Tag Archives: brainteaser

The Vatican: A Pope’s-Eye View.

Rome. Without a doubt – one of the most… significant cities in the world; 100% must-see. I’ve been to the city many times, toured the different parts of the center on foot several times, prodded, tasted, tried on, and took lots of pics of practically everything. And ‘practically everything’ of course includes St. Peter’s Square, including pics from the top of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, taken on three or four separate occasions. But this was the first time I viewed the square from this angle:

And seeing this person in the flesh – that was also a first!

Read on: Palm trees and monuments…

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Three Gorgeous Gorges of Energy.

Let’s continue the electricity theme…

Actually, more specifically, in this post it’s a hydroelectric theme; more specifically about a hydroelectric power station; more specifically – the largest hydroelectric power plant in the world. It’s so gigantic you can stare at it for hours, hypnotized: massive majestic concrete walls, vast open spaces… extraordinary in the extreme. And the best bit is the flowing water – which acts as a magnet for the attention of Homo Sapiens.

It’s called the Three Gorges Dam. It’s around 30km from the city of Yichang, and around 300km – or 2½ hours on a train – to the west of Wuhan.

A dam more than two kilometers (2300m!) long, 180 meters high, with a width of the dam wall at the top of 50 meters, and at the base – 120m (as we were told by the girl who was our excursion guide for the afternoon). I mean – just how much concrete was needed for all that?! Oh my gorges.

Read on: More crazy numbers…

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Ready? Rant begins – NOW!…

After the Chinese Rail Non-Fail the day before, I could not berliiieeeeeeeve the total fail in a Chinese airport the next day. And not just any old Chinese airport, but the main international airport of China’s capital, no less! The fail was an Internet fail, folks. And the fail was catastrophically, categorically total.

Now, the airport’s immense, beautiful, and just super all round (despite the inevitable Chinese petty tortures/mess-ups), with all its stores, escalators, fountains, sculptures… everything done contemporarily, tastefully and expensively. Everything great except for one thing: no proper Internet! Even mobile Internet ain’t happening, even with a foreign SIM, i.e., with a foreign (not Chinese) number, which doesn’t fall under the Great (Fire)Wall of China. I mean, there is some signal but it’s so weak you might as well not bother.

And I wanted to connect to my blog to write a few ‘on the road’ notes as I like to do, or some ruminations on matters of great importance, plus upload some photos as I like to do, but no – it wasn’t to be. What’s the Chinese for ‘Where’s the Internet, dammit?!’ Please let me know someone. I’ll have it printed on a t-shirt and wear it next time I’m there.

And the ruminations on matters of great importance this week were as follows:

Let’s talk about something that’s so essential to everything that, well, everything – or at least a great many things – wouldn’t exist or be possible. Something so vital that without it life would lose much of its meaning and would become unbearably dull and sad. Something that forms the basis of almost all our modern activities, without which all noble intentions, the reaching of worthy goals, and the securing of a reasonable amount of happiness of various calibers – everything! – would not be possible.

You guessed it yet?

Yep: electricity! What did you think I meant? (Answers > the comments; and keep it clean!)

Just imagine for one minute what would happen if all of a sudden there’d be no more electrical current coming through the sockets – forever! I mean, really: no more, finito, kaput, for ever more!

It would be bad, of course. Real bad. But it wouldn’t be apocalyptic, quite. Life would go on; only – by candlelight and be horse-drawn and with sails!


What’s the name of that sci-fi flick where unfriendly invisible aliens that live on electricity land on earth? Who then consume all the electrons in all the cables and even in natural phenomena like thunderstorms? Where at the end the protagonist, by the light of a candle, bemoans how the thunder’s pealing and the rain’s pouring down but there’s no lightning, and probably never will be?

Update/PS: Further to my emotional rant regarding Beijing’s main airport, a few pics for your viewing pleasure (I finally reached a country that provides good Internet; imagine?! So radically technologically progressive!!).

And here’s pic I took from the plane: morning dead calm, and a column of smoke (or steam) rising up from the middle of a cloud.

That’s all for today folks; back tomorrow…

Greenland, pt. 2 – Airports.

Kangerlussuaq. Probably the strangest international airport in the world. First off, try pronouncing it properly. Hardly slips off the tongue now does it? I had trouble with it too.

Next there’s its geographic and demographic strangeness…

Have you ever seen an international hub airport with a local population of just 500 folks? Not 500,000 – 500! Well, now I have :).

And have you ever seen an airport where for domestic flights there are no security checks whatsoever?! In you stroll, you check in, hand over your luggage, and then you can go walkabout – wherever, including back outside the airport! When your plane’s due you walk to it from wherever you are with no security hassle. A dream!

Ok. Here’s the answer to question No. 2:

Greenland is a very rocky country, and a very glacial one. So building an airport – where you need a good stretch of flat land for the runway itself plus no rockiness in the near vicinity to get in the way of airplanes’ coming in to land and taking off – is no easy task. They did find one spot however that was deemed suitable – Kangerlussuaq: a freak bit of flat bedrock sufficiently far away from the nearest cliffs. The only problem: the runway is a mere 2.8km long!

Read on: Nuuk and Ilulissat

Welcome to Greenland!

By some quirk of fate I often fly across the North Atlantic. Europe-America-Europe; sometimes Asia-America-Europe; sometimes other, more exotic combinations. Example: sometimes I get to fly over Greenland. Sometimes this is at night – so nothing to report there. Other times it’s by day, but the weather’s typically polar and the visibility’s poor. But just sometimes, very occasionally, I get lucky: jetting over Greenland when it’s sunny and panoramic…

One such time for example was in July 2012: Crazy trip, crazy plane, crazy nice weather.


Fast forward to July 2016, and it’s crazy nice weather again up over the big green white land. But this time I wasn’t just flying over, I was to land and then stay a few days. Hurray!

Read on: inside, deeper, more and more …

S. America to S.E. Asia Air-Route Question.

Getting from Cancun in Mexico to Sanya in China, will never be one of the simplest routes – even given the most favorable of weather conditions. All the same, it will never be one of the longest. Still, that route does belong to the category of the ‘trickiest air routes in the world’, i.e., between South America and Southeast Asia (flying in either direction) : the distances are always big, and the air routes are rarely straightforward.

For example, flying from Hong Kong, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur to Santiago or Buenos Aires will always be an avia-endurance test both in terms of total journey time and the number of connections. I say always, since all available routes – all four of them – all take approximately the same number of hours to complete.

My question:

What are these four (very different) ways of flying (on a commercial flight) from Southeast Asia to South America? (incidentally, one of them I’ve yet to fly myself). Let’s say, from Hong Kong to Santiago and from Hong Kong to Buenos Aires?

World MapSource

Read on: … and the answer is…

Three questions for physicists.

I did a fair bit of walking in Tanzania on our Kilimanjaro expedition – a whole week’s worth, in fact. That meant I had plenty of time – besides chatting to my companions – to ponder, contemplate and reflect – on all kinds of stuff.

I never once thought about business, but then, not thinking about business was one of the chief aims of the trip. So, naturally, my mind turned to non-work stuff, like life and eternity, nature, man, the universe – and man’s insignificance in it. The latter was reflected upon mostly at night, when I’d look up to the extraordinarily brightly twinkling stars – so much more vivid for being up a mountain; much better than how they look down near sea level.

Like I say – lots of walking time = lots of chatting time, including long chats… with oneself! All sorts of different thoughts arose in my little gray cells, including, for example, the following:

The moon gets three centimeters a year further away from Earth (that’s a scientific fact). At some point Earth will eventually lose its ‘gravitational interest’ in the moon, which will then become one more satellite of the sun. It’s possible that the trajectories of the moon and Earth will intersect again at some distant point in the future, and the moon will again become a satellite of Earth. Or maybe it will collide with Earth? It’s difficult to calculate… but my specific questions (related to this) are easier…

Question No. 1

This will happen earlier than when the sun becomes a much huger, redder and hotter giant than it is now and swallows up the planets near it (Mercury, Venus and Earth) or later? What will happen soonest: the moon will return to Earth, or the sun will eat up this question?

Read on: Questions 2, 2.1 and 3 …

Christmas dinner… in a museum.

Eeeh, modern art museums. Gotta love it.

Not that I’m a mega-fan of modern kunst; it’s not as if I plan visits to progressive museums specially. But when I do happen by one in this or that metropolis of the continent I’m currently visiting, and it looks sufficiently mad-hatter – I’m in there like a shot.



I’ve been to quite a few avant-garde exhibitions in my time, to some repeatedly, and I’m always equal parts impressed… and flummoxed! For I’m no discerning connoisseur. In fact, I sometimes wonder – is anyone? Maybe it’s all pretend – like I sometimes think it might be with, say, expensive wines and whiskies. I mean how on earth can anyone genuinely, truly appreciate a black smudge applied to a canvas with a human thigh covered in charcoal? Come on, you modern-kunsters – let me in on the secret!

Read on: Earth – round or flat? Or hollow?…

Buddha and the ocean.

If you enter ‘Buddha and’ into Google, guess which five suggestions Google finishes the sentence with…:

Buddha and bonsai

Buddha and ahsok

Buddha and cats

Buddha and mara story

Buddha and the quantum


Curious, I admit. But my topic today is also curious: Buddha and… the ocean!

Never saw a connection, right? Well, did you see one between Buddha… and cats? :)

Anyway, I’ll save the Buddha-and-the-ocean connection until the end of this post (it’s a brainteasing riddle – well worth the wait). First off – text and pics by way of introduction…

In the city of Leshan there’s a giant Buddha statue, by coincidence called the Leshan Giant Buddha, which peers down on the river Min gushing past it. It’s been there for more than a thousand years. That’s a lot of river water that’s flowed past it…



Read on: All mindful and meditated? Ok. The question…