Our Solar system, an update

My last blog about the Rosetta, Dawn and New Horizon missions was posted in July last year. Before I give an update, let’s first have a look at our Sun. Here is a recent graph of the number of sunspots. Cycle 24 has reached a maximum in April 2014 and is coming to an end.


As you will notice, cycle 24 has a double peak, in itself not unusual, but this time the second peak is higher than the first one. The maximum of cycle 24 is much smaller than that of cycle 23, and the prediction for cycle 25 is that it will be similar to cycle 24 or even smaller.

Here is a graph of the sunspot cycles, recorded until now. It looks like we have passed the Modern Maximum and are going to a minimum. Are we heading to a new “Little Ice Age“?  As I wrote in an earlier post, this is a sensitive issue, and I will not comment on it..:-). Be very wary when you search the Internet for info  about a relation between solar activity and global warming. Always check the credentials of the report. You might try this site: Skeptical Science


Here is a dramatic image of our Sun, taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory. Magnetic field lines are superimposed.



Rosetta is still orbiting comet 67P, which has passed its perihelion and is now on its way out into deep space. Here is the position of Rosetta and the comet, end of last year, the comet has passed already the orbit of Mars. No signals of the comet lander Philae have been received anymore, but Rosetta itself is still active.


Here is a recent image of 67P, taken on 27 March, when Rosetta was 329 km away from the comet nucleus. The Sun is behind the comet, with a spectacular result.


The scientists are planning to let Rosetta make a controlled landing on 67P in September 2016, which will be the end of the mission. You can find the latest news on Rosetta’s blog


Dawn is still in orbit around dwarf planet Ceres. Slowly getting closer, resulting in more detailed pictures. You may remember the excitement about the bright white spots. Now we know that they are located in the center of a crater, which has been given a name: Occator. More (smaller) white spots have been found


Here is the most recent picture (in false color), taken 30-3-2016 from an altitude of 385 km. . Spectacular. Scientists now think that the white spots are formed by highly reflective material, possibly ice or salt.


Actually Dawn is taking pictures of the whole surface of Ceres. Scientists have been busy giving names to the various features..:-)

Ceres mapping

For more information about Dawn, read this detailed blog So.Much.Ceres, published a few weeks ago

New Horizons

On 14 July 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft passed Pluto at an altitude of 12.500 km above its surface. It took as many pictures during the fly-by (of only a few minutes!) as possible and it still has not finished transmitting all the data to Earth!

Here is one of the images, released a few days ago. It shows numerous “haloed” craters. The false-color image gives the composition: purple is methane ice, blue is water ice. Why the crater rims and walls consist of methane ice has not yet been explained.

Craters on PLuto

New Horizons is now on its way to the Kuiper Belt, where it is supposed to flyby one of the Kuiper Belt objects, 2014 MU69 , on 1-1-2019.  Here are the present locations of the New Horizons spacecraft and 2014 MU69


Planet 9

We have reached the outskirts of our Solar System. Pluto, once the 9th planet, has been demoted and is now considered a dwarf planet belonging to the Kuiper belt. Recently more dwarf planets have been discovered in the region beyond Neptune,  Eris ( in 2005) , Haumea (in 2004) and Makemake (in 2005)  Like Pluto they have quite elliptical  orbits and periods in the range of a few hundred years. Pluto for example has a period of  248 year and its distance to the Sun varies between 30 and 49 AU, where 1 AU (the average distance between Earth and Sun) = 150 million km. The orbits of these dwarf planets have been strongly influenced by big neighbour Neptune.

In 2003 dwarf planet Sedna was discovered with an estimated period of 11.400 year and a distance to the sun varying between 76 and 936 (!) AU. Here is the orbit of Sedna. Pluto’s orbit is purple.


What could have caused such an extremely elliptical orbit? It can not have been gravitational disturbance by Neptune, because it never comes close to Neptune (distance of Neptune to the Sun is 30 AU).

In the last decade more of these “strange” objects have been discovered. For example in 2012  2012 VP113, estimated period 4200 year, distance to the Sun between 80 and 438 AU, also very elliptical.  Here the orbits of six of them are given.


Could these orbits be gravitationally disturbed by an UNKNOWN planet in the outer reaches of the Solar system?

On 20 January 2016 astronomers Brown and Batygin published an article in the Astronomical Journal: Evidence for a distant giant planet in the Solar System (abstract). Using computer models, they find that a planet with a mass about 10 times the mass of Earth, a period of 10.000-20.000 year, and a distance to the Sun varying between 200 and 1200 AU, could explain the orbits. Tentatively this planet is named Planet Nine .

Here is a sketch with the position of this Planet Nine.


Of course this is a hypothesis until now. Other explanations are possible. Next step is to try and find Planet Nine. That will not be easy, even for the most powerful telescopes. And where to look for it?

Here is a picture of the two authors, both astronomers from Caltech. By the way, Brown (left) is  the guy who discovered Eris, which started the demotion process for Pluto!

Brown & Batygin

They have started a website The Search for Planet Nine and just submitted a (highly technical) paper in which they discuss where to search for this planet.

If Planet Nine is ever found, I will not be surprised if they get a Nobel Prize for their research.

Museums, museums, museums

During my recent stay in the Netherlands I have visited an unusually large number of museums…:-). I have reported already about the two patrician canal mansions and the Royal Palace. Here are four more, in chronological order.

During the usual visit to my sister, she suggested that we could visit the Kranenburgh Museum in Bergen. Bergen is a village in the province of North-Holland, in the first part of the 20th century it was an “artist colony”.The expressionist Bergen School of painting had its origin here and the museum contains many works of art from that period.

But that’s not why we went there. In December 2015 a special exhibition was opened, prepared by guest curator Joost Zwagerman, and titled “Silence out loud”  Various aspects of silence in art. I found the exhibition very impressive, really evoking silence. 

Joost Zwagerman, a Dutch writer and columnist has been working two years on this project. And he has not seen the final result, because he took his own life, a few months before the opening of the exhibition. Sad.

A few days later I visited an exhibition about Ernst Ludwig Kirchner in the Singer museum in Laren. Laren is another Dutch art colony and the Singer museum has many works of art from the “Haagse School“.

Kirchner was a German expressionist painter and one of the founders of the artist group Die Brücke. I like his work, it is always a pleasure to come across his paintings in a museum and in this exhibition they had collected many of his works of art.

Born in 1880, he volunteered for military service in 1914, but was discharged soon after a mental breakdown. Having health problems, he moved to Davos in Switzerland and stayed there the rest of his life. One of his friends there was the Dutch painter Jan Wiegers, one of the founders of the artist collective De Ploeg. See below…:-). With the rise of Nazism his art was considered “entartet” (degenerate) and many of his paintings were destroyed. Worried that Hitler might invade Switzerland, he killed himself in 1938.

My next museum visit was to the Groninger museum. Here in December 2015 an exhibition opened about David Bowie. I am a fan of this fascinating artist. When his album Ziggie Stardust was published in 1972, I was beginning to discover the “alternative” pop music. I would have liked to see this exhibition, but it was planned to close early March, before I came back to the Netherlands.

Then, on 10 January 2016, he died, just after publishing the album Blackstar, with the macabre song Lazarus . The number of visitors surged and the museum decided to prolong the exhibition until the beginning of April, extending the opening times. You had to book a time slot!  I visited the exhibition on 31 March, and it was an impressive multimedia experience. Photography and sound recording not allowed, understandable. Secretly I took one picture, just for the record…:-)

My time slot started at 4pm, I arrived early, so I decided in the meantime to have a look at the permanent collection of…. De Ploeg, mentioned above…;-)! That was a good idea. Interesting to compare the two expressionist schools, their differences and similarities. In Laren one painting by Jan Wiegers, here two paintings by Kirchner.

The last museum visit was actually rather accidental…:-). I was going to meet after many years a former colleague from my school, and she suggested that we could have coffee in the museum cafe of the Allard Pierson museum in the center of Amsterdam. This is the archaeological museum of the University of Amsterdam. But when we were there, we noticed that there was a temporary exhibition, called the DWDD Pop-Up Museum 2DWDD is a popular Dutch television talkshow, which I avoid to watch because I am allergic to the ADHD host…:-).

He has quite a few regular guests in his show and the Pop-Up Museum is a project where these guests are asked to select a museum of their choice, visit the depot (where usually most of a museum collection is kept) , choose some works of art and create a room for the exhibition. Actually an interesting idea. The first edition of this project was a success, this is the second one, open until 22 May 2016.There are nine rooms, here a selection. In the captions you see the name of the guest and the museum they have selected.

Altogether seven museums in one month. Not bad..:-)

Royal Palace, Amsterdam

The Dam Square in Amsterdam can be considered the center of the town. It is dominated by the Royal Palace. Here is a Google Earth image.

Dam Square

This monumental building has not always been a palace. It was built in the seventeenth century as the Town Hall of Amsterdam and functioned as such for 150 years. For a long time it was the largest administrative building in Europe and considered by many the Eight Wonder of the World.

In 1808 Louis Napoleon, brother of the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, became King of Holland and converted the Town Hall into a Palace. Not for long, in 1813, after the fall of Napoleon, the Kingdom of the Netherlands was established and the former town hall became a Palace of the Royal House of Orange. Nowadays it is a ceremonial palace, still in use for the inauguration of a new monarch and other official functions.

Left a painting of the Town Hall as it was in 1673, right the present situation.

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When not in use, part of the palace is open to the public. Here is a map of the main floor.


The impressive Burgerzaal (Citizens Hall) was the center of the Town Hall, freely accessible for the citizens of Amsterdam. Galleries lead to the various administrative offices

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Ceilings and upper parts of the walls are decorated by paintings of famous Dutch Golden Age artists

It is not easy to see details of the paintings, because they are very high up the walls. Many of them show historical scenes, related to the fight for independence of the Dutch Republic. Here are two images, taken from the Internet. Left The Conspiracy of the Batavians under Claudius Civilis (1559-1562) by Govert Flinck and right Brinio Raised on a Shield (1661) by Jan Lievens. Click on the link and then on “details” for more information about these paintings.

Claudius CivilisBrinio

It is interesting to note that Rembrandt, the most famous painter of his time, is not represented! Actually he created a painting about the same topic of Claudius Civilis as Govert Flinck and for a few months it was exhibited in the town hall. Then, for reasons unclear, it was returned to Rembrandt, who cut down the huge canvas (5×5 meter) to more manageable proportions . It is now in the Nationalmuseum of Stockholm and considered one of his masterpieces…:-)

Here are two more paintings. Amsterdam,  the leading city of the Dutch Republic, saw itself as the successor to the Roman Republic.  Its “burgomasters” (mayors) liked to identify themselves with the Roman consuls. Left, Fabritius and Pyrrhus (1656) by Ferdinand Bol, shows the consul Fabritius resisting the bribery attempts of  King Pyrrhus. Right, in The incorruptible Consul Marcus Curius Dentatus (1656) by Govert Flinck, the consul holds up a turnip, waving away the gold and other gifts, offered to bribe him.  Again: click on the links and then on “details” for more info.

On the map above, the original function of the various rooms is indicated. When the town hall was transformed into a palace, these rooms became bedrooms, dining rooms, ballrooms etc. They were furnished in Empire style. Even now some of the rooms are used as guestrooms for heads of state and other VVIP persons during official functions.

The admission price for the Palace includes a headset. Explanations are given by a former mayor of Amsterdam. Very informative!

Two contrasting pictures to end this blog. In the left picture you can see the Dam Square and the balcony, from which traditionally the new monarch is presented to the people. This balcony is not original, it has been added in 1808 by Louis Napoleon. The picture to the right is the only part of the ground floor that you can visit. It is the Tribunal, just below the room with the balcony, where death sentences were pronounced. After the verdict the criminal was taken up to the first floor, where a temporary scaffolding was constructed and the execution (by hanging) took place. The executions were public, visible to the people on the Dam square.



When you visit Amsterdam, you should spend a few hours in this monumental building! And when you can not visit Amsterdam in the real, you can make a virtual tour, using the Google Cultural Institute !  Just amazing, what would we be without Google…:-)


Food, food, food

As readers of this blog will have noticed, I am a foodie and Malaysia is a paradise for foodies. But when I am back in my native country, I also enjoy the food there. In this blog you will find no nature, no culture, just food and more food.. :-) And me, of course I had my food often in company with family or friends, but in this blog you will only see food and me!

Here are a few pictures of my own home-cooking, when I did not have to entertain friends. Dutch food is basically potatoes with vegetables and meat, but I also like to cook Italian food. Of course no meal is complete without a glass of wine..:-)

A few times I also have invited friends for dinner at my apartment.

But mostly I either go out with friends/family or have food at their place.

One outside dinner deserves special mention. It has become a tradition that during my stay in Holland,  I have a more or less “special” dinner with my lady friend Yolanda. She knows about the fashionable restaurants..:-) This time we had dinner in restaurant Dwars. They specialize in serving beer(!) instead of wine with the various courses. It was a good choice, the food was delicious, the service very friendly, and it was value for money.

This is really a restaurant you should try, when in Amsterdam. Even when you think,  like me, that wine suits a dinner better… :-)

Here is a selection  of food pictures with family and/or /friends.

Did I gain weight? Yes, but surprisingly little  😉

How long will Malaysia remain my 2nd Home?

As you will have noticed, I am back in my native country at the moment, enjoying life there..:-)  But looking forward already to be back in Malaysia, my 2nd home.

Quite often (Western) friends and family ask me about the political/religious situation in Malaysia. Is it still safe for you to live there?  I have to admit that the country under the present administration is becoming more and more authoritarian and (fundamentalist) Islamic. But I still feel very much at home…:-)

For how long? Honestly, I don’t know.

Today I have watched, spellbound,  an Australian documentary, released yesterday:   State of Fear: Murder and Money in Malaysia

It takes 45 minutes of your time. Please watch it!

Comments are welcome..:-)


A Grey Sunday in Amsterdam

Usually I come back to the Netherlands when spring has started, but this time I was earlier. The weather was cold and grey, not inviting to go out and enjoy the countryside. Maybe visit a museum?  But which one, Amsterdam has more than 50 of them! Two of them are housed in patrician canal mansions and I decided to visit those.

The famous Grachtengordel (“Canal Belt”) of Amsterdam, clearly visible in the GE map below, has been declared an Unesco World Heritage site in 2010. The three concentric canals were dug in te 17th century, the Dutch Golden Age


First I visited the museum van Loon. This merchant mansion was built in 1671, has had many tenants  (for example the painter Ferdinand Bol, a pupil of Rembrandt)  and owners and was finally bought in 1884 by the aristocratic family van Loon, who still owns it, but doesn’t live there anymore.

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Here is a collection of pictures. These mansions have a big garden, with at the back the coach house. The kitchen is in the basement, the (elevated) ground floor has reception and living rooms, the first floor the bedrooms. The second floor (not accessible nowadays) contained the servant quarters. The museum gives a good impression how the rich merchants lived in those days.

During my visit there was an interesting special exhibition. The van Loon family belonged to the Dutch aristocracy and many exhibits show their personal fashion style, from 1850 until present.

My second visit was to the Willet-Holthuysen museum. Built for Jacob Hop, mayor of Amsterdam, around 1685. Also here many owners, the last one was Mrs. Willet-Holthuysen, she bequeathed the entire house to the city of Amsterdam on condition that it became a museum in 1895.

Similar design as the van Loon mansion. Elevated ground floor with diningroom and sitting room and a large ballroom. Kitchen in the basement, with access to a town garden. Bedrooms on the first floor. Notice how the 17th century building is flanked by ugly modern buildings

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Also for this museum a collection of pictures. The Willet-Holthuysen couple were part of what you would call nowadays the jetset. Traveling a lot, giving parties, collecting art.

When I was searching the Internet for opening times etc, I found that there used to be another townhouse museum, the Geelvinck-Hinlopen mansion, unfortunately closed indefinitely last year. But the regular concerts of classical music, given in this museum, arestill being organised, only in a different location, in the Huis met de Hoofden (House with the Heads). This mansion was built in 1622. The interior is under renovation, only one room is accessible for concerts. Impressive facade.

There is a legend that the six heads represent thieves, beheaded by a servant, when she noticed a burglary. Not true, they represent Greek gods…:-)

It was my lucky day, there was a concert on this grey Sunday afternoon! Musica Batavia , three musicians, on harpsichord, violin and recorder, were playing music by Bach, Telemann, Vivaldi and others.

They played very well, here is an example of their musical style, a sonata by Pietro Locatelli (an Italian composer who, by the way, lived most of his life in a canal house in Amsterdam!)


I really enjoyed this Grey Sunday in Amsterdam!

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The Largest Prime Number

On 7 January 2016 a “new” large prime number was discovered, with more than 22 million digits. Time for a blog about these numbers, which have fascinated mathematicians from Greek antiquity until present times.

Prime numbers are numbers that can only be divided by 1 and itself. For example 7 is a prime number, but 6 is not because it can be divided by 2 and 3. . Here is a list of the 168 prime numbers smaller than 1000. The number 2 is the only even prime, all others are odd.


How many prime numbers are there?


Euclides, the famous Greek mathematician, living in present-day Egypt  around 300 BC, already proved that their number is infinite, and his proof is so elementary, that I often presented it to my students when I was a teacher, as an example of what is called Reductio ad Absurdum.

Euclides’ proof:  Assume that you have a complete list of all prime numbers.

  • Multiply them together and add 1. Call this number X.
  • Because of the added 1, this number X can not be divided by any prime number in your list (there will always be a reminder 1)!
  • So there are only two possibilities, either X is prime itself, or it can be divided by a prime number outside your list. In both cases it shows your list was incomplete.
  • Therefore our assumption was wrong and the list of prime numbers is infinite!

How to find out if a number X is prime?   Do we  have to check whether X is divisible by any number, smaller than X ? That would be a tedious job. Fortunately it is not as bad as that…:-). Because it is easy to see that we only have to check whether X is divisible by any prime number, smaller than the square root of X.

For example X=283, is it prime? The square root of 283 = 16.82…, so we have only to check division by 2,3,5,7,11 and 13.

  • 283 / 2 = 141 rest 1
  • 283 / 3 = 94 rest 1
  • 283 / 5 = 56 rest 3
  • 283 / 7 = 40 rest 3
  • 283 / 11 = 25 rest 8
  • 283 / 13 = 21 rest 10

So 283 is a prime number!

This procedure is called Trial Division. For large numbers it becomes time consuming. For example, we want to check if 1000.003 is prime.  There are 168 prime numbers smaller than 1000, so we have to do 168 divisions to finally conclude that, yes, 1000.003 is prime. Repeating this procedure for 999.997, you will find that this number is not prime, it can be divided by 757.

Imagine that you have to do these divisions with only pen and paper!

Back to the recently discovered large mega-prime. It is a so-called Mersenne prime, one less than a power of 2:  Mp = 2p − 1 with p itself a prime number.

  • M2 = 22 − 1 = 4 – 1 = 3 prime!
  • M3 = 23 − 1 = 8 – 1 = 7 prime!
  • M5 = 25 − 1 = 32 – 1 = 31 prime!
  • M7 = 27 − 1 = 128 – 1 = 127 prime!

Could this be a rule to create prime numbers? Unfortunately that is not the case.       M11 = 211 − 1 = 2048 – 1 = 2047 = 23 * 89 , not prime!
However the next one M13 = 213 − 1 = 8192 – 1 = 8191 is again prime.
As are M17 = 131.071 and M19 = 524.287. The last two are already quite large, in 1588 the Italian mathematician Cataldi had proven by trial division that they were prime.

Why are these numbers called Mersenne primes?


Marin Mersenne was a French priest with an interest in mathematics, theology and philosophy.

He published in 1644 a list of these numbers 2p − 1, stating that they were prime for p  = 2, 3, 5, 7, 13, 17, 19, 31, 67, 127 and 257, and not for any other p below 257.

His list was incomplete and incorrect, but still these prime numbers carry his name…:-)

Incorrect, because M67 and M257 are composite
Incomplete, because M61 , M89 and M107 are prime

Mersenne was correct that M31 = 2.147.483.647 is prime, but how could he know? This is a big number, the square root is ~ 46.340, so he should first determine all prime numbers smaller than 46.340  (there are 4792) and then perform trial division for all those 4792 numbers. It must have been a lucky guess. And certainly it was a guess for M127 = :-)

18th century mathematician Leonhard Euler

It was only in 1772, more than a century later,  that the great mathematician Leonhard Euler proved the primality of M31.

By a clever analysis of the general structure of Mersenne numbers, he managed to reduce the number of trial divisions to 84 !

Still a big job (pen and paper), the story is that he had a team of helpers to do the actual calculations.

This was the last result using trial division. For more than a century no developments regarding Mersenne primes took place.


Until 1857, when Édouard Lucas, a young French boy (15 years old), gets interested to prove that M127 is prime.

As trial division is not feasible for these large numbers, he studies the structure of the Mersenne numbers and develops a method to check the primality without trial divisions.

After 19 (!) years of testing his methods, he is convinced and announces in 1876 that M127 is prime. The 9th Mersenne prime!

His approach, later refined by others, is still used in the search for new Mersenne primes. Characteristic for this Lucas–Lehmer primality test is that it can decide that a Mersenne number is NOT prime, without finding the factors of this number. For example, using this test, we find that M257 = 231.584.178.474.632.390.847.141.970.017.375.815.706.539.969.331. is composite, but we don’t know its factors…:-)

With Lucas’ method, in the following years/decades the primality of M61 , M89 and M107 is proven. Still using pen and paper!

New activity starts only in the 20th century when the first computers are built.


One of them is the famous SWAC computer, built in 1950. Nowadays a PC or even a tablet would be more powerful.

In 1952 it was used to check new Mersenne primes. Within one year 5 new ones were found, for p = 521, 607, 1279, 2203  and 2281. Still using the methods developed by Lucas

Very large numbers! Here is prime number M2281 with 687 digits. To make it more readable, spaces have been inserted after three digits.

446 087 557 183 758 429 571 151 706 402 101 809 886 208 632 412 859 901 111 991 219 963 404 685 792 820 473 369 112 545 269 003 989 026 153 245 931 124 316 702 395 758 705 693 679 364 790 903 497 461 147 071 065 254 193 353 938 124 978 226 307 947 312 410 798 874 869 040 070 279 328 428 810 311 754 844 108 094 878 252 494 866 760 969 586 998 128 982 645 877 596 028 979 171 536 962 503 068 429 617 331 702 184 750 324 583 009 171 832 104 916 050 157 628 886 606 372 145 501 702 225 925 125 224 076 829 605 427 173 573 964 812 995 250 569 412 480 720 738 476 855 293 681 666 712 844 831 190 877 620 606 786 663 862 190 240 118 570 736 831 901 886 479 225 810 414 714 078 935 386 562 497 968 178 729 127 629 594 924 411 960 961 386 713 946 279 899 275 006 954 917 139 758 796 061 223 803 393 537 381 034 666 494 402 951 052 059 047 968 693 255 388 647 930 440 925 104 186 817 009 640 171 764 133 172 418 132 836 351


Computers became more powerful, and new Mersenne primes were discovered. In 1961 the first Mersenne prime with more than 1000 digits was found, M4253, using an IBM 7090 mainframe computer (pic left)

And in 1979 the first Mersenne prime with more than 10.000 digits was found, M44.497, using a Cray supercomputer.

You might expect that the recently discovered Mersenne prime M74.207.281 with more than 22 million digits has been found using a super-super computer…:-)  But that is not the case! Actually PC’s were used, not one but many, working together!

In 1996 the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search ( GIMPS) project was started. It is an example of what is called  distributed computing.  A PC will often be idle, so why not  let it work during that time for a project such as GIMPS. Just download some software and your PC will try to find a new Mersenne Prime. Many thousands of volunteers are doing this. And with success

Since 1996, 15 new Mersenne primes have been found, all of them using GIMPS!

Of course finding a new Mersenne prime has no scientific value, it is just an intellectual challenge. But you might win a prize!

When in 1999 the first Mersenne prime was found with more than 1 million digits,M6.972.593 , the Electronic Frontier Foundation awarded this result with a prize of 50.000 US$. In 2008 M37.156.667 was found, with more than 10 million digits. The award was 100.000 US$

Two more prizes have not yet been awarded

  • 150.000 US$ to the first individual or group who discovers a prime number with at least 100 million digits
  • 250.000 US$ to the first individual or group who discovers a prime number with at least  1 billion digits

The latest Mersenne prime M74.207.281 has 22.338.618 digits, not yet enough for the next reward

So, why not join GIMPS!  I did….:-)

For this blog I have made extensive use of The Prime Pages

Large numbers have been calculated using the Online Big Number Calculator

CNY 2016

On 8 February, the Chinese year of the monkey started. I am a monkey myself, when you are familiar with the Chinese zodiac, you know that I will celebrate my 72nd birthday this year…:-). Oh, you thought it was my 60th? Don’t play play, lah!

This year I decided to join Aric in his hometown for the traditional steamboat dinner on CNY eve. He had gone to Parit Baru already a few days earlier to help his mother with the preparations. As usual there was a big crowd, dinner in two rounds.

Second round. In the right picture Aric’s mother and his older sister with her two children.


After the dinner it was time for the traditional Yee Sang ceremony. Yee Sang is a Teochew-style raw fish salad. Actually yee sang means “raw fish”, but the pronunciation is similar to the Chinese word for “abundance”. The ceremony is that the family members gather around the yee sang and toss the salad with their chopsticks. The higher you toss the salad, the more abundance you will get…:-)   It is a very Malaysian Chinese tradition.

On day 3 of CNY I was planning to visit a “new” waterfall between Beruas and Trong, with my waterfall friends Siang Hui, Nick and Rani. First I was thinking to stay in Parit Baru until then, but would I survive the crowd…:-)? Aric advised me that it would be better to “escape” for a few days, and come back on day 3 for the traditional family  party.

So I went to Taiping on day 1. I had booked a hotel in Taiping already, when my friend May protested, told me that the hotel was haunted and convinced me to stay with her in what she calls the “Maywarmers Lodge”. Of course Rani was welcome too. Malaysian hospitality!

By the same Malaysian hospitality I was invited for two CNY open houses…:-). I am a member of the Taiping Heritage Society and both Yeap, the president and Sharon, an active committee member, invited me as soon as they heard that I would be in Taiping.

I arrived in Taiping just in time for the open house lunch at Yeap’s residence

After the lunch I met Rani in town, he had traveled on his bike. Also Paul and Fahmi, who happened to stay in Taiping. We spent a nice afternoon together, visited the Burmese pool (really too crowded) and had a look at the ruined New Club swimming pool. We had a drink in the Lake Garden food court, before Paul and Fahmi went back to KL.

Later Rani and I had our dinner in the same food court, one of my favourites. And the next morning we had a dim sum breakfast with our hostess May.

Originally our plan was to visit Kuala Sepetang, but we felt lazy and only had a look in the afternoon at some of my “favourite” eyesore places in Taiping. I must have a  masochist streak..:-)

That evening Rani joined me to Sharon’s open house. In the picture you see Sharon’s husband, Dr Chan Ah Lak and his nephew Henry Chan, who also happens to be a friend of mine. As usual Malaysia is a small world….

May had warned us that she was giving a CNY party for her former school mates that evening, so we were a bit shy to go back to her house…:-)  Of course a picture had to be taken, but after a while we could escape to our room..:-)

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The following day we had arranged to meet Siang Hui and Nick (coming from Teluk Intan) at the entrance of the Allagar Estate, between Trong and Beruas. From there a plantation road would take us to the trail head. Siang Hui had discovered the waterfall a few years ago and baptised it Lata Hui..:-).

But what a disappointment. When we arrived at the trail head, we were stopped by an armed soldier, who told us that the region was out of bounds because of a military training. What to do? The only alternative was the Trong waterfall. We decided to go to the Upper Trong Fall, but we were not really in the mood, there were many leeches, we got lost a bit, and rather dispirited returned to the Trong Fall. A nice fall, we had our lunch there and a bath. But still a pity, we were so full of expectations.

Here is a short video of the waterfall

After our lunch, we all went our way, Rani back to Meru, Siang Hui and Nick to Teluk Intan, and I back to Parit Baru. Where I caused quite a sensation, entering the kitchen..:-)  Leeches, somebody screamed and yes, I had not checked my sandals and brought a few of these critters in the house. Immediately they were covered with salt, but I felt quite embarrassed.

It was a nice evening. With the traditional firecrackers, a lucky draw, gambling and of course lots of food. Each year Aric likes to take an “official” picture and this year had decided for a location on the road outside the house. Not easy to control a crowd, but he managed…:-)

Here is the official picture of CNY 2016. The rule this year was to wear either a blue or a yellow shirt.

And here are the firecrackers. Illegal, but hey, this is Malaysia!

Gong Xi Fa Cai

Qing Xin Ling

Have you ever heard about the Qing Xin Ling Leisure and Cultural Village in Ipoh? I had not, until Aric mentioned it to me as a possible “stay-overnight” place during our recent trip up North. It turned out to be fully booked, but we decided to have a look at it anyway, because you can visit it as a day-tripper (RM 6). In the reviews (see the link above), people complain that the place  can be overcrowded on weekends, during  our visit it was still ok.

Here you see the location of Qing Xin Ling. Ipoh is surrounded by limestone hills, the image shows Gunung Rapat. Many caves and “wangs”, depressions enclosed by high limestone cliffs. Many Chinese temples too, one of them located at Qing Xin Ling. Recently the temple committee has transformed the temple grounds into a “Leisure and Cultural Village”, which has become so successful that the residents, living nearby, are complaining about traffic jams and parking woes.


We paid the entrance fee and walked around. Mixed feelings. The location is beautiful, two lakes, surrounded by steep limestone cliffs. You can walk around the lakes, a number of brightly colored chalets has been built on the shores. Without the day trippers walking and cycling(!) around, it could have been a paradise.

But this serene atmosphere has been destroyed by the many artifacts constructed, to make it a kind of theme park. For example, what is a boat doing there, between the two lakes? From the deck you have a nice view of the two lakes, but for the rest it is an eyesore. Very strange.

It is a confusing mixture of memorabilia ( an old motorbike, a push bike, a horse cart) and kitsch. Aric as birdman, stickers instead of love locks. Hm, a tree root,  let’s paint it as a snake. Shall we add two dinosaurs? Anything goes…:-)

It becomes much more interesting when you walk up to  what I would call “memory lane”, a path leading to the upper wangs, where a number of stalls and shops have been created with old/antique stuff. Here you could spend a lot of time. Mostly bric-a-brac, but still interesting

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When you continue after this memory lane, you enter a completely different world. A trail leads up to Iron Hill, the top of Gunung Rapat. Recently this trail has been included in the “village”. In the beginning the trail is clear and well maintained, but it becomes steeper, there are ropes. You will pass old machinery dating back to when iron was mined here. As we were not prepared for a hiking tour we went as far as we could go, but went back before reaching the summit. Halfway, we had a nice view of Ipoh.

Will we ever come back here to stay in one of the chalets? No. But, better prepared,  we like to explore the trail to the top of Iron Hill.


Ipoh Murals

Two years ago I published a post about Penang Street Art , and one year ago one about Street Art in KL. Using walls of buildings as a “canvas” for works of art is becoming more and more popular these days. Sometimes/often of mediocre quality. But when I heard that Zacharevic had created a series of murals in Ipoh, I wanted to see them. Because this artist adds something special to his creations.

The seven murals are all in the old part of Ipoh, and on walking distance from each other. Here is a map. The Kinta river is at the right, the padang at the top. The Zacharevic murals are indicated with red markers and names in yellow. We found a few others, marked in blue.


Here are two characteristic Zacharevic murals, incorporating real-life items, a chair, a trishaw. The left picture shows a girl, standing on a stool, reaching up to a birdcage, holding the air vent for support. To the right a man loading a trishaw.

These 3D murals of course invite the spectator to become part of the artwork..:-). And the concept is easy to copy. The two anonymous murals Beer and Lunch have probably been commissioned by nearby cafes…:-). The difference in quality is obvious.

Many of Zach’s creations here in Ipoh are large, like Paper Plane, high up a wall and  Old Uncle, where he even uses the wooden planks of the building.

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Here are two more, the left one is titled Kopi O, the right one Hummingbird.

All the murals have explanatory plaques. You may wonder about the hummingbird, hovering in the air. Looks like something is missing..:-). When Zacharevic created this mural, there still was a huge tree. but it has been cut now, with only a stump left. No problem, in interviews Zach has said that his art is not meant for  eternity. Even the murals themselves will fade over time. Personally I like his approach.

The most impressive mural is called Evolution and its theme is the tin mining industry that made Ipoh and the Kinta Valley famous.

On our walk we found another Zacharevic mural, an attractive one. Maybe not included because the theme (Kopi O) is the same as the big one. We also found a horse statue, without any explanation. And we met an artist, Mr Woon, working on a mural, commissioned by the owner of a nearby shop. A friendly man, he showed us his atelier.

When you visit Ipoh, you should have a look at these murals! And you will probably find more…:-)