The Schirmer Discrepancy

…sounds like something by Robert Ludlum, doesn’t it? But the Schirmer Discrepancy is just an observation I made a few years back while trying to study the vapour transmission behaviour of a plastic film.

There are two relevant documents: the American Standard, ASTM E96, and the European Standard EN ISO 12572. In these two, the permeability of air is given by:

δa = 0.083 x (po/RTp) x (T/273)1.81

δa = 2.306 x 10-5 x (po/RTp) x (T/273)1.81

Obviously, the difference between these calculations is a factor of 3599, which corresponds to transmission rates worked out in seconds and hours. But the values of R – and its units – are the same in each analysis.

Turing’s ideas: if a machine can give a convincing impersonation of the process of thinking, then it can be regarded as thinking. Turing also raised the possibility that patterns in the structure of plants and the fur of wild animals could arise from mathematical rules – algorithms. This idea suggests that there is an element of mechanical programming to the natural world; the flash of inspiration, the sweet urges of romance and the whimsical texture of jokes and magic are just conditioned responses; if a machine can ‘think’, then a thinking person is just a highly complicated machine.

Which is a deeply disturbing notion for a society which believes in divine order; it’s hardly surprising that the British establishment was so keen to rid itself of him when problems arose.

In Manchester at the weekend, the Olympic torch was passed on above the seated bronze statue of Turing on the hundredth anniversary of his birthday; the old boy might have been amused at the formal logic that governed the route of the torch and the numerous predictable arguments about the value of the sporting events. We are all just machines; Roger Bannister was genetically programmed to have speed and stamina; Myra Hindley was simply following her instructions like a wayward mercenary; the games people play are just games that play people.

Journal Entry, 16 Aug 2002:
On Monday night went to cinema to see ‘Matrix Reloaded’ which was v disappointing. Too heavily derivative of ‘2001’ and ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Aliens’ and ‘The Prisoner’ and ‘Dr Phibes Rises Again’.
And I was reminded of my time in Derby years ago, when I would wander down to the QC lab to spray panels and have a natter to Rob T and browse the Daily Mirror, which carried a feature about the new Sci-Fi movie called ‘The Matrix’.
And they had the obligatory motorbike race scene on a Ducati.

Journal Entry, 25 Nov 1991:
Last night Freddie Mercury died of bronchial pneumonia just two days after announcing that he was suffering from AIDS. The news came too late for today’s papers, some of whom printed snide editorials in which they condemned his S-and-D-and R-&-R lifestyle.
Today ‘phoned Scott-Bader and cancelled interview; I can’t get hold of £45 train fare. Still got interview lined up at Revertex, waiting to hear from CMB and Medisense.


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