Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Measure of a Town

(Thanks to The Onion for the pic.)

I've just come across a very amusing story on the BBC news website, it turns out that my home town is the tenth worst place (or best if your into that) in the country for obesity, go Ashington! (aka Wansbeck), so now we have reached dizzying heights in polls for fatness and teenage pregnancy. I'm waiting for the alcoholism stats now so that we can make it a sweep.

Check out the story here and see how your town does.

Slightly worryingly now that I reside in Durham City, it appears that I'm sandwiched (bad choice of word probably making the chubbies back home hungry) between two even fatter areas (Easington and Sedgefield). I would tend to think that a strong selection effect is probably in evidence in Durham though, its a fairly hilly city, the kind of place that puts off people that weigh appreciable fractions of a ton, or at least forces them to lose some weight.

Nevertheless after checking my BMI is a fairly respectable 21.6 I've decided maybe I should be heading to the gym a bit more regularly.

The End of the World - Or at least productive work

Normally I can't really fault the smooth running of the department, if something breaks its generally fixed rapidly, reasonable requests for new equipment are supplied without question, however of late I have begun to notice a creeping problem that if left alone may well lead to the demise of this prestigious instution as a world renowned centre for learning. I speak of course about the coke machine located just below me (the only one in the building). As anyone who has ever worked in research involving the use of computers will know, a steady supply of Coca Cola is as essentially to the act of programming as the electricity that drives the computers.

Of late some changes have been made which I think probably reflects naivety on the part of whoever stocks the machine. Of the 6 options in the machine 5 of them are now either Z brands (Fanta Z, Dr. Pepper Z. Sprite Z.) or diet Coke (two slots), leaving only one lot of good old fashioned "full fat" coke. I'm not sure about who stocks the machine but either they do not understand the demographic of these brands correctly, or they are attempting some sort of social engineering, attempting to improve our health. Either way I'm against it, I can only hope that they notice soon that they've made a major cock up, the problem being that the propper coke sells out two days after a refill, the diet coke 5-6 days later, and the rest never get emptied. Surely this isn't good for business.

On another coke related rant, I just paid 60p for a can of Dr Pepper Z (no coke available) only for a Fanta Z to emerge. Just not my day today.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Straight from the Asses Mouth

After trolling the archives of (hey my girlfriends away) we've uncovered a couple of gems.

Ghost Car: Jim1's theory on this is that an actual ghost is responsible. Quoth he "no human would drive this way."

State of disunion: As if we needed confirmation. Flawless.

Crank Watch: Case 1 Continued

In a previous post we have visited the "Researchers" of the, it turns out that these nuts have a "discussion" board, the reason for the inverted commas there shall become clear.

It turns out that our heroes of independent research Norval and Gale have a less than standard approach for dealing with enquiries regarding the basis for their theory. Check out the conversation here (Click through Open Public, Scientific Discussions, Crater Chain Discussion, DeBunkers Opinion). It all begins to go pear-shaped about half way down, and eventually degenerates into a childish "you smell", "no I don't", "yes you do" type of argument.

Makes you wonder if polite questions from anonymous paper reviewers should be dealt with by questioning their sanity, or repeated counter questions about waterfowl doesn't it?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Further to the posts of Craig and iBaDaiRon I thought it was high time I entered the strange world of Autodynamics. To any of you not familiar with the subject I suggest a quick look at the wikipedia article here, but the basic tenet seems to be this: Einstein WAS WRONG!!!, about EVERYTHING!!! In brief a physicist called Ricardo Carenzani decided in the 1940's he didn't like the look of Special Relativity so he decided to come up with his own version. Some of the basic conclusions from his own version (dubbed Autodynamics) are: Einstein was wrong (unsurprisingly), there is no such thing as the neutrino, and there are several new particles (picogravitons and electromuons) and decay chains that have never been observed.

Now this is all fine an dandy (just another Einstein was wrong nut), except this one is devised by someone with some background in physics, so you think maybe he has come up with something interesting until you try and do anything with their new equations. For this part I'm going to copy directly from their own website here (note this is from autodynamicsuk the British offshoot):

According to the Web page, the velocity sum equation in AD is:

Bsum = sqrt(1 - (1-B1^2) * (1-B2^2) * ... * (1-B3^2))

Well, I plugged in the following scenario:

B1 = 0.926 * 10^-9 = 1 km/hour B2 = 0.926 * 10^-9 = 1 km/hour

Going through the equation, I obtain:

Bsum = 1.31 * 10^-9 = 1.41 km/hour

If the velocity sum equation means anything like the velocity equation in SR, then this is telling me that if I am walking a 1 km/hour, and I see Bob pass me at 1 km/hour, then Bob is moving at 1.41 km/hour.

What' s wrong here? Is the equation misstated? Am I misinterpreting the equation (and if so, what does the equation mean)? Is AD invalid at speeds

Answer: ***You are right. There is no mistake in your calculation.

Classic Mechanics give 2 km/h SR gives 1.9999 km/h AD gives 1.41 km/h

The rest of the answer goes on to state various mistaken opinions about when and where SR or AD conserves energy/momentum. But personally my favourite part of the response is this:

*** Any theory is not intrinsically right or wrong. Regarding your statement "What I do care about is whether it's close to reality or not," we can say that "reality," as an absolute concept, doesn't exist. A theory is closer to "reality" when more experimental or observational results can be explained.

Er. But the AD result does not match even CM never mind SR, I dont know about you but I think its fairly well established that if you looked at the speedometer on two cars driving driving in the situation described they would read 1km/h and 2km/h. So what part of what he is describing matches the observational results?

I could go on, looking at the website one is continually astounded at the layers upon layers or rubbish, some highlights to come in future posts include: the picograviton (or the Le Sage Ultramundane Corpuscle), no neutrinos and particle propellant.

Back Yard Science : The Measure of a Man

Thinking about Johns attempt to lose some weight (See here)
it occured to me that this provides ample opportunity to do attempt some good old fashioned back yard science (well bath tub science).

I've been told that muscle is 22% denser than fat, so if John succeeds in exchanging fat for muscle we should be able to measure a change in his density.

To this end an experiment was devised, beautiful in its elegance and simplicity, thanks go to Craig, John2, Jim1 and John for their input. It only requires that John takes a bath (we don't need to be there), but before entering the bath he ensures that the bath is filled to just below the overflow. He then enters the bath and briefly submerges, displacing a volume of water equal to his own, which then quickly runs down the drain. After the bath he must measure the volume of water he needs to add back to the bath to make it reach the overflow again. Simple!

Myself and Jim1 shall act as controls in the experiment (though clearly not at the same time), as we are not going to attempt to improve ourselves in the near future. Feel free to try this at home. We will be posting various results on the various blogs involved.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Crank Watch: Case 1

When I decided to start keeping this blog I planned to use it to ruminate on some of the more outlandish theories in the world of science (and astronomy in particular), the goal was going to be somewhat higher brow, a path towards enlightenment for all.

However having spent some time checking out some of these "independent thinkers" I've decided to hell with it, they're all nuts. It may be just shooting fish in a barrel but I'm sure it'll provide some entertainment on the upcoming dull winters evenings if we just point out the flawed logic, terrible misunderstandings and criminal liberties that they take with the truth.

Onward to our first genius. Find it here.

At first clance it seems to be a general bit of wierd bible study. Generally I would tend to stay away from that sort of madness but something caught my eye. Click through to here. It appears our friends at kingdom research believe all the craters on other solar system objects are the result of some sort of war between aliens. Obvious isn't it. I mean its not like we've never seen natural objects hitting solar system bodies. Oh but wait, we have, dozens of times. Like say a bloody great comet hitting Jupiter.

My favourite bit is this in reference to the picture at the top.:

"2. Many of these crater chains show darkened or lightened "splash" areas along the lines of cratering. Comment by exmilitary personnel; (And we are in agreement!)
"It appears that what ever was being shot at, got hit, and hit hard." "Something on the left got hit on the ground and the one on the right, above ground in flight."

Our opinion about what got hit? We don't know yet."
(that was their bold emphasis)

Well there you go, you learn something new everyday.

The joy of TEX

Urgh, its been a nightmare of a day. LaTEX won't do what I want it to do for my paper and TEXshop isn't helping. Damn.

Spent most of the rest of the day trying to write a wavelength calibration program but haven't been able to match the spectral lines in the line list to the ones I can see in the Arcs. The lightbulb went off 5 minutes ago, I, as usual had made a stupid assumption and confused two different sky lines. Still the object spectra look quite pretty, if I can only rectify them properly I'll be happy.


I've been looking at some Globular Cluster data for NGC 3115 recently, its data I took at the CFHT in March '05 but due to more pressing demands I've only got to it recently. I'm trying to write an IDL package that will reduce the CFHT MOS data more efficiently than IRAF, at present I'm trying to deal with the Wavelength Calibration and rectification problems, which are a real pain. In 5 minutes of despair I decided to make a colour picture of the galaxy to clear my head, and here it is. It just shows you how cool the STIFF package for making pretty astronomy pictures is.

Although it looks pretty the picture is fairly meaningless, as I had only two bands (B and R) so had to interpolate so that I could get three to match to R,G,B.

Still you can see that this S0 galaxy has a fairly strong disc, if I get the time I may produce an image to show that the disc is bluer than the rest of the galaxy too.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

All aboard the bandwagon!

It recently become apparent to me that time is passing, in the not too distant future we (as in the present generation of Durham astrophysicists) will have passed to pastures new. This is my attempt at ensuring that we all keep in contact in some manner.

I also hope to combine the best of the blogging experience that I have picked up from the mofos, room311, astroshack and nprs research. So look forward to a bit of my work, musings on the state of radio 2 or the latest biscuits at coffee as well as the odd bit of debunking pseudoscience rubbish.