Saturday, November 23, 2013

Brownist English Dissenters

By Julie Rahm

Have you already figured it out? The Brownist English Dissenters are the group we call the Pilgrims. But, did you know the Pilgrims’ first stop was not Plymouth Colony in New England? Actually, the Pilgrims first fled to the city of Leiden in the Netherlands. In Leiden, the Pilgrims enjoyed a religious tolerance almost unheard of in that day and age. Pilgrim leaders, William Bradford and Edward Winslow both wrote glowingly of their experience. In Leiden, God had allowed them, in Bradford’s estimation, “to come as near the primitive pattern of the first churches as any other church of these later times.” God had blessed them with “much peace and liberty,” Winslow echoed.

Leiden was a city of 100,000 inhabitants. However, the success of the congregation in Leiden was mixed. Leiden was a thriving industrial center and many members were well able to support themselves working at Leiden University or in the textile, printing and brewing trades. Others were less able to bring in sufficient income. Their rural backgrounds and the language barrier hampered them.

Eventually, the Pilgrims became concerned with losing their cultural identity. It was difficult to remain “English” in Holland during the early 1600s. It’s fair to say that the Pilgrims left England to find religious freedom, but that wasn’t the primary motive that propelled them to North America. If a longing for religious freedom had compelled them, they probably never would have left the Netherlands.

The Pilgrims cherished the freedom of conscience they enjoyed in Leiden, but they found it a hard place to maintain their English identity and an even harder place to make a living. In America, they hoped to live by themselves, enjoy the same degree of religious liberty and earn a “better and easier” living. And, did you know the Mayflower was not the intended ship?

In July of 1620, the Speedwell, at sixty tons (originally named Swiftsure, built in 1577 and was part in the English fleet that defeated the Spanish Armada) departed the Netherlands with the Leiden Pilgrims. Reaching Southampton, Hampshire, the Speedwell met with Mayflower and some additional colonists. With final arrangements made, the two vessels set out on August 15, 1620. Soon thereafter, the Speedwell crew reported that their ship was taking on water, so both were diverted to Dartmouth, Devon. There the Speedwell was inspected for leaks and sealed, but a second attempt to depart also failed, bringing them only so far as Plymouth, Devon. It was decided that Speedwell was untrustworthy, and it was sold. The ship's master and some of the crew transferred to the Mayflower for the trip. While observing that the Speedwell seemed "overmasted", thus putting a strain on the hull, William Bradford attributed her leaking to crewmembers that had deliberately caused it, allowing them to abandon their yearlong commitments. Passenger Robert Cushman wrote that a loose board caused the leaking.

So, this week my point in all this is that the story behind what we’re taught is often interesting! Enjoy your Thanksgiving! And, visit me on Facebook at Even if you're not on Facebook yourself, you can still enjoy my posts.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Quantum Thanksgiving

By Julie Rahm

Quantum Theory is mostly based on the concept that subatomic particles can have both wave-like and particle-like properties. This phenomenon is known as wave–particle duality. The theory is widely accepted because experiments have shown that electrons can bend around objects and can display wave shapes. Also fascinating is the fact that particles travel in probabilistic waves. Electrons always “are” where we attempt to measure them.

Quantum Theory is still incomplete and mind blowing to most of us. However, it has a direct connection to our Rahm household Thanksgiving Day dinner. In Quantum Theory, subatomic particles travel in probabilistic waves. Probabilities are a vital ingredient in all the theories. In our Rahm Thanksgiving Day dinner, probabilities also play an important role. There is a certain probability that my husband, John, will start a minor fire while deep frying the turkey. The probabilistic nature of this minor fire is confirmed by the annual presence of a big fire extinguisher positioned by the deep fryer. John will not fry anything without our big fire extinguisher. I don’t think John understands Quantum Theory. But, he has at least an acquired understanding of grease fires. And, like electrons circling an atom, John will keep everything and everybody at an appropriate circling radius by positioning the fryer in the middle of our driveway.

Early Quantum Theory was developed through extensive measurements and experimentation. Likewise, our Thanksgiving Day turkey frying requires quantum-like measurement and preparation. The frozen turkey is placed in the pot and covered with water. Then, the turkey is removed and the waterline is marked on the inside of the pot. This line will indicate the amount of oil that is required to cover the turkey and not spill into the fire, in theory!

In both Quantum Theory and turkey frying, how you do the experiment matters. It is important to get the procedures correct. For example, if the turkey is incorrectly inserted into the boiling oil feet first, its narrow neck will act like a funnel atop a boiling pot. Hot boiling oil will geyser and spew upward. And, just like light behaves in Quantum Theory there will be reflection, refraction, diffraction, and interference! Mostly it will be John yelling and running for the fire extinguisher.

Modern physicists are now trying to reconcile the well proven Quantum theories and the classical, Einstein-like description of how the universe operates. String theory has emerged as the latest attempt to bridge the gap. Essentially, String Theory hypothesizes that particles wobble around like strings. I believe in String Theory because on numerous occasions I’ve forgotten to remove the string, neck and bagged giblets from inside the turkey. Consequently, all the fixins got deep fried inside the turkey.

So, if you want to learn more about life applications of Quantum Theory you can visit me online at Lastly, I want to thank Dr. Pearlstein who taught me Quantum Theory at the University of Nebraska. Perhaps we’ll name the turkey in his honor this year!

Saturday, November 9, 2013


By Julie Rahm

The word “event” has many different definitions. Wikipedia lists several different uses of “event” with a few interesting twists. In the world of computer software, an event can be a software message indicating something has happened. A keystroke or mouse click can be an event. In Unified Modeling Language, an event is defined as a notable occurrence at a particular time. Or, an event can be a synchronization mechanism. In the world of particle physics, an event refers to the results just after a fundamental interaction took place between subatomic particles. Even further, an event can be a point in space at an instant in time. In that case, an event can be a location in spacetime! For those interested in probability theory, an event can be a set of outcomes to which a probability is assigned. If you are a philosopher, an event can be an object in time or an instantiation of a property in an object. Got all that? All this is interesting. However, in our daily lives, events that occur usually get translated into our mental psyche. Good or bad, events can be life changing, life altering or life coloring.

Life changing events are usually traumatic and inject substantial change into a person’s life. Examples include death of a loved one, disability, divorce, marriage, or high school/college graduation. For the participant, life after one of these events is changed forever. A life-altering event is generally less traumatic or severe than a life-changing event.

Life altering events can disrupt or redirect life. But, for the participant life usually goes on as before. Accidents, engagements, or promotions are some examples of life altering events.

Lastly, life-coloring events are simply those that make good stories or teach life lessons without the trauma and drama. When the Pamlico High School football team wins or loses, the result is not life changing or life altering. The setback of a loss usually serves as a setup for the next victory. Life continues to the next game and season. Here’s the twist.

Perspective is most important. Not all events are life changing. For example, with teenagers, everything seems life changing! Life for them will end without the latest fashion or cell phone. It is difficult to persuade a teenager they are not what they drive.

So my message this week is when a life-changing event happens, stop and take a breath. Use a quiet moment for some event evaluation. Ask yourself, is this event going to change, alter or simply color my life? Perhaps these categories I have imposed on you are mostly a personal choice. Don’t allow an insignificant event to become life changing. My husband’s grandfather refused to watch the Oakland Athletics play baseball on television. He was angry because they left Philadelphia in 1955. He allowed the move of his favorite baseball team to become life altering! So be different. Know what kind of event is happening around you. And, look for ways that life changes can result for your good.

Monday, November 4, 2013

SS Ile de France

By Julie Rahm

Like many of the French Line's great passenger ships, Ile de France was built by Chantiers et Ateliers Saint Nazaire. Launched in 1926, she was the sixth largest in the world. Her maiden voyage on 22 June 1927 was from Le Havre to New York by way of Plymouth. During World War II, she was used by the British and served as a troopship. Her postwar career began in October 1946 providing service from Cherbourg to New York.

On 25 July 1956, the Ile de France was eastbound and had passed the westbound Andrea Doria many hours earlier. After receiving the distress call from the sinking (see last week’s column) Andrea Doria, Captain Baron Raoul de Beaudean, demonstrating the moral courage of the finest human being, turned the Ile de France around to rescue those aboard the Andrea Doria. The decision, fraught with risk, was a major turning point in the rescue effort. The French liner had sufficient capacity to accommodate the many extra passengers, and was fully provisioned, only a day out of New York on its planned eastbound crossing. While Captain de Beaudean steamed back through the fog to the scene, his crew prepared to launch its lifeboats and receive those to be rescued.

Arriving at the scene less than three hours after the collision, as he neared, Captain de Beaudean became concerned about navigating his huge ship safely among the two wounded liners, other responding vessels, lifeboats and possibly even people in the water. Then, just as Ile de France arrived, the fog lifted, and he was able to position his ship in such a way that the starboard side of Andrea Doria was somewhat sheltered. He ordered all exterior lights of Ile de France to be turned on. The sight of the illuminated Ile de France was a great emotional relief to many participants, crew and passengers alike.

Captain de Beaudean managed to rescue most of the passengers by shuttling his ten lifeboats back and forth to Andrea Doria, and receiving lifeboat loads from those of the other ships already at the scene (as well as the starboard boats from Andrea Doria). Some passengers on Ile de France gave up their cabins to be used by the wet and tired survivors. Many other acts of kindness were reported by grateful survivors.

Two years later the Ile de France was laid up and then sold for scrap to Japan. Renamed Furanzu Maru for the journey to Japan, she became a movie star under the name Claridon in the movie "The Last Voyage". Once filming was completed, she was taken to Osaka and scrapped in 1959.

So, this week, Captain Baron Raoul de Beaudean serves as the metaphor for answering the call for help. He assumed great risk by turning Ile de France around in the fog and racing back to help. When faced with a similar choice, I hope we all have enough courage and accept the risk to help others.

Baron Raoul de Beaudean

By Julie Rahm

My column last week has generated some discussion about the Andrea Doria. So, as requested by many in our nautical community, here is the first half of the rest of the story.

The Italian ship Andrea Doria was a luxury liner. On 25 July 1956, while approaching the coast of Massachusetts, the eastbound freighter Stockholm collided with the Andrea Doria. Struck in the side, the top-heavy Andrea Doria immediately started to list to starboard, which left half of its lifeboats unusable. The shortage of lifeboats might have resulted in significant loss of life, but the efficiency of the ship's technical design allowed it to stay afloat for over 11 hours after the ramming. The professionalism of the crew, improvements in communications and the rapid response of other ships averted a Titanic-like disaster. 1,660 passengers and crew were rescued and survived. The evacuated luxury liner capsized and sank the following morning. This accident remains the worst maritime disaster in United States waters. So, here’s the short list of what went wrong.

The Andrea Doria crew had not followed proper radar procedures by using the plotting equipment available to calculate the position and speed of the Stockholm. The Andrea Doria crew failed to realize Stockholm's size, speed, and course.

The Andrea Doria crew did not follow the rules and turn right (to starboard) in case of a possible head-on crossing at sea. As Stockholm turned right, Andrea Doria turned left (to port), closing the circle instead of opening it. Beyond a certain point, it became impossible to avoid a collision. The Andrea Doria was speeding in heavy fog, an admittedly common practice on passenger liners.

The Stockholm and Andrea Doria were experiencing different weather conditions immediately prior to the collision. Although the Andrea Doria had been engulfed in the fog for several hours, Stockholm had only recently entered the bank and her crew was still acclimating to atmospheric conditions. The officer in charge of Stockholm incorrectly assumed that his inability to see the other vessel was due to conditions other than fog, such as the other ship being a very small fishing vessel or a blacked-out warship on maneuvers. He testified that he had no idea it was another passenger liner speeding through fog.

The Andrea Doria's fuel tanks were half empty and not pumped with seawater ballast in order to stabilize the ship, in accordance with the Italian Line's procedures. This contributed to the pronounced list following the collision. There was also perhaps a "missing" watertight door between bulkheads near the engine room, which was thought to have contributed to Andrea Doria's flooding.

The Stockholm's navigating officer misread his radar thinking he was on a 15-mile setting when in reality the radar was set for five miles. He thought he was farther from the Andrea Doria than was so. He also failed to consult his captain as was required by regulation… Unfortunately, I have reached 500 words. Read about the actions of Baron Raoul de Beaudean next week!
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