Feb. 15, 2021

The one with Special Relativity and Gwyneth Paltrow's Candle

The Brainy Lecture looks at things in the universe that travel faster than the speed of light. 
Literally the Last section considers the word 'impede' and brings back its long lost brother 'expede'
We have a very excellent recipe for a chilli tomato sauce 
We audit Paul Simon's 50 ways to leave your number and uncover the chilling truth that he only provided between 4 and 6. We help make up the shortfall.
See how the Muon uses relativity to cheat death


Episode 1


From cosmology to gastronomy from the source of the big bang to a sauce with mushrooms and shallots. This is Frenzied and sustained.


I am Ian Spector


In this week's podcast for a post stupid society, our Brainy Lecture looks at things that travel faster than the speed of light and we will muse on the muon, the electron’s chubby brother and how it uses relativity to live much longer than it has any right to.


Paul Simon's 50 ways to leave your lover, classic divorce manual or woefully disappointing counsel. We use pioneering mathematical techniques to show that at least 44 ways to leave your lover are still outstanding. We help Paul make up the shortfall.


We have a hat of the week, 


A segment that we are calling a sauce a sauce, my kingdom for sauce  has the recipe for a stunning tomato and basil sauce. 


In Literally the Last Section we consider words who have lost their opposite number. We are going to bring them back.


Now, it's time for our brainy lecture.


Can things travel faster than the speed of light.  Was Einstein's theory of special relative wrong. The answer in that order is yes. and , no. 


The problem comes from the fact that the universe is almost 100 billion light years across yet the universe is only 13.7 billion years old. Surely then the universe can have a maximum radius of 13.7 billion light years thus a diameter of 27.2 billion light years. 


Let’s just remind ourselves of our units here. In the words of Douglas Adams “Space is big, really big. You just won’t believe how hugely mind-bogglingly big it is.  Now no one wants to hear a grown man talk about gazillions or squlilions of kilometres so they use the mind-bogglingly big unit of distance equal to the distance light can travel in a vacuum. That distance is nearly 10 trillion kilometres.


So now let’s consider a photon that was emitted shortly after the big bang. Those pioneering photons were sent out towards earth when they were only 42 million light years from us. So one might be forgiven for thinking that the photon would have reached us after 42 million years but in fact only reached us today, 13.7 billion years later. You might think that Southern Rail is bad but this photon was over 13 billion years late. And it was not a lazy photon. He ran at the speed of light for the whole time.


The problem was that the universe was expanding at almost the same speed as the photon was running. Imagine being in a kayak trying to paddle upstream for a distance of 1km. Unfortunately the river is flowing in the opposite direction at 99.9% of the speed that you are paddling. So whilst you only have to travel 1km, you end up paddling 1000km.


So, light that was emitted towards us at the speed of light when it was 42 million light years away took a cool 13.7 billion years to reach us. 


But so far no speed of light laws have been broken. The universe at that point was expanding very close to but not over the speed of light.


There is something else that we know. The further away things are in the universe the faster they are moving away from us.


We know this from the red shift, the doppler effect of light that stretches out the wavelength as the space that emitted it gets stretched backwards. Rather like plucking a string on a guitar then loosening the tuning pegs on the guitar. The note will get lower as the string gets longer. So brainy cosmologists calculated that anything more than 15 billion light years away is moving away from us faster than the speed of light and as a result the light being emitted from those stars right now will never reach Surbiton. The stars at this boundary have a red shift of close to 1.7. Now 1.7 does not mean much to us, is it rare or common. Well actually, it is surprisingly common. We have catalogued a number of quasars with a red shift of 5. And the most distance photons are from the cosmic microwave background radiation (the curiously mottled remnants of the big bang). They are red shifted by around 1000. The Hungarian mathematician John Von Neumann said “Young man, in mathematics you don't understand things. You just get used to them.” We will bump into Neumann again in a couple of minutes.


Now for those of you whose heads just exploded, I am sorry, for the rest of you I will answer the question “how can I see something if it is travelling faster than the speed of light. For the first 9 billion years the acceleration of the universe was slowing down and then for the last 5 billion years it started accelerating. The culprit for this inflationary force is dark energy. In case you are wondering if we will be returning to dark energy in the future…..yes. of course we will.


So whilst we are observing stars that are currently leaving us faster than the speed of light, they were travelling below the speed of light when the photons set off.


So when you factor in this inflation our universe has expanded to a radius of about 46 billion years in 13.7 billion years.


Now just hold a minute, you're saying. Einstein said that to travel at the speed of light, you would have to have infinite mass and the time would dilate and the distance that you're traveling would foreshorten.  Actually, none of that applies. The answer is in the word relativity.


It would only risk a strike for breaking the law of  special relativity if we were observing it travelling faster from a frame of reference different from that of the universe. Well that is just silly, we are part of the universe, also expanding. So, If we found ourselves  on a bridge above the expanding universe and not part of it, watching it woosh past us faster than 300 000 km a second then that would cause us to be pulled over by the relativity police.  Now our friend John von Neumann was caught by the police in the US running a red light. He decided to defend himself in court. His defence was that due to red shift and relativity because he was travelling then red light was shifted to green but not to the stationary policeman. The judge’s eyes lit up, Mr Neumann, what precisely must your speed have been to created a blue shift from red to green. Not wishing to risk a violation for going 300 000 km/s over the speed limit change his plea to guilty.


So the furthest light we can actually see is from objects that are currently 46 billion light years away, but anything that is currently further than 15 billion light years away will never be visible to us. And that barrier keeps changing and we keep losing stars. During the course of this episode, we will lose 30 million stars never to be seen again, that was during the course of, not because of. Don’t blame me for this. there will come a time in the future when our night sky will be almost empty.


Songs Under the Microscope


And now let's turn our attention to Paul Simon and his song. 50 ways to leave your lover. There are many people stuck in marriages today who can't get out as they relied upon 16 Grammy Award winning Paul Simon and his 50 ways to leave your lover. We have forensically studied the lyrics and identified at the most 6 ways.


So let's remind ourselves of the lyrics. You must slip out the back, Jack. Well, that's more a technical departing mechanism.


Make a new plan Stan. Well, make a new plan Stan  isn't a plan it's actually telling Stan to come up with his own plan.



You don't need to be coy Roy. totally not a plan.


Hop on the bus, Gus, 


You don't need to discuss much drop off the Key Lee and get yourself free.


 So slip out the back, Jack, 


So, 35 time nominated and 16 Grammy award winner Paul Simon you promised 50 and delivered 4 ways to leave your lover.


Let’s help him out with some additional ones.


How about make a clean break, Jake, 


Do it face to face ACE.


It's not me. It's you Stu


change your Facebook status. Mathias,


ghosting, Rosen. 


Get a divorce. Of course. 


Create a Spotify playlist of a hundred songs. Each one being Taylor Swift's. We are never ever, ever getting back together again,


fake your own death. Jeff, 


put a post on your MySpace page and trust in the universe to work its magic 


Do it through a sequence of emojis 


Enter witness protection, 


put a message on the dog's collar and let Patch do the heavy lifting.


Send the postcard from Paraguayan


Slow. fade Jade, 


do it by text Rex


Do it with fridge, magnets, 

or spell it out in alphabetic, spaghetti


Send a ransom note from a pirate. 


Now the next one I looked at  Paltrow's website goop. She said refrain from any social media postings about your status, respect the transition.


Now that strikes me as odd on a number of levels. She went on a worldwide media to explain her conscious uncoupling. Now, now mom, wouldn't with Paltrow's goop side and I see what she's selling my, I was caught by her. This smells like my vagina candle. What does it smell like? No one again is asking, well, Gwyneth helps us out.


Citrusy, bergamot, geranium, and Cedar juxtaposed with damask Rose and Anne Bret seed. I got to confess, I didn't actually know what ambrete seed smelled like. So I went to the very useful site of Fragrantia.com. It turns out that Ambrette is the smell of Christian Dior Homme Intense 2011 aftershave.


Can I just raise the possibility that the reason  Paltrow’s vagina smells of men's aftershave is by cross-contamination through direct contact. Anyway, this vagina candle can be yours for the childishly priced sum of 69 pounds. 


Anyway, now I am long way from our inductee to the american academy of arts and sciences Paul Simon, but I was distracted. 


Next to the ….candle was,  a Gwyneth Paltrow six piece enamel over aluminium cookware set. And that set smells like… let me just check…huh, the site is strange silent on that point. 


That is a  clever idea. You get the inert cooking surface of enamel without the weight of the le creuset cast iron. The cookware set will set you back 299 pounds, but on a per item basis is only 49 pounds, 83 pence. I am not in the market for new cookware, but if forced to choose between the pots the crotch, those pans are looking pretty attractive.


back to our list. Just be honest with them. well that is plain ridiculous 


 Just drift apart. Art 


Like Rose and Jack in Titanic. 


Can we just take a moment to consider that scene. Rose was on a huge buoyant door in the water, like a huge luxury raft. And Jack was holding onto the side. Why didn't Rose pull him up. Why did Jack make no attempt to. If Rose was to move to the back of this highly buoyant, beautifully appointed luxury floating boat in its own right and Jack gets on the other side, they would both have been saved.


So I was trying to calculate the buoyancy requirements of the raft and see if this was possible. When I stumbled across the, the, uh, 2012 episode of MythBusters and they calculated beyond any doubt that both of them could have survived on the, on the raft. We texted Rose and after whatever happened. So we called Rose this week and asked her what ever happened to Jack.


And she said, we simply drifted apart. 


(I did not really text the 126 year old Rose DeWitt Bukater). Obviously. I used instagram.


So I just don’t think that Roling Stone’s 8th best songwriter of all time, Paul Simon, really put his heart into finding 50 ways.


Nothing brought this home to me as much as when I looked at how he actually left his lover.


Paul Simon dated carrie fisher, then split up, got engaged to other people, got back together, split up got back together, decided to not split up again but get married but that only lasted 10 months so they got divorced but then started dating again, for another ten years. 


And we are turning to this guy to help us leave our lovers?


  • Stay in the mall paul
  • pack a holdall paul
  • walk out the hall paul
  • rent a u-haul Paul
  • Dig a tunnel and crawl, Paul





So which method of those we listed did Paul Simon finally use to leave Carrie Fisher?


None of them.  He went for the classic  - visit your spiritual healer in Brazil, consume a psychedelic tea in a spirit cleansing ceremony and work out he didn’t want to ever see her again. Undoubtedly effective but it does present some issues in the rhyming scheme.





Now it's time for hat of the week. 

The hat of the week, is the fedora. Famously worn by Frank Sinatra and Indiana Jones. it was Prince Edward who brought it to our attention by wearing it in 1924.


The hat’s wide brim hat gives protection from the sun. The fedoras were made of felt so provide significant warmth in winter and reasonable protection against the rain. Is it too hot for summer? Perhaps, so if you decided to swap it for a Panama in hotter weather I think that would be perfectly acceptable. Whatever you wear, please remove your hat on entering a house.


We are not animals.


Next up is a segment that we're calling a sauce, a sauce, my kingdom for a sauce. A sauce is the harmony in a meal. A stunning sauce will elevate a humble piece of fish into a stunningly memorable feast.


The sauce this week is a red tomato sauce with basil and chilli.


This sauce is so simple so effective everyone needs to know how to make it. With one humble sauce you can make pasta, rice, fish, chicken, pizza, lasagna. You thought you couldn't cook, with this you now have 6 recipes that you can impress your friends with.


I will put the recipe in the episode notes and on Frenzied and Sustained.com but you will need 


40g of basil, separate the leaves from the stalks

One fresh chilli pepper, go for a hotter one if you can

Three cloves of garlic

olive oil

Two 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

Most importantly, red wine vinegar


Don't waste your time peeling garlic, put on a work surface and thump it with your fist. pull off the outer layer and roughly chop up the garlic or use a garlic press.


Chop up the basil stalks


Put a slice in your chilli. You can modulate the heat from the chilli by the amount you slit it. Without any slit your chilli will explode


Take a large pan and put it on a medium heat. At two tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chilli, chopped basil stalks and the crushed garlic.


keep stirring for two or three minutes so your garlic does not burn. Then add the tinned tomatoes


Add a good pinch of salt. Tomatoes love salt. The more salt you add within reason the sweeter the tomatoes. Start with half a teaspoon and if you like add a little more right at the end.add a  good pinch of black pepper.



How do you select good tins of chopped tomatoes? I don’t know, I choose the one with the most stars on Ocado.


 Now. I realize that this podcast has worldwide appeal. So if you are a member of the uncontacted Arrow people in the Amazonian basin,  in Western Brazil, don't panic.

You can just use the Tesco's equivalent. 


Now the important part with many sources, we are trying to concentrate flavors. We don't want watery tomato. We want something intense and rich and thick so let the pan simmer for a round 30 minutes, keep an eye on it.  when all the liquidy bits are gone and you have a thick mush, you certainly ready taste the sauce.


If it rich and intense, we're done. If not give it another 10 minutes. And the thing that this lifts this from something okay to something stunning is the swig of red wine vinegar. Hit it with 15 mils of red wine vinegar.  may be tad more.  it just elevates it into the stratosphere. 


It takes a few minutes of work, 30 minutes of cooking, and then you've suddenly got at least six meals that you can do 


I don’t really want to have adverts in my podcast but we are way over our candle and pan budget so I am having to interrupt you to pay some bills.


Do you find chewing your food too taxing, 

Is biting your chicken tiring you out

Then try soup

It is the same delicious food but in liquid form

And there are three or more delicious types of soup, if you make it with tomatoes it is called tomato soup, random vegetable produces vegetab;e soup, smoked haddock and potatoes becomes, Cullen skink. 


Whatever the occasion consume your calories with soup

Give your jaw a vacation with soup. 

Now you can drink and drive, as long as it’s soup. 



Musing on Muons.


The muon is a set electron with an extremely short lifespan. They only live for 2.2 millionths of a second, or 2.2 microseconds. The conundrum is that they are created at the top of  our atmosphere, some 100km up. If they were to actually travel at the speed of light then in 2.2 microseconds they would only have travelled 660 metres. How are they living so long.


We must consider one of the key points of relativity! Unstable particles don’t experience time as you, an external observer, measures it. They experience time according to their own onboard clocks, which will run slower the closer they move to the speed of light. Time dilates for them, which means that we will observe them living longer than 2.2 microseconds from our reference frame. The faster they move, the further we’ll see them travel.


How does this work out for the muon? From its reference frame, time passes normally, so it will only live for 2.2 microseconds according to its own clocks. But it will experience reality as though it hurtles towards Earth’s surface extremely close to the speed of light, causing lengths to contract in its direction of motion.

If a muon moves at 99.999% the speed of light, every 660 meters outside of its reference frame will appear as though it’s just 3 meters in length. A journey of 100 km down to the surface would appear to be a journey of 450 meters in the muon’s reference frame, taking up just 1.5 microseconds of time according to the muon’s clock. So the muon arrives on earth, sure it is no spring chicken, but certainly young enough to take up golf.


It is time for Literally the Last Section.


There are a large number of negative words in the English language for which there has never been a positive equivalent. So we have inert but are prevented from saying that the Tesla Model S in Plaid mode is full of ert. But some words just lost their counterparts. And so it is with this weeks word. The highly useful word impede has lost its equally useful buddy, expede. We do have the sense in its shodowy expedite but tragically expede has expired. Until now. I want you to go out and expede its coming back by slipping it into sentences. i have been for years and everyone instantly understands it and does not register that they have been linguistically mugged. 


And that brings us to the end of Literally the Last Section.


That's the end of this week's podcast. In next week’s brainy lecture we have a phenomenon so outrageous Einstein called it spooky action at a distance, and he was not at all amused by it. How can two entangled particles communicate with one another across the entire universe instantaneously. 


Our musical spot looks at the last train to Clarksville, if you were so keen why don’t you want her to take the next train..

We have hat of the week, next week’s  sauce a sauce my kingdom for a sauce is so delicious Prince Charles is still told off by his mother for licking it off his plate.  Literally the last section  asks the question, Was Javert in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserable a crime fighting superstar or work shy fop


Please come back next week, even if you just have a blind date with a nerd and you don’t want the conversation to flag. Please subscribe and check out the recipe and episode notes at frenzied and sustained.com. I will also include a link to Gwyneth paltrow’s vagina candle.    Wait, hang on a minute, was he serious about that candle? well if that was true, maybe the muon really does demonstrate relativistic time dilation - you all say. And remember the geeks shall inherit the earth, FINALLY.