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Because I spend insufficiently little time feeling as though I’m still an undergraduate, may I politely agitate for others to follow the advice of Chris Bertram:

Those of you working in higher education in the UK already know about the barbarous proposal to make future support for research depend on a government assessment of its “impact” – in other worlds whether there’s a tangible payoff in terms of economic growth or social policy.

My colleague James Ladyman has launched a petition on the No.10 website to tell Gordon Brown what we think of the idea. If you’re British, even if you don’t live in the UK any more, pop over and sign it.

Something similar has been mentioned by Andy, just in reference to the UK’s main science council. To pass broader comment, I am uncertain of the efficacy of these petitions. I hypothesise that the UK government acts only on those that are i) highly supported; and ii) of purely symbolic value. For instance, the recent public apology issued posthumously to Alan Turing is both terrifically sensible and completely uncourageous. I am unaware of an initiative requiring the expenditure of political captial that has seen fruition through these petitions, but I acknowledge that, if my hypothesis stems from cynicism, it could be that I have selectively ignored counterexamples. On the one hand, I hope that’s wrong, but on the other, it would be nice if it were true.

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Insta-Reich

Tonematrix by André Michelle is a function defined on the two-dimensional vector space over the field \mathbb{Z}_{17}. And yet, it’s so much more; though self-explanatory, it might save you three seconds to know that the axes correspond to time and pitch, with the latter staggered non-linearly to prevent dissonance. It seems possible that Tokyo / Vermont Counterpoint could be produced directly from this tool if the latter were extended further in time.

A more interesting challenge would be to create a devolution from the audio to tonematrix form. I claim such reverse engineering, followed by a Fourier transform to draw out the particular periodicities in frequency and time, can be used to generate an infinte family of pleasant sounding meanderings of arbitrary length. I would also like to consider the possibility of randomly placing and removing structures on the map at different positions: most of the early random and fractal music was interesting but sounded very much like garbage, whereas by forcing tonality on the output, tonematrix minimises the potential for something awful.

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Still Tasty?

Going off on a food tangent, a blogger younger and more famous than I points us to StillTasty.com, where you can find information about whether one should eat left-overs or food bought and left uncooked for a reasonably long period.

Lacking, however, is an entry for Vegemite, which would be of great salience: I have run out of my small jar (I could get another one at the store, but… they’re small) but discovered to my delight a large jar in an office drawer that my mother must have sent to me in… 200x. The quote-unquote expiry date was about a year ago—but Vegemite doesn’t go off, does it?

In any event, it tastes fine, & I will keep you updated on developments.

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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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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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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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Those who have spoken to me recently about such things will know of my advocacy of the iTunes movie rental service. Though their selection is limited, it is an excellent proof of concept for the general idea of how digital media should sensibly be ‘owned’. I know that the Internet is full of well-informed, passionate people with strong views on this and related issues, but I would just like to go on record noting that I believe it a quirk of history that we think of songs, albums, movies &c. as goods rather than services.

(more…)

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