Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Yanks in space

The US has just unclassified parts of its new space policy - see here for the pdf. I had a quick skim through the document (it's only 10 pages and is mainly bullet points) and the main gist of it seems to be this:

  • we don't want anyone telling us what we can and can't do in space, and if you try interfering then, well, we've warned you right!
  • space things that help US national security, foreign policy and further US aims = good
  • other people infringing on our unequivocable right to do any of the above (in space) = bad
  • we'll collaborate with other people (international partners and such), but only if it's directly in our interests and helps with the furthuring of our aims (to be fair any country/government would, and does, say this, as any electorate/populus would frown in their money being spent on something that wasn't within the national interest - Matt)
  • space shouldn't belong to anyone (sounds laudable and good so far - Matt), actual US subtext = so don't try to claim anything up there as we'll just ignore the claim and do what we want with what you claimed anyway, or more basically "it's ours, so fuck off!"
  • we're not saying that we are going to put weapons in space (although if we did it would be for perfectly good national security reasons you understand), but just you try and stop us and you'll be sorry

I hope that makes you all feel nice and warm that good ol' unkie Sam will be protecting us and our future freedoms when we get into space.

Thank God for that

Good news everbody, we are apparently "...highly unlikely to be vacuum fluctuations...". It's nice to know that I (and everything else) am probably not just some virtual me that popped out of the vacuum until Mr Heisenberg says that I've got to give my energy back.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What I did today!

So I just submitted my diary of what I did today to history matters as I talked about in my last post. Here it is in all it's glory (or general dullness):

"I was woken up at 8am by the alarm on my mobile phone. I got out of bed and got dressed in a pair of jeans, a t-shirt and a zip-up hoodie. I made a cheese and Branston pickle roll for my lunch. I then had some Tesco's own brand Weetabix, with semi-skimmed milk, for my breakfast, whilst watching the BBC Breakfast news. I brushed my teeth. I packed my gym clothes and lunch, including my roll, two bananas, and a Mars bar, into my bag. I looked out the window and noticed that it was cloudy and had been raining, so put on my coat. I left my flat at about 8.40am and walked to the gym, whilst listening to a Suede album in my iPod.

It took about 25 mins to walk to the gym, where I changed into my gym clothes - shorts and sleeveless t-shirt. I spent about an hour in the gym, using weights, the exercise bike and the rowing machine. After this I had a shower and changed back into my jeans, t-shirt and hoodie. I left the gym at about 10.40am and walk to my office in the University of Glasgow Physics and Astronomy department.

On arriving in my office at 10.45am I switched on my computer monitor (turned off the previous night to conserve power) and then checked my e-mails. I also checked out the astronomy e-print archive for any new papers which had been posted.

At about 11.10am I went to the departmental common room for a coffee break. I bought a can of Diet Coke, for 50p, from the vending machine and sat and talked with my friends for half an hour. I then talked with a couple of colleagues about some results we wanted to present at a conference in December.

At 12noon, I went to an informal discussion group, which I'd organised, talking about an astrophysical paper on observations of a double pulsar system (PSR J0737-3039A/B). This discussion lasted about an hour.

At just after 1pm I went back to the common room to have lunch. I sat down with a group of my friends and ate my roll, bananas and then Mars bar. We talked about things including at what stage of ripeness bananas are best to eat. I like quite ripe bananas, with a few dark spots on, as they're sweeter than greener bananas.

After lunch I returned briefly to my office and then left for a meeting at 2.15pm. The meeting was to discuss how best to perform scientific outreach work to schools (or other groups) making use of the new planetarium we have. This meeting ended just before 4pm and I rushed back to my office to take part in a telephone conference.

The telephone conference is a weekly event with collaborators across the world. On the conference call I gave details of a paper I was writing that needed submitting for review and of plans for presenting results at the upcoming December conference.

After the conference at about 5pm I did some more work on the paper I was writing.

At 6pm I went up to the common room for another can of Diet Coke and a quick chat with some friends. Some of us then went to the Research Club (a bar for staff and post-graduate students at the University of Glasgow). I ordered a plate of Nachos and a pint of Stella Artois. There was an event on at the Research Club in which a local shop (Demijohn) was providing samples for tasting, so we went to that. The samples included various olive oils, vinegars, vodkas, liquors and whiskys, which we sampled in small measures.

After the tasting event I had another pint of Stella Artios. I then left the Research Club, at about 11.15, with a couple of friends and walked home. It was raining hard when we left so after the 25 min walk home I was quite wet. At home I dried my hair and turned on the TV to see some highlights of the nights Champions League football matches."

I did my bit, you do yours. By the way the stuff I sampled from Demijohn was all really good - I recommend it.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Blogging into the history books

On the 17th October want you to record your day in blog form as part of a national historical record of of the daily lives of ordinary folk i.e. you and me.

"A mass blog-in, entitled ‘One Day In History’, will take place on 17 October as part of the History Matters campaign, supported by groups including the National Trust and the University of Sussex. The site will be archived by the British Library under the web archiving project.

We want to people to reflect how history impacted on them that day – by simply commuting through an historic environment, or how business history influenced their decision-making, or merely that they looked up some old sports statistics or listened to some pop music from the 1960s.

We want to record the ordinary lives of citizens. By doing so in vast numbers, everyone should feel that they are contributing something permanent and valuable to the historic record with material that could be used by historians and researchers for centuries to come.

The idea is inspired by similar experiments by Mass Observation, the social history resource founded in 1937 which still exists today at the University of Sussex.

If you'd like to join in with this event then go here and add you own experience, be it tedious and mundane or fun and exciting. This will be stored somewhere in the British Library archives apparently, for future historians to snoop through. I'll try to write something and also post it here.

Fishy recipe

This evening I decided to make a nice fish pie. I did my usual recipe search on the BBC food website and found many a recipe. I sort of created an amalgam of two of the recipes as described below:

A couple of fish fillets (I used cod, but I think you could use other things like Haddock)
1 carrot
Half an onion
Stick of celery
Fresh Parsley

Pre-heat your oven to 200 C. Peel your potatoes and boil them. Mash them and add some butter, seasoning, and a bit of grated nutmeg (!) - yes, nutmeg. Flake/cut up you fish fillets and spread into a greased baking dish (I just splashed a bit of oil on the bottom). Add you chopped up onion, peas, celery, and carrot into the baking dish and mix around a bit with some seasoning. Now to make a roux - melt some butter in a saucepan on a low heat, add your finely chopped parsley into this and stir for a bit. Next add some flour (I don't really use exact measurements, so just add enough until the consistency seems right), and stir vigorously until the roux thickens. Boil the milk in a separate saucepan. When it comes to a boil add it to the roux a bit at a time and mix vigorously to get rid of any lumps. When the white sauce reaches the right consistency pour it into the baking dish over the fish. Spread the mashed potato over the top of the fish mixture making sure to cover everything. Place in the over for 30-35 mins. If you want you can grate some cheese over the top. Eat!

Et viola, a lovely fish pie.

Sitting vs Standing

In most cases the there is an obvious winner in the sitting vs standing battle. Sitting will win hands (and arses) down! But in the world of gig attendance its often the other way around. If you're seated at a gig (a fairly rocking and lively gig at least) then you just don't really get the full experience - plus you can't dance. With this in mind I have to decide whether or not to get tickets for the DJ Shadow gig at the Carling Academy Glasgow in November, given that I've been slack in buying a ticket and there are now only seated ones available. The tickets cost £18.50, so they're not dirt cheap, but also aren't hyperexpensive either, which means I shouldn't really worry about the seating/standing issue if I'm that into the music. I'll probably go, because the last DJ Shadow gig I went to was really good, and his new album is also very good (despite several rather poor Amazon reviews I like it a lot - it has a far more standard hip-hop style, rather than his usual trip-hop style, and is therefore quite different from his previous stuff, but he pulls it off very well, and manages to mix in other styles as well).

Sunday, October 15, 2006

This is a test, I repeat this is a test

Just checking whether the script I just added, which should in theory allow Traceback works.

Update: Ok, that didn't seem to work! It could be that I've installed the script wrongly, or it may just not work under Blogger Beta yet, or it could be any multitude of other reasons. I'll try to find out which, but don't want to be spending too much time chasing down the problems

Update 2: I've tried installing the script again - this times after having actually followed some instructions and installing it via greasemonkey, rather than just inserting it into the pages html. Let's see if it works now!

Update 3: That didn't work, but having a look at the script I think it only currently works for the original blogger rather than Blogger Beta. I'll scout around for a new version.

Update 4: So there is a way to get traceback (or TrackBack as I've found it more regularly called) working for Blogger Beta. It requires you to post comments through Haloscan, which will also handle trackback and stuff. I did get a haloscan account, but as of the moment I think I'll wait and see whether this guy comes up with any script I can just install via greasemonkey.

Friday, October 13, 2006

One of them

Many of my friends have LiveJournal (LJ) accounts on which I occaisionally leave comments. To do this in a non-anonymous way, I got myself an OpenID which works as my online identity. LiveJournal is rather nice in that if you've got an OpenID then it lets you have your own profile as if you where an actual LJ user. This means I can now submit posts (including a little userpic, which I only just found out), be befriended, which lets people syndicate this here blog, and friend people, which lets me read people's blogs that are for friends only. This is all very nice of the good people at LJ I think. I'm going to stick to my blogger site for now though rather than switch over to the rather more user friendly (and generally nice looking) LJ, just because I'm too lazy to move (and am liking being slightly different than my mates with their LJs).


It looks like the long awaited Darkplace DVD will be dispatched tomorrow. Bring on the horror!

Also starting next Friday (20th October) on Channel 4 will be "Man to Man" with Dean Learner - the new show from the creaters of Darkplace, Matthew Holness and Richard Ayoade. A trailer for this can be found here.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


I am now an e-mentor. This means that I give advice via e-mail to a high school student on, well, anything they want really. It could be informative and interesting, it could also be pointless and time wasting (hopefully not), but in either case it'll be a learning experience. The school students taking part seem to be enthusiastic and amiable, which is a very good start.

Show me the money

The main thing I took from todays GEO meeting was that I should never, ever, attempt to extract money from any European funding body. These bodies are drowned in the most obtuse set of acronyms and beuraucracy immaginable, and they become unintelligable to anyone. European beuraucracy really can be that bad. As far as I can tell there are about 10ish (who actually knows!) bodies, which in some sense deal with dishing out cash to the Physical Sciences. However I (and no on else really) have no idea which body reports to which other and under what framework! It could well be that all these funding bodies form a circle in which money just gets passed around in a loop with no one responsible for anything. If you don't understand anything I've just said then don't worry, because I'm none the wiser either!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The little detector that can(?)

Today was the first day of one of our GEO collaboration's biannual meetings - the GEO meeting. This is a collaboration of mainly UK and German universities and scientists behind the design, construction, maintanance, and running of the GEO600 gravitational wave detector. It is also responsible for data analysis of current data within the larger LIGO Scientific Collaboration and R&D for future detectors, like Advanced LIGO and GEO HF.

I gave a talk this morning on the contribution GEO data can make in the search for gravitational waves from known pulsars during our current science data run (S5). Another two days of meeting to go now.

Bubble Bobble

After the first two Euro 2008 qualifying games Steve McClaren was doing okay in his new job as England manager. England had two wins although we'd not really played brilliantly. The next game (played last Saturday) was at home against Macedonia - a certain win surely. Not so as it happens, as we can only eek out a 0-0 draw. We just didn't play well at all and created very few chances. So we have 7 points out of what should really have been 9, but there's always going to be a few anomolies in the qualifying groups, so we'll take it as one of those mishaps. Today we played Croatia away from home, which admittedly should be a much tougher game. However you'd think we'd have picked ourselves up after Saturday's performance and tried to turn things around. Again it is not so, we didn't have a single shot on target until into the 90th minute! What's going on? It's just not right! Prior to our one and only challenge for the Croatian keeper we'd conceded two goals, and Paul Robinson had to be our best player because he was being tested so much and had to make some great saves. Robinson was the subject of a horrific bit of misfortune in the Croatian second goal, with a Neville passback bobbling right over Robinson's foot for the attempted clearance. No excuses though, we just didn't play well. McClaren, sort it out! And don't be changing the system from 4-4-2 (which we know and can play under) to 3-5-2 (new and strange)! Ok, that was an attempted excuse. Next up (competatively) is Israel next March. Let's hope the break does us good, as there are now 4 teams in our group on 7 points, and two have games in hand over us.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Working late...

...hurts my eyes. At least I can listen to loud music in my office as no other bugger's about at this time of night. Hopefully the presentation I've just produced (to be given tomorrow morning) is up to standard! Goodnight.

Monday, October 09, 2006


It seems that Google have just bought up YouTube! How long before they own the whole internet?

Sad snooker news

It's just been announced that the snooker player Paul Hunter has died aged 27. Paul had been battling with cancer for the last couple of years, and has played on in major championships despite this. He's always been a favourite on the circuit, and was regarded by some as the snooker equivalent of David Beckham, with his changing hair styles and appeal to the ladies. Commentators loved to refer to his famous "Plan B", when after trailing heavily in a match he went back to his dressing room with then girlfriend (and later wife) for some stress relief. I'm sure he'll be missed by everyone in snooker and by us the snooker watching public.

Friday, October 06, 2006

In my face

The other day I joined the internet social networking revolution and got myself a Facebook account. I was invited to join by a friend from my undergraduate days back at UCL. From what I'd previously read Facebook was set up as a way for people at universities (initially the likes of the Ivy League US universities) to keep in contact, organise events, date, etc, and for those reasons I felt it should be hated. I even had a rather long rant about it once (not recorded anywhere). I've mellowed in my view of it now and it seems a lot more open to anyone now which makes it a bit nicer. I'm am on there as a UCL alumni, which was one of the first batch of UK universities to be on it (because UCL types can be rather arrogant and like to think of themselves as rather brilliant Ivy League types). I'm not sure how much I'll actually use it and have no real desire to go about trying to create a large social network on it, but I've set up an RSS feed from here so it may open up a wider readership to my blog. At the moment I only have a network of two people. If you would like to be in my facebook group/network/social circle then send me a message.

Beta blogger

I've just switched to the new β version of blogger. It seems to be linked to having a google account in some way - I may be terribly out of date but do google own blogger now? It has funky new features, so you may see some changes to this site in the new future. For a start I can add labels for my posts like those people on livejournal have. I don't know whether this new version supports TraceBack yet though, but we shall see. Update: it would appear that it doesn't have TraceBack, so I may have to use the workaround suggested here.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Swedish prize - part 2

(As I was saying yesterday...) this morning saw the announcement of the Nobel prize for Physics. It went to two guys (Smoot and Mather who were the PIs - Principal Investigators - on the COBE satellite) and is for an astrophysics based discovery (hooray!) - measuring the blackbody temperature and finding anisotropies in the cosmic microwave background (CMBR) using said COBE satellite. I'll leave it to Sean at Cosmic Variance to explain this in more detail in his post here. Quite a few other people have written about this to in a far more informed way than I can manage if you search about a bit. This is the second Nobel prize to go the the CMBR, the first being it's discovery by Penzias and Wilson in 1965. I predict that if there's another Nobel going to CMBR based discoveries in the not too distant future (and I'm sure it'll be trying for the hat-trick) it'll be for the discovery of a stochastic background of gravitational waves in the polarisation of the microwave background. That may just be my gravitational wave bias talking though.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The ecstacy and the agony

So today I watched my first Watford game of the season, playing Fulham at home. We were on 3 points after the first six games, with three draws and three loses. From what I'd heard we'd actually been playing quite well, with a fair amount of spirit, but had yet to be able to pull off a win. I was hoping today would be a different affair. With the added support of me watching the game we could hardly lose. The first half saw us pushing forward with lots of verve and passion, monopolising the possession and creating the best chances. All this forward play lead to one goal, involving a lovely chip from Ashley Young onto Marlon King, who after looking like he'd lost his balance managed to recover and put the ball in the net.

The Fulham manager Chris Coleman surely had some harsh words for his players at half time as they were out on the pitch a full five minutes before kick off. This didn't seem to have helped sure up the Fulham defense as after a mistake by Volz Watford got a great break on. This lead to a second Watford goal scored by Young from a fantastic cross by Bouazza. So 2-0 up only a minute into the second half. I am the lucky charm that I was hoping I'd be. This is surely going to be our first win of the season. Well how wrong could I be. Fulham decide to start to play, actually holding onto the ball for a bit, and our defense suddenly decide to go to pot. Fulham get a goal back and Watford become far too nervous and look quite shakey. Then Fulham get the equaliser - disaster! What are we doing. What happens next is even worse, we fail to clear the ball from our box about 4 times during a goal mouth scramble and then score an own goal. Nooooooooo! Going from 2-0 up and looking quite commanding, to losing three stupid, stupid goals.

That wasn't quite it though. In the last few minutes it got rather exciting with Young managing to pull back an equaliser for us. To be fair, Young did have a great game. I'm liking the look of the lad. So it ended 3-3. We had squandered our lead, but managed to salvage a point at least. Next up are we're away to Arsenal, maybe our first win there then!

The Swedish prize

Tomorrow see's the announcement of the Nobel prize for physics. I have no idea of who's in the running, but no doubt it'll be for something done about 20 years ago - something pretty damn good mind you. Today was the turn of medicine to get it's prize and it went to two guys (Fire and Mello) who did pioneering work on RNA interference, which has revolutionised a lot of modern genetics - allowing people to understand the role of gene expression far more widely and easily than before. The work was only done 8 years ago, which is a very short turn around for getting a Nobel. We then have prizes for Chemistry on Wednesday, Peace on Friday, Economic next Monday, and an undecided date for Literature.