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Back Buzz - November 28, 2003

pumping heart Cafe Ceres, 390 Sharrow Vale Road, Sharrow Vale, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

Hidden away behind Ecclesall Road is a bright, clean little place called Cafe Ceres. Mostly a lunchtime cafe with plenty of tasty-sounding vegetarian options, Cafe Ceres also serves proper espresso. The cafe consists of a tiny front counter, a small back room, and another room upstairs, with a garden out back for smokers.

Our macchiatos were served by a very tall young man in proper macchiato cups -- the drinks, that is, not the young man. The shots seemed to be properly tamped and the beans were slightly zesty but not over-roasted -- in other words, they were very pleasant and drinkable. My partner claims it was the best macchiato he's had since the one at Gatwick Airport's Costa cafe.

The prices for double shot lovers is a bit worrying, however: £1.00 for a single espresso and £2.00 for a double espresso, which means an extra shot costs you an entire quid. They even charge you an extra 70p if you want to take your sandwich away instead of eating it there. Sounds like this is a true nation-of-shopkeepers cafe. Oddly enough the till is located in an alcove that looks as if it were originally a fireplace. Could this be symbolic?

Speaking of fiery symbolism, the cafe's yellow and orange colours scheme is comfortingly pleasant. I could easily dine on a lemon creme brulé or a houmus plate while surrounded by these colours. Since Ceres is the goddess of agriculture and corn, is the yellow and orange meant to symbolise amber waves of grains and maize? If so, why do I keep thinking of the curried carrot soup I used to make, a rich orange accented with a little plop of seasoned yellow raita? After all, curried carrot soup doesn't grow on trees, and I'm sure it can't be harvested in fields. Ceres is also the name of the largest asteroid -- but what colour are asteroids?

Perhaps the colour scheme was simply an aesthetic preference. After all, I live in a house with an orange kitchen, and I've grown rather fond of the colour, having spent a lifetime with "orange" at the bottom of my colour preference scale. And I've grown to think it does suit good food.

I know somebody who has a fear of orange food. Since he's an American who lived in Paris for years, it's obviously just a personality quirk as opposed to culinary inexperience. I also used to know a charming, talented young woman who had a fear of green food. I remember once for a party I baked some cookies in a rainbow of colours. The pink and orange cookies were gobbled up first, follows by the green and blue cookies. For some reason the least popular were the purple cookies.

But this still doesn't answer my question as to the colour of the Ceres asteroid...

Speaking of universal matters, here's an e-mail exchange with my Bay Are friend from a couple of months ago:

The lowest note ever heard in the universe has been detected by astronomers. Like our vacuum cleaners it's a B Flat, but 57 octaves below Middle C. But at a frequency of 1,000,000,000,000,000 times lower than the limit of human hearing, how the hell did the astronomers detect it? Obviously at that frequency their dogs weren't exactly going crazy.

The note was detected in a black hole in the Perseus cluster 250 million light years away. The loudness of the note is comparable to human speech, but the wavelength of the ripples is 30,000 light years, and the concentric ripples of the note produce 1 cycle only once every 10 million years -- making it exceeding difficult and time-consuming to tune a piano with this particular key on it.

Scientists believe the vibrating of these sound waves keeps the gases inside galaxy clusters hot. So how soon can we look forward to sonar heating? And is there some connection between the B-Flat of the Perseus Cluster note and the B-Flat of the Eureka C-2720 Vacuum Cleaner?

What would happen if we could somehow toss a jar of Marmite into the ripples?

The NRDC recently announced that they won their court case to prevent the U.S. Navy from deploying a new ultra-low frequency sonar, because it would be harmful to whales and other marine life. Measured at 140 decibels 300 miles from the source, this sonar is considerably louder than the music of the Perseus cluster, but nowhere near as low.

Obviously that sound can't propagate through the vacuum of space to reach our earthbound sensors. (We don't even have parabolic dish microphones aimed into space, I would imagine.) So the astronomers must be observing some visual effect that the sound wave makes. But what can you see in a black hole? How can they even call it a note at that frequency? Is it a B flat in just tuning or well tempered? If you wanted a piano string to vibrate at that frequency, how long and how thick would it have to be?

Maybe it's actually a car horn. I wouldn't mind having a low frequency car horn -- about 140 decibels at the source and at just the right frequency to vibrate all the fasteners loose in the vehicle you aim it at. I've always suspected that you could do this just by reflecting the sound waves back at one of those cars with blasting sub-woofers playing rap music. But it would be nice to have one ready on all occasions, to decompose SUVs that block the road. Do you need special glasses when you look into a black hole, like when you're watching an eclipse or a 3-D movie?

Perhaps the universe is one giant grand piano, and all of the star systems simply notes in the grand concerto of reality.

But then again, perhaps not.

If you were simply tooting this car horn to alert the sleepy person ahead of you that the light has turned green, don't you think it's a little drastic to make their car fall apart? Could you adjust the frequency of the horn in consideration of the situation? I suppose horn manufacturers would have to put some sort of legal cap on the lowness and volume, or else "road rage" could enter a new dimension...