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March 8, 2008

Some Puzzles

Posted by John Baez

Grr! I’m too busy trying to finish that Rosetta Stone paper to post anything really interesting, or even reply sensibly to the posts by my co-bloggers. So, just a few puzzles…

  1. Who is the world’s youngest billionaire, and how did they get so rich?
  2. Why is the word ‘skirt’ so similar to the word ‘shirt’?
  3. Which object, by moving 4 millimeters per second faster than expected, might help cause a revolution in physics?

Of course, everything can be discovered using Google and Wikipedia these days. That’s cheating.

Posted at March 8, 2008 2:16 AM UTC

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Re: Some Puzzles

1 is Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook. (I know a guy who was at Harvard at the same time as Zuckerberg, and did a little bit of work on Facebook, but took his payment in cash instead of in a share of future profits as was offered to him. Of course he regrets this decision.)

Posted by: Isabel Lugo on March 8, 2008 2:44 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Some Puzzles

Right! Here’s a slide show of this year’s youngest billionaires. With all that dough, it’s amazing how Albert von Thurn and Taxis tries to save money by getting shaved at the local barber school.

Posted by: John Baez on March 8, 2008 7:30 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Some Puzzles

With all that dough, it’s amazing how Albert von Thurn und Taxis tries to save money by getting shaved at the local barber school.

Well he didn’t get to be that rich by spending money willy-nilly…

Posted by: John Armstrong on March 8, 2008 5:02 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Some Puzzles

Maybe they grew up in Norway. Getting my hair cut here costs about 300 kroner (29 quid or 58 bucks). Given the amount of hair I have and how long it takes to cut, that’s nothing short of extortion. It almost cheaper to fly to Stansted, get my hair cut there, and fly back again!

Andrew

Posted by: Andrew Stacey on March 10, 2008 9:25 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Some Puzzles

I can answer number 2: “skirt” and “shirt” both derive from the same Proto-Germanic root which meant something along the lines of “a long shirt” (typically worn, I think, by peasants). Another classic example of this sound shift is English “fish” and Norwegian “lutefisk”, which share a root with Latin “piscis.”

Posted by: Owen Biesel on March 8, 2008 7:00 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Some Puzzles

Great! I’d like to know other examples of this English–Norse sound shift. I think this is one: a ship has a skipper.

Posted by: John Baez on March 8, 2008 7:23 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Some Puzzles

Yep, that’s another pair. “Skipper” is actually a borrowing from Dutch, but it derives from the same root as “ship.” Another Scandinavian example is “skeet” versus “shoot,” or “scuff(le)” versus “shove.”

Posted by: Owen Biesel on March 8, 2008 7:50 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Some Puzzles

English “church” ~ Norwegian “kirke”

Posted by: James Cranch on March 8, 2008 11:14 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Some Puzzles

In Old English, the sc combination was always pronounced “sh”; for example “bishop” was spelled biscop (cf. “episcopal”). Another example of the thing you’re after is “shale” and “scale”. I think there are loads of such examples.

Posted by: Todd Trimble on March 8, 2008 1:38 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Some Puzzles

What do you mean, “Norwegian kirke”? What happened to the Scottish?

Actually, whilst the Scot will go to a ‘kirk’, the Norwegian is pronounced much more like ‘shirke’ (though not quite; there are two (or maybe more!) different ‘sh’ sounds in Norwegian but the difference is quite subtle. It gets most confusing when comparing the word for twentyith: ‘tjuende’, “sho-endé”, with the word for seven: ‘sjuende’, “sho-endé”. Only they have different ‘sh’ sounds.) so the Norwegian is actually closer to the English than the Scottish.

I’ve been very pleased to discover that there is a secret to learning Norwegian. Just speak Geordie with a Welsh accent (though some words one has to modify it with a bit of Somerset). If you go to Newcastle or Trondheim and say:

“Jaɪ gʊəɹ jɛm”

(phonetics taken from the IPA chart on wikipedia, using the only proper English accent on the list).

Then both the Geordie and the Viking will understand you.

However, if you say (now using correct Norwegian spelling as the IPA took far too long to work out):

“Jeg liker lutefisk”

Then the Norwegian will understand what you mean and the Geordie will think you are completely barmy. I think the best explanation of how to eat it is this one.

As for more examples of Norwegian-English overlaps, try “kjøpe”. It means “buy”. Once you realise that the ‘kj’ sound is actually a ‘sh’ then it makes a lot more sense.

Also, the words for shirt and skirt are even closer in Norwegian than in English, being “skjorte” and “skjørt” respectively.

Andrew - who has to write an essay entitled “What I did on my holidays” for the first time in over tjue årer.

Posted by: Andrew Stacey on March 10, 2008 9:21 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Some Puzzles

As for more examples of Norwegian-English overlaps, try “kjøpe”. It means “buy”. Once you realise that the ‘kj’ sound is actually a ‘sh’ then it makes a lot more sense.

This root has given “cheap” in English, “kopen” in Dutch, “kaufen” in German, the first half of the name of the town Copenhagen, and was borrowed by Slavic languages (“купить” (kupit’) means “to buy” in Russian) and by Finnish : “kauppa” means “shop”.

Posted by: Mathieu Dupont on March 10, 2008 1:56 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Some Puzzles

Well … it’s the fisk that’s related to fish. Lutefisk, or Lutfisk as it’s spelled in Swedish, is a specific way to prepare fish to prevent it from spoiling - it’s washed with lime (I think the english term is), and dried.

Among the less sound-shifted scandinavian rooted words you’ll find the Swedish loanwords ombudsman and smorgasbord….

As for 3, I suppose that if light were to travel 4mm/s faster than we expect it to, the world would be a different place - but I’m not certain this is what you’re after.

(while I certainly wasn’t FIRST - damn you ‘mericans and your time zones - this puzzle I actually had answers to everything without any source checks. It helps that Facebook has stirred up a bit of a media storm hereabouts lately)

Posted by: Mikael Vejdemo Johansson on March 8, 2008 8:49 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Some Puzzles

There may be an even older root from proto-Indo-european languages.

See Indo-European languages or Proto-Indo-European language since Latin, Greek, German and Sanskrit are related as are their mathematics.

The arabic numerals came from India after the Islamic conquest of northwest India.

Probably the ancient mideast city of Ur is still in our language today with such words as urban.

Posted by: Doug on March 8, 2008 11:30 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Some Puzzles

For the 3rd, I thought:

1) Speed of the light, by reducing the vacuum permittivity. I somewhere it was stated you would get a part in 10^{-36}, if you get 2 conductive plates 1micrometer apart ( a kind of Casimir effect). But that would be a too small efect. I am not sure if that would cause a revolution too. I guess even Feynman predicted something similar using only QED.

2) Speed of light changing with time. But there is nowhere it changed so much lately, so I guess it’s ruled out.

3) Neutrinos having mass… but that would be slower! But I don’t think it’s something so great as you put so much emphasis.

4)Pioneer anomaly. But it’s a kind of force that would reduce the radial speed… but I guess it would increase the orbital tangent speed. I think it’s like 4mm faster as you said. Maybe it would account for either dark matter and/or breaking GR? If that’s the case, John Moffat proposed something similar that fits both cases, even Dark Matter distribution, accoring to him: http://arxiv.org/find/gr-qc/1/au:+Moffat_J/0/1/0/all/0/1
http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0506021

Posted by: Daniel de Franša MTd2 on March 8, 2008 12:44 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Some Puzzles

You’re getting close!

Posted by: John Baez on March 8, 2008 5:05 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Some Puzzles

All spacecrafts and asteroids (NEA) that rendezvous with central gravity potentials, and that can be measured with high accuracy, in the solar sytem, shows that bit of accelaration anomaly. There are exceptions, for example, spacecrafts that use propellents for orbital fixing, like the voyagers. Hmm, I guess that’s my best shot :S .

Posted by: Daniel de Franša MTd2 on March 8, 2008 6:27 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Some Puzzles

Posted by: a on March 8, 2008 5:25 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Some Puzzles

Wow, thanks for that link. So Pioneer is too slow, and the spacecrafts and comets undergoing slingshots are too fast! I can’t believe I haven’t read about this slingshot problem before.

Does anybody know a link to the paper that’s mentioned in the article? I want to know what the ‘simple formula’ is that describes the deviations! As is alluded to in the article, Pioneer and the slingshotting satellites and comets have a large rate of change of distance to the sun, whereas better-studied objects like planets and moons tend to have a low rate of change of distance, so maybe this is a parameter in their formula.

Posted by: Jamie Vicary on March 8, 2008 11:23 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Some Puzzles

The above-mentioned Economist story is where I got puzzle 3. The Galileo spacecraft is going 4 millimeters per second too fast! Here’s another nice article:

For more details, you have to get ahold of this:

  • John D. Anderson et al, Anomalous orbital-energy changes observed during spacecraft flybys of Earth, Phys. Rev. Lett. 100, 091102 (2008).

It studies velocity anomalies in six Earth flybys and concocts a formula to fit these.

Posted by: John Baez on March 9, 2008 1:53 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

some things never change

As the Economist concludes: and that when he has thought hard enough, a new reality will emerge…

Posted by: Kea on March 9, 2008 5:52 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: some things never change

Prove ‘em wrong!

Posted by: John Baez on March 9, 2008 6:02 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

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