Our Brainy Lecture finally looks at dark energy, the mysterious force that suddenly started accelerating the expansion of the universe and unless it stops we are heading for the Big Split. Our hat of the week is the Ushanka. This may be my favourite sauce to date, Sauce Albert with fresh horseradish root to enliven your beef. This week’s songs under microscope uses music theory to show that Paul McCartney was ill advised in his use of metaphors in Ebony and Ivory. In literally the last section we investigate the dystopian totalitarian nightmare that is Thomas the Tank Engine and demonstrate why Tony Soprano was a much better boss than the Fat Controller.
In this week's podcast for a post stupid society, our Brainy Lecture looks at dark energy, the mysterious force that suddenly started accelerating the expansion of the universe and unless it stops we are heading for the Big Split (I have only just got over the big bang). The expansion of the universe will also cause a dramatic cooling so our hat of the week is the super warm Ushanka. To warm you from the inside grab your horseradish roots because this week’s sauce is going to enliven your beef as we remember Albert Roux with a sauce Albert. This week’s songs under microscope uses music theory to show that Paul McCartney was ill advised in his use of metaphors in Ebony and Ivory. In literally the last section we investigate the dystopian totalitarian nightmare that is Thomas the Tank Engine and demonstrate why Tony Soprano was a much better boss than the Fat Controller.
And now it is our
We looked at the universe and added up all the matter, dark matter and radiation and made a reasonable conclusion that the gravitational effect of all that stuff would be to slow down the universe’s expansion, causing a gravitational drag on the hot big bang expansion. In 1998 it was determined that the universe’s expansion had been slowing down then, 6 billion years ago, it had a change of plan and the expansion started accelerating. So this effect that is causing the universe to accelerate in its expansion is a kind of anti-gravity and it was called dark energy. Yes, an effect that has been going on for 6 billion years and cosmologists could not come up with a better name for something that is not dark and is not really energy. Anyway, we have something that represents 70% of everything in the universe that is a negative pressure moving everything apart. It behaves like a cosmological constant. I just sneaked in that innocuous term, cosmological constant, but it really should be accompanied by an evil laugh as the implications could be dramatic. When they say it is a constant, it means that as the universe expands the constant does not get watered down. So as the universe expands the energy density of the universe decreases as the same amount of energy is now stored in a larger volume. Energy density is energy per volume. If you imagine a universe the shape of a cube, if you double the size of the universe the volume increases by 2 cubed, i.e. a factor of 8. The energy density of the universe was reduced by a factor of 8. If it double it again it goes down again by the cube and so you can see that that matter in an expanding universe its energy density inevitably drops.
But the dark energy, because of its nature, its energy density can remain constant. As the universe expands the pressure from the dark energy does not get diluted over the greater volume it stays constant. So the matter gets less and less effective at resisting the accelerating expansion and the dark energy just becomes the dominant force. In fact the situation is actually worse than that, and I am sorry for not breaking all this to you more gently. If you take the radiation in the universe its contribution drops even faster than a cubic factor. As we know that the energy in light goes down as one over the wavelength so if you double the size that the wavelength its energy has halved and so now you've got the energy has gone down by a factor of two from the radiation but it's gone down by this factor of eight from the box expanding so in fact it goes down by a factor of 16, 2 to the power 4. So the energy in the radiation drops even faster than the energy in matter so the early universe is one where you're initially dominated by radiation and matter is sub-dominant but the radiation density is dropping so rapidly that eventually there's a tipping point there that's a very famous epoch that's called matter radiation equality where the matter matches the radiation.
Anyway, as the universe continued to expand eventually there's another tipping point where the dark energy comes to
dominate and that's right now. And if it's a pure cosmological constant then the universe will just keep expanding at an accelerating rate. The universe will just keep expanding as an exponential expansion. First the galaxies will drift apart
and we will notice all the distant galaxies just moving away from us and eventually we won't see any. And remember from one of our first podcasts we pointed out the current rate that we are losing stars due to the expanding universe. Then within our own galaxies the stars will begin to move apart and we'll see them drifting away. Next our solar system will drift apart and then eventually expansion affects the molecules and the atoms will themselves and finally the very fabric of space time will be ripped apart and that is the big rip. For this reason I am not taking out any subscriptions with durations of over the next 100 billion years. Unfortunately most cosmologists do not think that this is enough time to devise a way to cancel a Readers Digest subscription.
Now some scientists believe that this is probably a transient feature and that what we're going to see a decay of the dark energy which then allows the universe to reheat and we'll move back into something like a matter or a radiation dominated
universe again. So there is a chance that we will avoid the big rip. Of course if the matter and radiation starts to dominate then the universe will contract and you think that the Northern Line is busy at 8 o’clock on a Monday Morning then that is nothing to what the Big Crunch has in store for you.
Now before the expansion flings my limbs to different distant points in the universe I would like to say thank you for the original more modest rate of expansion. Had the universe always expanded this quickly then matter would never have had the opportunity to form, it would not have hung around long enough to clump together.
Just one point of English here. We appear to have a cosmological constant that is not constant. It is changing with time. We have a cosmological constant that we think may have changed and will change again in the future. I ask just one thing of my constants. Stop changing. Constancy is your whole thing.
One of the most attractive ideas floating around out there is that there is some sort of quantum field that is responsible for dark energy and keeping the universe expanding. Quantum fields are useful — they soak every bit of space-time and are responsible for generating the forces and particles that make up our everyday existence — and so it's not so crazy to imagine that there's a new quantum field (one never before known to science) that has just the right properties to trigger accelerated expansion.
In Quantum Theory empty space with absolute zero temperature would still have a residual energy. The so called empty space is actually full of virtual particles that keep popping into and out of existence. So physicists sat down and added up all this energy to see if it matched the amount of dark energy that we have calculated. The answer they came to was 1 x 10 to the 120 too big. This surely is the most wrong answer to any question since god saw a button that said ‘out of order - do not press’ 13.8 billion years ago. It is hard to describe the wrongness of this answer. If the question was how many atoms are there in the universe and you answered 1 instead of 10 to the 86, you would still be a trillion trillion trillion times closer to the right answer than these physicists.
One thing to always bear in mid is that the universe owes us nothing. It is under no obligation to be easily understood and soluble with a gloriously simple and elegant formula. One thing is certain is that we need more experiments, more data and better theories.
One of the challenges as of 2021 is that we want string theory to be the grand unifying theory of the universe, and if it is then we just may be willing to pay the price of 7 new dimensions. One problem: at first glance, it seems like universes that allow for dark energy as caused by a quantum field aren't compatible with other things we know about string theory. In the stringy lingo, dark energy seems to live in the "swampland," the possible configurations of curled-up dimensions that simply don't work.
One suggestion is that there may be more than one quantum field working together to give us our dark energy. After all, nature is under no obligation to be simple and straightforward.
So, Ian (Oh, how I love it when you take that tone with me) two weeks ago you hit me with dark matter and you said that the greatest fear in physics was that it may only react with gravity and no other force, making it very hard to identify and study. Now we have got dark energy that is three times as abundant as dark matter and it does not even bother to react with gravity. And if that wasn’t enough you say that there may have to be a new fundamental force in the universe to explain it. And then, whilst keeping a straight face you drop that there may actually be more than one new quantum fields or fundamental forces. No, that is a fair point.
I think that you and I need to square up to the possibility that the universe may be way weirder than we imagined.
Song under the microscope
Ebony and ivory - Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson
In this weak sauce pap song Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson use the black and white keys of a piano as a metaphor for black and white people living together in perfect harmony.
The black notes are all on the pentatonic scale and play well together. The pentatonic scale is the musical equivalent to the cradle of civilisation. We have discovered musical instruments 50 000 years old that were tuned to the pentatonic scale.
So what do we mean by the pentatonic scale. Well, with a root pentatonic you know that it is going to involve five of something. If you take the all white neighbourhood that is the C major scale, it has the facist perfect fourth (F) and the intolerant 7th (B) that are the two semi-tones in the scale. The fourth and seventh degrees therefore create tension when used in melodies as they're both only a semitone away from a point of resolution. When we hear the fourth degree our ear
is anticipating it resolving down the semitone to the third with the seventh degree our ears want it to resolve up the semitone. All of this is also true for the minor pentatonic, in the same way that the major pentatonic is the major scale with the semitones removed the minor pentatonic is the natural minor scale but with its semitones removed.
So the Special KKK eating 4th and 7th degrees together form a tritone and to our ears it creates a creepy sinister tension. And you cannot create tritones using just the black neighbourhoods, er notes.
So because the pentatonic scale has had its racist semitones removed none of its notes will ever sound particularly dissonant. We can all just live as one.
Because the black notes harmonise so easily they can be played over any chord of the key.
You can play as many black notes together as you like and they will not create any unpleasant harmonies, a great example of this is the start of I don’t like Mondays which just sweeps down the black notes creating a massive cascading E flat minor pentatonic scale.
Pentatonic is universal across all cultures from Chinese, Indian to blues, soul and rock.
So according to Paul McCartney’s metaphor the black notes and the white notes should live together in perfect harmony. The problem is not with the black notes at all, it is just with the intolerant criminal element living openly in the all white neighbourhoods.
Let’s just look closely at that line
“Ebony and Ivory living together in perfect harmony”
Ironically the pentatonic scale is super versatile in melody writing but it isn’t in harmonies.
The pentatonic chords are quite limited and in fact songs that have both their melodies and harmonies entirely within the pentatonic scales and practically non-existent.
Maybe I have totally I misunderstood this clawing song, and the black and white actually refers to michael jackson, as he is unique in having experience of being both.
Hat of the week
The Ushanka is a Russian fur cap with ear covering flaps that can be tied up to the crown of the cap, or fastened at the chin to protect the ears, jaw, and lower chin from the cold. An alternative is to bend the flaps back and tie them behind the head, which is called "ski-style" — this offers less protection from the elements, but much better visibility. The dense fur also offers some modest protection against blunt impacts to the head, from falls and camel femurs.
Ushankas are often made from inexpensive sheepskin such as mutton or rabbit or muskrat fur. Artificial fur hats were widely used. The simplest ushankas were made of wool pile with cloth substrate and cloth top, with the exception of the flaps, which had the pile exposed. Mink fur ushankas are widely used in the Arctic regions of Russia, protecting the ears and chin of the wearer even from "deep frost", which is around −70 to −40 °C
Identified with Soviet rule and issued in all Warsaw Pact armies, the ushanka has since become a part of the winter uniform for military and police forces in Canada and other Western countries with a cold winter. Grey (American civilian police), , blue (police, United States Post Office).
Armoured troops have a black hat whilst generals may wear a white hat whilst Jay-Z wears a camel coloured ushanka.
It is claimed that British wartime airmen visiting the Kola Inlet to help to protect the Arctic convoys quickly started to wear ushankas because their own uniform hats were not warm enough, but "kept the ear flaps tied up to the crown as any Russian would, because it was considered unmanly to wear them down." However, in the Russian military up to this day, the way of wearing the ushanka — up flaps, down flaps or ski-style — is considered a part of uniform of the day and is usually decided by a unit commander at reveille.
A variant of the ushanka is popular in Norway, especially in the north. It is infamous for its name, "bjørnefitte" (bear's vagina). Now I am aware of our large following in Norway so let me just say that I know bear vagina would be bjørnevagina but Bjornfitte is a rather unpleasant term - let me just say that former US presidents believe that if you are famous you can grab Norwegians by their bjornfitte.
A Sauce, A sauce, my kingdom for a sauce
After Albert Roux who sadly died this year.
300ml chicken stock
150g horseradish, freshly grated, or
200g bottled horseradish, well drained
300ml double cream
50g fresh white bread, crusts removed, cut into small cubes
1 egg yolk
1 tsp English mustard powder, blended with 1 tbsp water
salt and freshly ground white pepper
Combine the chicken stock or broth and the horseradish in a small saucepan set
over a medium heat and boil until reduced by one-third. Add the cream and let
bubble gently until reduced enough to thinly coat the back of a wooden spoon.
Transfer the sauce to a blender and blitz for 1 minute
Pass through a fine-meshed sieve into a clean saucepan.
Add the bread cubes and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes, whisking all the time.
I tend to pause the recipe here whilst I prepare the meat. In that case I gently warm it up again before continuing when ready to serve and the meat is resting
Turn off the heat, add the egg yolk and mustard and stir for a few moments to
combine, then vigorously whisk the sauce to make it very smooth; it should have
the consistency of porridge.
Season to taste with salt and white pepper and serve at once. If you need to keep
the sauce warm, do SO over a bain-marie; do not let it boil.
A huge proportion of our listeners are amongst the uncontacted Arrow People from the Amazonian basin. Horseradish is available and you need to ask for A raiz-forte. Brazil exported 52 tonnes of horseradish in 2020.
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Literally the Last Section
The tyrannical world of Thomas the Tank Engine
Thomas the Tank Engine, the books and the TV series took place on the island of Sodor, for Sodor imagine a regime with the central control of North Korea with the tolerance of Iran. The children’s books from Reverend W Audrey are like a re-tellling of George Orwell’s 1984 without the uplifting frolicking fun in that dystopia.
In this corporate totalitarian regime the state or private railway keeps all its subjects in line with a regime of terror. In any given episode you will see a train or carriage expressing some resistance or human frailty (oh, yes all the engines, trains, carriages are sentient and have faces to show their pain) and he will be punished either by the railway directly or by the other collaborator trains. A pretentious train called Henry refused to come out of a tunnel as he feared the rain. The fat Controller (or Little Rocket Man, for it was he) ordered for the tunnel to be bricked up with henry still in it and the track ripped up. They built it half way up Henry’s face so his enduring anguish could encourager les autres, not that the hellspawn engines needed encouraging, they went past tooting their whistles in mocking sibilance. Pompous blue engine Gordon even tells him it serves him right, but Gordon is the worst. What is the sick moral message. No catharsis, no human growth just mean senseless punishment.
Of course this also makes no commercial sense, they now had to use the down tunnel for both up and down traffic. You just see the smug engines going passed. No one tried to help Henry or even speak up on his behalf. His fire went out and could not even call for help. This was a recurring theme, fall in line or face the death penalty. Reverend Audrey’s son, Christopher, tried to sell the rights to the series to ISIS but they said that the message was too harsh for them and it would make it difficult recruit new members. They also pointed out that the sheer bleakness offered no glimpse of a better life. Yes, this series of 28 books was too dark for ISIS.
One day a red double-decker bus called Bulgy arrived (probably from Red Square). He “shouts communist slogans such as “Free the roads!" and anticipates the revolutionary overthrow of rail transport. Bulgy gets trapped under a bridge, painted green and converted into a henhouse. That's what you get for being a blow-hard socialist.
Another revolutionary called Smudger was killed and dismembered and turned into a generator. And if your children are not yet quite terrified into slumber how about the time the engines stumble across a scrapyard in which engines are actively having their bodies dismembered by oxyacetalline torches. The faces on the engines as they are cut up alive still haunts me.
Thomas is basically a capitalist corporate propaganda shill designed to condition little kids into becoming good and obedient workers. The only point in life on Sodor is to be a ‘really useful engine’, it's the highest praise and all the engines live in mortal fear of being superseded by the superior/cheaper/more efficient engines in other countries. It is the other workers that threaten them and the goodwill of the fat controller who saves them from the scrap yard. The resulting atmosphere of insecurity of employment keeps them labouring desperately to please a man who only seems to go on holidays and have morning tea. The fat controller even gets other people to coerce his labour force for him. No engine ever questions whether the Fat Controller is necessary to the system, they only seek his favour through their increased productivity.
But Henry found out what happens when you stop trying to please the owner, when you try to take control of your own person.... you become reviled, isolated, cast out and imprisoned. That which you sought to protect is completely stripped away from you until you are grateful again for the small amount that the system allows you to hold on to.
Reverend W Audrey concluded that episode by asking the young children “I think he deserved it, don't you?"
My view is not universally held, however. Timon Berkowitz explained that,
“Henry is being made an example of. His personality quirks have made him unfit for the purpose he had been made for and if the other technology on Sodor acted the same their civilization would collapse. I approve of the actions of The Fat Controller, if my toaster stopped working because it was afraid of whole wheat I would beat it with a hose and make the refrigerator and the dishwasher watch.”
The fat controller is a crazed authoritarian fantasy of a father figure who makes Tony Soprano seem fair, sensitive and just.
When Tony Soprano had his fever dream from food poisoning he sees a dead fish on a slab that speaks to him with Pussy Bonpensiero’s voice, sorry that is the word we decided not to say, in Norwegian it would be Fitte Bonpensiero stemme and says he is working for the government.
Tony goes with Silvio to Pussy's home, sorry, Tony goes with Silvio to Fitte hjemme. Pretending he is still sick, Tony rushes to the toilet; while the rest are downstairs, he searches the bedroom and finds his wire. You see unlike the Fat Controller he needed incontrovertible evidence before condemning a man. They go out on a boat and Tony asks Fitte when he flipped. After hesitating, he says it was eighteen months ago and but he admits that he told them about the crew's current money-earning scam involving telephone calling cards. He asks for a drink and Tony permits it; he tells a smutty story and the guys laugh. He goes to the other end of the cabin and while he is asking if he can sit down Tony, then Silvio and Paulie, shoot him dead.
In the Railway Series Soprano, sorry Fat Controller has a taste for punishment that is both brutal and peremptory. And it's not just Henry who receives the Reverend's fossil-fuelled justice. In terms of class warfare, Bulgy's doom has nothing on what's done to the truculent Troublesome Truck who refuses to learn his place during one of the later stories. Having caused intolerable levels of confusion and delay, the offending blue-collar worker is coupled between two engines pulling in opposite directions and yanked until he flies apart.
The climactic frame of that story, with a wincing truck-face lying splintered on the ground, is one of the most disturbing in children's literature. Is he dead? Does he suffer? Could he be recombined – and if he was, would he feel the thirst for vengeance against those who tried to murder him?
Of the Awdry original lady characters, the whimpering, speed-averse carriages Annie and Clarabel are worse than no female role models at all, while tramcar Toby's companion Henrietta doesn't even get the dignity of a face as she chugs along behind her master. And while that lot demonstrate their feminine forbearance, we're supposed to celebrate Thomas himself, an incompetent little dipstick of an engine who's constantly bashing into buffers and rolling off the rails. Annie and Clarabel, who are awarded to Thomas as prizes after he helps with a train breakdown.
In fact, the sooner that blue bastard is carted off for scrap, the better. No more forced laughter as Thomas once again causes a cheeky logistical disaster for his colleagues by passing a stop signal.
When Gordon and James, try to go on strike the Fat Controller locks them in the shed. Henry suffers ongoing health problems caused by his imprisonment, but receives no sympathy or treatment from anyone. Children drop stones on him from a bridge – a moment of senseless cruelty made all the more heartbreaking by the fact that Henry had thought they were “rail fans” when he first saw them.
The caste system is never far from view. When the trucks pushed Thomas down the hill too fast the Facist Controller said that, “you’ve got a lot to learn about trucks. They are silly things and need to be kept in their place.”
They are all like this. Only the incompetent, servile blue mother-trucker seems suitable to survive in this imperialistic, dystopian totalitarian nightmare.
I just re-purchased 28 of these vile volumes and I do not want to scare my own children that I will subject my future grandchildren to this violence. So rather than share them out amongst, Emma, Helena and Logan I will send them to whoever wants them, just leave me a message on frenziedandsustined.com
One final point about the tragic Henry episode. The TV episode was thrown together in 1984 during the UK miners’ strike as the Government fought their battle against the unions. In both stories it was a battle to the death with no compromise sought nor attained. In the original episode narrated by Ringo Star the line was "We will take away your rails, and leave you here for “always and always and always. For the US release Carlin narrated it as
"We will take away your rails, and leave you here until you are ready to come out of the tunnel."
Anyway, I am wrapping up the little blue tosser and I cannot wait to post it to you.
And just a final note to Henry “next time he bricks up the front of the tunnel, just reverse out, he did not do anything to the other end of the tunnel.
Actually, no I am not finished with this section; I am now seething. I don’t think that the Fat Controller ever wanted Henry to come out of the tunnel. He arranged for ten passengers to pull him out. he did not uncouple the carriages, he just got ten people tup try and pull on a tow rope. Of course that failed. His next plan of action was to use exactly the same ten people to try pushing him out. Why was that going to be any better. Finally the Corpulent Copulating Controller got literally the smallest engine he had to try and push him out. Naturally he failed, it was designed for him to fail.
And now a new section. After the success of last week’s Anagram poem of Polly Put The Kettle On we now have a regular spot for anagram poetry that we are calling
A Grayer Tampon
This week we have another nursery rhyme the super-nova centric Twinkle Twinkle
Here we go…New Tell Wink Kit
Twinkle, twinkle, little star - A Winkle Knelt Twits Littler
How I wonder what you are - ad You Two A Whiner Whore
Up above the world so high -Vow though A Bed Polisher
Like a diamond in the sky - A Kinky Month Idealised
Twinkle, twinkle, little star - A Little Twill Knitters Knew
How I wonder what you are - Wow a youth row Ad Inhere
Twinkle, twinkle, little star - A tell stink Inkwell Twitter
How I wonder what you are - A Whey Woo ad Unworthier
Up above the world so high - Develop A Highbrow Shout
Like a diamond in the sky - Headman Doily Kinkiest
Twinkle, twinkle, little star - A welt twill Tinkles Trinket
How I wonder what you are - A Whether Our Wino Ad Yow
That is the end of Literally the last section. It is also the end of this week’s podcast. In next week’s podcast we try and get our hands around the neutrino, our Songs Under the Microscope looks at artists unwisely confessing to the police and compare Jay-Z’s superior legal skills to those of Bob Marley and Eric Clapton. Our hat of the week is worn by military units from Thailand to Denmark and each hat uses the entire skin of a black bear. In literally the Last Section we consider the the very current issue of dinosaur loneliness with Peter McCarty’s book ’T is for terrible’.
Thanks to you, the relativistas, we are now in the top 25% most listened to podcasts in the world. Please can I ask a huge favour. Please could you each invite 1 person to download this podcast. They too have a relativity, sauce based musical review podcast hole in their hearts. And for that kindness I will leave you with a joke.
Argon walks into a bar and the bar tender says “we don’t serve noble gasses here” Argon didn’t react