Friday, 6 May 2011

Galileo, Newton, Einstein and Bertie Boffin

Welcome, students, to this latest lecture in my world renowned 'Canine Science Series'! This lecture is dedicated to our Relentlessly Huge friend Mango and his family and I wish them all the best in their efforts to bring his horrid seizures under control, and hope that science (plus love) can help.

As you are aware, today's topic is gravity, and I know you will all be leaping up and down with excitement at the prospect.

Of course, it is only because of gravity, that we have the 'down' bit...

Now all good scientists like to test their ideas by performing experiments. Italian physicist/astronomer Galileo Galilei conducted one of the most famous experiments in history when he dropped two balls of different masses off the Leaning Tower of Pisa and thus conclusively demonstrated that all objects fall at the same acceleration, due to gravity.

And so, when planning this lecture, I had what I thought a truly excellent idea. I suggested to Gail that we take the whole class on a trip to Pisa, and all the dogs whose weights we know (see graph, which will biggify on clicking) would jump off the top of the tower together, and I would stand at the bottom with a big net and observe what happened.

I have to tell you that Gail immediately looked alarmed. "Hold on a minute", she said, "I don't think we have the budget for that, what with all the higher education cutbacks, etc. Anyway, there is a fine tradition in science of 'thought experiments', using pure logic to determine what might happen. Why don't you try that instead Bertie?"

So I spent a little while pondering what might happen if I took all my friends to Pisa....

Oh dear.

Well first off, numbers were greatly reduced by the time we reached the Leaning Tower, Lacie having shamelessly announced that she thought science "too boring" and hijacked a bus to take her and an entourage of the more fashion conscious dogs for some retail therapy in Milan. Asta wanted to join them, but she had consumed an excess of gelato and was too sick to travel, but also too bloated to fit through the door of the tower. Stella, who didn't really deserve to join the class anyway as she never divulged her weight, predictably hightailed her presumably rather chubby self off to the Clooney villa on Lago di Como no soon as we'd set paw in Italy. Some of the boy dogs heard about a poker night organised by the local mafiosa, and their whereabouts is still unknown. And finally, oh horror of horrors, dear sweet innocent little Katie accepted an invitation to a 'Bunga Bunga' party, courtesy of some creepy older guy with an orange tan and strangely unnatural hair....

The faithful few that did make it up all the steps to the top of the Leaning Tower (led of course by George) were to leap off in unison the minute I gave the sign.  Sadly, Mango got distracted at a crucial moment and was a couple of seconds late in jumping, so landed on top of all the others and....

What's that Gail? You are saying that I have misunderstood the concept of a 'thought experiment'?

OK then, back to the text books (sigh).

The name most commonly associated with gravity is of course Sir Isaac Newton, quite possibly the least likable personality ever amongst world ranking scientists (and believe me the competition is strong). The story goes that Newton's dog Diamond knocked over a candle and burned a notebook containing 20 years worth of observations, but when you read about the relish with which, in later life as Master of the Royal Mint, Newton pursued the prosecution of coin counterfeiters and had the miscreants hung, drawn and quartered, you will be relieved that his dog apparently escaped with a mild ticking off.

Oh, I am digressing again.

Let's move on to Einstein, who introduced the concept that gravity is the curvature of space time, hence the more massive an object, the more light bends around it. It seems that this effect has been noticed in Wilf's household, but only in the vicinity of the bipeds (surely not 'the Font', whom we all imagine as a slender, long-limbed and not at all dense Scandinavian, don't we?)

I think that the explanation for why light shines out of a certain orifice belonging to 'King' Toffee in South Africa awaits a 21st Century Einstein figure.

Now I would like to have made more use in this lecture of all the fascinating weight data that you provided, but I confess that I am more that a little troubled about its accuracy. Lacie dear (said in my best patronising David Cameronesque tones), did you weigh yourself on top of Mount Everest? Or maybe even on the moon? And another data point looks like an 'outlier'. Or can a dog really be 230 lb? Nearly two Gails?? If so, Mango, we predict high tides in the Estate Pool when you approach. As for Riley and Enzo - Newton himself would have been baffled by your measurement system. Lastly, on legal advice from Jed and Abbey, I decided to steer well clear of any of the data relating to the humans, cats and parrots...

I would also like to have discussed with you my interesting theory of "dog mouth/black hole equivalence",  but sadly we have already run out of time today!


  1. Uncanny . You've got ' the font ' spot on. Sadly, you've also worked out the gravitational forces at work on Angus ! Maybe there's something in all this scientific stuff . Wilf will continue to observe, and record.

  2. Very interesting and informative Bertie.....all we have remember is things fall down, don't we?

    Bella is all excited that she is listed next to Oskar on the graph.

    XXXOOO Daisy, Kendra & Bella

  3. Geesh! Bertie-Bud!
    You are an absolute wiz at these Nerdy things!
    Firstly, I must admit that I got a huge fright - erroneously thinking that that poor pooch in the aeroplane was you. What a relief! What on earth were they up to?...uh...around to?...uh,on top of? It made me quite dizzy watching it all, but Maxmom was laughing her head off
    (I'm happy to report, it's still on her, so I presume there's no gravity here where I live).
    Secondly, thanks for pointing out King Toffee's misunderstanding about light!
    Oh, yes...and finally:
    Thanks for your incredibly informative lecture. I think you should tackle the concept of centrifugal forces. You see, the way I understand things, this is what my crate (and very sensitive trolley) are fighting at the moment - with me inside it, by the way - when Maxmom spins me around the house. Do I need to be worried?
    Also...Why does my crate move backwards when I jump out the front?
    This is all new to me and I thought you would be the best person to ask.
    Phew, I'm tired after your sleep in my moving crate now.

  4. No worries, buddy, as long as there is something soft to land on (Lacie's butt) I am up for any experiments in the interest of science.

    Most fascinating and educational post. I will need to observe the pool tides more closely.


  5. Whew!! Our Mom won't let us climb that high and jump off - we're so glad Gail intervened.

    Lilly, Piper, Carrleigh, Ruairi and The Sweet Babes

  6. We've been dying to visit Italy -- but not necessarily literally!!!

    Your study of gravitational forces is truly inspiring -- but we were shocked to see where we fit on that chart. Just so you know, we've been getting half rations for weeks now so we may make less of a thud when we hit the ground!

    Wirey applaws applaws applaws!!!!!

    Jake and Just Harry

  7. Now I feels all educated and readys for da weekend. I is on da low side of dat graff...does dis means I can flys?

  8. Hey Bertie BUDDY... THIS is a wonderfully educational post. I LOVE this kinda stuffs. Gotta learn something new EVERY day.. and YOU make a super duper teacher!!!

  9. I think this could be a great help to Mango, Bertie! We love reading your sceintific papers & especially love that you put me next to my girl, Bella on the graph.

    Nubbin wiggles,

  10. YOu sure are a pawsome teacher.

    I am glad that I weigh so little that I just float! BOL

    woo woos, Tessa

  11. hehe. Dear Bertie, BabyRocketDog is laying on the floor rolling her eyes around to the back of her head...she thinks you are very smart, but wayyyyy too serious for her little pea brain! bol. Good post pal!!

  12. Well, Bertie, we must say that we are very pleased that Mango didn't land on all of us, though we would like to visit Italy... We also agree with your mental image of 'the font!'

    It's a good thing that Gail continues to tutor you on these lectures - at least for a while longer :-)

    -Gizmo, Ruby and Bart

  13. hey Bertie,

    BOL! That was one of the best science papers I have ever read! You are not only very smart, but incredibly witty and funny as well. I just love how your mind works.

    Too bad your mom put the kibosh on the Pisa trip, though. Sounds like it would have been a fun time! Except for the jumping off the Leaning Tower part. :->


  14. WOW< was that interesting although I was a little perplexed~~No tacos fur us before we were going to jump????? I learn so much here and sure am glad that we didnt have to jump off, Thanks Gail!! Oh, and I was put between Piper and Rauri, 2 good looking guys *wink, wink* !!


  15. Well, your graph seems to suffer from the same lack of well rounded participation as some of our political polls. What was needed was a few more Great Danes and Irish Wolfhounds participating, so Mango wouldn't stick out like a sore thumb. Mama once had a svelt male Dane who weighed 220 lbs, so we find Mango to be a very believable, normal and healthy 230 pounds of hunky mastiff. Not that it matters to your scientific demo, as you only needed Mango for the iron ball [or whatever it was] and one of the tiny dogs to act the part of the feather. No need for all of us to risk broken bones and what not, surely. But the trip to Italy [for those of us not subject to quarantine :) ] sounds like a terrific idea! Maybe we can all stay with Lucille.

    Toby made some interesting suggestions for your next scientific lecture: the laws of motion and centrifugal force. How about one area where size does matter - the force psi of a doggie bite depending on the size of the jaws & teeth? Or how about traction? Inertia? Acceleration? We love the glimpse into the scientific world we get with you, because Lord knows mama doesn't provide any information in that area.

    Jed & Abby

  16. Bertie said"Oh, I now feel bad that I was a wee bit rude about you in my latest science lecture yesterday.....
    Have a really splendid weekend.
    Toodle pip!
    Bertie. "

    You were more than just a wee bit rude, Bertie, and it seems to me it wouldn't hurt you to THINK before you write. Ever considered that?


  17. Oh my head hurts!! not from falling from the Tower but taking this all in!! how come you are soo brainy it must be in the jeans!
    I do sort of know what you mean.
    I'm dying to hear your dog mouth/black hole equivalence, I say what goes in must come out lol!!!
    except for mom she seams to turn what ever goes it her mouth into fat!
    Heck she coming got to go
    Have a good week
    See Yea George xxx

  18. Gosh Bertie, what school did you go to??? I've never ever heard of half of these things in my 5 1/2 years of existence! You must be some kind of genius or something.

  19. All I can say is Winnie lied about her weight..


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  21. I've had an airecut would that make a difference Bertie?


  22. Most interesting Bertie. Printing off a copy for my bedtime reading.


  23. Gosh. It appears that we've been banned from the computer for so long that we missed the virtual (thought) trip to Pisa. And this whole time Fergi was proud that she'd maintained her reported weight (despite Moma's reminders that she needed to shed a pound or two) and I practiced and practiced climbing all those stairs. Only to be flattened a few moments later by the Mango. Perhaps it's just as well that we missed it ...

    Sigh. We've missed you. Moma just doesn't get our need to stay connected to our friends.
    Jake and Fergi