This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Spot the frippet: shed.

James Clerk Maxwell (13 June 1831 – 5 November 1879) was a Scottish physicist and mathematician. His most prominent achievement was formulating classical electromagnetic theory. This unites all previously unrelated observations, experiments, and equations of electricity, magnetism, and optics into a consistent theory. Maxwell's equations demonstrate that electricity, magnetism and light are all manifestations of the same phenomenon, namely the electromagnetic field. 
The physicist James Clerk Maxwell had a shed until he shed too much hair.

Now, exactly how much smaller is a shed than a barn?
No. Exactly how much smaller?
The answer, of course is 10 to the 24 times smaller.
Yes, that's right: exactly 10 to the 24 times smaller.
The reason of course is that both a barn and a shed are units of nuclear cross section. A shed is 10 to the minus 52 square metres, and a barn is 10 to the minus 28 square metres.
Yes, I know they're both much much too small to spot, I just thought it was interesting.

Anyway, so where does that leave us?
Well, in clover, really, because there are sheds are all over the place, whether they're small flimsy buildings for holding flower pots, chisels, or men seeking peace; or whether they're large working spaces designed for holding railway locomotives or sheep in need of shearing (by the way, anyone in the shed in New Zealand is at work, even if they're not actually in a shed).
Also in generous supply are shed tears, hair, blood, light, leaves, skin, and lorry-loads.
To make things even easier, in Scotland a shed is a parting in the hair.
So. No need to shed sweat over this one, then.
Spot the frippet: shed. The nuclear physics shed is so called because it's smaller than a barn (which is so called because it is relatively roomy in nuclear physics terms); the building sheds come from the Old English sced, which is probably connected to the word shade; and the dropping-off sort of  shed comes from the Old English sceadan, and is related to the Old High German skeidan, to separate.

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