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Archive for January, 2009

Chateau Dalkeith

midday on Dalkeith Road, in Edinburghs trendy bohemiopolitan Newington. By flick user Mr Pauly D.

No need for suncream: midday on Dalkeith Road, in Edinburgh's trendy bohemio-politan Newington. By flickr user Mr Pauly D.

Well, flying from Australian to the UK is never an exhilirating experience, but all things considered it was a remarkably smooth trip all the way back to Edinburgh. New things I tried during the journey include: the Travellers’ Lounge at Kowloon Airport, where for the not quite princely sum of HKD150 (= £13 = AUD28), one can shower and sit in comfortable armchairs looking at Google Reader; also, the Heathrow Express: at about £1/minute of travel it feels more like a taxi than mass transit, but it does live up to its name. However, I’m fairly sure that the Tube from Heathrow to King’s Croix (Piccadilly line to Cockfosters) costs the same amount as the tube fare from Paddington, where the Express alights. Is that wrong, or am I indeed being gouged by London’s trains?

Inasmuch as it is nice to go from 40 degree sun to 6 degree cloud, it is nice to be back in Edinburgh. Also thanks to my new flatmates for helping me move my stuff in expeditiously. Super-normal blogging to resume imminently, especially while jetlagged.

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Ninety valuable seconds of emendation time were lost to the snapping of the pencil lead, which can make all the difference in Extreme Thesis Amending. Photo by flickr user Mario De Leo.

Ninety valuable seconds of emendation time were lost to the snapping of the pencil lead, which can make all the difference in Extreme Thesis Amending. Photo by flickr user Mario De Leo.

Word on the street is that, after setting the record for quickest ever emendations—clocking in at about eight minutes worth of work—our own Matthew Francis has completed his thesis, titled: ‘Dark energy, cosmic structure and the expansion of space’.  He is, as ever, understated: “More of a shopping list than a title really.” But a shopping list, I would think, at a supermarket of awesome. Congratulations Matt!

No time will be wasted, either, with Matt and Mrs F. K. moving to Italy next Tuesday, as he begins work as a post-doc at SISSA in Trieste, the middle ‘S’ of which stands for ‘Superiore’. It goes without saying, and I say it just for emphasis really, that descriptions of thesis chapters make for excellent blog posts.

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Well that was just as enjoyable as the first game and it was nice to have Brendon along for a small part of it. Perhaps a bit less statistics than I’d intended, and certainly less on bowling after I concluded that bowling average is pretty good just the way it is. I’m convinced, though, by the need for a much better measure of immediate batting performance for a team than run rate. Expect further advocation of this idea in the future.

(more…)

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Well, judging by the blog stats last night’s 20/20 live blogging was well-received, even if no-one wanted to leave a comment; I certainly had fun, so I’ll be repeating the exercise. Will try to get a bit more commentary in, as well as focussing inevitably on the conjugate problem of an accurate 20/20 bowling statistic.

Stumps up down at 6:30pm local time, which is 7:30pm in the more populous bit of the country and 8:30am in the UK.

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[Updated! New bonus paragraphs on galaxies and the underlying dark matter density field.]

They’re everywhere, but not just anywhere; individually significant but collectively monumental; completely variegated, yet somehow all the same. They’re galaxies, of course, and they’re more than just a cosmographic map of the Universe: the pattern swept out by the millions of galaxies whose locations have been mapped to date is a fossil record and Rosetta stone rolled into one.

more than 200,000 galaxies fill these regions, and the manner in which they cluster together encodes the past, and future, of the Universe.

The underlying cosmological density field as reconstructed from observations of galaxy positions in the 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey. From the Earth, at centre, two slices of sky are observed out to vast distances: more than 200,000 galaxies fill these regions, and the manner in which they cluster together encodes information about the past and future of the Universe as well as the formation and evolution of clusters of galaxies.

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Strange blog appearance

I don’t know what’s making everything from the second entry onwards appear in bold text, but I’m hoping posting something new will make it go away.

Update: No, that didn’t work, but the solution was in fact that I’d managed to enclose the <!–more–> tag between a <strong></strong> pair, so that on the front page that latter tag never closed. Seems like something that should be fixed by WordPress; I will try to work out how to tell them about that.

Update 2: Yes, they know already. I leave this post here as a warning to my grandchildren, whom I also exhort to be careful not getting burnt in the sun.

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WA v. Victoria, the first Twenty20 match played in Australia; from the flickr page of Jordan Brock.

WA v. Victoria, the first Twenty20 match played in Australia; from the flickr page of Jordan Brock.

Here’s a reverse chronological transcript of my live-blogging the 20/20 match. Actually there’s not much match commentary, because there are people on the television for that, but rather some ruminations on how the statistic(s) used for quantifying batting performance in this form should be modified.

22:34 Well, this is heading for an early finish, so I might sign off unless something extravagant happens. This has been a fun and interesting experiment, which would be improved by my next time announcing it in advance so that readers can leave comments in real time. As it is, I hope there will be some comments after the fact about either the blogging or the suggested statistics. And I do promise to blog more science for  a while—I take it from the lack of comments that people want more of that. And more pictures, too.

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On the arXiv yesterday was a twenty-five page review of the topic of dark matter by Jaan Einasto*, at a good level for suggesting to interested non-experts. It covers briskly the historical progress of ideas, but with some weight put on the period of activity in the 1970s that focussed on the aggregate dynamics of dark matter, and less attention paid to modern and especially non-astrophysical topics such as direct and indirect detection methods.

I find the very occasional references to Kuhn and paradigm shifts cloying—either do that properly or not at all—but setting aside broad methodological questions about the manner in which dark matter has come to be an accepted physical entity and looking instead just at the treatment of the very interesting astrophysics that its presence entails, this is an interesting and nourishing article. Thanks Jaan!

* May I suggest the word ‘annatiogrammatic’ for names whose letters can be permuted to produce the citizenship country of their designée? No? Really? Okay, then.

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First, via The Beat, it transpires that Matt Groening drew wryly from the title of the Turangalîla-Symphonie when naming Futurama’s (Turanga) Leela. Minus one point from Berian for having been insufficiently attentive to spot that himself.

Perhaps more seriously, the Fredösphere recently excerpted transcripts from the Nixon administration:

– On May 18, 1972, Nixon talks to Henry Kissinger about the National Security Adviser’s meeting with Ivy League composers regarding Messiaen’s oratorio La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ:

NIXON: “The Ivy League composers? Why, I’ll never let those sons-of-b—— in the White House again. Never, never, never. They’re finished. The Ivy League schools are finished … Henry, I would never have had them in. Don’t do that again … They came out against La Transfiguration when it was tough … Don’t ever go to an Ivy League school again, ever. Never, never, never.”

Apparently the interest in Messiaen was sustained over a number of years, so that would be not so much Nixon in China as just Nixon in the White House. One last non-Messiaen note of pleasure is directed toward the publication of the score for Pärt’s Fourth Symphony (‘Los Angeles’) through an extremely fancy online viewer, in advance of its first performance, which is this Saturday in the eponymous City of Angels. I will have to content myself with reading reviews of it for now.

(Generic hat tip to Alex Ross, who has more than earned a place on the blogroll.)

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Bonne année!

Yes, I’m sure my co-bloggers will join me in a very slightly-belated wishing of good prospects for the New Year. We’ve been doubling hits on roughly a yearly time-scale, which doesn’t sound very fast to me when one considers the combined effects of connection and link inflation, but it’s good to keep things homely. Maybe we’ll have a blog highlights-of-the-year thing at the end of 2009.

Matt Yglesias and Jason Kottke have listed the cities they went to last year (Whadda they want? Medals?) so I’m going to do the same in chronological order with very minor formatting so that I can list more names than them (Whaddas he want? A medal?); stars for places I’ve not been before; italics for places visited for entirely non-work reasons.

  • Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland
  • Glasgow, Glasgowshire, Scotland
  • Glenrothes & Markinch, Kingdom of Fyfe, Scotland *
  • Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany *
  • Durham, County Durham, England
  • Gothenberg, West Gothia, Sweden *
  • Stockholm, Stockholm County, Sweden *
  • Malmö, Skåne County, Sweden *
  • Paris, Île-de-France, France
  • Lucca, Florence & Pisa, Tuscany, Italy *
  • Munich, Bavaria, Germany
  • Dalnaspidal Estate, Perthshire, Scotland *
  • Canberra, ACT, Australia
  • Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

All the best for 2009, everyone!

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