Global Warming and Risk Management

November 30, 2007

Stolen from A Blog Around the Clock.


The Kubica Accident at Montreal

July 7, 2007

If you follow F1 then you’ll know about the massive crash suffered by Robert Kubica. There’s an argument for Kubica’s survival being a miracle by the previous Pope because Kubica is Polish. Less faithful persons might put Kubica’s safety down to the advances in Formula One cars over the past decade. Here’s an animation highlighting the parts of the car which may have saved his life.

via Be Lambic or Green.


Two Carnivals

May 27, 2007

Two science-based blog carnivals have gone online recently. At Pharyngula the Creation Museum Carnival has just gone live. I appreciate the freedom of speech issue. If someone wants to spend millions of dollars fighting against science that it their right, but there’s no need to agree with or even respect dishonesty.

More cheerful is the Carnival of Space, hosted by Universe Today, which has a collection of links on Space Science and Astronomy from various weblogs.


The Antikythera Mechanism and the Birth of Science?

April 4, 2007

[Cross-posted to Revise & Dissent]

L'Atmosphere: Météorlogie Populaire

We had a talk recently at Leicester from Mike Edmunds, the professor at Cardiff who’s been leading the research into the Antikythera Mechanism. I plan to write more about that in the future, but one of the many highlights of the talk was that the mechanism has implications for how Greeks thought about Natural Philosophy, the precursor to Science.

The ancient Greek view of the world is strange. Sometimes you can be stunned by the skill of their observations, like when you see the Antikythera Mechanism. Other times their beliefs appear to make no sense at all. For instance the Athenians closed their silver mines in the winter – to allow the silver to grow back. Something that’s puzzled me is how people who were not stupid could think such a thing. Surely someone would have noticed the rock was as it was at the end of last season? One possible answer is that until the invention of devices like the Antikythera Mechanism there was no alternative.
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Mathematical Thinking in Physics

March 22, 2007

LogoVery nice set of articles and essays from the NASA Glenn Learning Technologies Project.


13 things that don’t make sense

March 3, 2007

According to New Scientist, here are 13 things that don’t make sense. How many can you explain?

  1. The placebo effect
  2. The horizon problem
  3. Ultra-energetic cosmic rays
  4. Belfast homeopathy results
  5. Dark matter
  6. Viking’s methane
  7. Tetraneutrons
  8. The Pioneer anomaly
  9. Dark energy
  10. The Kuiper cliff
  11. The Wow signal
  12. Not-so-constant constants
  13. Cold fusion

Ithaca Found?

January 10, 2007

[Cross-posted to Revise & Dissent]

Borehole drilling
Drilling for Ithaca. © Robert Bittlestone.

Some tremendously exciting news was announced yesterday. Ithaca, the home of Odysseus from Homer’s Odyssey, may have been located. The reason why I’m finding it so exciting isn’t so much that from what they’ve found, but from the way that different strands of evidence are coming together to confirm the idea.

Locating Ithaca has long been a puzzle, complicated by the fact that Homer may have been making some of the description up for dramatic effect. For instance he refers to wealthy Corinth, which was nowhere special at the time of Trojan Wars and didn’t become a major power till much later. So there was the possibility that something similar was true of Ithaca.

Ithaca was described in the Odyssey:

I am Odysseus, Laertes’ son, world-famed
For stratagems: my name has reached the heavens.
Bright Ithaca is my home: it has a mountain,
Leaf-quivering Neriton, far visible.
Around are many islands, close to each other,
Doulichion and Same and wooded Zacynthos.
Ithaca itself lies low, furthest to sea
Towards dusk; the rest, apart, face dawn and sun.

Odyssey 9, 19-26 (trans. James Diggle)

The island known in modern times as Ithaki is currently thought to be Ithaca, but there are problems. Ithaki is hilly, among other islands and slopes to the east. Paliki would be a much better fit for the description, but there’s a problem there too. Paliki isn’t an island, it’s a peninsula on Kephalonia. Robert Bittlestone has looked at the isthmus connecting Paliki to the rest of the island and he’s come up with a solution. He thinks the isthmus is infill of a marine channel and that, in ancient times, Paliki was an island. However the isthmus is up to 180 metres above sea-level. Is this reasonable?
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