Category Archives: Event

Plays, lectures & other outings

Wind Me Down

From June 9 1995


The Windows 95 Roadshow

Sept 6 at ChCh Town Hall.

Welcome to the Bill Gates version of Hell.

I actually like the Stones “Start me up”. It has the raw energy of a
great band at the top (Tatto You – 1981, I have the album).

Unfortunately , they cut the song before “You make a grown man cry” which sums up a lot about Win95. After hearing the song intro
endlessly, it becomes reduced to an aural background. (pity)

The roadshow took up the Town Hall Limes room, mezzanine above the restaurant and the James Hay Theatre.

Along for the ride were about 20 local retailers of software and
hardware, desperately grabbing onto the coat-tails of the $200 million extravaganza. Micro$oft spent a lot on banners, brochures and boxes (most with Win95 printed on the outside).

I went through the exhibitions in about 20 minutes. There wasn’t a lot to see, just lots of computers with the Win95 desktop.

The most prosperous must be ComputerLand. They had coffee & sandwichs for the reps. The main event was Win95, and nobody was going to upstage the reason they were there.

More interesting was the two presentations :

Intro to Win95.

This started with deafening music and a light show. After 2 minutes of this I was expecting the dancing girls to come on !.
You can’t accuse Micro$oft of originality. The presentation was a
direct rip-off of Home Improvement. I hope Tim Allen was paid for it.

Two presenters looking like Tim & Al showed us what to spend our money on. They explained how Win95 supersedes DOS 6.22 by taking a chainsaw to a block of wood wrapped in the DOS 6.22 box.

This was followed by an intro to Win95, showing off the main features.
It ended by showing a full screen movie (with sound) under Win95. What they let slip was that to do this you need a Pentium with 16meg RAM. As he said “With a $4,000 computer you can now do what a $500 TV will do”.

I am still not convinced about Win95. They have changed the close icon from the top left of a window, to the top right. Why I don’t know. The concept of a simple front end menu (e.g. what you got on a 1981 PC) seems to have vanished. Overall, the interface is more complex, rather than simpler.

Some of the mouse movements aren’t intuitive. A lot of the menus start at the bottom left corner (“Start” icon), and move up and across, while holding the mouse down. This must be a problem for anyone with creaking fingers (the writer an exception). I find it easier to pull a mouse towards me than to push it away. Perhaps being left handed makes a difference, what do you think.

The OS doesn’t appear to be developed with touch-screen computers in mind. And it’s still based around applications, rather than documents.
Paper analogies are still used, and a cross-platform multi-media
standard was not mentioned.

Micro$oft Office Presentation

This was more interesting. Word, Access, Excel, Powerpoint and
Schedule were shown in their 32bit form (Access still in development).

The most interesting features :

* Auto underlining. Just enter “——-” in the line under some text,
and a full line will be created across the page.

* Word automatic capitalization. ie changing tHIS to This
and capitalizing the first letter of a new sentence. The
multi-threading really helps here.

* Exceptions list for acronyms to be excluded from the above.

* Automatic list generation. When you start a list, the WP
automatically adds the next number.

* Creation of relational databases from tables. This takes tables with
repeating data and creates a relational database.

* Incorporation of Schedule with network project management software.

* Powerpoint can use sound. (must check version at work to see if this is new)

So, for me the most interesting things were the improvements made to the Office package of applications. (At work I’m still using version 2 of MS Word ! ) Of course I could always use OS/2 with Office. 🙂

Despite my last message, Win95 does use proportional slider bars. It
appears that developers have the option, some don’t use it.

Wayne Brady

Wayne Brady Review

(Wednesday 8 May 8PM 2013)

I didn’t know what to expect, the show was called ‘Still Making Shit Up” but I was anticipating some form of stand-up routine.

It was in Burnside School’s Aurora Centre, a good venue where I had
previously seen Rick Wakeman (last year).

As I was entering the theatre, I turned a corner at the top of the stairs and saw Jeff Clark with girlfriend/wife and Jarred Skelton. Jeff Clark is a nephew of the recently retired John Clark. Jeff and Jared are performers at scared scriptless and Jared saw me and prompted a ‘Hi Mate”. I’m not sure if he was being just friendly or recognized me from my frequent outings to his shows.

I was seated in the left section of seats about a third of the way up
and in the middle, three to the left of me and three to the right.
The seats to the left of me were unoccupied until about five minutes
before the show was to start. In walk a couple to take the seats,
he looked very unobtrusive but she was dressed like a Westie from
‘Outrageous Fortune’; tight white pants, leopard pattern boots a pink top with jacket with pumped up and half exposed boobs.

It turned out that it was an improvised show. Wayne had a fellow
improvisor who introduced him and acted with him in most of
the scenes. I didn’t catch his name, but I’m sure I’ve seen him in
‘Who’s Line’. There was also a chap with a keyboard and laptop that
provided the music. They started, before Wayne was on stage, but getting long words for him to rhyme to in a song. Of course someone shouted ‘liquefaction’ which got a good cheer from the audience.

Then, after the first sketch when things were a bit quieter, a phone went off in the theatre. It was ringing from the bag of the woman sitting to my left. She quickly took the phone from the bag and turned it off after a few rings. But the damage was done. Everyone in the audience could hear it and now Wayne knew who had the phone. So he comes up the aisle and stands at the end of the seats talking to this woman, asking her who it was and could he speak to them. She was desperately saying NO, NO but he persisted. Then he comes along the row and as is the custom all the guys to my right and me stand up to let him pass. He comes up and stands between me and the seats in front. So all the guys sit down leaving me and Wayne standing, with him closer than would be socially acceptable.

Now I’m thinking ‘Damn, everyone is looking at me’.
He insisted that he should look at the phone and after getting the audience on his side she hands it over to him. As he was leaving he causally mentioned that she should button her shirt up. He exits the row with iPhone in hand, looking for the last caller. He either couldn’t find it, or thought it wouldn’t be such a good idea and the phone was handed back along the row to the woman. He then went back to the stage and did an alternating word scene about the person who made the phone call.

At one point he asked if anyone had any specialist knowledge he could use in a scene. Not being stupid, nobody said a word. After persisting, eventually I heard a lone voice from up the back. It was Jeff Clark. He came to the stage and was asked about his job. As well as an improvisor, Jeff writes and voices radio commercials. So while he was interviewed about he radio show, Wayne did an interpretation for the deaf.
Of course Jeff kept dropping in the fact that he was also an improvisor and everyone should come and see his show – The Court Jesters.

The show concluded with Wayne’s specialty – making up songs, ending with one called ‘Voluntary Tourettes’.

Well worth seeing.

He did say that they has just filmed a new series of “Who’s Line is it anyway” and it was expected in the fall – not sure if he meant the southern or northern hemisphere version.

Summertimes 1995

Summertimes Candlelight Opera

Sat 21 Jan 1995 8:30

I arrived at 6:40 to find that half the audience had got there before
me. After eats I settled down to look bored & read the program (as one
does at these events). It was a sunny and calm night. Puuuurrrfect

——- Program ————-

Prelude, Carmen – Bizet

Carmen – Bizet
Adrian McEniery
The Flower Song (Don Jose)

Cosi Fan Tutte – Mo’s art
Gina Sanders
Would a maid be worth the wining (Despina)

Don Giovanni – Mo’s art
Gina Sanders & Grant Smith
Place your hand in mine (Zerlina & Don Giovanni)

Norma – Bellini
Dame Malvina Major & Canterbury Opera Chorus
Chaste Godess

I Vespri Siciliani – Verdi
Dame Malvina Major & Canterbury Opera Chorus
Thanks to my good friends

Nabucco – Verdi
Canterbury Opera Chorus
Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves

The Marriage of Figaro – Mo’s art
Sir Don Mac-in-tyre
Non piu andrai (Figaro)

Faust – Gounod
Sir Don Mac-in-tyre & Canterbury Opera Men’s Chorus
The Golden Calf (Mephistofele)


During the interval I went for a walk to the back of the audience
(about 150m). I met my sister & her intended B&C. But they were
leaving. Jane had a problem – the temperature was dropping to below
room temperature and she couldn’t see the stage, so they were going
home. Remember that this is the person who regards “roughing it” as
doing without a microwave for the day.

——–part 2—————-

Die Fledermaus – Johann Strauss
(Trans = Die, you flying mouse)
Gina Sanders
My dear Marquis (Adele)

The Merry Widow – Lehar (ha ha)
Grant Smith
I’m off to Chez Maxime (Danilo)

At this time (9:00) everyone was asked to light their candles.
Unfortunately a breeze had developed, making lighting and maintaining the flames difficult. It wasn’t until 9:30 that it was dark enough for the candles to be effective.

La Boheme – Puccini
Gina Sanders
Museta’s Waltz Song (Musetta)

La Boheme – Puccini
Adrian McEniery
Your tiny hand is frozen (Rudolpho)

La Boheme – Puccini
Dame Malvina Major
Yes, they call me Mimi

La Boheme – Puccini
Dame Malvina Major & Adrian McEniery
Lovely maid by the moonlight (Mimi & Rudolpho)

Sir Don Mac-in-tyre
Drink to me only

Carmen – Bizet
Sir Don Mac-in-tyre & Canterbury Opera Chorus
Toreador’s Song (Escamillo)

La Traviata – Verdi
Full Company
Libiamo (Drinking Song)

————— end approx 10:15

Well… what did I think.
The audience was appreciative, but I had some reservations.
Adrian McEniery is an Australian singer (one black mark). I didn’t
find his singing as good as Grant Smith.

Don “floor-rattler” McIntyre was in good form. Unfortunately his voice
was not conveyed to us with the power I know he is capable of.
Probably a result of the amplified, open-air venue. The Toreador’s
song was a BIG mistake. I believe that is written for a baritone
(maybe a tenor). Don’s bass voice just didn’t suit the song. I was
probably put in the program for that same reason that opera singers
_try_ to sing Sondheim (popularity).

Dame MM is (I believe) a “lyric soprano”. So it wasn’t until we got to
“call me Mimi” that she really shone. This would have been the best
song of the night.

This is the second time that we have had Opera by Candlelight. From
memory, Dame MM was at the last one. Overall, I think the first was
the better. Last year we had two good soprano’s who did some
exellent duets. Most memorable was the “flower duet”. There are two
“flower duets”, this is the one that an Airline used for the melody of
a commercial.

BTW, Malvina & Grant Smith will be appearing in “The Merry Widow”
Feb 11-25 (envious)

|\|igel Baker 22/1/95 11:40am

Classical Sparks

Classical Sparks

24 Feb 1995 in North Hagley Park

Christchurch Symphony Orchestra
Conductor/Singer : Wayne Senior

M/C: Malcolm McNeill

with Singers
Leon Kearns, Jillian Bartram, Janice Bateman,
Peter Hewson, David McMeeking

The Program :
1. Galop (Masquerade Suite) Katchaturain

2. Buglers Holiday Leroy Anderson

3. The Bare Necessities
Sung by the conductor !

4. Pink Panther Mancini

5. I want to be like you
Sung by the conductor.

6. Grease Medley
The singers then sung (with considerable gusto) songs
from the show.
Greased Lightning Karlin/Gimbel
Summer Nights Jacobs/Casey
Hopelessly Devoted Farrar
Your the one that I want Farrar

7. Memory (cats) Lloyd Webber
Sung by Jillian Bartman

8. Hoe Down (Rodeo) Copland

9. Phantom of the Opera Lloyd Webber
Sung By Leon Kearns & Jillian Bartram

10. Aquarius/Let the Sunshine in
All the singers led the sing-along.

11. Superstar Medley
My Mind is clearer now
I don’t know how to love him
Sung by Janice Bateman
Herods Song
Sung by Peter Hewson
Sung by David McMeeking
Jesus Christ Superstar
With all the singers

12. Pathetique Symphony Op 74 Tchaikovsky
3rd movement – Allegro molto vivace

13. Les Miserables Schonberg
Bring him home
Sung by Peter Hewson
14. Light Cavalry Overture von Suppe

15. Hey Jude Lennon/McCarthy
Malcolm McNeill with company

16. Ride of the Valkyries Wagner
Complete with fireworks.

The show was introduced by Malcom McNeill with a *very* bad joke about “Catch a turian”.

McNeill also thought there might be someone in the audience who
didn’t know who Henry Mancini was, even the dancer in a pink suit
didn’t help this one. The Panther without a saxophone just isn’t the

This was the first time I have heard the conductor sing. He had an
average singing voice, but given the songs, Malcolm would have done
a much better job of it. The orchestra was in good form, however the
tempo was a bit too quick for some of the slow ballads.

Jillian had a go at “Memory”, but didn’t quite have to range to do
it successfully. The best songs were “I don’t know how to love him”,
“Gethsemane” and “Bring him home”.

The show ended with a firework display. Possibly not as good as some
in the past, but had sufficient bangs and crackles to get aaaaahhhss
and ooooosssss from the audience.

|\| Baker 26/2/95

Rita Learns Things

Educating Rita
(Court Theatre)

Written by Willy Russell
Directed by Yvonne Martin
Starring George Henare & Kathleen Burns

From the writer of Blood Brothers (Willy Russell) comes his most acclaimed play, Educating Rita, an hilarious and often moving story of a woman determined to better herself.

Thinking that there is more to life than working in a hair salon, street-smart Rita, fizzing with ambition, sets out to find herself through higher education. Book-smart Frank, a failed poet with a failed marriage, has grown disillusioned with higher education and has just about given up. He agrees to tutor Rita to pay for his drinking habit, totally unaware his world is about to be turned upside down.

The unlikely pair form a life-changing bond as Frank enlivens Rita’s soul through Shakespeare and Chekhov, while Rita reawakens Frank with a breath of fresh air in this heart-warming comic masterpiece.

Review by Charlie Gates, The Press

A revival of British playwright Willy Russell’s classic 1980s play Educating Rita is a perfect showcase for two of New Zealand’s most-talented actors.

This charming, thoughtful and entertaining two-hander stars Court regular Kathleen Burns as the titular Rita White and celebrated stage actor George Henare as her university lecturer Frank.

Rita is a young hairdresser burning with curiosity and a reaching desire for something more than her working class existence in 1980s Liverpool. As she puts it, she wants bigger choices in her life than the one between butter and margarine. Hollow consumerism isn’t providing the freedom and choice she craves.

When she signs up for an English literature course at the Open University she is assigned to Frank, a jaded older lecturer and former poet who has lost his way in a cosy haze of Famous Grouse and comfortable academia.

It is a pleasure to watch the awakening of these two characters, portrayed in a series of sharply written scenes that take place over the course of more than a year. Frank is slapped awake from his boozy stupor by this dazzling young woman and her fresh perspective on his world. While Rita, through determination and hard work, builds herself a life of satisfying and meaningful choices.

Kathleen Burns is the blazing heart of this show. Her vivid portrayal of Rita is lit from within with verve, wit and conviction. The Liverpool accent is difficult to master, but Burns has the basics down, even though she occasionally drifts into other regions of England. I think she will settle more comfortably into the accent as the run continues.

But it hardly matters as Burns brings this character alive with such spark and clarity. Henare unselfishly allows Burns to shine, putting in a quiet and convincing performance as the disillusioned academic.

The two spar beautifully in the short and punchy scenes, perfectly maintaining a flawless and flowing tempo that captures the essence of each scene, character and moment.

One minor criticism is that there seems to be a slight lack of natural chemistry and spark between the two leads. This means a subplot about Frank being quietly besotted with Rita falls a bit flat. The gentle flirting is never returned by Rita and so feels a little awkward and uncomfortable. It means that some of the moments in the play’s closing moments do not quite pay off.

(NB: I would disagree as I never thought the relationship was ever intended to drift into being remotely  sexual)

The costume and set design is engineered to focus solely on these two characters and their changing world. Rita’s costumes slowly transform from bright and cheerful fashion to more sedate and sophisticated as her character changes. Meanwhile, Frank stays in his denim jeans and white shirt, unable to change in such dramatic fashion.

The single set also keeps the focus on these two characters. The small set, placed in the center of the stage, is a tight little slice of parquet-floored academia – cluttered with books, unmarked papers and half empty bottles of booze.

The costumes, lighting and set design all serve two wonderful performances by two wonderful actors, portraying raw curiosity and jaded academia as they blossom into new lives.

Review by Lindsay Clark, Theatreview

An affectionate revisiting of this classic two-hander is a warm reminder, as Russell puts it, of “things that matter”. He and we might have hoped that social concerns such as dispirited ignorance on one hand and pretentious institutionalized education on the other would have changed for the better over the past thirty odd years since it was first performed. If only.

However, the real drivers of the play are the timeless themes of the quest for personal freedom and expression as well as the bitter-sweet consequences of changing personal relationships, and these are handled with refreshing zeal.

Yvonne Martin’s direction has all the finesse of experience and insight, ensuring that there is an engaging overall build to a series of tutorial encounters which all take place in the context of The Open University in Liverpool in the eighties, all under our gaze in a single study.

Her creative team lays it all out for us in telling detail. Costume from Pamela Jones delivers working class likely lass and rumpled academic gear; authentic support from sound (Giles Tanner) and light (Sean Hawkins) underpins the realistic business which evolves beyond the black space of The Court’s outer stage.

The study itself, designed by Harold Moot, is suggestively frayed at the edges, angled for interesting use by the two actors and full of clues as to the nature of its occupant. Frank used to be a poet. Now he is more of a small wheel whose uninspired direction is set by his masters. Behind the books in his crowded shelves is the whisky which boosts his passion these days. Beyond that is the pub and a failing marriage that shapes his days. He is taking this Open University course to help fund the booze.

Into this retreat bursts Rita, hairdresser by trade, ardent seeker of wisdom and truth through the education she imagines a course in English literature will supply. There is scope for both humour and poignancy in the Pygmalion-like trajectory of the teacher-pupil relationship. She is on the rise, he is probably not, unless he can find his own renaissance in Australia, whence he is eventually posted as a reprimand for being drunk at lectures. As she gains the confidence and conviction to make informed and independent choices about “everything”, his own world suffers in comparison. The crossover pattern in their relative status is compelling.

It is a simple enough story but, like all of Willy Russell’s creations, it works strongly on our feelings. Frank, teaching critical analysis, would dismiss these as “subjective” and even “sentimental” but the honesty of the characters is nevertheless as touching as it is funny. Even as we enjoy the sparks and frustrations the mismatched pair encounter in the course of essays and readings, we are also aware of their deeper implications and of what happens when the pupil becomes the teacher.

As Rita and Frank, Kathleen Burns and George Henare are beautifully cast and impeccable in action. Rita comes off the page in marvelously brash technicolour, assertive Scouse accent and all. That does not preclude sensitivity and a certain childlike vulnerability when her hopes are temporarily dashed by her tutor’s firm judgements.

George Henare plays Frank with skill and intelligence, which elevates the role well beyond a superficial Henry Higgins type. His slow almost reluctant kindling of affection for this exasperating student and the barely controlled vexation she brings are handled with marvelous precision.

For the audience, the experience is an entirely satisfying blend of what we hope will happen and what we fear cannot be avoided. That richness of impression and humour ranging from innocent clanger to sophisticated irony enhance a fine production.

Armageddon Part 2

The Nerd Degree
Strangely this was omitted from the printed timetable.
This time with Jeff Clark, Brendan Bennetts (MC) a guy from the 501st and a woman who’s name I didn’t hear. A few more people this time, and a better show.

Animation Panel
With Mike McFarland, William Salyers and Paul Eiding
Turned out to be voice over artists. Since I didn’t know any of their works, wasn’t that interesting.

Fear Factor Contest
Consisted of contestants eating revolting foods. Not that amusing.

Kamehameha Contest
Apparently a screaming contest devised by Mike McFarland. Won by a woman due in part to the good nature and sportsmanship of her male finalists. Weird.

Ice Cream Eating Challenge
As it states on the tin. Three groups of people ‘compete’ by eating ice cream. The final group without using their hands.

Richard Dean Anderson (again)
Better today than yesterday, he battled through the usual predictable questions.

Christopher Judge
This time on his own. Again not much to say.

David Nykl (who?)
Appeared in Stargate Atlantis (2026) and Fringe (2010).

and finally…
Cosplay Cup presentation to the winners.

Purchased DVD of ‘The Wind Rises’ by Hayao Miyazaki.
A Japanese animated historical drama film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and animated by Studio Ghibli. It was released by Toho on July 20, 2013 in Japan, and by Touchstone Pictures in North America on February 21, 2014. The Wind Rises is a fictionalized biopic of Jiro Horikoshi (1903–1982), designer of the Mitsubishi A5M fighter aircraft and its successor, the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, used by the Empire of Japan during World War II. The film is adapted from Miyazaki’s manga of the same name, which was in turn loosely based on the 1937 short story The Wind Has Risen by Tatsuo Hori. It was the final film directed by Miyazaki before his retirement in September 2013. The Wind Rises was the highest-grossing Japanese film in Japan in 2013 and received critical acclaim. It won and was nominated for several awards, including nominations for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year.


Armageddon Part 1

Held in Horncastle Arena

The Nerd Degree
The guys had only 30 minutes on the main stage. Present were Jeff Clark, Henri Nellis, Andrew Todd, Brendan Bennetts (MC) and a Erin Harrington. They did what they could with the low turnout on the stage, despite a large crown in the main arena. Given the background noise and interruptions the did OK, thanks to a few vocal female audience members.

Supernatural panel
With Corin Nemec and Ruth Connell. I haven’t seen this show and the actors were unknown to me. They were entertaining enough with stories from the show. It soon transpired that both played characters that had been killed off in earlier seasons.

Stargate SG.
Back to NZ again was Christopher Judge. He appears to have been in all the series but was not very forthcoming with information, leaving the others to do most of the talking. Corin stayed on as he was in Stargate from 2002-2004. Richard Dean Anderson appeared apparently drunk and looking the worst for wear. In a tee shirt and short longs, it looked like he was on holiday at a beach. With a black cap on most of the time, he looked like an unknown old guy. It wasn’t until the hat came off that the silver buzz-cut made him recognizable. About half way through he got his stuff together and went into the audience to interact.

Marina Sirtis
By far the best of the day. At 60 she is still looking sexy and had a lot to say. With a small starter question she could tell stories about her career. She is very wicked, funny and has probably been doing the conference circuit since star trek ended. Worth the ticket price for both days.



Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Ross Gumbley
Featuring Mark Hadlow and Lara Macgregor

Shakespeare’s darkest and most powerful tragedy tells the story of Macbeth, the brave general who, returning victorious from battle, witnesses a prophecy from three witches that he will one day become King.

Driven by his ambitious wife, Lady Macbeth, the idea of being king grows into an all-consuming desire for power. After murdering the King, Macbeth takes the throne, dispatching all that get in his way. But the witches have another prophecy, one that will end Macbeth’s treacherous rise to power, one that will play out to its bitter and bloody end.

A sharp warning of the infectious and corrosive lure of power, Shakespeare’s Macbeth still reigns supreme after 400 years. To see it onstage is to see our own society played out before us, set in a world we can all relate to.

This suffers from the same thing all the Shakespeare I have seen. Due to the actors slavishly adhering to the old style prose and delivery, it’s often difficult to determine what’s going on. In fact halfway through the first act it all rumbled over me and became boring. By the time I got used to the language in the second half, it was drawing to a rather predictable close. It’s the ‘John Carter’ film problem. All the themes seem old and derivative because they are seen so often. But this is actually the origin of a lot of the plots we see in modern storytelling. (2/5)




Gravity Waves

UC Connect: Black holes making waves around the Universe

Professor David Wiltshire, Department of Physics and Astronomy
Monday, March 7, 2016 from 7:30 PM – 8:45 PM
C1 Lecture Theatre, University of Canterbury

On 14 September 2015 the two LIGO detectors measured gravitational waves for the first time ever, produced by the collision of two black holes 1.3 billion light years away. This opens a new era of astronomy, a window on things we cannot observe by other means. It vindicates Einstein’s 100 year old prediction of gravitational waves, and the rotating black hole solution of Einstein’s equations discovered in 1963 by New Zealander Roy Kerr.

In measuring distance changes a thousandth the size of a proton, this is also the most sensitive measurement ever achieved by humankind. It represents the culmination of four decades of work by thousands of experimental physicists, engineers, mathematicians, numerical modellers and astronomers, who together have had to overcome challenges in fields as diverse as seismology and fundamental quantum optics. Last December, the LISA pathfinder satellite was launched, the first step in taking gravitational wave detection to space. This lecture will reflect on what has been achieved, the technological spin-offs and challenges ahead, and what we might discover in the new age of astronomy ahead.

Notes from wikipedia:
Gravitational waves are presently understood to be described by Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. In the simplest cases, and certain less-dynamic situations, the energy implications of gravitational waves can be deduced from other conservation laws such as those governing conservation of energy or conservation of momentum.

On 11 February 2016, the LIGO collaboration announced the detection of gravitational waves, from a signal of two black holes with masses of 29 and 36 solar masses merging together about 1.3 billion light years away.

During the final fraction of a second of the merge, it released more power than 50 times that of all the stars in the observable universe combined. The signal increases in frequency from 35 to 250 Hz as it rises in strength. The mass of the new black hole obtained from merging the two was 62 solar masses. Energy equivalent to three solar masses (our sun is 1 solar mass, 2×10^30 Kg) was emitted as gravitational waves in about 1/10 of a second. The signal was seen by both LIGO detectors, in Livingston and Hanford, with a time difference of 7 milliseconds due to the angle between the two detectors and the source. The signal came from the Southern Celestial Hemisphere, in the rough direction of (but much further away than) the Magellanic Clouds. The confidence level of this being an observation of gravitational waves was 99.99994%.

Amplitude: Usually denoted h, this is the size of the wave — the fraction of stretching or squeezing in the animation.
Gravitational waves passing through the Earth are about 10^−20m.

Wave amplitudes from the Earth–Sun system
We can also think in terms of the amplitude of the wave from a system in circular orbits.
Suppose that an observer is outside the system at a distance 0.08 Light Years (7.5 x 10^14m) from its center of mass. Typical amplitudes will be h ≈ 10^−25m. This is well under the detectability limit of all conceivable detectors.

Power radiated by orbiting bodies
Two stars of dissimilar mass are in circular orbits. Each revolves about their common center of mass (denoted by the small red cross) in a circle with the larger mass having the smaller orbit.
Two stars of similar mass are in circular orbits about their center of mass

Gravitational waves carry energy away from their sources and, in the case of orbiting bodies, this is associated with an inspiral or decrease in orbit.  Imagine for example a simple system of two masses — such as the Earth–Sun system — moving slowly compared to the speed of light in circular orbits. Assume that these two masses orbit each other in a circular orbit in the x–y plane. To a good approximation, the masses follow simple Keplerian orbits. However, such an orbit represents a changing quadrupole moment. That is, the system will give off gravitational waves.

In theory, the loss of energy through gravitational radiation could eventually drop the Earth into the Sun. However, the total energy of the Earth orbiting the Sun (kinetic energy + gravitational potential energy) is about 1.14×10^36 joules of which only 200 joules per second is lost through gravitational radiation, leading to a decay in the orbit by about 1×10^−15 meters per day or roughly the diameter of a proton. At this rate, it would take the Earth approximately 1×10^13 times more than the current age of the Universe to spiral onto the Sun.

In Fiction: An episode of the Russian science-fiction novel Space Apprentice by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky shows the experiment monitoring the propagation of gravitational waves at the expense of annihilating a chunk of 15 Eunomia the size of Everest. The novel was written in 1961 and published in 1962, exactly at the time when Soviet physicists Michail Gerstenstein and Vladislav Pustovoit prepared and published their proposal on using laser interferometry for gravitational wave detection.


Winston’s Birthday

(at the Court Theatre)

Secrets are revealed, resentments released and new understandings formed in this fresh and funny perspective on an iconic and larger-than-life family.

It’s 1962 – the Beatles have their first hit, James Bond his first film – and Randolph Churchill is holding a luncheon party to celebrate the 88th birthday of his admired but estranged father. Sir Winston is a fading force and there is unfinished business in his loving but dysfunctional family.

Meanwhile, the socially inept Dr Jenkins, a newly appointed research assistant to Randolph, is pursuing his own agenda and forms a surprising bond with the wily Winston.

Winston’s Birthday is a dynamic mix of comedy and drama that will plunge you deep behind the façade of Churchill family politics during the last years of the great man’s life.

My Rating 3/5