectures well and I bought the course book, "Mathematical Analysis - An Introduction" - which was by him. That was that.

Then just recently, over 50 years later, I learn that Scott was one of the codebreakers at Bletchley Park during WW2. He broke the Soviet Comintern code in late 1943.

I still have his book, the very copy I purchased from the university bookstore on Oct 10, 1967.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Blowing in the Wind. A new generation of sailing ship will use giant aerofoils instead of conventional sails.

The ship will do transatlantic runs in 12 days using 90% less fuel.

The first one is planned to go into service in 2024. It will be a car transporter with capacity for 7,000 cars.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Dark matter is still a mystery, but sterile neutrinos may be the answer.

Let's model the topological aspects of the graviton using a simple paper strip.

Give it 4 half twists and then join the ends. One half twist correcponds to spin 1/2 so 4 half twists gives spin 2 which matches the graviton.

But this simple paper strip has a very interesting property. It can "flip" into a double thickness paper strip with just one half twist. That's a spin 1/2 fermion.

This fermion is oviously neutral and interacts only with the gravitational field, because it's just an "oscillation" of the graviton. All elementary fermions have mass, so it's a good bet this particle has mass.

The sterile neutrino is like a neutrino, but it's not a neutrino. So it does not violate the 3-generation heirachy of the Standard Model. And things get even better..

The sterile neutrino is the perfect candidate for dark matter.

But it will be incredibly difficult to detect. They don't call it dark matter for nothing.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Sterile neutrinos may be something way more interesting.

Let's model the topological aspects of the graviton using a simple paper strip.

Give it 4 half twists and then join the ends. One half twist corresponds to spin 1/2 so 4 half twists gives spin 2 which matches the graviton.

But this simple paper strip has a very interesting property. It can "flip" into a double thickness paper strip with just one half twist. That's a spin 1/2 fermion.

This fermion is oviously neutral and interacts only with the gravitational field, because it's just an "oscillation" of the graviton. All elementary fermions have mass, so it's a good bet this particle has mass.

The sterile neutrino is like a neutrino, but it's not a neutrino. So it does not violate the 3-generation heirachy of the Standard Model. And things get even better..

The sterile neutrino is the perfect candidate for dark matter!

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

The Prime Number Theorem is one of the most famous theorems in mathematics. It tells us something about the distribution of the prime numbers.

How many of the first n integers 1,2,3,4,....,n are prime? The Prime Number Theorem says the number of primes is approximately n/log(n) where the log is base e.

This is not an exact count, n/log(n) is only an approximation, but as n gets bigger the approximation gets better and better.

Let's use the change of base formula for logarithms to convert this to log base 2. So we get n*log(e)/log(n) where the logs are now base 2.

The Prime Number Theorem is also a statement about the Shannon Entropy of the primes! Here's how..

Suppose you have a machine with a big red button. Each time you punch the button the machine responds by displaying an integer in the range 1,2,3,....,n. After much experimentation you discover that the probability of getting integer j is pj. Then physics defines the Shannon Entropy (also called Information Entropy) of this machine as..

Shannon Entropy=(-1)*sum (pj*log(pj)) for j=1,2,3,...,n and the log is base 2.

In the special case where all numbers occur with equal probability pj=1/n for all j and we get the famous result for the Shannon Entropy of the machine..

Shannon Entropy=(-1)*n*(1/n)*log(1/n)=log(n)

Now imagine this is "distributed" equally across all numbers, so on average an individual integer has log(n)/n entropy.

If the integers 1,2,3,....,n contain m primes then the Shannon Entropy of the primes is simply m*log(n)/n

But the prime number theorem says that m=n*log(e)/log(n) approximately. So the approximate Shannon Entropy becomes..

Shannon Entropy=m*log(n)/n=log(e)

and as n approaches infinity this approximation becomes exact. So we can say..

"The Shannon Entropy of the Primes is log(e)=1.442695.."

This statement is equivalent to the prime number theorem. How strange!

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

The current prediction is for 371,000 US deaths by the end of 2020. But note what happens if mandates are removed - the prediction skyrockets.

Here's the chart..

Coronavirus - Stats and Predictions for the US

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Goldbach's Conjecture implies the primes have a limited mirror reflection symmetry. It's easy to see this..

Let n be any even integer >2. Then consider the sequence 1,2,3,..., (n-1)

Since n is even (n-1) is odd so the sequence has an integer at the center. Take the right hand side of the sequece and reflect it through the center and then add pairs of numbers. All pairs add to n.

Godldach's Conjecture implies there must be at least one prime on the right hand side that reflects into a prime on the left hand side.

That's a limited reflection symmetry for the primes.

Or to put it another way.. under this reflection operation primes can never totally avoid each other.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Was it amazing luck or was it amazing insight? Whichever it was, at some point Einstein realized..

At a given point in space it’s impossible to distinguish between the effects of gravity and the effects of acceleration.

So, when he was trying to generalize Special Relativity to accelerating frames of reference he got an incredible bonus.. gravity suddenly appeared.. and General Relativity became a theory of gravity.

The rest is history.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

For the US Presidential Election on Nov 3, 2020 you have 3 voting options..

1. Vote by mail. Also know as an Absentee Ballot. You need to apply for one. Get your application form here. It's automatically customized to your specific location. Fast and Easy. Vote.Org

2. Early Voting. Many States allow this and it's a great way to avoid the crowds. For example, in NY early voting is from Oct 24 to Nov 1, 2020. That's 9 days of early voting before Election Day! Check the early voting rules in your State.

3. Vote on Election Day, Nov 3, 2020

Remember: To vote it's not enough to be a US Citizen - you also have to be registered to vote. Register fast online here Vote.Org

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

A "healthy adult" is one that has not been diagnosed with any mental issues.

Here's my instant overview:

- Hallucination in healthy adults (of all ages) is by no means uncommon.

- Hallucinations do not necessarily imply cognitive impairment and may be unrelated.

- A major contributing factor is reduction of sensory input, such as that caused by hearing loss, vision loss and social isolation. Basically, the brain is not getting the level of sensory input it expects so it invents some. Hallucinations can be auditory, visual and even olfactory.

- Lack of sleep can also be a contributing factor.

- Dehydration can also be a contributing factor.

- Another contribution factor is polypharmacy i.e. taking a wide range of medications each day. A survey of older adults found that 50% are taking medications that are not needed.

Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor of medicine. This information is my personal opinion and is not intended as medical advice. For medical advice see a doctor of medicine.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

The human retina was totally designed to detect photons. And that makes sight. In fact, a rod cell in the retina can detect a single photon. It's incredibly sensitive.

Then we have photons shooting down super thin filaments of glass. That's fiber optic cable, which has revolutionized data connection speed on the internet. So a 1 Gigabit internet connection is now routine and cheap.

So what's the next frontier for the photon? It's computing itself. Could photons replace electrons is computer chips? That would be truly amazing. Perhaps even more amazing that quantum computing. So if you want to build an optical computer the first thing you need to do is develop a photon logic gate.

Now a research group says they have done just that.. photon gates

And let's not forget Quantum Mechanics. Photons are spin 1 bosons, while electrons are spin 1/2 fermions. Meaning photons play by a whole different set of rules than electrons.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

The hardest thing about learning fractions is adding them. Multiplication is easy, but addition is usually taught as a complex multi-step process. It's a real pain.

But it doesn't have to be that way!

Take the two fractions to be added..

a c

-+-

b d

Take the diagonal numbers (top left and bottom right) and multiply them, a*d

Now do the other diagonal, c*b

Add the two results (a*d)+(c*b)

That's the "top" (numerator) of the answer.

The "bottom" (denominator) of the answer is much easier, just multiply the two bottoms, b*d

You're done!

Did you notice the pattern? It's two diagonals and a base.

A lot of mathematics involves patterns.

To multiply fractions just multiply the tops and multiply the bottoms. So..

a c

-*-

b d

is (a*c)/(b*d)

That's it. Fractions done in a few minutes. With the time saved why not study more interesting math topics!

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Over 70% of people view websites from their cellphone.

If your website does not work great on a cellphone you're in trouble. And not just with your visitors, Google will penalize you also.

Take the Google Mobile Friendly Test

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

It was 1970, I was 21 and I just got my BSc in Theoretical Physics from Sussex University in the UK. So I went on vacation to Cornwall. I thought I might try surfing.

But my vacation was cut short by a telegram from my Father..

"I just heard from Cambridge. If you can be there by 9 am tomorrow morning they will interview you for a position as a PhD student".

I jumped into my car and drove overnight. I got to Cambridge around 7am. Everything was closed except for the public swimming pool. I swam and then had eggs on toast for breakfast. Yes, the public swimming pool served breakfast! Now I was ready for my interview.

It was with Richard Eden, the head of the Cavendish Lab. I fancied myself as a theoretical physicist, so I started spouting off about recent theories.

But very soon he stopped me..

"Ken, you're not good enough to do theoretical physics at Cambridge. But if you're willing to change to experimental physics you're in".

I changed and I was in.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Here's my attempt: Tensors are mathematical objects that are incredibly efficient at describing a material under strain and stress.

You can think of spacetime as a “material” that’s put under “strain and stress” by the presence of mass. So Tensors are all over General Relativity. And the “strain and stress of spacetime” is called Gravity.

If we had a Quantum theory of spacetime it might describe the situation totally differently. But we do not yet have such a theory.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

The Short Answer: “Massless” is a loose term. It should really be “zero rest mass”.

And that means: if you find a reference frame in which the particle is at rest then it will have zero mass.

But if something has zero mass it doesn’t exist. So you’ll never find such a reference frame. So the particle is always moving.

The exact speed at which it moves (the speed of light) is determined by the “permittivity” of the vacuum. If we had a Quantum theory of the vacuum (i.e. spacetime) the source of this permittivity would be very clear. But we do not yet have such a theory.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Mars Bars

I awoke to find myself looking at the ceiling. This was not what I wanted, so I tilted my head slightly and cast my gaze at the window. Once it reached the window it required only a small mental effort to force it through and observe conditions in the outside world.

Now, in England, in the fifties, and especially on Saturdays it often rained. My parents and all adults I knew had a whole vocabulary for rain. Very heavy rain was "pelting down" or "it's really whipping down now." A normal rainfall was "it's not to bad" or "I think it will clear later." Light rain was "drizzle" or "it's just misting" and a beautiful sunny day was described as "it's not raining."

My window experiment told me it was not raining, so I got out of bed, gathered some clothes off the floor and dressed. I picked out sturdy shoes and carefully screwed on my roller skates, turning the key as tightly as possible so they would not come loose during the day. I slipped the key in my right pocket. My left pocket already contained a sixpence.

Having everything I needed for the day I kicked off, glided slowly across the bedroom and out onto the landing coming to rest at the top of the stairs in front of the toilet. I debated whether I should waste time going and decided it would be wise to pee since that would save time later. So I turned, stood in front of the bowl and lifted the lid. I peed accurately, controlling the stream carefully in order not to splash and make a mess. In fact, I was proud of my accuracy and I remembered once arguing the point with Nel. He claimed he could consistently hit a sixpence placed on the floor and I told him that was impossible. He said I was wrong and that he could do it every time. Such accuracy annoyed me because I knew I could not perform at that level and we argued the point for over ten minutes. I suppose an actual experiment would have settled the discussion, but it was never done.

Nel was my best friend and his real name was Terry Nelson. I called him Nel because me and my friends called each other by the last name or a piece of the last name. I was Abbott or Abbo. The reason for this came from school where the teachers always used our last names. In school first names did not exist. Nel told me this helped the teachers keep control of their classes.

The next task was to go down stairs. At this I knew I was better than Nel because his mother had told me about his nasty accidents going down stairs in roller skates. I never had a problem because I went down backwards with my left foot at an angle. On each step, I used the front left wheel of the right skate to interlock between the front right and back right wheels of the left skate. This was a method I'd carefully perfected and never disclosed to Nel despite intense questioning and sometimes even outright hostility. He lectured me that descending stairs in roller skates could result in serious accidents and the right thing was to take off the skates before going down, then put them back on at the bottom. This I never did.

I glided down our hallway, through the kitchen, past my mother making breakfast and into our living room where I plonked down at the table and raised my spoon. In our house this was the universal signal for "bring in the porridge."

My father worked on Saturdays for the Post Office. My mother took care of my baby sister Jean and ran the house. On the weekend she excused me from my chores so I could play the whole day. I took play seriously and the day always began with a healthy breakfast.

While I waited for the porridge I decided to think about World War II. The War had ended only a few years before me and my friends were born. It was exciting and we were sad we missed it. The men went off to war and got shot at. The mothers stayed home and got bombed. Nel's dad had been in the RAF and flew Wellington Bombers. My dad had joined the Army years before the war and was a Vickers Machine Gun instructor with the Cheshire Regiment.

My dad loved to talk about the War, but Nel's would never speak of it. This caused Nel problems because he was interested in weapons and had to get his information from me. He once gave me a list of questions to ask my dad about the Vickers Machine Gun. He said he needed to know the "rifling" and "muzzle velocity." When I asked my dad he smiled and talked about the gun like an old friend. He said the Vickers had Enfield rifling which gave the bullets one turn every ten inches as they travelled down the barrel, so they came out spinning at high speed. Muzzle velocity was 2,400 feet per second, and it threw a cigar shaped bullet profile. I gave the information to Nel who wrote it down in a notebook and said it was interesting. I never asked why the bullets needed to spin. Nel seemed to know the answer.

When the porridge arrived I added salt and shoveled it into my mouth as fast as possible. I then stood, pushed the chair to one side and slowly rolled back to the fireplace. Kicking with my right foot I glided forward across the dining room, through the kitchen, out the back door, around the back of the house, down the alley that led to the front of the house, past our small garden and into the street. I crossed the street to Nel's house and went to his back door. It was a normal Saturday. But that was about to change.

I knocked on the door and while I waited for a response I decided to think about doors in more detail. The back door of any house on our block was only a few feet from the front door but it could have been a few miles. Front doors were only used for formal occasions such as births, wedding, funerals and Sunday visitors. Even most adults were nervous about using a front door, and it was unthinkable for a child to use one. A knock on the front door was regarded by the occupants as a serious signal and started talk about who should open it and why. Back doors were totally different. Lots of action occurred at the back door and they were friendly places. Almost always they were opened immediately, usually by mothers.

My door analysis was abruptly interrupted when the door opened. Mrs. Nelson appeared. She was wearing rubber gloves and was soaking wet. She seemed surprised to see me and before I could ask my question she supplied the answer.

"Oh, hello Ken. Terry's not in. He's out. He went out early this morning by himself. I thought he was going to your house. I'm sure you'll run into him. I'm doing a load of wash. Bye dear."

The door closed and I stood there while my mind processed the information. After a brief mental effort it classified the information as disturbing and told me to panic. But it was not a simple panic. It was a real panic, the type of panic when your mind decides you're totally alone in the universe and vulnerable to immediate attack, injury or death and your only chance of survival is not to panic. This was daft, so I told a higher level of my mind to tell the lower level to shut up, which it did immediately.

The reason for the panic was simple. The fact that Nel was out alone meant that he was thinking. He was proud of his thinking sessions, but they were a problem for me because they led to ideas, which then led to plans. He introduced his plans by giving me long lectures, usually on subjects that seemed unrelated. Finally, I was allowed to execute the plans for him under his strict supervision. Something always seemed to go wrong during the execution of the plan and this would result in bodily injury to me, or a problem with parents, or a discussion with the local police. At this point Nel would disappear, sometimes for several days. When he reappeared he seemed to have no memory of the plan, and if I mentioned it he would explain how I messed it up by not executing it correctly. He would point out all the mistakes I made and how disappointed he was. I would then apologize.

I left Nel's house and skated slowly up the street. I was nervous because I knew Nel could appear at any time. As I went over the railway bridge I saw Brendan Ghan sitting on the tracks. He looked bored but I decided not to say hello because I was still upset about the clay stick incident from the Saturday before.

We had been wading in the willow swamp looking for wood to make a longbow. I saw some good branches for clay sticks and mentioned this to Ghan. He laughed and said I knew nothing about clay sticks. This annoyed me because it was known by the whole gang that I was the inventor of the clay stick. Even Nel agreed on this and once described my invention as the simplest weapon we had. He pointed out it was not the most dangerous, just the simplest. Nel rarely gave praise, so this made me proud.

The clay stick was a thin branch of willow six or seven feet long. You stuck a half pound lump of clay on the end, drew it back and then whipped it forward. It was similar to fly casting but with more power. The clay shot off at high speed. In the hands of an expert the clay stick could accurately hurl lumps of clay over a hundred yards. If they hit anyone they were painful. Ghan never got the hang of it and that's why we argued in the swamp. We never finished our argument because something crawled up my leg and I had to leave. But I was still annoyed.

I turned away as Ghan was idly tossing chunks of railway ballast. I rolled down the other side of the bridge to the main road. My parents did not allow me to cross the road but this was not a problem because I was going to the toffee shop on this side.

I entered the small shop. As usual it was empty except for the shopkeeper. It was packed with toffee, sherberts, gob stoppers, chewing gum and much else. I looked at the shopkeeper. He looked at me and asked his usual question:

"Do you want a sherbert?"

I did not reply because we both knew I did not. I reached into my left pocket and slowly slid the sixpence into the center of the counter. He looked at me. I looked at him. He reached under the counter and got something. He slid it onto the counter parallel to the sixpence. The brown wrapper with the red and gold logo told me it was a real Mars Bar. I reached slowly, removed it and put it into my left pocket. He did not touch the sixpence. I then turned and glided to the door, and as I did I heard the ching of a cash register signify the close of our transaction.

There were two steps outside the door which I went down backwards as usual. There was no need to use my special technique because I held on to the door knob as I closed the door. As the door shut I looked into the glass panes and saw a reflection of the street. I noticed the traffic on the main road: cars, buses and lorries. I could also see the barber shop across the street. As I scanned the reflection a second time an image of Nel appeared. He was sitting on the wall right behind me.

Nel looked serious but relaxed. As I began to turn he made a worrying comment.

"I see you bought a Mars Bar."

I did not reply because I knew there was no time to waste. Nel enjoyed Mars Bars and I assumed he intended to enjoy mine. I took it out of my pocket, ripped of the wrapper and stuck the whole thing in my mouth. I needed to wedge it in on an angle and this caused both my cheeks to bulge. I then closed my mouth as best I could and began to chew.

I expected Nel to take some immediate action but he did not move. He seemed to have no interest in the Mars Bar. After studying me for a short while, during which time his eyes bulged, he broke the silence and confirmed my thoughts.

"I don't care about a Mars Bar."

I continued to chew. It was not easy because the large amount of chocolate in my mouth caused pressure to build. But then Nel suddenly changed the subject.

"Do you know about Rockefella?"

I shook my head.

"He's the richest man in the world. He's a millionaire. He's American. Do you know how he got rich?"

I shook my head.

"Oil. But he didn't drill it up and he didn't use it to run factories or make petrol. No, he just moved it from place to place, from the driller people to the people who needed to use it. Do you know what it's called when you just move something around?"

I shook my head.

"Distribution. There are big finances in distribution. I've been studying finances. I've been reading books about them. This morning I got up early and read the Financial Times before I left the house. It was an old copy that was used to wrap our fish and chips from last night. You want to know how finances work don't you?"

I nodded. A thick brown liquid leaked from the corner of my mouth and ran down my chin and neck and under my shirt. I wiped it up with my hand and wiped my hand on my pants. Nel continued his lecture.

"Rockefella was a genius. He bought a barrel of oil from the driller people for one pound. Except because he was American it was really American money, but we're English so I'll explain it to you in our money. Then he took the barrel to the people who needed it. That's the distribution part. He sold it to them for one pound and one penny. Do you see what he did here?"

I shook my head.

"He made a penny profit. That does not sound like much but if he moved six barrels he would get sixpence profit. That's a Mars Bar. If he moved twelve barrels he would make a shilling profit. But it can get much bigger. You want to know how?"

I nodded.

"You just repeat the whole thing I said twenty times and you make twenty shillings which is a pound. Then you do that a million times and you make a million pounds and you're a millionaire. This is called volume. It's the secret to getting rich. I read all about it. But forget it. It's a nice day. Let's to go for a walk."

Nel was not in a rush to walk, so I decided to think about what he had said. I did not understand the content but the structure seemed interesting. One thing I liked about Nel was that he hated adjectives. In school the week before, our teacher Ms. Briggs had announced she would teach us "The structure of a proper English sentence", and that she would start with nouns and adjectives. I was excited. She explained that nouns were objects, like house, brick and window. All objects were nouns. Adjectives describe nouns.

Briggs was feared by every student. There were sixty in our class and we sat in six rows of ten. We were not allowed to speak unless spoken to and we were not allowed to look around even when Briggs went on one of her strolls. She had total control of the class, probably because she used our last names.

The situation with adjectives had occurred when Briggs asked me to give an example of a noun. I stood. I thought. Then I told the class that "red" was a noun because it was a word and words are objects and all objects are nouns. Briggs ignored me and continued the lesson. I sat down. She started to stroll around the classroom, talking as she went. After a few moments she appeared at the left side of my desk. She was now talking about adjectives. She stopped and told me to hold out my left hand palm up one inch from the top of the desk. While I was adjusting the one inch distance, which was not easy without a ruler, one suddenly appeared and beat me hard on the palm. My hand recoiled from the impact, hit the surface of the desk, and hurt my knuckles. In this way Briggs was able to inflict pain on both sides of my hand with just one stroke. It was a brilliant invention which she had perfected over her forty years as a teacher.

She continued walking and talking and I put my hand in my pocket to ease the pain. Briggs knew I was right handed so this would not stop me from writing during the rest of class. The class showed no reaction. It was a routine day. Finally Briggs returned to the front of the class and commented that her ruler was brown, and that brown was an adjective. I admired her for the invention of the double hand slap which rivaled my invention of the clay stick. It was simple and effective. But the thing about adjectives annoyed me and I vowed never to use them, or to use as few as possible.

Nel jumped off the wall and announced he did not want to walk. He said he was going home and locking himself in his room for the rest of the day to read the Financial Times.

"It's greasy because of the chips. I'll see you tomorrow."

This was bad news. So I suggested a short walk on this side of the road down to the traffic light and back. Nel said he would prefer to walk back over the railway bridge, but I had just come from that direction and told him we should go somewhere different. He asked if I was sure I wanted to walk by the road and I said yes. It was a bad decision.

Nel walked slowly. I skated alongside, zig-zagging sideways now and again so my forward speed matched his pace. We didn't talk. After about two minutes we reached the traffic lights at the end of town and stood there for a while watching the traffic. I was thinking about what to do for the rest of the day, and Nel seemed to be thinking also. Finally he asked a question.

"Can you see what's on at the picture house? My eyes aren't working well today. It's reading the Financial Times. It makes them bulge."

I spun around a few times clockwise, then locked my right foot against my rotating left foot to bring myself to a stop with my back to the main road. The picture house was down the side street and I squinted to look at what was showing. The sign was nearly parallel to my line of sight, so it was difficult to read. We went to the pictures every Saturday afternoon, so I knew it would be Batman, The Lone Ranger, Charlie Chaplin or Robin Hood. I told Nel it was probably Robin Hood. He didn't seem interested.

"I'm getting tired of Robin Hood. We can't get yew for our bows, only willow. Everyone knows English longbows were yew."

Nel was right as usual, and this was one of his favorite subjects. He had discovered that the only Yew trees left in England grew in Churchyards, and were therefore not available. I was happy with Willow, but Nel was serious about weapons and always complained about the lack of Yew. I continued to squint at the sign and expected Nel to talk more about longbows, but I was wrong.

"I've been studying traffic lights. Do you know the sequence?"

I wasn't sure, so I shook my head.

"Suppose I told you they go red, green, amber and then back to red. You would believe that, right?"

I nodded.

"Well, it's wrong. That's the way they go in America. Except in America amber is called yellow. In England they go red, red and amber together, green, amber and then back to red. You know what that means?"

I shook my head.

"English lights have four steps in the sequence, but American lights have three. So us English waste more time stopped at traffic lights. That's time we could use to make money like Rockefella."

I was just about to have my mind think about this traffic light problem when it received the last word of Nel's sentence and stopped. Something was wrong. I turned my head slightly to the left to look at the traffic lights. They were on amber, so red would be next. I looked at Nel. He looked at me. I started to sweat and the traffic light changed to red.

As the light turned red Nel stuck his hand down the back of my neck and grabbed a handful of my shirt and jacket. This was strange, so I started to turn to ask him what was happening. Before I could say anything a sweeping kick hit my ankles and caused my roller skates to shoot forward. Nel was a good football player and could kick with power and precision. I started to fall to the ground but was stopped halfway by Nel's grip. I was tilted at forty five degrees and looked like a human wheel barrow.

Nel dragged me across the street. My wheels hit as we went down the curb, then we glided across the main road, and my wheels hit again as we mounted the curb on the other side. Nel dragged me a few more feet until we were in front of Townsend's window. He yanked me upright, turned me around, stuck my nose to the window and issued one of his simple directives.

"Look. Look at this."

I looked. The reflection in the window showed a double decker bus stopped at the light. The driver was laughing. His right hand pounded the steering wheel and his left was pointing at me. The conductor, hanging off the rear platform of the Leyland Route Master, was also laughing. But the reflection got me thinking about television sets.

Just a few years earlier my Dad bought a television to watch the Coronation. We had the first television on the block and all our neighbors crowded into our tiny living room to see the event. Some sat on the floor. Some crouched just above them. Some stood above them, and some tiny kids sat on their parent's shoulder. It was an amphitheater of viewing.

The television came in a big box but had a tiny screen. The picture was not very clear, and the television engineers removed all the color, so the picture was black and white. But we got a day off school and a silver Coronation spoon. The silver spoon was no good with my porridge, so I lost it.

I thought that one day televisions would be like Townsend's window, big, thin, with great quality picture and in color. But as I pondered the future Nel's voice suddenly brought me back to the present.

"Don't look at the window. Look through the window."

I re-focused my gaze through the window.

Then I saw it. Everything in the window had been removed and replaced by a pyramid. It was big. It was as tall as me. But the real shock was the construction material. It was built from Mars Bars. I had never seen anything like it in my life. My mouth fell open and Nel smiled.

My Dad had been in the 1st Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment and before the war they were in India and Egypt. When he was in Egypt he got a day off and decided to climb the great Pyramid at Giza. It was not easy. The stone blocks were over 2 feet high, so he could not just walk up them like steps. He had to scramble up each block. He could not reach the very top because that still had the original casing stones in place. These made the pyramid perfectly smooth. He said that in the old days the pyramid was painted gold with giant red lettering and was the highest man-made thing for 3,000 years. The colors, red on gold, were the same as the Mars Bar.

My pyramid thoughts were suddenly interrupted by Nel.

"Look at the top. Do you see it?"

My gaze climbed the pyramid, one chocolate layer at a time, until it reached the top and saw a small sign.

"Mars Bars. 5p Each."

This violated reality as I knew it. If you had 6p you had a Mars Bar, and if you had a Mars Bar you had 6p. I looked at Nel in shock. He had a simple question.

"So do you know what this means?"

I told him it meant we could go into Townsend's with 6p, buy a Mars Bar, stuff it in our mouth and still have 1p change in our pocket.

Nel looked at me in disgust and started one of his lectures.

"Do you ever learn anything? I work hard to teach you but you never learn. Did you hear what I said about finances and Rockefella? It's distribution. We buy a lot of Mars bars at 5p each then sell then at 6p and make 1p profit on every one we sell. We do volume."

This made sense. I thought for a while and then pointed out a problem with Nel's plan. To buy a lot of Mars Bars we needed a lot of money, and all we had was 6p each. I was pleased with my clever analysis.

Surprisingly this seemed to make Nel happy.

"Exactly. Now you are getting it. We do need money. In financing this is called capital. That's why, after months of study, I have designed a financial transaction that will solve the problem and make us rich."

I asked Nel what a financial transaction was.

"It's a series of money steps you follow exactly, and at the end you become rich. I think I'm going to let you do my transaction. Do you want to hear it?"

I nodded.

We stood by the side of the road waiting for a red light. Nel walked across and I pushed off from the curb and glided across. There was no need for any antics this time since I was returning to the allowed side of the road. We went down the side street to the picture house and sat on the wall opposite. A ticket line was forming for Robin Hood. Nel looked at the line and said it would soon be time for my job.

This was one of Nel's most popular projects and he allowed me to do it every Saturday. I would skate down the line, find members of the gang and collect a sixpence from each. That was the price of a ticket. I would then go into the picture house, buy all the tickets and give them to the gang. This allowed them to skip the line. They loved it. I could only go to the front of the line because Nel's Mom worked in the ticket office an Saturdays to earn a bit of extra money to buy bottles for her Rhubarb Wine production. She would see me coming, spin the tickets off the roll and take my collection of sixpences.

Nel turned to me and fixed me with his bulging eyes. He looked serious.

"There's something I need to tell you about my Mom and the picture house. It's very important. Are you paying attention?"

I nodded.

"Last night Mrs Gough came over to our house to have a drink with my Mom. You know, the Rhubarb wine. I was in the next room and I could hear them talking. Want to know what they said?"

I nodded.

"My Mom said it was a shame that many kids did not have a sixpence to go to the picture house. She said she's going to change that. She said she will accept Mars Bars as payment for a ticket."

I pondered this for a moment. It sounded like a good idea and I told Nel so.

"It's more than a good idea, it's the thing that allowed me to complete my financial transaction after months of careful planning and reading the Financial Times."

Nel then asked me how many sixpences I collect from the gang each Saturday and I told him 12. He started to slip into a state, he called it his "deep thinking state". It happened every time just before he revealed a plan to me. He was now muttering to himself.

"Perfect. It's a sign. 12 is a most wonderful number."

And with that Nel passed into a trance. The number 12 was indeed a wonderful number. I had an interesting discussion with Ms. Briggs about it only a few days earlier.

It was the end of class and I was waiting as usual at Brigg's desk for punishment. I forget what for. Small punishments like the double hand slap were done immediately in class, but bigger punishments were done after class. She was rummaging through her ruler drawer trying to find the right one. I was standing watching. I decided to see if I could distract her from the punishment and I asked my mind for ideas. It produced one pretty fast and I told Briggs all her rulers ended in 12.

She immediately stopped and slowly turned to look at me.

"Yes they do, but why do you say that Abbott. Is there something about 12 you want to tell me?"

I was surprised. Brigg's took my comment seriously. I needed a response. I said 12 was unusual because it was everywhere, there were 12 pennies in a shilling, 12 inches in a foot, five times 12 seconds in a minute and minutes in an hour, 12 hours in a day, 12 months in a year and 12 of anything in a dozen.

Briggs was now very serious. She scanned me slowly from head to toe. Her reply was interesting.

"Jesus had 12 Disciples, not 10."

Her mention of the number 10 was perfect because it gave me another response. I said we have 10 fingers, so you would expect 10 to be the main number. But it's not, 12 is. Then for dramatic effect I added that this was one of the great unsolved problems of mathematics.

Briggs smiled. But not just any smile. It was a knowing smile. It was the first time I had seen Briggs smile, knowing or otherwise.

Now I realized I could do more than delay the punishment. I could achieve the Holy Grail of punishment, which is to totally avoid it. All depended on my next response. I thought hard. I decided to use psychology. I did not know what psychology was, but I decided to use it anyway. The secret was the knowing smile. A knowing smile means the smiler knows something the other doesn't. But it also means they would like to tell what they know, otherwise they would just do a regular smile and not a knowing smile. So I asked Briggs if she had solved the problem of the number 12. Her response was direct.

"I've been teaching arithmetic for 40 years, and in every class I thought about the number 12. Then just a few weeks ago I solved the problem. Solved finally, after all these years, just before my retirement."

This was perfect. I simply asked if she would tell me the solution so I could learn. Her response was classic Briggs.

"Abbott, you're not the complete wastrel I took you for. The sawdust in your head seems capable of thought at some level."

Then she told all. The total solution. It had to do with sharing. The trick about sharing is that the stuff being shared must be cut into equal size pieces otherwise fights break out between those who got small pieces and those who got big pieces. Equal size pieces is the secret of sharing. 10 can be broken into 2 equal size pieces and also into 5 equal size pieces. So you have 2 ways to share 10 things. But 12 is different. It can be broken into 2 equal size pieces, or 3 equal size pieces, or 4 equal size pieces, or 6 equal size pieces. So you have 4 ways to share 12 things. That's double what you can do with 10. That's why in ancient times 12 became more popular than 10.

Briggs looked across the classroom at nothing. Then she told me to go home. I walked out, but at the door I paused and looked back. Briggs was packing papers into a leather satchel. It looked old. It looked like it had been with her through her 40 years of teaching. She never married. I wondered if she was happy. I wondered what she had achieved in her life. She helped many learn, but had she created anything? There was the double hand slap and her insight into the number 12. It was not much, but it was something. I wondered if I would do more.

My thoughts were suddenly interrupted by Nel. He was out of his trance and said he was ready to explain the transaction. I told him to go ahead.

The way Nel explained it the transaction was simple. I was to collect the sixpences as usual and go into the picture house. But I would not go to the ticket counter. Nel would be waiting and I would give him the sixpences. He would sneak out the emergency exit, go Townsend's, buy 12 Mars Bars, return and give them to me. I would then go to Nel's Mom at the ticket counter, buy 12 tickets with the Mars Bars and give the tickets to the gang as usual. Then Nel explained what he called the "bottom line."

"We make 12p profit. That's 2 sixpences. One for each of us."

He asked if I understood.

I thought through the plan step by step and found a problem. When he left by the emergency exit how would he get back in? Emergency exits cannot be opened from the outside. Nel had the solution.

"As I leave I will plug the mechanism with Bubble Gum, so the door will close but not lock."

This seemed fine, so I told Nel the plan was great. He asked if I was ready to do it. I thought it through one more time. I could not find any flaws, so I told Nel I was ready. He got up and said he was going into the lobby of the picture house to wait for me. I stood up, kicked off the curb, glided across the street, jumped the curb on the other side and started going down the line collecting sixpences. Everything was normal. I went into the lobby of the picture house, said hello to Mrs Nelson at the ticket counter, then gave Nel the sixpences. He took a huge piece of Bubble Gum from his mouth and disappeared through the emergency exit.

I waited. The lobby was covered in blue plush carpet which was not good for skating. So I walked around in my skates to ease my anxiety. It was not long before I heard a murmur from outside.

"Where's Abbo? Where's our tickets?"

The gang was getting restless. I had my back to the ticket counter and I was watching the emergency exit.

I decided to think about Nel's Dad. Although he never spoke about the War and flying Wellington Bombers he hung his flight suit in the hallway. It was complete with oxygen mask and tubes. He never touched it and nobody else would dream of touching it. It just hung there with the coats. Nel's Dad was making a quiet statement.

"I wore this coat so you could live and wear your coat."

My thoughts were interrupted when the emergency exit burst open. Nel entered clutching a brown paper bag and walked towards me. When he was about 20 feet away he suddenly stopped. His face showed panic and his eyes bulged even more than usual. He tossed the brown paper bag into the air. By the time I caught it he was gone through the emergency exit.

I thought this was strange and I did not remember it being in the plan. I turned and started to trudge toward the ticket counter. My head was down because I was checking the content of the paper bag. Sure enough, it was full of Mars Bars. This was wonderful. When I got to the counter I looked up, ready to place my order for 12 tickets. I took a second look at the person behind the counter. I was not looking at Mrs Nelson, I was looking at Mr Nelson. He looked at me. Then he looked at the bag and issued a statement with military precision.

"Son, if you don't take that bag and get out of here I'll stuff you in the Bomb Bay and drop you over Dresden."

I clutched the bag tightly to my chest and stepped back a few feet. Then I turned, trudged a few more feet and stopped to consider my options. To my right was the entrance and the noise outside had grown to a steady chant.

"Where's Abbo, where's Abbo, where's Abbo."

To my left was the emergency exit. I took it, then skated like heck down the alley to the main road, swerved left and skated down the pavement to the railway bridge. I paused for a few seconds to catch my breath then skated to the top of the bridge. Going down the other side of the bridge I crouched into the "little lady" position to get maximum speed. At the base of the bridge I swerved right and shot onto our block.

My heart was pounding, but my brain was still working, so I asked it for advice. It told me the gang would soon be on the move and would almost certainly go to my house. So I decided to go to Nel's house. I stopped at Nel's gate then skated up the path and around to the back door. Things were getting dangerous. Nel would help me out of the mess. I knocked on the door.

As usual the door was opened by Mrs. Nelson.

"Oh hello Ken, I'm on my lunch break from the picture house, Mr Nelson is covering for me, I'm having bacon butties, do you want one?" I declined. I had more on my mind than bacon butties. I asked for Nel.

"Oh dear, I'm afraid you just missed him. He's taken the bus to Stockport with his Uncle Bert. From there they're going to catch the train to Rhyl and spend a new days by the seaside."

She spotted the pain on my face.

"Are you in trouble with the Gang again?"

I nodded. Mrs Nelson was familiar with the situation and supplied a solution.

"Don't worry dear, here's the key to the coal shed, just lock yourself in."

Coal was the fuel that provided heat and hot water and all the houses had a small shed to hold the supply of coal. I opened the door, climbed onto the pile, then locked the door from the inside and stuffed the key into my pocket next to my skate key. It was dark except for a tiny beam of light coming through the keyhole. There wasn't much to do so I decided to think about the island of Malta.

My Dad was on the island for 2 years during the war while it was under siege by the Italians and Germans. In 2 years they made 3,000 bombing runs over the island. My Dad and his buddies slept in caves which made perfect bomb shelters. But my Dad had trouble. He could sleep in the caves during the day, but at night he found it claustrophobic. So he came up with a simple solution. He volunteered for the night shift on the Ack Ack guns and then slept during the day.

The overnight shift was action packed. The gun was the Bofors 40mm anti aircraft gun. This was much bigger than the Vickers Machine gun, but still smaller than the heavy anti aircraft guns. It usually had a 7 man crew, 2 of which sat in small seats on the gun itself as it swiveled all over the place trying to hit the target. It fired shells that weighed just over 2 lbs each and it shot 2 shells per second. They were loaded in clips of 4, so once the gun was firing the loaders went frantic loading a clip every 2 seconds. Each shell produced a flash of light and smoke as it left the barrel. The barrel then recoiled and its recoil energy was used to eject the spent shell casing and load a new round. The casings bounced all over the place and had to be collected. To make it even more exciting firing was started with a foot pedal.

The gun was designed to fire in automatic mode. This was when a special box calculated range and direction and automatically swiveled the gun into position. But experienced Bofors gunners would take the gun out of automatic mode and fire it in manual mode using the sights. The reason was simple, it was more fun. Much of the fun came from the special shells the gun used. These were tracer shells. They had a small chamber at the back containing flare powder. Once the shell was in the air this power burned and showed the gunner exactly where his shells were going. It was like firing a stream of light bulbs. In manual mode the gunner could then swivel this stream anywhere he wanted. My Dad did this for 2 years. Some of his buddies were killed by the constant bombing, but he survived.

The Italians bombed Malta from very high altitude and were almost impossible to see. The German bombers came much lower and often their fighter escorts would go down to street level and strafe while flying just a few feet off the ground. When the plane ran out of ammunition the pilots would lean out of their cockpits and shoot at people with their pistols. They were pretty serious about killing.

Another time my Dad was gunning with his buddy in the second seat. A bomb dropped very close and blasted the gun with shrapnel. When the dust cleared my Dad looked at his buddy. He was still sitting, but had lost his head. I was just a few years old when my Dad told me the story and I remember asking if the man ever found his head.

My thinking was interrupted by a knock on Nel's door. I looked through the keyhole. It was Ghan and the gang. Mrs. Nelson answered the door and gave them the information about Nel. Then they asked about me. She said she had not seen me but I was probably around somewhere. She closed the door. They left mumbling.

"Traitor. We'll find him. He's a dirty rotten traitor."

I waited a few minutes and quietly let myself out of the coal shed. I was coughing coal dust. I pushed off the wall of Nel's house, flew round the corner of the coal shed and slammed into Ghan. He and the gang had not left, they had been waiting quietly just around the corner. They grabbed me.

"We got him. We got the dirty rotten traitor."

Ghan spotted the brown paper bag and grabbed it. He handed the Mars bars out to the gang and asked who gave me the bag. I could not lie so I said Nel did. Ghan addressed the gang. "See men, Nel always takes care of us. He gave us Mars bars. Now, what should we do with traitor Abbo?" The gang went quiet. They were not good at quickly coming up with ideas. Someone suggested I should be dragged backwards through the hedge, but this didn't get much interest. Then someone suggested they punch me and Ghan looked at him in disgust. Then a clear crystalline voice sang out.

"Let's bury him in my Mom's compost heap."

It was Gough, Nel's neighbor. Her full name was Denise Gough and she was the only girl in the gang. She was no good with weapons but had a talent for instantly solving problems.

The gang looked at each other and smiled. Gough had done it again. They dragged me through Nel's garden and into Gough's. There was no barrier of any kind between the gardens because that would hinder free trade between the two neighbors. The trade consisted mainly of rhubarb that Mrs Nelson imported from Mrs Gough for her rhubarb wine. Everyone on the block grew rhubarb, but all agreed Mrs Gough grew the best.

I was slammed onto the compost heap and held down. Gough produced a spade from her mother's garden shed and gave it to Ghan.

Ghan started to shovel and had just covered my legs when Gough interrupted.

"Use that section over there. That's not regular compost, it's manure."

Ghan paused for a second and thought aloud.

"Manure? How do you get manure in a compost heap?"

Gough spoke up clear and crystalline as usual.

"My Mom gets it to fertilize her rhubarb. She says it's the secret to world class rhubarb. It has to be warm and steaming when she puts it on. If there is any left over she dumps it in the compost heap."

Ghan asked Gough how her Mom could possibly get warm and steaming manure. Gough did not know. She said nobody knew. But I did.

Every Friday after I got home from school the Rag and Bone man came around on a cart pulled by an old horse. The cry "Rag and Bone" caused my Dad to snap into action. He would find me and give me my wellington boots, a bucket and a small hand shovel. I would slip on my wellies, grab the bucket and shovel and go out to follow the horse. The animal seemed to eat constantly from a nose bag and it was not long before it dropped a load. My job was to scoop the load into the bucket and get it back to my Dad quickly. It was embarrassing for me because as my friends would lean out of their windows laughing. Then somehow my Dad would sneak the bucket over to Mrs Gough who would dump it on her rhubarb while still hot and steaming. It was a trade secret. The only people that knew were me and my Dad. I wore my wellies because there was splatter when the horse dropped a load.

Ghan was now shoveling manure and most of my upper body was covered. He was just about to shovel a load onto my face when he suddenly stopped and looked up at the sky. It was starting to drizzle. He hesitated. Someone said it's not so bad and would clear soon. But within seconds it was pelting down. Ghan had enough.

"Let's go inside and eat our Mars Bars."

The gang vanished. I lay looking at the sky. The rain wet the manure and brought out the bouquet. It was fermented oats with a hint of hay and delicate overtones of methane. Compost heaps are exothermic, so I was warm. Tomorrow was Sunday and there would be no skates and no gang. It was Church and Sunday dinner. I felt positive. I was confident it would not rain on Sunday.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Copyright 2017 Ken Abbott

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Weight Watchers is great. Foods are assigned points and you have a daily point allocation. Stick to your allocation and you lose weight. But did you know there are 200 foods with zero points.

Here's the list

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

What percent of the general population carry the virus but show no symptoms?

That's the mystery parameter.

Despite all you hear about testing this parameter has not been measured. Why is it important? Because these people can infect others who might react totally differently to the virus, including dying.

As we reopen this parameter will rule what happens. And that includes nothing, a mild second wave, or a terrible second wave.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Despite the fact that Google is involved in almost every scientific and high tech venture on the planet, it makes 85% of its revenue selling classified ads. As ad sales go so goes Google's revenue. Scary thought.

Of course, Google owns some amazingly valuable properties. Some say the search engine is its most valuable. Some say YouTube. I say Google Maps.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Curcumin, a substance found in Turmeric, a spice used in curry, has been studied for years for its antiviral properties. It's not yet been studied for the Coronavirus, but consider this:

-COVID deaths in India = 1,900

-COVID deaths in the US = 77,000

And this difference is even more dramatic when you consider the population of India is about 4X that of the US. The average Indian consumes about 100 - 200 mg of Curcumin each day.

But you don't need to eat curry every day, Amazon carries Curcumin pills. I just ordered.

Here's a review of Curcumin published by the NIH back in 2014.

A Review on Antibacterial, Antiviral, and Antifungal Activity of Curcumin

Coronavirus Worldwide Stats Live

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

What's a virus? It's not a living organism. It's basically a giant molecule that can't do anything except replicate itself.

But it can't even do that unless it invades a human cell and tricks the molecular machinery of the cell into doing the replication. When the replicated viruses leave the cell, in search of other cells to infect, they burst out and kill the host cell. Nice for the virus. Not nice for the human.

But this is where the immune system kicks in. It first analyzes the molecular structure of the virus. It then tags it as a foreign object that should not be in the body. And then in manufactures a molecule designed specifically for a given virus. This molecule, called an "antibody", attaches to the virus and disables it. It's a brilliant piece of molecular engineering.

The problem occurs if the immune system malfunctions. Then the antibody never gets created and the virus never gets disabled. The result can be lethal.

There are tons of chemicals that can kill a virus, providing the virus is on a surface. If the virus is in a human cell these same chemicals will do more damage to the human cell than they do to the virus.

The only way to kill a virus inside a human cell is by clever molecular chemistry similar to that used by the immune system. That requires a whole new level of science that's developing fast. One day it will be routine.

Coronavirus Worldwide Stats Live

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

China currently has about 80,000 cases in a population of 1.38 billion. The population of the US is about 350 million, so pro-rating the China number gives the predicted number of US cases as 20,000

But this number could be low, maybe very low, because China did extensive testing and took fast and dramatic action to limit spread. The US did none of these things.

Here are the latest numbers..

Coronavirus Worldwide Stats Live

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Let's talk for a moment about paper strips!

Take a strip of paper, join the ends, so you have a band. Let's use this as a model for a spin 0 particle.

Now give the paper 1 half twist before joining the ends. This is a model for a spin 1/2 particle.

Now give the paper 2 half twists before joining the ends. This is a spin 1 particle.

Now give the paper 4 half twists before joining the ends. This is a spin 2 particle. The only one known is the hypothetical graviton, carrier of the gravitational force. But if you play around with this thing for a while it will suddenly flip into a double thickness band with 1 half twist!

Could this imply that a graviton (spin 2) can transform into a spin 1/2 particle? Assuming charge is conserved this spin 1/2 particle must be neutral and that means a neutrino or some as yet unknown particle. So a Graviton can oscillate into a neutrino? This also means Boson to Fermion transitions are possible.

This is just a simple model, but if graviton oscillations exist the implications are deep. Graviton oscillation would change physics as we know it. Here are a few possible implications..

You could imagine that graviton oscillation requires high graviton pressure - meaning it can only occur in very intense gravitational fields such as black holes. So black holes evaporate into spin 1/2 neutral particles.

And very high energy neutrinos.

An asymmetry in the oscillation (meaning Boson to Fermion is easier than Fermion to Boson) would lead to weakened gravity and this would cause inflation.

Most physicists will not like this, to say the least.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Differential calculus is one of the two branches of calculus, the other is integral calculus. Most mathematicians refer to both branches together as simply calculus.

Calculus is all about functions, so there's no point in studying calculus until you understand the idea of a function.

Let's take a simple function, say f(x)=x^2

What's the value of this function at a specific point, say x=a? That's easy, it's f(a)=a^2. But now we ask an interesting question, can we possibly know anything else about the function at point a? At first glance this seems impossible, the value of the function at a is f(a), so surely that's all we can know, right? Wrong. It turns out there's a process called "differentiation" that can tell us more. Here's how it works..

Take a very small number, say q, and ask what the function is doing at a+q, in other words at a point very close to a..

f(a+q)=(a+q)^2=a^2+2*a*q+q^2

But we can make q as small as we please, which means q^2 is much smaller, so to a good approximation we can ignore it, and we get..

f(a+q)=(a+q)^2=a^2+2*a*q

Notice the first term, a^2, is just the value of the function at a, f(a), so now we have..

f(a+q)=f(a)+2*a*q

Which means..

f(a+q)-f(a)=2*a*q

And so..

(f(a+q)-f(a))/q=2*a

What is the meaning of the expression on the left? If you draw a diagram you'll see that the term on the left is simply the slope of the curve f(x) close to x=a. So this gives us some valuable information about what's going on near a. Now all we need to do is keep making q smaller so we get closer and closer to a. In fact, we can use the concept of a limit to say..

Limit(f(a+q)-f(a))/q as q goes to zero is 2*a

Of course we could do this for any point a, so in general..

Limit(f(x+q)-f(x))/q as q goes to zero is 2*x

This is called the "derivative" of f(x) and is often written as df/dx, or sometimes as f'. So, to summarize..

The derivative of the function f(x)=x^2 is 2*x and is written df/dx=2*x and it's the slope of the f(x) curve at x. Of course, a slope is simply a rate of change, so we can also say that df/dx=2*x is the rate of change of the function f(x).

Congratulations, you just did some calculus! You differentiated the function f(x)=x^2 and got the result 2*x

To generalize this example, the derivative of the function f(x)=x^n where n is any integer is..

df/dx=n*x^(n-1)

So for example, if f(x)=x^10 then the derivative is df/dx=10*x^9

So, the essence of differential calculus is this.. in addition to knowing the value of a function f(x) at x=a we also know the rate of change (slope) of the function at a. Differential calculus gives us an extra piece of information!

Much of differential calculus is simply finding ways to differentiate different functions. This can get boring, so why bother? Because the derivative of a function is a really useful thing for solving all sorts of problems. It's especially useful in physics and many laws of physics are written as differential equations.

Here's some derivatives of simple functions..

f(x)=x^n df/dx=n*x^(n-1)

f(x)=e^x df/dx=e^x

f(x)=sin(x) df/dx=cos(x)

f(x)=cos(x) df/dx=-sin(x)

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Here's a nice piece of topology.

Notice that no two rings are linked, yet all 3 rings are linked.

You could use this a a model for the proton - the rings representing the 3 quarks that make up a proton and "ring linkage" representing the color force.

Then we see that the color force is very unusual. It's a 3-force, meaning it only appears when you have 3 objects, the force between any 2 objects being zero.

This model even shows the famous "asymptotic freedom" and "confinement" of bound quarks. When the rings are very close together you can move them around as if they were free (asymptotic freedom), but when you try to pull them apart a strong force appears to stop you (confinement).

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

I guess at some point the universe decided it needed a truly stable particle. Something it could use as the basis for building everything else.

Something that never decayed. Something that was forever.

And boy did it succeed. The estimated half life of the proton is 10^32 years. That's way, way, way longer than the age of the universe.

We know the proton has complex inner structure. And the CERN LHC is investigating.

But stable? Yes. It's way over-engineered.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Consider this problem, "what number, when added to 5, gives the result 20".

Instead of a sentence, this problem can be written much shorter and clearer as an equation, like this..

5+x=20

where x denotes the number we are trying to find.

Of course, we could also write it as x+5=20 and this is exactly the same equation. Or we could write 20=x+5 which is of course the same thing.

If we manage to find x we say that we've "solved" the equation. Can we solve this equation? Well, we could guess a few numbers for x and try them out. Does x=9 work? Let's see, 5+9=14, so x=9 is not a solution. After a few tries we get the solution, which is x=15.

Guessing a solution is perfectly fine, but it's very time consuming, especially for more complex equations. Of course, we could program a high speed computer to guess solutions and try them out ultra fast until we finally hit on the right solution. And for some very tough equations this is indeed the method used. But this method has one huge flaw.. if it fails to find a solution it does not mean the equation has no solution. That's because even the fastest computer can only make a limited number of tries.. and the actual solution may be something we never get around to trying.

So, coming back to our equation 5+x=20 we should ask if there is a foolproof method that's guaranteed to find the solution. The answer is yes, and it's all about the = sign. Once you truly understand this simple sign solving the equation is easy.

So what does this sign really mean? It means the "object" on the left of the sign is the same exact object as that on the right. They are the same thing.. exactly the same thing. They are the same exact mathematical object but just written in different ways. So there's really only one object!

OK, so our equation says that 5+x is exactly the same object as 20. So, if I do something to 5+x and then I do the same thing to 20 the results will still be equal. Cool. So lets subtract 5 from 5+x to get the result x. Now do the same exact thing to the other side, I'll subtract 5 from 20 to get the result 15. But these two results must be the same, so I can write them as equal to each other, that is x=15.

Bingo, we've solved the equation without any guessing!

Also, I'm not sure if you noticed this, but we just did some basic algebra. Don't let algebra intimidate you, it's just the art of manipulating equations until you get what you want!

Let's look at a slightly more complicated example..

3*x+2=17

Let's use the same method. First subtract 2 from both sides..

3*x=17-2=15

Now divide both sides by 3..

x=15/3=5

And that's the solution!

Here's another method I use. It's exactly the same technique as above, but it's faster and easier to handle. Or at least I think so, and I've used it over the years to do massive amounts of algebra!

First move the 2 over to the other side. It was adding, so when it moves over it subtracts, like this..

3*x=17-2=15

Now move the 3 over. It was multiplying, so when it moves over it divides, like this..

x=15/3=5

This technique is quite general and can be used for any equation. But notice that the order in which you do things is important. For example, you need to get the 2 over to the other side before you can handle the 3.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

If your credit/debit card has the NFC symbol then it's a contactless card.

So you can just tap to pay. No swiping. No inserting in a chip reader. Just tap and go. It's super fast.

Of course, the merchant needs an NFC reader. Many do but they don't advertise the fact.

For example, I tapped to pay for a croissant at a bakery in NYC and then for my medications at CVS.

Oh.. I almost forgot. NFC is Near Field Communication. It's a communication protocol with a range of just a few inches. Perfect for tap and pay.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Disclosure: As an Amazon Affiliate I earn a small commission when people click on the above link and buy something.

First there are commercial wind turbines. These are giant machines, the things you see rotating in the distance on hillsides.

Vestas has a worldwide installed wind turbine capacity of about 590GW. Siemens has about 100GW of wind turbine capacity in operation. GE rounds out the top three manufacturers with a total installed capacity of 62GW.

A GW (gigawatt) is a billion watts. It's enough to power about 725,000 homes.

No problem, try a VAWT (vertical axis wind turbine). These things are around 2 feet in diameter and several feet high. Their capacity ranges from 100 watts to about 5 KW. And prices start at just a few hundred dollars.

Could one of these power your entire house? No, but it could help. The average house needs about 5KW. So if one doesn't do it buy two or three. The wind is free and it doesn't care how many VAWTs you deploy.

And unlike the sun, the wind is in action overnight. So just connect your VAWT to a high-tech storage battery. Then you have free wind energy even when the wind doesn't blow!

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Disclosure: As an Amazon Affiliate I earn a small commission when people click on the above links and buy something.

Let's consider the positive integers greater than 1, that is 2,3,4,5,..

Suppose we are given the first integer and asked to make all other integers using only the multiply operation.

We soon run into problems because 2*2=4 and we have no way to make 3.

OK, we just add 3 to our set of given numbers g, so now g={2,3}

Can we make 4? Yes, 2*2=4

Can we make 5? No, all our tries fail, so we add 5 to our set of given number g={2,3,5}

Can we make 6? Yes, 2*3=6

Can we make 7? No, all our tries fail, so we add 7 to our given numbers g={2,3,5,7}

Can we make 8? Yes, 2*2*2=8

Can we make 9? Yes, 3*3=9

Can we make 10? Yes, 2*5=10

Can we make 11? No, so we add it to the set g={2,3,5,7,11}

Can we make 12? Yes, 2*2*3=12

Can we make 13? No, so add it to the set g={2,3,5,7,11,13}

Can we make 14? Yes, 2*7=14

Can we make 15? Yes, 3*5=15

Can we make 16? Yes, 2*2*2*2=16

What is the set g that we are generating by this process? It's the set of prime numbers! This is simply another way to explain prime numbers.

It's a nice demonstration because it shows how prime numbers generate all numbers using only the multiply operation. You can also see that as g gets bigger we can obviously make more numbers from it, so prime numbers become less and less frequent.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

One billion animals burned.

Fires are top of the news again today, and finally they are mentioning wildlife. Why is the government not setting up animal rescue centers? Much of the wildlife is unique to Australia. The government should be setting up major centers to preserve species. There seems to be no plan.

Don't fight the fires, that's a totally lost cause, save the wildlife.

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

Vestas has a worldwide installed wind turbine capacity of about 590GW.

Siemens has about 100GW of wind turbine capacity in operation.

GE rounds out the top three manufacturers with a total installed capacity of 62GW.

A GW (gigawatt) is a billion watts. It's enough to power about 725,000 homes.

These are giant machines, the things you see rotating in the distance on hillsides. What if you want something for your home?

No problem, try a VAWT (vertical axis wind turbine). These things are around 2 feet in diameter and several feet high. Their capacity ranges from 100 watts to about 5 KW. And prices start at just a few hundred dollars.

Could one of these power your entire house? No, but it could help. The average house needs about 5KW. So if one doesn't do it buy two or three. The wind is free and it doesn't care how many VAWTs you deploy.

And unlike the sun, the wind is in action overnight. So just connect your VAWT to a high-tech storage battery. Then you have free wind energy even when the wind doesn't blow!

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

A friend of mine is an expert on advanced life insurance policies as a method of building wealth.

I was a bit skeptical so I asked him for numbers based on investing just $1,000 a month starting at age 25.

Here's what he said..

"Starting at age 25, if you were to deposit $1,000 every month, you would start immediately with a $1,060,000 death benefit, and at age 65 you would have roughly $1,200,000 in cash. Your death benefit would have grown to roughly $2,400,000 and you would no longer be required to pay premiums. The policy would continue to grow for the rest of your life, both in cash and death benefit, and with tax benefits."

If you need more details just email Les Himel at lnhimel@gmail.com

Content written and posted by Ken Abbott abbottsystems@gmail.com

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