Monday, October 29

Fancy a 64Gb iPod shuffle?

Samsung have announced the production (as in a lab production, not a product line) of a 64Gb flash memory card.

As the BBC article says, a single chip could hold 18,000 songs - over a month of solid, non-stop music.

Now all you need is the battery that can last that long...

Friday, October 26

I'm #1

Just to show that there are so many phrases out there that even a blog as obscure as this one can sometimes show up first on a google hit:

1. A probably accurate insight into feline nature
2. PR spokesperson who is clearly talking complete rot.
3. Momentum does not work that way, moron!

"the noblest tradition of science"

Is to admit when you're wrong.

52 years ago, a scientist put out a paper. Then he realised it was wrong, and that people were using these incorrect assumptions as "proofs" for their own beliefs.

So what does a scientist do in these situations? Simple. Declare the paper was wrong, and retract it.

So, good on you Dr Homer Jacobson.

And bad news for the creationists.

Thursday, October 25

Nature on Watson

The latest Nature comments on James Watson's recent outburst and subsequent downfall.

Pretty much the expected stuff, although well put - scientists should be allowed to comment on controversial topics, as science is about the way the world is, not the way we would like it to be, but crass comments such as Watson's make this harder and thus damage science.

Monday, October 22

Unfortunate media deaths

There's definitely something going wrong when your deputy mayor can be killed by monkeys.

Doesn't help the image of your city either, as you know full well all the media and bloggers that have ignored all the high-tech developments and industrial advances year after year (*ahem*) will suddenly notice a bizarre monkey-related demise.

Sunday, October 21

The British sporting failure week continues

After the footballing flunks, and the heroic narrow near-miss of the England Rugby team, Lewis Hamilton is now having problems with his car and fighting to make up the places on the grid to save his championship lead.

Which isn't going to happen, I suspect. Wonder if anyone from ITV will decide to use the Guillemots' "Sao Paolo" as the ending music - the lines "sometimes I could cry for miles" might be appropriate at that point.

Saturday, October 20

It's over.


It wasn't a try, as well. The BBC News article has the photo that shows my solid five minutes of Anglo-Saxon invective at the TV referee were misplaced, as technically - technically - he was right.

Friday, October 19

Panic at Cold Springs Harbor

Imagine you're a distinguished US laboratory dating back to 1890, and has hosted work that has gone on to win the Nobel Prize. You'd rather not mention the dodgy work in Eugenics that went on from 1910 to 1940M, stopping because the Carnegie Institution came and had a look and noticed it was all utter rubbish.

So, what do you do when your former Nobel Prize winning chancellor opens his mouth and takes you right back to those discredited days of the early 1930s?

Yep, Watson's been suspended. .

Daddy, what was a tuna?

The BBC report on the latest abundant fish to risk extinction - the Bluefish Tuna.

Everyone blames everybody else, nobody listens to the scientists. The countries are all worried about their fishing fleets now, and don't appear to want to consider their fishing fleets of the future (i.e. there won't be any) because they appear to think if they stop fishing no-one else will, so they'll still end up with no fishing fleet but won't have fish in the meantime. "We're friends of the fisherman" they declare, while allowing the fishermen to drive themselves into extinction.

Tuesday, October 16

Don't blame me for the polar bears

Smugly declaring - my CO2 footprint is 3 tonnes below the national average.

Well, OK, this is the UK national average, and we're not exactly the lightest treading nation in the world. And this was using the UK government's carbon calculator, which kindly does not include business travel in my travel footprint, allowing me to ignore every flight I've ever taken. And I don't own a car. So that's pretty much my entire contribution to saving the planet.

I'm still 0.3 tonnes above the target footprint, though, since all my household power is from fossil energy. I suppose the cycling does actually contribute a bit, as it means I'm using the washing machine more often as well. As for the green-ness of the home, well I'm renting. If I owned my house, I may well have put solar panels on by now.

Monday, October 15

Liberal bias no #93

You don't have to be deluded and insane to give money to the Tories, but...

Sunday, October 14

Not happy

That's the last time I volunteer to do any officiating in any sport. No thanks, just an official complaint from one of the visiting clubs.

Oh, well cheers for that. I won't bother next time. OK, I wasn't particularly good at it - it was the first time I did that particular role, anyway - but I've seen far, far worse than my efforts in the past (no-one got hypothermia, for starters...)

(No, I wasn't paid. I didn't even get a cup of tea)

Friday, October 12

Papa Lazarou lookalike competition

We might not play cricket quite as well as the Aussies yet, but it appears that we're now ahead in the "one of our cricketers looks like a character from League of Gentlement" stakes.

Hello Dave?" says Ryan Sidebottom...

Physics != inventing gadgets

One last comment on the Nobel Prize and the BBC "have your incoherent and uneducated rant" webpage.

One joker complained that the Nobel Prize for Physics is a joke because they didn't give it to Edison.

Edison? Edison? Are you completely utterly frothingly deranged?

OK, apart from the slight problem that the man was an out-and-out thief, he was also by no stretch of the imagination a Physicist. He was an inventor. Then a showman and a marketeer. At *best*, awarding Edison the prize would have been like giving Stuart Parkin a share in this year's prize - Parkin being the researcher who led the IBM team that made the first mass produceable GMR read/write head. But that's a really charitable comparison for Edison (I like Parkin a lot more, and think he should certainly receive an award alongside Fert and Grunberg if the award is for, say, science and technology).

No, awarding Edison would have been like giving the prize to Steve Jobs for inventing the iPod.

BBC - I'll have my say, then.

As I said, Gore's award will set the cat amongst the pigeons. And blimey, but the BBC's willingness to let any drivelling deranged wittering have the same level of authority as someone who has spent time looking at a subject is really getting on my nerves. If you want to listen to someone spouting off incompetently about a subject of which they know very little, you can go on the web and find any number of blogs. I'd like to think when I'm sat listening to a national broadcaster that they will have bothered to find people who have spent the time developing a logical and coherent argument, even if they disagree (which admittedly makes good telly), rather than allowing any Tom Dick and Jeremy Clarkson to declare whatever they feel is true. They're not even trying! They just don't like the idea that global warming is happening, so they've decided it's not true! (I should note, if I ever use exclamation marks it's because I'm really getting annoyed/excited).

Oh, and Mark Thompson should be sacked. Immediately. Just because I don't like him. No, don't need to say why, people who spout of on his channels apparently don't have to explain their decisions either.

The way the BBC should be engaging with the public is in producing great television, which apparently they are still willing to do, not letting the public play in front of the idiot box for a bit.

Gore and Peace

Despite having a UK high court judge rule this week that there were nine errors in his film, An Inconvenient Truth, Gore is quite clearly having a good week.

Cue outrage from US climate change delusionists (and probably some complaints from sceptics that the film is over-the-top, which it is, rather than a pack of lies, which it isn't)

As for the nine errors - that's also open to debate if they were errors...

Thursday, October 11

A probably accurate insight into feline nature

Alright, I admit it, I like LOLcats as well. But mostly the ones which you can really imagine a genuine cat thinking the caption. For example:


Nobel Prize for Literature goes to someone I've heard of

Yes, it's the two cultures problem again (and have I only heard of Doris Lessing because she's from the same country as me?). Although any arts-type person who would be offended at me for not having heard of, say, Orhan Pamuk before last year should be able to honestly swear they'd heard of Albert Fert and Peter Grünberg before this week if they're going to even *think* of sneering at me (and I can easily prove I had).

Back to the literature - Doris Lessing is quoted as saying that in the 1960's they "sent one of their minions" to tell her she'd never get the prize, and then

"So now they've decided they're going to give it to me. So why? I mean, why do they like me any better now than they did then?"

Well, the distinguished gentlemen who didn't like you then were probably over 40. Add 50 years and... well, they're dead, or at least long retired.

Sensible punishments in football? Are you mad?

After the debacle at the end of the Celtic - AC Milan match, some punishment was inevitable - the stupid fan was identified and banned for life, and now Celtic have been fined £25,000 for improper conduct of supporters. AC Milan, however, see their play-acting goalie banned for two matches - a more severe, and more deserved (by the player) punishment. AC Milan, for their part, have largely been very fair and polite about Celtic, and were probably hideously embarrassed by Dida's antics.

Wednesday, October 10

Surface scientist gets a birthday present

The surface chemist in my office seems pretty happy that a man in his field (the man who built the field?) Gerhard Ertl has won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

He did express some suprise that it was awarded alone - while Ertl is clearly worthy, he did think that Gabor Somorjai would share the award. Would have been interesting to hear that discussion.

I take it all back (part two)

Having apologised to the England Rugby Union team a few days ago, I now take back what I said about the England cricket team, who have just secured the series win in Sri Lanka - and despite losing the toss again, which is supposedly critical in day-nighters in Sri Lanka.

Hard to believe this is the same team that was wiped out 5-0 last year, but that's probably because they aren't. Back then, going the whitewashed were M E Trescothick, A N Cook, I R Bell, A J Strauss, V S Solanki, J W M Dalrymple, G O Jones, T T Bresnan, L E Plunkett, Kabir Ali, S J Harmison.

Only Cook and Bell remain, joined by Mustard, Pietersen, Collingwood, Shah, Bopara, Swann, Broad, Sidebottom and Anderson.

Tuesday, October 9

Nobel Prize in Physics goes to Fert and Grünberg

The award is "for the discovery of Giant Magnetoresistance" - for the non-scientific, this could mean "making modern hard drives possible". iPods, digital camcorders, YouTube, Flickr, etc. etc - all these owe their commercial success to Fert and Grünberg's discovery in 1988.

Monday, October 8

Nobel Prize goes to stem cell group

I see on Reuters (the Nobel Foundation website itself having gone down) that Mario Capecchi, Martin Evans and Oliver Smithies have won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work on Stem Cells / gene targeting.

Evans, now at University of Wales, Cardiff,, derived embryonic stem cells with Matt Kaufman at Cambridge in the 1980s. Capecchi (University of Utah, Salt Lake City) and Smithies (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) used homologous recombination to target specific genes in cells.

The same researchers had won the Lasker Prize in 2001.

Saturday, October 6

Can you barbecue humble pie?

I take it all back. Brian Ashton, I questioned your judgement - I stand utterly corrected. Thank you and congratulations.

On the Aussie side of things - I wonder if some Australian journalists need to barbecue some humble pie today after their articles in the run up to the match. Mr Smith clearly knows rugby - he identified that 'hanging on like grim death is what [the English] do better than anything else' and he did identify the pack and Wilkinson as the England strengths. Amongst his declarations about how the Wallabies would easily defeat England, there is the one prescient line
There might be only so much you can do with a nasty, big pack and a goalkicking genius, but one thing that's possible is winning a World Cup quarter-final.

Hey, Smith, cut the arrogance and you could be a very good journalist...

Thursday, October 4


It's a common complaint among scientists in the UK that a number of British universities have been closing their Chemistry departments over the last few years. I have to say though, if they're anything like the Chemistry department at my employers, I can see one problem they have. Not that they don't do good work - they do. Not that they aren't contributing to the future wealth of the country - they probably are. But it's because they're completely and utterly insane.

I have, for various reasons, recently had to stay late at work for a number of days in a row, mostly due to the ongoing but soon to be completed installation of my Very Expensive bit of scientific equipment. Which I'm in charge of, hence my inability to say "forget this, I'm going outside while it's still sunny and warmish". This level of work is really getting me down - I'm fed up of it, I'm starting to resent work again, Mondays are not particularly attractive days to me.

But apparently, my workload wouldn't cause a chemist to bat an eyelid, except perhaps in horror that I don't work 12 hour days on a Saturday as well.

This is why no-one wants to be a chemist. 80 hour weeks to earn 30 thousand pounds a year? That's an hourly payscale up their with non-graduate office workers. For that you're going to slave around noxious and dangerous chemicals? Don't think so.

Chemistry is too hard, is supposedly the problem. But maybe it's not that would-be students are too stupid to do it, maybe they're too smart to.

(Actually, this is slightly unfair on Chemists, some are actually decent, rational people to work with, rather than decent irrational people - so much so, in fact, that I worked late today to get results for a Physicist rather than bump a chemist off one of my machines tomorrow). Next week, I tell myself, I will not overwork.



Happy to help.

Don't mess with Attenborough.

David Attenborough, who it was recently announced would be back with another two documentaries is not happy with a Dutch organisation that has taken to editing his work to remove any mention of evolution.

Attenborough, being the rational chap he is, merely states

"The BBC should take steps to make sure that the minuteness of the meanings are maintained."

Sadly, the BBC doesn't appear to be taking a step yet, since the edits are apparently within their 5 minutes editing limit. Except - isn't the BBC having a bit of a tivvy about lack of truthfulness at the moment? Well, this is another case. Do something about it.

Ah... diddums

Those gentle little flowers, the Aussie Wallabies Rugby Union side, are worried that England might try that unsporting tactic of having a stronger pack than them at a World Cup, and want to make sure the referee blows for any underhand tactics (hitting, pushing, not falling over and handing the ball to the aussies, etc), as was done in the last World Cup final (which the Aussies still lost).

Good to see that the England team has risen so fast from their absolute drubbing by South Africa that the Aussies coach feel the need to put pressure on the referees. Shame I still don't expect England to win, even if the Aussies attempt to ban all the bits of the game that England are expected to be better at fails.

Celtic vs Roma post match verdict

Firstly - blimey. The Scot in my office is well chuffed at the moment, with his homeland having suddenly remembered how to play the beautiful game.

I said it was the first time since the early 20th century they could claim to have one of the best teams in the world with a straight face without getting instantly laughed at. He pulled out the 1978 World Cup team list and said it was one of the best teams in the world at that point. I admitted it had a lot of great players in, but suggested that getting knocked out in the first round of the World Cup isn't a claim for greatness.

Secondly, suggestions that they should be punished for the slap on Dida. Well. Um. Dida would appear to be a bit of a wimp on this evidence...

Lewis Hamilton is the new Michael Schumacher

Great driver, but I'm starting to feel that like Schumacher before him, he's also a bit ... dodgy. Not quite up with ramming Hill off the track, perhaps more like Schu's "crashing" the car at Monaco after he'd set the fastest lap in qualifying to stop anyone else beating it.

Wednesday, October 3

Monday, October 1

Word Association - England, Collapse.

All right, I spoke too soon about Bell. Possibly could also do with reminding Mustard that this is the 50 overs ODI series in Sri Lanka, and not the Twenty20...

Zimbabwe has no bread

Once the breadbasket of Africa, now not a loaf available in the country. .

Mugabe continues to blame the British for this. The British point out that the UN and EU sanctions are aimed at individual officials, not the country. The IMF says it won't deal with Zimbabwe until Harare adopts financial policies that are rooted in reality.

Even the Zimbabwean agricultural minister has had to admit that their new farmers were "failures".

Well, what a surprise. For starters, they weren't farmers. If they'd been handing the white-owned farms over to the black farm workers, they might have stood a chance. But instead you get the distinct impression that agricultural competence was not a factor and party affiliation was.

All particularly pathetic when you consider that Mugabe had claimed his redistribution policy would boost production.

His latest policy - all companies have to have at least 51% of their equity owned by black Zimbabweans. *Government approved* black Zimbabweans. i.e. - Mugabe's supporters. He's like a pilot who is more interested in ensuring that only he has access to the cockpit than he is in stopping the plane tumbling out of the sky.