Friday, 31 July 2009

Inspiring Quote of the Week


"Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you."

Jean Paul Sartre

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Cat or Poltergeist?

Pinched from the estimable Archie, here is the latest from Simon's Cat - pure genius and a salutory warning against cat ownership.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

So What Kind of Body (of Water) Are You?

Oh yes - it's quiz time again. This is so accurate I'm thinking of changing my name to Biscay...



You Are a Bay



You are a blissful, peaceful person. Some might call you spiritual.

You are easy-going and tranquil. You take solace in life's sweet moments.

You are sentimental and open-hearted. You love many people, places, and things.

You try to live an enlightened life. You are benevolent, noble, and intuitive.

He's Not My Brother...

Pinched from the fantastically talented toomanytribbles, here is Richard Dawkins doing what he does best - explaining science to us in a clear and understandable way:

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Truth and Beauty, Maths-style

In honour of my son, who has just graduated in maths, much to his mother's shock (if I've got a son old enough to have a degree then I must be really really old - aarrgh!) here is the perfect maths joke from the excellent xkcd:



I'm especially chuffed at actually getting this joke - unlike scientific proof, which can always be altered in the light of new facts, mathematical proof is absolute, immutable and eternal...gotta love it!

Friday, 17 July 2009

Don't Call Me Stupid...Unless I Am, Of Course

Pinched from the radiant Dorid over at the Radula, this is hilarious and at the same time rather disturbing. Geography's not my strongest suit - I'm not sure I could exactly pinpoint Iran on a map but I sure as hell wouldn't be getting it mixed up with Australia!



My favourite line from this vid has to be, from the guy trying to distinguish between the Israelis and the Palestinians - "Which ones are throwing the rocks?" Gotta love it.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Tilting at Windfarms


The other scientific thing that caught my eye over the weekend was a very well-written post over on Black Sun Journal about global warming and the future of energy use.

I have to admit that I am instinctively a bit of a global warming sceptic. On the one hand, I've always worried about using up resources of the earth that took millions of years to create - seems a bit reckless. On the other hand, I hate bandwagons and I dislike the fact that it is now socially unacceptable to question global warming as a fact, or the effectiveness of alternative energy sources.

So a good, well-reasoned argument in favour of the case for alternative energy production is very welcome, in this corner of the pond. Sean makes a good case for wind energy, for example. The only thing I wonder about is if wind energy was widely used throughout the world, surely weather patterns would be affected? If the wind is being turned into energy instead of powering its way round the world, it must have an effect. Anyone got any answers?

I like the sound of the halogen replacement bulb though and will certainly give them a go when they come down in price. It's the disposal of all our stuff that I think is as important as the energy itself and silicon sounds a lot better than mercury.

Right, that's enough clever stuff - my brain hurts. As an antidote, xkcd, as usal, has the answer...

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Flares Are Back!

I'm feeling very scientific today so I thought I'd bring you a couple of items that I found in the blogosphere. First - flares are back! Well, actually it's sunspots that are back but flares make a better headline.



Over at Black Holes and Astrostuff Bob had a great post bringing us the news. Sunspots go through cycles of activity and inactivity, in pretty regular 11 year cycles. Our Sun has been in a period of inactivity for more than two years and scientists were beginning to be concerned. But they have just found out why things have been so slow - a large solar jet stream has taken longer than usual to reach the critical 22 degree latitude. Previous observation has shown that it is when the jet streams reach this point on the Sun's surface that sunspot activity begins.

Now, at last, the slowmo has reached sunspot central and, sure enough, the first significant sunspots in several years have appeared. Sunspots are useful because they help us predict solar activity, which in turn can affect telecommunications. It is also thought that they might have an effect on longterm climate change. It has even been suggested that sunspot cycles influence flu mutations and epidemics.

Anyway, it's good to see that they are back and that the Sun hasn't stalled. Here's a nice pic from Nasa to show what all the fuss is about:



Incidentally, you can observe sunspots yourself, using the same projection method that is used for looking at eclipses. I bought a Solarscope a few years ago and have used it for observing transits as well as sunspots. Or you can see the Sun remotely by checking in on the SOHO website. Happy spot spotting!

By the way - NEVER look directly at the Sun for more than a second or two, even if you are looking for sunspots and NEVER EVER EVER! look at the Sun through binoculars or a telescope - you WILL suffer serious eye damage...and then you wouldn't be able to see sunspots ever again, would you?