Saturday, 19 December 2009

Organ Donation Law Proposal in Wales

Given Wales' limited autonomy, the ability to make decisions such as this are only good for the country; it also means that Wales' policies and (secondary) laws are different from the rest of the UK and provide a differentiation which is to the advantage of the people of Wales. This particular piece of proposed primary legislation is particularly important and really should be the default - in the meantime go here (UK NHS):

This from the BBC:

Wales seeks organ opt-out powers
Wales could become the first part of the UK introduce an opt-out system of organ donation under plans by the assembly government. It would mean that Welsh residents would be presumed to be organ donors unless they have joined an opt out register or immediate relatives object.
Long may it continue, however future primary law making powers are still to be crippled by Westminster...

As an aside, many countries in Europe use the presumed consent idea - Finland does not (link to English translation of Finnish law) though it has been proposed to be changed in the next year.

PC World...

Its well known that the staff in major PC retailers aren't the most qualified when it comes to computers (its a favourite pasttime of computer science students to bait these guys for fun on a Saturday afternoon), so I'm not sure whether this story from the immimical NewsBiscuit is truth or irony...

Nobel Prize for Physics awarded to part-time PC World assistant

Posted: Dec 19th, 2009 by roybland

Mr Ward, who works at his local PC World at weekends, said he was ‘gob smacked’ on receiving the letter informing him of his success. ‘It was awesome,’ he told journalists. ‘I knew I’d done something pretty cool, but I didn’t think I had a chance of a Nobel Prize. But, looking back, I suppose it was pretty groundbreaking for a PC World guy to give out correct technical information.’

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Swine Flu...

Interesting article from the New England Journal of Medicine regarding Swine Flu (link via the ever thought provoking Schneier on Security blog) about Swine Influenza. A short quote from the article reads:
This is the story line for most headline-grabbing illnesses — HIV, Ebola virus, SARS, typhoid. These diseases capture our imagination and ignite our fears in ways that more prosaic illnesses do not. These dramatic stakes lend themselves quite naturally to thriller books and movies; Dustin Hoffman hasn't starred in any blockbusters about emphysema or dysentery.
Published at November 25, 2009 (10.1056/NEJMp0911047)
The Emotional Epidemiology of H1N1 Influenza Vaccination
Danielle Ofri, M.D., Ph.D.

Now while no-one is doubting the seriousness of a new type of flu strain - they happen evey year, many times - the hysteria generated about Swine Flu has dwarfed other issues in the media. The rush for the vaccine here in Finland has been interesting to watch. One can sympathise with the officials to a point but when only hysterical, scare mongering information is being released - I guess balanced reporting doesn't make headines - then one must be more skeptical than usual, though if I recall corrected this NPR episode had a very good report on the issue.

One thing that amazed me was the queues at health centres in Helsinki and the capital region of Finland for the vaccine. At the time only risk groups were being vaccinated (babies, small children, those with respiratory illnesses) and this resulted in long queues both inside and outside (the weather at the time was -5C I remember in one news report) health centres. Now, think for a moment, if you have a highly contagious, respiratory illness then the worst thing you can do is to gather large crowds of people together for long periods of time (some who might already be incubating the illness too)....?   As the vaccine takes two weeks to become active within the body then there's a very good chance that you've accidentally created the conditions to spread the virus much more. Anyway, swine flu has dropped from the Finnish media almost totally with the occasional report on the still-yet-to-come-but-really-it-is-and-please-be-as-scared-as-possible second wave; which we've been told has already hit many countries, but not Finland...

As for the spread of the disease, the wikiedpia article on the 2009 H1N1 outbreak has an interesting quote backed up by data from the CDC:
With respect to the current swine flu pandemic, influenza surveillance information is available but almost no studies have attempted to estimate the total number of deaths attributable to swine flu. Two studies have been performed by the CDC, however; the most recent estimates that there were 9,820 deaths (range 7,070-13,930) attributable to swine flu from April to November the 14th.[16] During the same period, 1642 deaths were officially confirmed as caused by swine flu.
For comparison here's a link about the 1918 outbreak and from the 2009 pandemic wikipedia article a comparison of the various major outbreaks against "seasonal" flu (with all the linked left in for reference):

Pandemic Year Influenza virus type People infected (approximate) Estimated deaths worldwide Case fatality rate
Spanish flu 1918–1919 A/H1N1[154] 33% (500 million)[155] 20–100 million[156][157][158] >2.5%[159]
Asian flu 1956–1958 A/H2N2[154]  ? 2 million[158] <0.1%[159]
Hong Kong flu 1968–1969 A/H3N2[154]  ? 1 million[158] <0.1%[159]
Seasonal flu Every year mainly A/H3N2, A/H1N1, and B 5–15% (340 million – 1 billion)[160] 250,000–500,000 per year[147] <0.1%[161]
Swine flu 2009 Pandemic H1N1/09 > 622,482 (lab-confirmed)[162] 11,033 (lab-confirmed; ECDC)[2]
≥8,768 (lab-confirmed; WHO)[163]

Finally, the definition for Pandemic with some extremely interesting figures between various diseases and background information on exactly what Influenza is and what the family of influenza viruses (Orthmyxoviridae) are.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Apollo 12 Footsteps

From Bad Astronomy ...

LRO spots Apollo 12 footsteps 

1900, Electricity and "socialism"....

Interesting article comparing access to electricty in 1900 with access to the internet in 2009 - particuarly relevant to the USA where it seems that any provision of any service by "the government" is seem as some form of "socialism" (or nazism - depends on the day) .... note the quotes! Anyway:

by Glenn Fleishman, 12/11/2009, 11:18 AM
just a small quote:
It’s instructional to look back 100 years, not long after the first electrical generation plants were built to bring power to towns and cities, to assess the situation we find ourselves in with broadband availability today.
At the turn of the century, electricity was largely used for electrical lighting to replace gas lighting. Gas required distribution of a flammable substance all over a city, and wasn’t practical outside of dense, urban areas. Electrical power also needed to be distributed, but the generation source—coal or water—could be in one place

Sunday, 13 December 2009

AirFrance 447 and a new low in news reporting...

The loss of Air France 447 between Rio and Paris somewhere over the south Atlantic has produced much speculation. Last months mayday call by another Air France aircraft (flight number AF445) in roughly the same place due to turbulence has however produced this:

Firstly, a MayDay call is part of the SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) for Air France (and others) during exceptionally heavy turbulence which can often be found over that particular part of the Atlantic in an area called the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ).  A discussion about the above can be found on the Pprune forums by professional pilots which will shed a lot more light on what happened to AF 445.

One possible "new" Bermuda Triangle theory "could" be based upon the methane clathrate idea where large amounts of methane are released from the sea-bed due to earthquake or other seismic phenomenon. Such a release of gas would cause bubbles to reduce the density of the water and at least, theoretically, sink a ship. Such a methane release could burn or explode and reach to 30,000ft or more thus affecting aircraft. However this has never happened, never been recorded (an explosion reaching to 30,000 might just have been detected) and there appear to be no methan clathrate deposits in the area.

While the loss of AF447 is not known, the development of a "new" Bermuda Triangle is one of the more far fetched theories - a minor application of Occam's Razor is required here perhaps? The most likely theory for severe turbulence in this particular area is the already known, recorded and oft experienced effect of the ITCZ.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Quick Guide to the Large Hadron Collider

Just had to post this for future reference and a good, easy to read description of the LHC:

File sharing and copyright...

Geist: Record industry faces liability over `infringement'

This is interesting (if not just a little ironic) the MPAA, RIAA and various other copyright agencies would have you believe, piracy of music and films is "destroying" the music industry - and not the banal, manufactured [sic.] music that is being produced and sold for extremely high prices in the shops.

We're all guilty, even singing "Happy Birthday" makes you guilty of copyright infringement and subject to prosecution in many countries (UK, USA etc). Download an mp3 of the same song 3 times and go to jail, lose internet connection etc etc.

Now the tables have been turned on one of these organisations - the Canadian Recording Industry Association (Canada's RIAA) - who have been accused of infringing copyright in exactly the same way as they've been accusing everyone else. Applying the same "mathematics" they've used for fining people over copyright infringement of individual songs they're being sued for 60,000,000,000 (sixty billion) dollars (presumably Canadian dollars)

Here's a quote from the story:
Chet Baker was a leading jazz musician in the 1950s, playing trumpet and providing vocals. Baker died in 1988, yet he is about to add a new claim to fame as the lead plaintiff in possibly the largest copyright infringement case in Canadian history. His estate, which still owns the copyright in more than 50 of his works, is part of a massive class-action lawsuit that has been underway for the past year.
The infringer has effectively already admitted owing at least $50 million and the full claim could exceed $60 billion. If the dollars don't shock, the target of the lawsuit undoubtedly will: The defendants in the case are Warner Music Canada, Sony BMG Music Canada, EMI Music Canada, and Universal Music Canada, the four primary members of the Canadian Recording Industry Association.

which can be found in full here.

Citation for the above (see the link at the top also):  By Michael Geist Internet Law Columnist at The Star  (Toronto Edition)

Approximately at the time of writing:

60,000,000,000 CAD = 56,900,000,000 USD = 38,400,000,000 EUR = 34,800,000,000 GBP = 2100 metric tonnes of Gold.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Photography and vampires...

Apart from the issue of sailing on an umbrella, this photograph is genius - as the caption states clearly, "no detail is overlooked"...

...more at Photoshop Disasters...

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Welsh Devolution

It all seems so simple: Wales (similarly to what Scotland has) will get primary law making powers if the country votes yes in a referendum to be held sometime in the future.

Betsan's Blog on the BBC website contains daily udates on the Welsh political scene and of course much discussion on devolution.

While there's is much debate from the usual suspects (generally from people who are rabidly against devolution but have no idea why) about the Welsh Assembly and whether Wales should take responsibility for its own affairs instead of it being dictated by someone in Westminster (what was it, over 1000 quangos under previous administrations and none of them accountable to the Welsh electorate?), there is absolutely no discussion about why Westminster put all these restrictions on Welsh self-determination.

For example, the current discussion about what would happen after a referendum and in what areas Wales would take full responsibility reveals that the piecemeal approach by Westminster shows a bizarre degree of arrogance to Wales - but not Scotland nor Northern Ireland? Ironically it is England that actually suffers from a lack of transparency and democracy in this case.

So some questions:

  • Why didn't Wales get primary law and tax varying powers?
  • Why can't Wales get primary law and tax varying powers?

One answer is "history" and that the current system is "working" . Let's tackle the latter point first in terms of "working" ... should we go back to the situation where the decisions directly affecting the Welsh electorate are not made in Wales but by a group of politicians sitting in London, the vast majority of which do not have any interest in Wales at all?  This is effectively the West Lothian Question by applied to Wales. Secondly where in history do you wish to base your defintion of the "correct" time ... pre 1066?, 1535-1542? 1979? 1997? Why not use the Laws of of Hywel Dda?

But also as answers to the two above questions, the amount of tax payers money (in the UK as a whole) now being spent on managing a bizzarely, complicated LCO process for allowing Wales to even manage things such as the Welsh language is obscene (a link to this particular LCO is here). This of course produces another question as to why Wales didn't get responsibility for the laws relating to a language spoken inside her borders in the first place?  Why the utter arbitaryness of the whole process in the first place?

To answer the question of whether Wales needs these powers is quite simple, the smaller and more focussed government is the more relevant it is for the people. If Wales shouldn't have more devolution then why should Scotland or Northern Ireland, or even England? But this brings up another bogey term - federalism - which is banded around the UK press and uttered with the same contempt as the EU - but seems to work in Germany, Spain, Switzerland etc...not too dissimilar countries from the UK?

Monday, 30 November 2009


Large Hadron Collider sets world energy record (BBC) by accelerating a beam of protons to 1 trillion electron volts. Theoretically at least the LHC could produce a Higgs Boson even at this energy (Higgs is thought to be around 170Gev according to theTevatron experiments) though you need more than 1Tev to get enough energy into the collisions in the first place. However the real experiments don't start until June 2010 (at the time of writing) and we don't as yet have a real idea other than simulations about what particles and particle decays we're going to see at >1Tev collision energies, so the first part of the work will be to research what kinds of decay signatures will be produced and then start analysing those patterns.

From CERN's Glossary Pages

Electronvolt (eV)
A unit of energy or mass used in particle physics. One eV is extremely small, and units of a million electronvolts, MeV, or thousand million electronvolts, GeV, are more common. The latest generation of particle accelerators reaches up to several million million electronvolts, TeV. One TeV is about the energy of motion of a flying mosquito.

For persons worrying about the LHC's safety keep checking this page to find out if the LHC has destroyed the planet. Just in case that page is wrong you can also check here as well.  If they both agree then the LHC has destroyed the planet.

Where's the data?

With the Copenhagen Climate Summit around the corner and more and more alarmist predictions ... it seems like the World is going to heat up faster and faster every week ... there seems to be a problem with the data that this is all built upon...its missing.

Apart from that, any simulation is only as good as the data put in, the algorithms that work upon it and the final interpretation of the results - simulating complex systems such as software is almost impossible, climate on the other hand is many magnitudes more complex again. And without the original data nor access to the simulations and their parameters I get awfully worried about the quality of the results and whether those results actually mean anything at all.

But then there's the very troubling question of why was the original data lost? Ok, it could really be because it was old and not considered worthy of keeping. In which case why does this old, presumably reconstructed (how?!) get used in making predictions?

These emails are deeply troublsome

Finally, if this is interpreted as being against the "proof" of Global Warming, sorry, climate change, then in all of these matters (and one of the fundamental tenets of science) is to be skeptical. If the proof and data stand up to a detailed review and all the questions a skeptic can ask then the data and proof will be accepted, if not....?

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

A Historical Moment: First collisions at the LHC

A press release from CERN:

 Two circulating beams bring first collisions in the LHC

Screens showing two circulating beams at the LHC
Screens showing two beams in the LHC
Geneva, 23 November 2009. Today the LHC circulated two beams simultaneously for the first time, allowing the operators to test the synchronization of the beams and giving the experiments their first chance to look for proton-proton collisions. With just one bunch of particles circulating in each direction, the beams can be made to cross in up to two places in the ring. From early in the afternoon, the beams were made to cross at points 1 and 5, home to the ATLAS and CMS detectors, both of which were on the look out for collisions. Later, beams crossed at points 2 and 8, ALICE and LHCb.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009


People ask me what I've been doing for the past few years, apart from "inventing the future" we've been researching and building a platform or infrastructure - known as Smart-M3* - for integrating, collecting, distributing and sharing information. Such a platform allows a user to integrate all their data and link it together in interesting ways and have it available to all their devices from PCs to mobile phones right down to sensors and other embedded devices.

We build on top of technologies such as RDF and the whole idea of Semantic Web within a "space-based" computing environment.

Click here for the Wikipedia article on Smart-M3 which also contains links to the academic articles etc, and the open source code for the core of the system can be found from Sourceforge.

*Smart-M3 has gone by a number of names an in some papers it is known as Sedvice or just M3.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Nokia N900, Maemo 5 & PySide

Just a few notes on installing PySide for Maemo5 on the Nokia N900.

Firstly, go to PySide's download pages and note down the locations of the repsitory whichi needs to be either entered in using Maemo's application manager or by editing the sources.list. The repository is:
deb /
If you decided to do this the hard (or easier) way then ssh into the device from something with a real keyboard to make like easier first. Switch to root as using the root command and then cd /etc/apt.  You'll find sources.list there, however on mine this is empty and has file size of 0. The file I needed to edit was in the sources.list.d directory and called  hildon-application-manager.list.   Back-up this file  first (usual caveat about being root!) then edit it using vi (not emacs!) and add the above repsitory address to it.

Save that file, cd to some safe place :-) thne run:
apt-get update 
If all goes well then DO NOT run apt-get install pyside-gui otherwise you'll get errors from trying to run a Qt app in python. You need to enter the following. 
apt-get install pyside-qt4-gui 
If you, like me, got dependency errors for libboost-python, pyside-core and pyside-base, then the following worked for me: Add  
deb fremantle free non-free 
to the hildon-application-manager-list or sources.list as you see fit. Re run apt-get update and then install pyside-qt4-gui as described above.

You can then get the PySide examples and the source tree on-line with option for download as a tar.gz file.


3D Mandelbrot Sets (?)

Found via Slashdot, but here you can find some fantastic pictures of "3D" verisons of the mandelbrot set. For example the one below (which to me looks startlingly like a spine):

Other pictures on the aforementioned site look like viruses, bone structures or just plain whatever ...

For even more wierdness check out these postings on the 3D Julia Set.

Friday, 13 November 2009

W3C Provenance Incubator Group

From the charter:

The provenance of information is crucial to making determinations about whether information is trusted, how to integrate diverse information sources, and how to give credit to originators when reusing information.  Broadly construed, provenance encompasses the initial sources of information used as well as any entity and process involved in producing a result.  In an open and inclusive environment such as the Web, users find information that is often contradictory or questionable.  People make trust judgements based on provenance that may or may not be explicitly offered to them.  Reasoners in the Semantic Web will need explicit representations of provenance information in order to make trust judgements about the information they use.  With the arrival of massive amounts of Semantic Web data (eg, via the Linked Open Data community) information about the origin of that data, ie, provenance, becomes an important factor in developing new Semantic Web applications. Therefore, a crucial enabler of the Semantic Web deployment is the explicit representation of provenance information that is accessible to machines, not just to humans.

An Explanation of Computation Theory for Lawyers

Fantastic article from Groklaw (of SCO vs reality fame) about computation theory and how it applies to (US) patent law.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Running a nation...

Sounds easy and at first it is, then it gets more and more difficult. The site NationStates allows a player to explore the kinds of questions and issues a government might encounter.

Create a couple of "countries" and explore how they behave under various conditions: make the choices in one according to your own morals, another according to your idea of far-left and another according to your idea of far-right principles...currently, I seem to be a centrist democrat...vive la libertie, now I'll send in the tanks I think... :-)

The FAQ is here ... some interesting entries from it are reproduced below:

>How do I play?

Click on the Create a Nation link and follow it from there. You'll be asked to choose a name for your nation, a motto, a national animal, and a currency. Then you answer a short questionnaire about your politics. This will determine what sort of nation you end up with: authoritarian or permissive... left-wing or right-wing... compassionate or psychotic... you get the idea.
Once a day, you'll be faced with an issue, and need to make a decision as to what to do about it. This determines how your nation evolves.

>So what is this?

Jennifer Government: NationStates is a nation simulation game. You create your own country, fashioned after your own ideals, and care for its people. Either that or you deliberately torture them. It's really up to you.

>Is it a serious political thing, or just for fun? 

Well, you can play it either way. NationStates does have humorous bent, but that's just because international politics is so inherently funny.

>Why is my nation so weird?

Everything is exaggerated a little. Well, okay, a lot. Your decisions affect your nation very strongly, so your country might seem like a more extreme version of what you were aiming for. Unless you have radical politics. In which case you probably think nothing's wrong.

>My decision had unintended consequences!

Yep, that'll happen. For one thing, see "Why is my nation so weird?" above. For another, pretty much every decision you make will involve a trade-off of some kind. It's kind of an exercise in choosing the best of a bunch of bad options. You might find this frustrating, especially if you're the kind of person who thinks the solutions to all the world's problems are obvious.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Helsinki Metro - Disaster or Advertisment?

A major break in a water pipe flooded part of the Helsinki Metro at the Rautatientori metro station last night.

A wonderful photograph has appeared on the MTV3 Uutiset website of the situation at the platform level, it possibly describes what has actually happened.

(C)MTV3 Finland

The picture shows the escalators leading to the main railway station from the metro station platforms. On the floor is an advertisment for the film 2012 - one of the post 9/11, Global-Warming, Flu-panic genre modern disaster films...the text reads:     "KOE LOPUN ALKU"    - "experience the beginning of the end". The picture in the advertisment shows a statue being overwhelmed by a great flood....

...the irony!!

Now YLE Uutiset is running a story Helsingin aseman Kompassitorin halkeamista sortumavaara - Helsinki Station's Kompassitori Collapse Danger.

So...given a couple of days we're going to have the metro station and part of central Helsinki disappearing into a big hole (there'll be much celebration on the streets of Nikkilä, Östersundom and Södekulla !) and Helsinki finally will get two metro lines...

Thursday, 5 November 2009

The Sentinelese

The Sentinelese are a very rare kind of people in that they have almost no contact with the outside World. Very little is known about these people: almost nothing about their language, culuture, rituals etc - that what do know is so utterly sparse and incomplete renders that worthless in anything other than mere guesswork.

Wikipiedia has an article about the Sentinelese and in the article The Last Island of the Savages by Adam Goodheart are more detailed exposition is made.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Critique (Photographic)

I think this applies to peer review of scientific papers just as well, however here it is specifically aimed at those writing a critique of photographs:

So, no more "nice shot" or "I don't like this" or "Its not special"...the last one is quite amusing as the writer defined special as "his"...

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Cartesian Closed Cateories

Just some links for future reference:
  • The Joy of Cats
  • Topos theory in a nutshell

Saturday, 31 October 2009

ZX Spectrum on Maemo

Seems funny to think that my first computer still lives, albeit in emulation on my phone...

Here the links to the Speccy ZX Spectrum Emulator Homepage and to the listing at for the downloads for the Nokia N800/810 and N900 devices.

An interesting comparison:
  • ZX Spectrum:  16k (48k model also) RAM, Z80 8-bit CPU at 3.5Mhz, mass storage: tape drive or 100k microdrive
  • N900: 1Gb RAM, TI OMAP 3430: ARM Cortex-A8 600 MHz, PowerVR SGX with OpenGL ES 2.0 support, mass storage: 32Gb to 48Gb solid state memory (specs at
A very naïve and simple comparison means that the N900 has about 62,000 times as much memory and about 600 times the raw-processing power, though real meaningful figures are almost impossible to make given memory speed, bus speed, technologies such as DMA and the processor architecture and instruction set etc (so, why did I bother?)

Ralph Johnson @ OOPSLA

Ralph Johnson has made entries into his blog about OOPSLA and papers that Barbara Liskov listed as the ones that she considers that have influenced her. Here's the list:
  • Wirth - "Program development by stepwise refinement" - which pointed out that a program is a series of design decisions, and these decisions give rise to a family of related programs, corresponding to different design choices.
  • Parnas - "Information Distribution Aspects of Design Methodology".  I haven't read this one!  I thought I had read all his papers.  It sounded a lot like his modularity paper. "The connections between modules are the assumptions that the modules make about each other."
  • Liskov - "A Design Methodology for Reliable Systems"
  • Balzer - Dataless Programming - I read this one a long time ago but I don't remember it and ought to read it again
  • Dahl and Hoare - Hiearchical Program Structures", in "Structured Programming" from 1972. 
  • Morris - "Protection in Programming Languages" - I don't think I read this one
  • Wolf and Shaw - "Global Variables Considerd Harmful"
  • Liskov and Zilles - "Programming with Abstract Datatypes"
  • Goodenough - "Exception Handling" Issues and a Proposed Notation"
He then writes a very interesting comment:
The world has changed!  Students tend to think these papers are boring.  "Everybody knows that!"
Boring possibly given today's "advances" from there, but too many fundamentals and much history is ignored and deliberately forgotten in computer science. Time to re-read and re-learn the principles in some of these - maybe we haven't "advanced" so much at all..

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Yr etholiad nesaf yng Nghymru

Ffeindiais fi rhyweth diddorol o blog yma gân Gymro. Diddorol iawn ydy'r y post yn ei flog Saesneg e (mae blog arall yn Gymraeg gyda fe) am y YouGov Poll ar yr etholiad ym Mhriadain nesaf yng Ngymru: "Poll predicts Labour trouncing at next election".

Yn yr blog (yn Saesneg) ydy'r dyfynbris:
"...a word of caution: Apparently The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). This has been one of the reasons why most previous Welsh polls have proved disastrously inaccurate. Wales is not a mini GB. In Wales the C2s Ds and Es are a much more important factor in elections than the C1s who swing middle England for one party or an other."
mae'r rhifau o'r YouGov Poll ydy (Hydref 2009)
  • Plaid Llafur 34% (-8.7%)
  • Plaid Geidwadol 31% (+9.6%)
  • Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol 12% (-6.4%)
  • Plaid Cymru 15% (+2.4%)
Newyddion drwg i Blaid Llafur a Phlaid Cymru hefyd - ydyn nhw'n wrthbleid wir i'r Ceidwadol? Sain gwybod, ond rydw i'n siwr pan bydd yn dod swpreis mawr yng Nghymru yn yr etholiad, ond i pwy?

Fy ymchwil am lyfrau i blant yn y Gymraeg

Dyma'r siôp da yng Nghaernarfon yn gwerthu llyfrau i blant ar y We. Ond, dydy'r tudalen chwilio ddim yn iawn o gwbwl, mae'n rhy anodd i ffeindio ac ymchwilio'r llyfrau, piti!

Hefyd ydy Dref Wen yng Nghaerdydd ...

Roeddwn i'n gobeithio ffeindio "The Cat in the Hat" (neu Y Gath yn yr Hêt) yn Gymraeg, dim lwc...

The Pentatonic Scale

An amazing video about the human mind and the pentatonic scale can be found here:

Bobby McFerrin demonstrates the power of the pentatonic scale, using audience participation, at the event "Notes & Neurons: In Search of the Common Chorus", from the 2009 World Science Festival, June 12, 2009.

After watching that, you'll understand the comment from the scientist (apparently) at the end who asked, "What the hell just happened there?!"

Friday, 23 October 2009

Tall Fiddler

Something to cheer you up for the weekend...

Tommy Emmanuel's Tall Fiddler:

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Sequoia's code, pt.2

More discussion here to keep track of...

Comment on e-Voting system standards:

State of California's report on Sequoia's voting systems:

Sequioia Voting Systems' Code

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Adam Curtis & Afghanistan

Fantastic blog by Adam Curtis of the BBC

Kabul: City Number One - Part 3 
 When you look at footage of the fighting in Helmand today everyone assumes it is being played out against an ancient background of villages and fields built over the centuries.
This is not true. If you look beyond the soldiers, and into the distance, what you are really seeing are the ruins of one of the biggest technological projects the United States has ever undertaken. Its aim was to use science to try and change the course of history and produce a modern utopia in Afghanistan. The city of Lashkar Gah was built by the Americans as a model planned city, and the hundreds of miles of canals that the Taliban now hide in were constructed by the same company that built the San Francisco Bay Bridge and Cape Canaveral.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Status of the P vs NP Problem

The Status of the P Versus NP Problem

None of us truly understands the P versus NP problem, we have only begun to peel the layers around this increasingly complex question. Perhaps we will see a resolution of the P versus NP problem in the near future but I almost hope not. The P versus NP problem continues to inspire and boggle the mind and continued exploration of this problem will lead us to yet even new complexities in that truly mysterious process we call computation.

Opportunty and the Crater

APOD has a fantastic picture today of a small crater on Mars taken by NASA's Opportunity rover. As the picture is quite large click the above link.

Here's the text from the above:

Nereus Crater on Mars
Credit: Mars Exploration Rover Mission, JPL, NASA; Image Processing: Kenneth Kremer
Explanation: It was along the way. The robotic rover OpportunityMeridiani Plain on Mars has a destination of Endeavour Crater, a large crater over 20 kilometers across which may yield additional clues about the cryptic past of ancient Mars. Besides passing open fields of dark soil and light rock, Opportunity has chanced upon several interesting features. One such feature, pictured above in a digitally stitched and horizontally compressed panorama, is Nereus Crater, a small crater about 10 meters across that is surrounded by jagged rock. Besides Nereus, Opportunity recently also happened upon another unusual rock -- one that appears to be the third large meteorite found on Mars and the second for Opportunity during only this trip. Opportunity has been traveling toward Endeavour Crater for over a year now, and if it can avoid ridged rocks and soft sand along the way, it may reach Endeavour sometime next year.

Friday, 16 October 2009

IBEX first results

From Dave McComas, IBEX Principal Investigator
Today is the day we have all been waiting for—when the IBEX first heliospheric results and sky maps are unveiled to the scientific community and public audience for the first time! The first results are summarized in five papers published online today by Science Magazine. They chronicle the remarkable discovery of a bright, narrow band of ENA emissions that was totally unpredicted by any previous theories or models and that snakes between the two Voyager spacecraft, but remained totally undetected by either of them.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Nokia and OpenSource

How Nokia Learned to Love Openness 
Last week I was writing about the Mozilla European developers conference, and the palpable energy there.
I'm currently at the Qt Developer Days, surrounded by some 700 Qt hackers: since Qt is pronounced “cute” this makes for some amusing puns. But cute or not, there is a similar atmosphere that augurs well for the open source project. 
 This is really good stuff to hear, especially as I'm part of it (even Slashdot has good things to say!).

You heard it here first: N900, Linux, M3, Qt, Ovi ... almost as good as a Bugatti....

Bugatti Veyron


versus Eurofighter Typhoon

(C)Top Gear, BBC

Anyway, some specifications from Bugatti...  0-100kmh (60mph) in 2.5 seconds, 0-200kmh in 7.3s and 0-300kmh in a touch over 16 seconds...nothing on how long it takes to 400kmh, but see the video above. Fuel consumption under "normal" driving conditions is, I guess OK for this car....40l / 100km in town, 14.7l/100 out of town and an average of 24l/100km ... which is approximately 12mpg. Fuel tank capacity is 100 litres. But overall not bad for a W16 8 litre engine with all-wheel drive, four turbo chargers and a potential power output of 1001hp...

the price...about 1.1 million UK pounds.....Wikipedia as ever has more a set of tyres costs 25,000 USD, I 'm wondering how much for a winter set?

Dear Santa,
    please please please please please please please, it is cheaper than the A380 - and easier to park....

Hating Star Trek

...its there up with hating any known religion, but Charlie Stross makes an very good point about why Star Trek isn't a good example of well written and thought out science fiction in his blog entry "Why I Hate Star Trek".

It basically comes down to the fact that Star Trek relies upon "technology" to solve every conceivable problem without thought or regard to what that "technology" might even be - it just becomes a way of driving the plot forward without any reference to the characters. Roddenberry actually stated that the problems faced in the original series should be solved by personal interaction rather than some mysterious "technology". You can argue that Star Trek is pure entertainment, but then you soon get to the stage where series such as CSI, Bones and the whole crop of sci-fi over the past 5 or 6 years use "technology" as the plot the distinction between reality and entertainment is blurred to the point where there is no need for character development because as soon as there is an issue or problem to be solved then some magic computer can solve it in an instant.

In someways the modern Battlestar Galactica series* started well with an emphasis on the plight of the peoples and sociological problems they faced; this along with a good dose of a deeper look into to the short-term tactics of an exodus of a race. Sadly, it too ended in a very unsatisfying
finale (Google Search) with a deus-ex-machina ending...

Unfortunately science fiction based on serious science fact or at least on a strong science basis doesn't sell - a genre that authors such as Arthur C Clarke, Frank Herbert and Isaac Asimov were masters of with 2001, Dune and the Foundation series being the most well known examples. In fact if one has to pick a scene that exempifies this in the modern manner then from the film 2010 the scene where HAL relays a message to Heywood Floyd from Dave Bowman (or what was formerly Dave Bowman). While it relies upon technology (ie: HAL, Discovery, Leonov, escape trajectory planning from Jupiter etc) the whole scene is underpinned with a political crisis on Earth, animosity and lack of trust been two rival crews and the disappearance of the Monolith ... in Star Trek, they'd have just repolarised the quantum flux generator and Picard would have said, "make it so..."

* the original series, shown on UK TV as rival programming to the 1984 during the Los Angeles Olympics was pure brilliance, but I was only 12 then, so it counts a nostalgia now.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Doctored Photographs

Returning to that particular theme from earlier, Time is running an article about
doctored photographs...

Top 10 Doctored Photographs - Time Magazine

RDF, Categories etc

Some notes for myself on the combined ([co-]limit?) subjects of category theory, rdf and semantic web:

RFID radio fields

Interesting work both from an RFID and photography perspective:

New species

...beat this Darwin :-)

Cern and the LHC...

As CERN has been in the news regarding terrorism or at least its vague link to* I thought I go and see what the LHC (The Register calls it the "Doughnut of Death") was up to these days - when its not being pointed at rouge Western states ... I suppose the best we can hope for is the production of a stranglet or maybe a black hole that doesn't decay via Hawking radition fast enough...

Anyway, a collection of pictures here: and this particularly nice one showing a simulation of what we can expect:

Picture (C)CERN.

The LHC is supposed to be back up and running in November and there is some news via their home page about the various components now being ready and the ring itself now having 6 out of 8 sections cooled.

* Six degrees of Separation
   .. which implies that you are related not only to Osama Bin Laden, but George W Bush, Matti Vanhanen, Margaret Thatcher, Gordon Brown and the Spice Girls too...

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Friday, 9 October 2009

Nasa and the Moon

More great astonomical stuff from Nasa with the successful crashing of the LCROSS probe into the moon to search for water, lots at Nasa's pages.

And more proof that either science education has serious problems or people are just getting more and more stupid (with a tip of the hat to The Register for pointing out that these people are a serious threat to society).

Black and white pictures

Some really stunning, minimalist black and white work here:

Industrial minimalism:


Some autumnal pictures to cheer you up:
aut1_0001 - Share on Ovi


...CCTV sounds great - imagine a paradise where no crime is comitted because everone is being watched (sounds like the last page to Orwel's 1984 - the book that everone quotes but rarely reads) think a little deeper, how far should removal of privacy from daily life go? Who should be able to watch you? Who should be able to say whether your are comitting a crime or not? You might be, or even you might be thinking of a crime and don't even know it yet...

Anyway, to aid us to this paradise, Internet Eyes have the product for you. The Daily Mail picked up on this (though that's not the best source for news) and so did Slashdot with the inevitable Stasi and Orwell quotes, though Hitler wrote about much of the philosophy behind this much earlier in Mein Kampf.

Just to make it a little more surreal, Internet Eyes offers prizes of 1000 GBP for the person who "solves" (no definition provides) the most crimes...hmmm, I might sign up, after all you could be a criminal and I could be a 1000 GBP richer...

What you see... not always the "truth". Now that Ralph Lauren has finally apologised for its cock-up regarding photomanipulation though from the sounds of it they haven't apologies for the abuse of the DCMA which does not cover these situations (fair use), for the purposes of education and posterity I along with thousands of others, a few major search engines and media outlets will preserve this for posterity and draw attention to other "Photoshop abuses".

As Blogger removed the original post because they caved in to a DCMA thread, hosting site Boing Boing didn't. Click here for the picture in question; and the picture (used under fair use rules).

Humans generally don't have heads bigger than their pelvis...not even Barbie make that bad a mistake.

Anyway, to start, Photoshop Disasters contains many of these, and here's the article about the Ralph Lauren case. Which a few news agencies picked up and and made their own exposes about this, such as ABC about the Ralph Loren picture and a minor touching up of a photograph to remove a bump. A few more from Art Threat about the Ralph Loren picture and a collection of 50 more from Graphic Design Blog.

Thursday, 8 October 2009


Ever wonder if this whole "green" trend is just a ploy...? Of course not, some people are very serious about saving the World, or at least a polar bear or two. Anyway, why not do your bit for global warming, sorry, climate change (hedging bets?) by eating green...

Taco Bell's New Green Menu Takes No Ingredients From Nature

More Onion genius later...

Monday, 5 October 2009

Naturality in mathematics

Some links via nLab's philosophy pages, these are just here so that I don't forget them:

+ Ruelle's Is our mathematics natural?
+ Wimsatt's Ontology of complex systems

Specifically I'm thinking about the nature of semantics wrt Cantwell-Smith and Gougen...

How computer technicians really work

XKCD Explains it perfectly:

Maps and mutations...

Interesting collection of maps at Project Mapping including UK-wide rail maps in Welsh. Very nice to see names such as Bryste, Manceinion and Llundain appear. though there are a few errors such as "Amwythig" for Shrewsbury when it should be "Yr Amwythig", Glasgow's name is not translated to Glascoed, Yr Efrog (York) is missing the definite article ... the definite article being very important in some placenames...regrettably its use seems to be falling with names such as Y Barri just being written as Barri on some roadsigns etc.

Same applies to the use of soft mutation (treiglad meddal) when you see abominations such as Croeso i Porthladd Abergwaun, when it should be Croeso i Borthladd Abergwaun.

Mind you, could be worse as found in this article.

Picture copyright BBC

As for genetic mutations, I'll find some genetic maps and maybe even some lingustic mutation maps...

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Messenger at Mercury

3rd fly-by before orbit insertion in 2011 occured yesterday 29th Sept 09:

Currently there seems only to be a single image from the fly-in on the 29th available at this time:

Monday, 28 September 2009

The distribution and the growth of fast food and stores in the USA.. (number 413, if the blog is updated)

and for WalMart (thanks to the comments to the above):

Target is interesting, note the massive Los Angeles area expansion 1985-1987...similar thing happens to WalMart in South Carolina. Ross on the other hand is concentrated in California until some stores start appearing in the New York area and Florida, then after 2002 there's a massive expansion nation-wide.

Lots more at plus an interesting analysis of Facebook at but more about that later.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Excellent description on AES encryption