NorthEastern Population by Age, 2011


How many people there are, by age, in each of the mutually exclusive regions labeled GHD (Gateshead), NCL (Newcastle upon Tyne), NT (North Tyneside), ST (South Tyneside) and SU (Sunderland).

Spiky, innit?

Figures from an excel spreadsheet freely downloadable from a page at the ONS 2011 Census results.


Carry the One


The Calculating Machine

This one’s from December 1, 1905, page 548 of The Engineer. The article begins:

A Wages Calculating Machine

We have recently had brought to our notice a new calculating machine designed and constructed by Messrs. John Davis and Son, of All Saints’ Works, Derby, which embodies several interesting features. The design is free from small and intricate pieces of mechanism which are generally a prolific source of trouble.

I’ll say.

Babbage Dies

Charles Babbage, from 26 December 1791 to 18 October 1871. From The Graphic, volume 4, page 496.


Don’t know about you, but he reminds me of Ian Holm. Or perhaps an elderly Colin Firth


The magazine The Engineer, on 21 January 1881, published an article describing Alexander Graham Bell’s photophone. Here’s a picture of it.


Looks so simple. As indeed it was. There’s some text which goes with it but I’ve only cobbled together three columns of it. The above illustration is Figure 1 therein. See if you can spot the typo (hint – it’s a mis-spelled adjective).


And here’s the beginning of that text in machine-readablese (complete with aforementioned typo) so that search engines can pick it up.

During a recent visit to Paris, Professor Graham Bell favoured La Nature with an extended account of the investigations and discoveries which led to and resulted from his late remarkable invention, the photophone. He also supplied our scientific contemporary with details not previously made public, together with drawings of his apparatus an experiments, the engravings of which we here reproduce, with a translation of the account given by La Nature.

Our readers are already aware that the object of the photophone is the transmission of sounds both musical and vocal to a distance by the agency of a beam of light of varying intensity; and that the first successful attempts made Professor Bell and his co-labourer, Mr. Sumner Tainter, were based upon the known property of the element selenium, the electric resistance of which varies with the degree of illumination to which it is exposed. Hence, given a transmitting instrument, such as a fiexible mirror, by which the vibrations of a sound could throw into vibration a beam of light, a receiver, consisting of sensitive selenium, forming part of an electric circuit with a battery and a telephone, should suffice to translate the varying intensities of light into corresponding varying intensities of electric current, and finally into vibrations of the telephone disc audible once more as sound. This fundamental conception dates from 1878, when in lecturing before the Royal Institution, Professor Bell announced the possibility of hearing a shadow fall upon a piece of selenium included in a telephone circuit. The photophone, however, outgrew the particular electrical combination at suggested it; for not the least of the remarkable points in this research is the discovery that audible vibrations are set up in thin discs of almost every kind of material by merely throwing upon them an intermittent light. With the photophone as with the telephone, there are instruments of different degrees of perfection. The original telephone of Philip Reis could only transmit musical tones, because it worked by rapid abrupt interruptions of the electric current; while the articulating telephone of Graham Bell was able to transmit speech, since by its essential construction it was able to send undulating currents to the distant receiving station.

There now follows one of those glorious Victorian Etchings of a gentleman inventor:


Which is figure 5 (as referred to in the text). Figure 6 brings in the second half of the double act:


The staff writers at the magazine are by no means being over-familiar with their subjects – Graham and Sumner are of course the middle names, not the first names, of the two gentlemen in question.

Roaring Zebra, Braying Lion

Last century I occasionally worked with Philips, entailing a fair few trips to Hamburg. We’d stay at the Reichshof Hotel.

This hotel was – I imagine still is – one of those hotels with atmosphere; an always busy lobby where you’d half expect to bump into Woollcott or Hemingway or Parker. I meant Dorothy there, but Lady P’s chauffeur wouldn’t be out of place. If you allow the dead, it seems churlish to forbid the marionette. You also got a good breakfast there. Not being far from the Hauptbahnhof Sud made it handy for the metro to Hagenbecks Tierpark. Whence a short walk past said zoo to the research labs in Vogt-Köln-Straße would finish the trip.

So what? I just stumbled across a feature article about that very zoo whilst leafing through The Graphic of 1911. That’s the only reason for this Proustian Madelainity. They were holding some kind of a dinosaur exhibition. Pictures and text from the period follow:

Stegosaurus : A Reptile the Size of an Elephant – in Hagenbeck’s Park

This monster, from the Jurassic strata of Colorado and Wyoming, is notable for the double row of huge bony plates running along its back. The top of the highest plate was eleven feet from the ground. It flourished in the same region and period as the Diplodocus.


A Pre-Historic Zoo : Models of Extinct Reptiles in Hagenbeck’s Park at Hamburg

In the background on the left is the Diplodocus, and to the right of it are two specimens of the three-horned Dinosaur Triceratops. In front on the left is the Naosaurus, a carnivorous lizard from the Permian of Texas, and on the right is an Ichthyosaur, the shark of the Mesozoic period.



Something odd going on at the UK’s department of education. They’re tweeting like crazy (perhaps I exaggerate), insisting that creationism cannot be taught as science in ‘free’ schools.

Free schools – or free-range schools if you prefer to think of education as a jolly romp through open cornfields under blue skies rather than the spike-fenced iron-trammelled roads of statist indoctrination – are largely (but by no means exclusively) religious, private, often quite expensive.

They’re saying that this is because it’s not allowed in state schools, and this is how they’re saying it:

@educationgovuk: Let’s be clear about creationism in free schools. No state-funded school is allowed to use science lessons to teach creationism as fact

I suppose warning bells should be ringing here. Advertised as a statement about creationism in free schools, the tweet veers into the arena of state schools. OK, perhaps a little careless. Let’s try another.

@educationgovuk: It is absolutely not true that free schools will be able to teach creationism as scientific fact. No state school can.

A pretty authoritative statement there. No beating about the bush. Clarity! Good for them. The link will doubtless connect what happens in state schools with what happens in free ones.

The trouble is that it doesn’t. The jobbie in the above – a FAQ (not even an official policy document) – says, with regard to creationism:

[Q] Are Free Schools permitted to teach creationism/intelligent design and obliged to teach evolution?
[A] We would expect to see evolution and its foundation topics fully included in any science curriculum. We do not expect creationism, intelligent design and similar ideas to be taught as valid scientific theories in any state funded school.

So, basically, two questions there to which the answers are, respectively, yes and no.

As anyone can see, the reference they cite is somewhat woolly with regard to what is and what is not permitted as state education. It doesn’t at all prevent C/ID being taught as valid scientific theories in state schools. And it doesn’t force evolution on the poor little tykes coralled into those ungodly science classes either. The DoE just expect things to work out.

So their tweet ‘no state school can‘ isn’t backed up by their reference. Nor is there any hint that what happens in state schools can, in any case, dictate the free school agenda.

But wait – maybe we’ve just got the authority in this scenario all wrong. Maybe the FAQ on the Department of Education’s website isn’t the de facto authority. Is the Tweet Division the real power in the DoE?

I suppose it’s possible that what they tweet overrides anything they write in traditional documents. But perhaps they should make that clear to the world at large.

Past Blast


The demise, in 2011, of the arcane retail experience that was the Aitken Bros Electronics store, located in High Bridge, Newcastle upon Tyne is a bit sad. Although it had turned into a disco equipment shop (round about the time that Maplin opened in town?), to see it replaced by yet another here-today gone-tomorrow fashion t-shirt shop is a little depressing. Its passing seems to be relatively unmarked on the tubes. Unable to find a photo, I post some other piece of the past found on a related forum.