Mop-up of the day – rail and radar

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A lot of people were going for the ‘we can land a robot on a comet but we can’t get the trains to arrive on time’ line of reasoning yesterday. Just to let you know, it’s not the same people. Different people are responsible for space missions and rail travel.

Also, to be fair to the rail networks, the European Space Agency were only focused on one journey. There are loads of trains. Ask Zulfiqar Babar about it. He found public transport so overwhelming he was reduced to carving himself a second career as a Pakistan international cricketer.

We have no idea how desperate you’d have to be to willingly embrace the tensions and unpredictability of that side, but Zulfiqar’s been rewarded with three massive Test wins in little over a fortnight. You’d think the odds of that would be even slimmer than the likelihood of successfully landing a robot toolbox on a rubber duck-shaped lump of something following a 10-year, 6.4 billion kilometre trip.


Tell you what wouldn’t pick up the 46P/Wirtanen comet – the radar being used ahead of the World Cup. 4km across and 180 million kilometres away even at its closest, the comet’s more than safe because there’s a school of thought that says even England could creep in under the World Cup radar.

England who brought cricket to the world, at an event where at most only eight teams have even the slimmest hope of winning – and they think they might arrive undetected. More on this over at Cricinfo.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


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  1. Rocket Science is a piece of piss. Rocket Scientists work in the most mathematically predictable environment it is possible to imagine. There is nothing in space, and what there is is either too diffuse to make the slightest difference or so clumped into big chunks that you can’t help noticing it.

    In other words, if you hit something in space, it very literally stays hit.

    Train Scientists have to deal with all manner of unpredictable influences like leaves and people. It is way more difficult, and yet society encourages the clever mathsy bods into astrophysics rather than trainery. This is the wrong way round! We should be hearing from the Professor of Trains at the University of Cambridge about how yesterday’s 8:22 from Carshalton arrived at Raynes Park on time, despite there being considerable uncertainty about the friction coefficient of the line after Cheam.

    If cricket were played in space, that catch by that drunk bloke yesterday could have been taken even if he had pre-positioned his hand some days earlier. Except that the ball wouldn’t have gone up and down, just up. But that’s OK because he could have positioned himself up where the ball was going to go, whatever up means in this context. In other words, Space Cricket fielding positions would need to be defined by three axial coordinates instead of the usual two, like deep high fine leg or barely hovering shortish midwicket. I would imagine that you’d need more fielders, say 34 or 57, which makes team selection harder, and retrieving the ball harder too. Also harder would be actually moving for any of the fielders not in contact with the ground. And batsmen need to be careful to brace themselves against the reaction to their shot, or they would move in the opposite direction with the same momentum. You’d lose a lot of batsmen to the void, I guess, but with 57 players there’s probably enough left for a decent game. Thinking about it, you’d also lose every one of the floating fielders as soon as they tried to stop the ball. But they would drift away slowly enough for them to receive a huge round of applause from the crowd, a silent round of applause sadly, owing to the lack of air. Makes you think, eh.

    1. Cricket in zero-g, with jetpacks.

      I think I just solved the problem of dwindling audiences for Tests.

      1. We just really hate 90 per cent of the uses of pre- whether they’re right or not.

        If you say ‘some days earlier’ it just seems redundant.

    2. What about placing a word like “on” or “under” in a sentence before you’ve constructed the rest of the sentence?

    3. By the way, I am going to be teaching a course on Special Relativity starting next month, with a possible introduction to General Relativity later on in the semester. The first assignment to my students will be a critical reading of your comment and a midterm paper on the physics involved.

    4. …and he’s up to the wicket now and he bowls and the ball takes on a slightly blue tinge in the batsman’s eyes, and electromagnetic repulsion between surface electrons has caused a huge change in the momentum of the ball which has been exactly balanced by a momentum change in the bat, and the ball has appeared to become squashed along the axis pointing away from the batsman, and now it has transferred all its kinetic energy into heat energy on one of the boundary boards, slightly increasing or decreasing the rotational speed of the Earth by the same amount it was decreased or increased as the ball was hit. And the umpire signals that the entropy of the universe has gone up. A fantastic shot by the batsman there, considering that he cannot have been exactly certain of the ball’s velocity and position when he hit it. The new ball had been due, but the age of this ball is somewhat less than it would have been had it not gone to the boundary and back, so the umpires will be taking that into consideration.

    5. The propeller-heads at the University of western Australia in Perth can’t even get their heads around the bio-mechanics of Ajmal’s doosra or Akhtar’s hyperextension. What hope with Bert’s perfectly reasonable outline of cricket in space?

      I say “perfectly reasonable”, but I do feel I should point out the tautological use of the prefix “pre”, ahead of the term “some days earlier”. KC and others very kindly describe this as soiled, but I rather sense that Bert’s otherwise superb piece of writing has been more than soiled; it has been spoiled.

      Pity, really.

    1. My astonishment at his feat is more than tempered by my ambivalence about another meaningless ODI series. See KC’s manifesto.

    2. Still. Highest ever ODI score, 50 to 250 in 94 balls, first man ever to score two ODI double hundreds, higher score than England’s average ODI total batting first in India, higher score than winning total in 1983, 1987, 1992, 1996 and 1999 World Cup finals.

      Not bad.

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