Sunday 27 August 2017

Numbers! (LGD -259 Days)
Sunday 27 August 2017, 104 Miles

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With the recent fine weather today seemed like a good opportunity to knock out another century. I've already ridden over 400 miles this week so I was looking forward to crossing the 500-mile threshold. The other goal for me is that I have discovered something called the Eddington Index. Let me explain.

Sir Arthur Eddington (1882-1944) was a distinguished astronomer, physicist and mathematician. Much of his work was focussed on explaining Einstein’s theory of relativity. He also developed the Eddington number. He used a mathematical analysis of the dimensionless ratios of fundamental constants. This combined several fundamental constants to produce a dimensionless number. Still with me? No. Well, I’ll let you into a little secret. I’m not still with me either! In the unlikely event that I’ve whetted your appetite to get deeper into understanding this kind of stuff then I recommend that you shell out £7.99 (not a dimensionless number) and buy the Ladybird Book of Quantum Mechanics. I’ve read it and I’m none the wiser. Jim Al-Khalili who wrote it, says that even he doesn’t understand some of the stuff he’s written about. I guess that’s just how it is. What I have worked out is that if one day quantum physics is fully understood and given a practical application then its impact is likely to be similar to that when humans discovered how to use fire to support life.

Anyway, this blog is meant to be an account of my riding adventures so I better get back to the point – the Eddington Index. You see, in addition to being a scientist working beyond the cutting edge, Sir Arthur Eddington was also a keen cyclist and he devised the means to measure long-distance riding. Briefly, the Eddington Index is defined as the maximum number E such that a cyclist has ridden E miles on E days. In plain English, an Eddington Index of 60 means that a cyclist has ridden at least 60 miles in one day on 60 occasions. Similarly, riding at least 72 miles on at least 72 days gives an Eddington Index of 72.

My Eddington Index currently stands at 101 and I need to ride another two rides of at least 102 miles to raise it to 102. To give you a feel for how progressively harder it gets a sample of my numbers are:

Eddington            Number of Additional
Index                        Rides Required

103                                     29
104                                     40
105                                     55
110                                     84
120                                   112
150                                   148

I’ve worked out that as I usually aim to do one big ride a year I’ll be 208 years old before I achieve an Eddington Index of 150! Cycling in the afterlife – now that’s something to ponder when I want a break from quantum physics. Here endeth the lesson for today.

Today’s ride took me west out to Ely and then north to Denver before I turned east to head over to Watton and then south on the last leg home. The early part of the ride was under hazy cloud but by the time I reached Ely the sun had done its stuff and I was enjoying blue skies and a light breeze as the temperature gradually rose. I was feeling quite soporific in the sun so I decided to take it easy, enjoy the sights, sounds and smells that I passed and forget about average speed, cadence and heart rate. In other words, a lovely long bimble. The Infinito which I was riding seemed quite happy with this too.

The ride parallel to the River Great Ouse was pure pleasure. On one side I could see fields where the harvest was coming to an end and already the farmers were ploughing the soil for their next crop. This is some of the most valuable and most productive land in the country so they can’t afford to let it lie idle for too long. The golden browns of harvested grain fields contrasted with the rich greens of the sugar beet crops which will soon be harvested themselves. My heart sank slightly at the thought of this as it inevitably means muddy roads, and increased puncture risks ahead. On the other side I watched a succession of boats of varying sizes chugging along the river. As this was a bank holiday weekend the amateur navy were out in force. Denver Sluice was heaving with people and the Jenyns Arms was doing a roaring trade.

From Denver I left the flat fenlands behind me and rode on into the gently rolling countryside of south west Norfolk. I stopped briefly in Oxburgh which is best known for its Hall, now owned by the National Trust. It was incredibly busy – all the car parks were full to capacity so I decided not to linger but did have a quick peek at the St. John’s Church. The church is noted for its two elegant terracotta tombs. Its other striking feature is the result of the tower and spire collapsing in 1948 and destroying the south side of the nave. This was apparently due to a combination of the weight of the bells and some high winds. The remaining arched north wall is quite impressive though.

Leaving Oxburgh it was an easy ride back home through Breckland. This is a part of East Anglia that I really enjoy riding in. The combination of gently undulating terrain, heathland and farmed fields framed by Scots Pine hedgerows under blue skies and warm sun is stunning. With temperatures now in the mid-twenties there was the smell of resin and pine oil in the air which just added to the delight of the ride.

What a great day! My average speed (15.3 mph) was quite slow, even by my standards. But I now need only one more ride of 102 miles to raise my Eddington Index to …. Can you guess the number?


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