I Was A Fool

June 14, 2012

There are two versions of the invention of rock and roll. Story One says (white) country music and (black) rhythm and blues collided, one mysterious day in 1955, in the heads of Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Bill Haley and Little Richard, and a strange new beast emerged, which Lo ! was Rock and Roll. Story Two says that this is a typical oversimplification of a long and complex evolution. Start with Ragtime, take a line through Tin Pan Alley, Duke Elllington and Robert Johnson, and we see a swirling phantasmagoria of music which changes gradually. At some arbitrary point we decide to label it “rock and roll”.

I quite like Story Two because I am a Child of the Sixties and have always found myself working backwards from Zeppelin and Clapton through John Lee Hooker, Son House, Big Bill Broonzy, Robert Johnston, and Scott Joplin. I fell in love with the blues. Just recently I bought some Elmore James – not sure why I had ignored him before. He is amazing, and was idolised by Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, and Peter Green. When I listened to my new purchase however I was surprised. From 1955, “Sunnyland” is straight ahead blues :

but “I Was A Fool” is fully formed rock and roll.  In fact it sounds just like Chuck Berry only better.

and “Goodbye Baby” sounds kinda like Blueberry Hill :

How come Chuck Berry and Fats Domino got famous and Elmore James didn’t ?

Finally, for the “who invented rock and roll” detectives, we have the real source of the Nile : Rocket 88 by Jackie Brenston and the Delta Cats – a band put together by Ike Turner. Four years before Elvis or Haley, the whole thing was there :


X-ray astronomy not dead yet : NuSTAR

June 14, 2012

The news earlier this week was that ESO announced the ELT was DEFINITELY MAYBE going ahead. There is just this kinda small money detail thing. Anyway, all systems standby-to-go ! When they give us the money ! Actually, it does exude a feeling of almost unstoppable momentum. And furthermore no more major re-designs seem likely. We know what we will build. SKA has also picked up momentum of course. Phase I is a done deal and looks dead good already, but Phase II is still an opium dream really. Anyhoo. With all these exciting but expensive things looming, you can see why STFC needed to close down those tinnsy-winnsy 4m telescopes. Need that headroom !

PeterC wrote a post linking this to the earlier Athena shenanigans : OIR and X-ray astronomy seem to be hitting the all-or-nothing funding wall at the same time. Meanwhile old chum Martin is doing his Cassandra thing in Nature.  But But But the lovely news from yesterday is that NuSTAR had a successful launch. You could read the Beeb version here, watch the NASA launch movie here, or get the real goods from the SPIE paper here. (Seven down is the one to read).  NuStAR is  a hard X-ray mission which cost only $170M. The picture below (taken from the NuSTAR web site) does the sell :

Effective area of NuSTAR mirrors versus energy. Jeez, thats good.

At hard X-ray energies it is WAY more sensitive than XMM or Chandra. On the other hand, the resolution is fairly crummy – 10 arcsec FWHM. So you can see that it won’t be a general purpose X-ray observatory, but it will do some areas of science fantastically well. I would say the most exciting mission of recent times was WISE, and that wasn’t billions either. So it can be done.

Its also technologically cute, with a 10m extendable boom, a multi-layer coating mirror to get reflectivity at slightly better than the otherwise tiny grazing incidence angles, and Cadmium Zinc thingy detectors. And all the data will be public.

So good luck to NuSTAR … and especially with the boom opening !