Sunday, September 30, 2012

Photographs 2012, Part 1


Continuing Readers’ Week . . .

Today’s item is from Byter Leo, a series of photographs from around the globe in 2012. Because of the large number of photographs, they will be posted in parts over the next few weeks. Thanks, Leo.


Leo's email:

With half of 2012 in the books let’s look back on some of the most amazing photos to come from this period.

A seahorse inspects a diver's watch:

An illuminated snow tunnel in Russia:

Everybody was kung fu fighting:

The honeybee’s first & final sting:

Street artist Sainer goes big in Poland:

Mount Rainier casting a shadow on clouds:

First contact:

The Irish Sky Garden crater:

Moon bridge in Dahu Park, Taipei:

Flight of the devil rays:

Gásadalur Village in the Faroe Islands:


B-17 "All American"


This post marks the beginning of another Readers’ Week, a week when the items posted will consist of contributions from Byters. 

Today’s item is the story of a B-17 bomber named “All American” that made it back to base despite having suffered heavy damage. It was sent to me by Byter Nadia. Thanks, Nadia. 

(This is not the same story as that of the B-17 bomber “Charlie Brown” that returned to base with the assistance of a German fighter pilot who refused to shoot it down. That story can be read at: 

Some comments about the item, together with some additional pics, follows the article.


An artist's portrayal of the aircraft collision.

A mid-air collision on February 1, 1943 between a B-17 and a German fighter over the Tunis dock area became the subject of one of the most famous photographs of World War II. 

An enemy fighter attacking a 97th Bomb Group formation went out of control, probably with a wounded pilot, then continued its crashing descent into the rear of the fuselage of a Fortress named All American, piloted by Lt. Kendrick R. Bragg, of the 414th Bomb Squadron. 

When it struck, the fighter broke apart, but left some pieces in the B-17. The left horizontal stabilizer of the Fortress and left elevator were completely torn away. The two right engines were out and one on the left had a serious oil pump leak. The vertical fin and the rudder had been damaged, the fuselage had been cut almost completely through... connected only at two small parts of the frame and the radios, electrical and oxygen systems were damaged. There was also a hole in the top that was over 16 feet long and 4 feet wide at its widest and the split in the fuselage went all the way to the top gunner’s turret. 

There was also a hole in the top that was over 16 feet [nearly 5 metres]  long and 4 feet [1.2m] wide at its widest and the split in the fuselage went all the way to the top gunner’s turret. 

Although the tail actually bounced and swayed in the wind and twisted when the plane turned and all the control cables were severed, except one single elevator cable still worked, and the aircraft still flew... miraculously! 

The tail gunner was trapped because there was no floor connecting the tail to the rest of the plane. The waist and tail gunners used parts of the German fighter and their own parachute harnesses in an attempt to keep the tail from ripping off and the two sides of the fuselage from splitting apart. 

While the crew was trying to keep the bomber from coming apart, the pilot continued on his bomb run and released his bombs over the target. 

When the bomb bay doors were opened, the wind turbulence was so great that it blew one of the waist gunners into the broken tail section. It took several minutes and four crew members to pass him ropes from parachutes and haul him back into the forward part of the plane. When they tried to do the same for the tail gunner, the tail began flapping so hard that it began to break off. The weight of the gunner was adding some stability to the tail section, so he went back to his position. 

The turn back toward England had to be very slow to keep the tail from twisting off. They actually covered almost 70 miles to make the turn home. The bomber was so badly damaged that it was losing altitude and speed and was soon alone in the sky. For a brief time, two more Me-109 German fighters attacked the All American. Despite the extensive damage, all of the machine gunners were able to respond to these attacks and soon drove off the fighters. The two waist gunners stood up with their heads sticking out through the hole in the top of the fuselage to aim and fire their machine guns. The tail gunner had to shoot in short bursts because the recoil was actually causing the plane to turn. 

Allied P-51 fighters intercepted the All American as it crossed over the Channel and took one of the pictures shown. They also radioed to the base describing that the empennage was “waving like a fish tail” and that the plane would not make it and to send out boats to rescue the crew when they bailed out. The fighters stayed with the Fortress taking hand signals from Lt. Bragg and relaying them to the base. Lt. Bragg signalled that 5 parachutes and the spare had been "used" so five of the crew could not bail out. He made the decision that if they could not bail out safely, then he would stay with the plane and land it. 

Two and a half hours after being hit, the aircraft made its final turn to line up with the runway while it was still over 40 miles away. It descended into an emergency landing and a normal roll-out on its landing gear. 

When the ambulance pulled alongside, it was waved off because not a single member of the crew had been injured. No one could believe that the aircraft could still fly in such a condition. The Fortress sat placidly until the crew all exited through the door in the fuselage and the tail gunner had climbed down a ladder, at which time the entire rear section of the aircraft collapsed onto the ground. The rugged old bird had done its job. 


There has been comment on some websites that although the story is basically true, there are also errors and there have been embellishments that make the story more amazing and sentimental. One example is that the whole rear section of the plane did not collapse after the last crew members exited, rather only the rear landing wheel collapsed. 

The following is a comment by the nephew of the plane’s bombardier at a forum discussion at: 
His comments are dated 2 September 2012. 

Hello, joining this forum this evening to set the record straight on a couple of details... this is my uncle's plane, Ralph Burbridge was the bombardier... and he's still alive at the age of 92. 

This particular version of the story is found in several places on the internet and has some problems that some of you have already identified. I thank you for setting the record straight. 

The 97th BG was based near Tunis. After they dropped their bombs the mid-air collision occurred. The group formed up around the All American and that's how we have this great picture of her after the pilot Ken Bragg got her under control after the collision. After it was determined that Ken could control the plane with just engine speed and wing surface controls the formation returned to base in North Africa... not England. The All American came home much later to a grateful ground crew. 

Several official pictures of her are available at the Fold3 website and you can see that the tail section never did 'fall off' or crumple after the crew got off. 

I'm attempting to contact relatives of the crew to gather their versions of this great story and will do what I can to correct the errors where I find them. I currently have the pilot, navigator and bombardier's stories and I'm working on getting the radio operator, tail gunner and ball turret gunner's stories now. 

My uncle was the past president of the 97th BG reunion association many years ago and I'm trying to find out where those records went to. If anyone has any ideas on this please let me know. 

As a side bar to this story... the 414th flies today! The 414th was reactivated November 2011 and they contacted me earlier this year. Recently Ralph was presented a US flag flown in his honor in Turkey along with a citation thanking him for his service by the 414th. They still use the same insignia (bearcat on the damaged tail section praying) inspired by the All American almost 60 years ago. Made the old man's day! 

An interview with Ralph Burbridge can be read at:
That interview includes a detailed account of the amazing flight of the "All American" B-17.

Ralph Burbridge of Des Moines, a B-17 bombardier in World War II, holds the encased flag that the 414th Squadron, which he flew with, raised in his honor earlier this year (2012) above their base in Turkey. He is also holding a note of appreciation from the squadron for his wartime service.

The recently reactivated 414th still uses the squadron’s famous patch logo from World War II.


Lt. Kendrick "Sonny" Bragg, the pilot of the damaged bomber “All American”, survived the war and subsequently graduated from Princeton University with a degree in architecture. He worked in New Jersey, Puerto Rico and then moved to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, where he practiced architecture for 30 years. Lt Bragg died in 1999 aged 81. 


Some further pics: 


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Schrodinger's Cat


Whilst looking up something in the Bytes archives from the days when it was an email sent to a small number of persons, I came across an item that had not been later reposted on the blog. Here it is . . . 


Ever noticed that when you hear about something, see something, read something, you suddenly experience numerous examples. For instance, if I were to tell you a joke about a one-armed, Albanian dwarf, it’s guaranteed that in the next couple of days you will meet a one-armed Albanian dwarf, read about them, see one on the street… You may never again in your life meet another, but that joke will bring them to you like a magnet. 

Jung called it synchronicity, the experience of two or more events that are causally unrelated occurring together in a meaningful manner, more than just by chance. He said that there is no such thing as coincidence in our universe. Hamlet nailed it: “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” 

My synchronous item is not about Albanian dwarves but about a cat, Schrodinger’s cat, to be precise. 

I had come across Herr Schrodinger’s feline some time back but it was all too dull and complicated so I didn’t bother reading further or trying to understand what it was about. 

Recently my 15 year old asked, as we were driving to school, “What is Schrodinger’s Cat?” I asked why he had asked and he said that he had just seen someone wearing a T shirt with the message “Schrodinger’s cat is dead.” 

I looked it up that night and explained it to him. 

Then, a day later, Column 8 in the Sydney Morning Herald began a series of daily comments on Schrodinger’s cat eg: 

21 August: 
''As a PhD student in the field of neuroscience, I have a keen interest in experimental design, and your question about whether the 'Door close' buttons in lifts make any difference intrigued me,'' writes Deborah Apthorp, of Highbury, London (Column 8, yesterday). She suggests ''a simple experiment'' involving two researchers, in two identical lifts, with stopwatches, one pushing the button and the other not, with all manner of precautions to ensure accuracy. But would we really know, even then? Schroedinger's cat springs to mind. The very act of measurement may render the data meaningless in a sealed box. This is getting very deep - from quantum leap to quantum lift, we fear. 

25 August: 
''You need to stop misapplying random scientific terms in a feeble attempt to prolong discussion on a pointless topic,'' Joel Alexander, of Kensington advises us. We would normally ignore such advice, but we did confuse Schroedinger's Cat with Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle on Friday, which is, we must admit, inexcusable. 

27 August: 
Ah, vindication! ''Having studied university physics, I am familiar with (though it's now a distant memory) Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle,'' writes Greg Rutter of Mena Creek. ''Until Friday, however, I had not heard of Schroedinger's Cat. Thanks to Column 8, an inquisitive mind and the wonders of search engines, I am now familiar with this wondrous though slightly gruesome 'thought experiment'. Consider this a 'de-chastisement' to counter the serve delivered to you by Joel Alexander on Tuesday. Continue, to 'prolong discussion' as much as you please.'' 

So what is all this about Dr Schrodinger’s cat? 


Schrodinger and his feline: 

Schrodinger’s Cat is a thought experiment devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrodinger in 1935 to illustrate a problem with a then current interpretation (called the Copenhagen interpretation) of quantum mechanics applied to everyday objects. 

Quantum mechanics is a set of principles describing physical reality at the atomic level of matter (molecules and atoms) and the subatomic (electrons, protons and even smaller particles). 

In quantum mechanics there is a concept called quantum superposition, which is a combination of all the possible states of a system. The Copenhagen interpretation held that the superposition underwent collapse into a definite state only at the exact moment of quantum measurement. 

To counter such interpretation, Schrodinger proposed the following experiment: 

A cat, along with a flask containing a poison, is placed in a sealed box shielded against external environmental factors. If an internal Geiger counter detects radiation, the flask is shattered, releasing the poison that kills the cat. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics implies that after a while, the cat is simultaneously alive and dead.. Yet, when we look in the box, we see the cat either alive or dead, not a mixture of alive and dead. 


Here's Schrödinger's (theoretical) experiment: We place a living cat into a steel chamber, along with a device containing a vial of hydrocyanic acid. There is, in the chamber, a very small amount of a radioactive substance. If even a single atom of the substance decays during the test period, a relay mechanism will trip a hammer, which will, in turn, break the vial and kill the cat. 

The observer cannot know whether or not an atom of the substance has decayed, and consequently, cannot know whether the vial has been broken, the hydrocyanic acid released, and the cat killed. Since we cannot know, the cat is both dead and alive according to quantum law, in a superposition of states. It is only when we break open the box and learn the condition of the cat that the superposition is lost, and the cat becomes one or the other (dead or alive). This situation is sometimes called quantum indeterminacy or the observer's paradox : the observation or measurement itself affects an outcome, so that the outcome as such does not exist unless the measurement is made. (That is, there is no single outcome unless it is observed.) 

A video commentary and explanation is at:


Geek Humour: 

You know that ad where a chap is in a room with boards from floor to ceiling on all the walls, covered with maths equations and calculations, and he changes one small figure on one of the boards. Another person comes in, sits down and starts work at the board, then sees the change and says in an annoyed tone “Oh, very funny”. 

Well, it’s true, geeks definitely do have senses of humour different from us normal people, as illustrated by their humour using Schrodinger’s Cat. Geek humour is much more subtle than Mrs Slocum’s cat, such as her calling out “Has anyone seen my pussy?” Witness the following: 


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Funny Friday


Recently I had to attend a function with my son, Thomas, and I wanted to aim att getting there a bit early.  I always figure that if you aim to be early, then you have a safety margin if you are delayed in any way.  Thomas doesn't see it that way, however, and said “Why do you want to go that early?”  My response to that question is always: “You don’t want to get an ugly one, do you?”

That is part of an old joke, which is posted below.  Some others in the same vein or locale follow.


A young army sergeant was posted to the deserts of Arabia by the French Foreign Legion. After a few days he became restless and asked his officer what form of entertainment took place in the camp -- where were all the women and bars and so forth.

The officer replied, "Just be patient and wait until the camels arrive."

So the young sergeant waited patiently for several days more and inquired again and the officer replied, "For heaven's sake, just wait until the camels arrive."

The next night there was an almighty rush, all the soldiers came running out of their tents yelling and screaming.

The young sergeant grabbed the officer and asked, "What is going on?"

"The camels are coming!" replied the officer.

"But why the great rush?"

"Well you don't want to get an ugly one, do you?"


A new lieutenant in the French Foreign Legion arrives at an isolated base in Algeria. As a corporal shows him quarters, he asks the corporal, "The base is rather isolated, what do the men do for female companionship?" The corporal replies, "On Fridays, they let us use the camels." The lieutenant is disgusted, but says nothing. After a few weeks, however, the new officer is very lonely. He decides that if everyone else is doing it, why shouldn't he. The next Friday the young lieutenant slinks over to the camel pens and, after looking around, drops his pants and starts humping a female camel. The camel is not amused and makes a huge uproar. The same corporal comes in to investigate. "Lieutenant! What are you doing?" "Come on man," replied the embarrassed officer, "You yourself told me we could use the camels on Fridays." "Yes sir," replied the corporal. "But we normally just use the camels to ride to the nearest brothel."


Corn Corner #1:

The French Foreign Legion have been lost in the desert for 9 days and  their water supplies have run out, when they come to the brow of a sand  dune and look down into the valley onto a small town.

Expecting it to be a mirage, the Captain, 2nd officer and the rest of the men trudge wearily down the side of the hill.  To their delight, however, the town is real and a small caravan of nomadic tribesmen has set up a market.

The Legionnaires enter the market, hoping to quench their first.  They go to the first stall and the captain says to the stall holder "We are the French Foreign Legion and we have been lost in the desert for 9 days. We must have water and will pay any price."  

The nomad simply shrugs his shoulders and says "I have no water. I have only sponge cake."

Disappointed, the Legionnaires move to the next stall and the Captain again demands "We are the French Foreign Legion and we have been lost in  the desert for 9 days. We must have water and will pay any price."  

The second stall holder simply shrugs and says "Alas, I have no water. All I have is cold custard."  

The Legionnaires decide to try the third stall and, once again, the Captain accosts the nomadic tribesman minding the stall and demands "We are  the French Foreign Legion and we have been lost in the desert for 9 days.  We must have water and will pay any price."  

The third stall holder shakes his head slowly with a frown on his face. "I have no water to sell", he says, "All I have is strawberry jelly".  

Despairing, the Legionnaires try the final stall. Again, the Captain  demands water from the stallholder and again the tribesman cannot oblige.  "Alas, my stall has only whipped cream for sale. That, and little  multi-coloured sprinkles. I have no water."  

The Legionnaires give up hope at this point and decide to set off in search  of water at an oasis or another town. As they walk back up the hill, out  of the valley and away from the market, the Captain turns to his 2nd  officer and asks "Is it just me or did you find that a little odd, Number  Two?"

To which the 2nd officer replies: "It was a trifle bazaar, sir!"


Corn Corner #2:

If a one hump camel married a two hump camel and they had a baby camel with no hump, what would they name it?



Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Night Watch

I’ve always been a sucker for a schmaltzy story and the following is no exception. I have read it before but I came across it again recently with a twist ending added. For me, at least, that took away the meaning and poignancy of the story and its simple and moving message. describes the short story as being of indeterminate origin and as having been around since the 1990’s. Here it is, without further comment and without the added ending. 


“A nurse took the tired, anxious serviceman to the bedside. “Your son is here,” she said to the old man. She had to repeat the words several times before the patient’s eyes opened. 

Heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack, he dimly saw the young uniformed Marine standing outside the oxygen tent. He reached out his hand. The Marine wrapped his toughened fingers around the old man’s limp ones, squeezing a message of love and encouragement. 

The nurse brought a chair so that the Marine could sit beside the bed. All through the night the young Marine sat there in the poorly lighted ward, holding the old man’s hand and offering him words of love and strength. Occasionally, the nurse suggested that the Marine move away and rest awhile. He refused.

Whenever the nurse came into the ward, the Marine was oblivious of her and of the night noises of the hospital – the clanking of the oxygen tank, the laughter of the night staff members exchanging greetings, the cries and moans of the other patients. Now and then she heard him say a few gentle words. The dying man said nothing, only held tightly to his son all through the night. 

Along towards dawn, the old man died. The Marine released the now lifeless hand that he had been holding and went to tell the nurse. While she did what she had to do, he waited. Finally, she returned. She started to offer words of sympathy, but the Marine interrupted her. “Who was that man?” he asked. The nurse was startled, “He was your father,” she answered. “No, he wasn’t,” the Marine replied. “I never saw him before in my life.” The nurse replied in shock. “Then why didn’t you say something when I took you to him?” The Marine said “I knew right away there had been a mistake, but I also knew he needed his son, and his son just wasn’t here. When I realised that he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son, knowing how much he needed me, I stayed.” 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Art: Shaka

Ever heard of Shaka? Not the Zulu leader from the early 1800’s but a French artist, Marchal Mothouard, who goes by the name Shaka. His art is bold, dynamic and, for some, disturbing and confronting. 

Some comments: 
  • Words that have been used to describe his art works and style: incredible, amazing, awe-inspiring, vibrant, colourful, original, stunning, shocking, geometric, striking. . . 
  • I came across Shaka’s works while looking up a reference on street art. Shaka, like Banksy, creates works that are sold (nearly all his sold works are in private collections) and public/street art. 
  • What is striking and stunning about Shaka’s works are the vibrant colours and that some of the works are three-dimensional. Arms and hands reach out of murals, faces emerge from walls, the art works seem to be coming alive. 
  • Revolt and rebellion are common themes, which is why some viewers are confronted and shocked. Discomfort is another common feeling. One commentator has described this theme as “a symbolic fight for freedom”. 
Some works:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Quotes: Golda Meir

“Let me tell you the one thing I have against Moses. He took us forty years into the desert in order to bring us to the one place in the Middle East that has no oil!” 

- Golda Meir 


Following on from Funny Friday’s Jewish humour, today’s item is a quote by Golda Meir (1898-1978), the fourth Prime Minister of Israel (1969-1974) and the first female to hold that office, being called out of retirement at age 70 to become Israel's new PM. 

Tall, austere and with her life’s hardships reflected in her face, her formidable appearance was matched by an equivalent personality that was honest, straightforward and single minded. 

Rigidly nationalistic, she was described as the “Iron Lady” of Israeli politics long before that term came to be applied to Britain’s Margaret Thatcher. Former Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion referred to her as “the best man in the government”. 

In 1972, outraged at the lack of public action in respect of the murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, she ordered the Mossad to hunt down and assassinate suspected leaders of Black September and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. 

In 1974 she resigned as Prime Minister after criticism of Israel’s lack of preparation for the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Golda Meir died in 1978 of leukemia, aged 80.

Some other Golda Meir quotes:

“Don't be so humble - you are not that great.” 
- To Israel’s Defence Minister, Moshe Dayan 

“One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present.” 

“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.” 

“Not being beautiful was the true blessing. Not being beautiful forced me to develop my inner resources. The pretty girl has a handicap to overcome. ” 

“It isn't really important to decide when you are very young just exactly what you want to become when you grow up. It is much more important to decide on the way you want to live. If you are going to be honest with yourself and honest with your friends, if you are going to get involved in causes which are good for others, not only for yourselves, then it seems to me that that is sufficient, and maybe what you will be is only a matter of chance.” 

“A story once went the rounds of Israel to the effect that Ben-Gurion described me as 'the only man' in his cabinet. What amused me about is that he (or whoever invented the story) thought that this was the greatest compliment that could be paid to a woman. I very much doubt that any man would have been flattered if I had said about him that he was the only woman in the government!”