Thursday, 30 December 2010

*that* Lotus Esprit Turbo

BBC's 5th Gear special:

Weather forecast

Snow, snow, snow, snow, snow, no snow, snow, snow, snow

Two days without snowing, but .....

Long range weather forecast from Foreca for Sipoo, Finland at 13h00, Dec 30 2010...

Happy Birthday IO Monad

Interesting post from the Haskell mailing list....

[Haskell-cafe] The IO monad is 45 years old

An old (1994) paper on category theory monads and functional
programming included an interesting historical side-note. It turns out
that the RealWorld-passing trick underlying the implementation of the
IO monad, the trick that made it possible to embed truly side-effecting 
operations into pure Haskell -- the trick is 45 years old. It has been
first published in February 1965.

That 1965 paper also anticipated State and Writer monad, call/cc,
streams and delayed evaluations, relation of streams with co-routines,
and even stream fusion.

First, here is the historical aside, cited from 

   Jonathan M. D. Hill and Keith Clarke
   An Introduction to Category Theory, Category Theory Monads,
   and Their Relationship to Functional Programming. 1994



Friday, 17 December 2010

I Hate [sic] Math!

I don't and this article by way of NPR might change your mind:

I Hate Math! (Not After This, You Won't)
10:04 am December 16, 2010
by Robert Krulwich

Vi Hart calls herself "a recreational mathemusician currently living on Long Island." She talks faster than a machine gun, loves math, and draws like a dream. Her newest video: "Doodling in Math Class: Snakes + Graphs" is eye-popping.

ps: Maths not Math....

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Frequency Annotated Rail Map of France

Really interesting...would like to see something similar for Finland or the UK...

Voyager 1

Voyager 1 Has Outdistanced the Solar Wind
by Nancy Atkinson on December 13, 2010

The venerable Voyager spacecraft are truly going where no one has gone before. Voyager 1 has now reached a distant point at the edge of our solar system where it is no longer detecting the solar wind. At a distance of about 17.3 billion km (10.8 billion miles) from the Sun, Voyager 1 has crossed into an area where the velocity of the hot ionized gas, or plasma, emanating directly outward from the sun has slowed to zero. Scientists suspect the solar wind has been turned sideways by the pressure from the interstellar wind in the region between stars.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Agile Development

Maybe some sense at last rather than Agile wouldn't believe how many projects get screwed by "agile" processes (the ones that look remarkably like waterfalls) could always look here for an interesting use of formal methods in an agile (true sense of the process) manner:

Ian Oliver (2007) Experiences of Formal Methods in Conventional Software and Systems Design. BCS-FACS Meeting on Formal Methods in Industry. December 2007

The moral here is that being "agile" isn't about the languages and processe but rather the state-of-mind used:
  • understanding your long-term goals
  • understanding how your chosen languages and techniques etc work
  • understand the need for abstraction, refinement, retrenchment
  • understand the difference between modelling and architecting (see point above!)
  • understand what your models are for, how they are to be used, what they tell you and how they are structured and related to each other
  • make sure that you have a good set of tests (stop implementing individual use cases: this leads to madness, intractible feature interactions etc, use then as tests and validations to your system!)
  • validate/verify/test/animate/simulate your system often
  • understand what these validations/verifications/tests/animations/simulations tell you
  • interact with the customer often - show them your results
  • repeat until done.

Anyway, here's the blog posting:

What Agile Isn't
Posted by Eugene Wallingford, September 22, 2010 4:38 PM

Traffic on the XP mailing list has been heavy for the last few weeks, with a lot of "meta" discussion spawned by messages from questioners seeking a firmer understanding of this thing we call "agile software development". I haven't had time to read even a small fraction of the messages, but I do check in occasionally. Often, I'll target in on comments from specific writers whose expertise and experience I value. Other times, I'll follow a sub-sub-plot to see a broader spectrum of ideas.

Two recent messages really stood out to me as important signposts in the long-term conversation about agile software development. First, Charlie Poole reminded everyone that Agile Isn't a "Thing".

The ongoing thread about whether is always/sometimes/not always/never/ whatever "right" for a given environment seems to me to be missing something rather important. It seems to be based on the assumption that "agile" is some particular thing that we can talk about unambiguously.

It isn't.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

A Mexican, a Kiwi and a Nigerian walk into a bar…

Worth reading...

A Mexican, a Kiwi and a Nigerian walk into a bar…

Joris Luyendijk, The Guardian, Saturday 4 December 2010

The best way to understand another country is to get to grips with its sense of humour, says Joris Luyendijk. Our foreign correspondents let us in on local gags

I particularly like this one from Iceland:

A Norwegian, a Faroese and an Icelander are about to be executed. Each one gets a final wish. The Faroese asks for a final feast of sour shark and dried whalemeat for everyone. The Icelander asks to be allowed to compose an epic poem in the old style about how cruelly he is being treated and about how great Iceland is. The Norwegian thinks for a while, and then says: "Can I be executed before the poem is read and the food is served?" Valur Gunnarsson


Interesting website about the designa and implementation of PacMan

Understanding Pac-Man Ghost Behavior
Posted on December 2, 2010

It only seems right for me to begin this blog with the topic that inspired me to start it in the first place. Not too long ago, I came across Jamey Pittman’s “Pac-Man Dossier”, which is a ridiculously-detailed explanation of the mechanics of Pac-Man. I found it absolutely fascinating, so this site is my attempt to discover and aggregate similarly-detailed information about other games (albeit in much smaller chunks). However, as a bit of a tribute, I’m going to start with Pac-Man as well, specifically the ghost AI. It’s an interesting topic, and hopefully my explanation will be a bit more accessible than Jamey’s, due to focusing on only the information relevant to ghost behavior.

and finally Jamey Pittman's superb PacMan Dossier.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Quark-Gluon Plasma

This is seriously cool stuff:

Hadron Collider detects 'Big Bang' matter

Last Updated: Friday, November 26, 2010 | 5:17 PM ET 

By Emily Chung CBC News

A phase of matter created moments after the Big Bang is thought to have been detected at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.
"Striking" evidence of a quark-gluon plasma has been observed by a team of researchers, including Canadians, at the facility near Geneva, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced Friday.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

USB and The Devil

I guess this is some kind of hoax but, sadly, believable....unless it really is a comment on the complexity of the USB 3.0 specification:

USB - Satan's Data Connection
Martin Robbins (The Guardian)

Evangelical Christians in Brazil have apparently banned the use of USB connections after claiming the technology is the mark of Satan-worshippers (Hat tip: Fernando Frias). Apparently the revelation came after the evangelists noticed that the USB symbol resembles a trident. Presumably they're not great fans of Britain's ballistic missiles either.

Following on from this, what do we make of the thing (now what was it?) that the Devil embodied as a serpent tempted Eve have been now been warned about that using that particular device...

Invented Languages

Nice to see this sort of thing on El Reg:

Speak geek: The world of made-up language
By Caleb Cox
17th November 2010 11:43 GMT

The world of invented language is a difficult place to succeed and those who have the patience to create their own tend to have a hard time gathering followers.

Klingon and Elvish are notable exceptions, thanks to the huge fan bases for Star Trek and Lord of The Rings.

Society tends to regard people who learn these languages as über geeky and socially-inept but we often overlook the reasons why they’re so obsessed with the fantasies they love.

Until recently, expanding the speaker numbers was a challenge: conventions were the only place for enthusiasts to gather and sporadic publications the only other method of sharing their passion.

With the internet, mobile app markets and other techie possibilities, these languages now have easily accessible platforms to grow. While such languages thrive, constructed languages, or “conlangs”, that were created in our past generally struggled.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

James May from Top Gear rides in a U-2 spy plane


and some extra scenes:

PARIS (a la El Reg)

PARIS joins the 17-mile-high club

Aerial mission photos for your viewing pleasure
Well, beloved readers, it's almost time to put PARIS to bed, but before the cocoa and slippers we'd like to share a few aerial photos from our audacious, and ultimately triumphant, space plane project.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The "Dangers" of Halloween...

Excellent article in the Wall Street Journal:

'Stranger Danger' and the Decline of Halloween

No child has ever been killed by poisoned candy. Ever.

Halloween is the day when America market-tests parental paranoia. If a new fear flies on Halloween, it's probably going to catch on the rest of the year, too.
Take "stranger danger," the classic Halloween horror. Even when I was a kid, back in the "Bewitched" and "Brady Bunch" costume era, parents were already worried about neighbors poisoning candy. Sure, the folks down the street might smile and wave the rest of the year, but apparently they were just biding their time before stuffing us silly with strychnine-laced Smarties.
That was a wacky idea, but we bought it. We still buy it, even though Joel Best, a sociologist at the University of Delaware, has researched the topic and spends every October telling the press that there has never been a single case of any child being killed by a stranger's Halloween candy. (Oh, yes, he concedes, there was once a Texas boy poisoned by a Pixie Stix. But his dad did it for the insurance money. He was executed.)


Wednesday, 6 October 2010

More on Koro

More on Koro

New language identified in remote corner of India; One of thousands of endangered tongues around world

Interesting fact in that article is that we're losing language every two weeks...sad



Indian language is new to science

Koro speakers (National Geographic) The newly recognised language is spoken by between 800 and 1,200 people in north-east India
Researchers have identified a language new to science in a remote region of India.
Known as Koro, it appears to be distinct from other languages in the family to which it belongs; but it is also under threat.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Food ideas: Bento !

Fantastic website full of great Bento lunch-box ideas...Just Bento

Simple one to start off with : Bento no. 76: Chicken and pepper rice cooker bento
I intended to find another, but there are too many.... :-)

Wednesday, 29 September 2010


Fresh ACS:Law file-sharing lists expose thousands more

The personal details of a further 8,000 people alleged to have shared music or films illegally have appeared online. A list of more than 8,000 Sky broadband subscribers and a second of 400 PlusNet users surfaced following a security breach of legal firm ACS:Law.

How many innocent people's name are on that suspect list? Yours?

Monday, 27 September 2010

Ikea and cats

Genius idea...release 100 cats in an Ikea store - in the name of science and making an advert.

After seeing this I'm applying for a grant to make a psychological study of cats and humans in very much the same situation ... at an Ikea, on a Saturday, using big cats: Lions, Tigers etc ... hungry ones as well ...

Wednesday, 15 September 2010


If you didn't suffer from vertigo, you will after this....climbing a transmission tower...

Reflections on Ubuntu, Canonical and the march to free software adoption

Superb post by Mark Shuttleworth on Ubuntu:

Reflections on Ubuntu, Canonical and the march to free software adoption

What do we do for free software? And what do I do myself?
For a start, we deliver it. We reduce the friction and inertia that prevent people trying free software and deciding for themselves if they like it enough to immerse themselves in it. Hundreds of today’s free software developers, translators, designers, advocates got the opportunity to be part of our movement because it was easy for them to dip their toe in the water. And that’s not easy work. Consider the effort over many years to produce a simple installer for Linux like which is the culmination of huge amounts of work from many groups, but which simply would not have happened without Canonical and Ubuntu.
There are thousands of people who are content to build free software for themselves, and that’s no crime. But the willingness to shape it into something that others will find, explore and delight in needs to be celebrated too. And that’s a value which is celebrated very highly in the Ubuntu community: if you read you’ll see a celebration of *people using free software*. As a community we are deeply satisfied to see people *using* it to solve problems in their lives. That’s more satisfying to us than stories about how we made it faster or added a feature. Of course we do bits of both, but this is a community that measures impact in the world rather than impact on the code. They are very generous with their time and expertise, with that as the reward. I’m proud of the fact that Ubuntu attracts people who are generous in their contributions: they feel their contributions are worth more if they are remixed by others, not less. So we celebrate Kubuntu and Xubuntu and Puppy and Linux Mint. They don’t ride on our coattails, they stand on our shoulders, just as we stand on the shoulders of giants. And that’s a good thing. Our work is more meaningful and more valuable because their work reaches users that ours alone could not.

Emphasis by me. Isn't this the important point of Ubuntu, that they popularise free and open software?

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Train timetables

A useful and interesting service from Finland's Ratahalintokeskus (RHK)...the ability to generate graphical timetables for any stretch of track and date in Finland (regular traffic only):

Säännöllisen liikenteen aikataulujen haku (Regular Traffic Timetable Search)

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Trains v People

In the "war between people and trains", trains inevitably win....occasionally even ghost trains win...especially when they turn out to be real trains.

Not sure if this guy qualifies for a Darwin Award, but....

Amateur NC ghost hunter looking for 'ghost train' hit and killed by real train

By Jeff Rivenbark - email

STATESVILLE, NC (WBTV) - A man who was with about a dozen people who were looking for a legendary "ghost train" in Iredell County was hit by a locomotive and killed early Friday morning.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

If only....

Noam Chomsky to become new X-Factor judge

 Professor of linguistics and political campaigner Noam Chomsky has been confirmed as the new judge on TV talent show The X Factor. ‘Cheryl Cole was still recovering from malaria and we needed someone who could fill the intellectual void,’ said programme creator Simon Cowell, ‘Professor Chomsky is perfect and the audience just loves him.’ go read the rest of it on Newsbiscuit.


Monday, 23 August 2010

Warning: Journalism

This is a great idea: Journalism Warning Labels

I particularly like this one....

and here's the full set to print out: Warning Labels

Can't wait for the next installment about Sipoo written by that most esteemed bastion of fiction Helsingin Sanomat...did I tell you the one about a metro line to some fields...?

Tuesday, 10 August 2010


Probably the coolest bass player in the World!   :-)

Satans Rørmokarë

available for weddings, funerals, christenings and bar-mitzvahs....'

(apologies for the shameless self publisiation!)

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Lessons for SmartPhone Developers

Coming after Apple/iPad/AT&T email leak is this interesting article from the Denim Group:

June 09, 2010

4 Lessons from the AT&T/Apple Data Breach for Smartphone App Developers

The recent AT&T / Apple data breach involving iPad 3G customers echoes some lessons we’ve been discussing with our customers deploying smartphone applications.  Based on a read of the info from Goatse Security as reported by Gawker we see similar themes.

In summary the author lists:

  • Authentication and Authorization Are Crucial for Services Deployed to Support Smartphone Applications
  • Do Not Authenticate Requests with Values that Look Random But Aren’t
  • Never Trust Anything in an Attacker-Controlled Request (Especially User-Agent Headers)
  • Don’t Trust Your Service Providers; Test Them

It is written with more of a focus on security, but the technical aspects are correct for this situation. However going deeper from here the whole issue of privacy is much greater than just the application of security. I sound like Schneier.

iPad Owner Email Leak

Extremely serious privacy breaches at Apple proving once again that people just don't understand privacy.

AT&T's Gaping Hole Exposes 114,000 iPad 3G Buyers' Email Addresses
Jason Mick (Blog) - June 9, 2010 5:55 PM
In what is one of the biggest leaks of email addresses in recent history, a group called Goatse Security has published the personal email addresses of 114,067 iPad 3G purchasers according to Gawker. The email addresses were obtained in what appears to be a legal fashion by querying a public interface that AT&T accidentally left exposed.

Apple's Worst Security Breach: 114,000 iPad Owners Exposed
Apple has suffered another embarrassment. A security breach has exposed iPad owners including dozens of CEOs, military officials, and top politicians. They—and every other buyer of the cellular-enabled tablet—could be vulnerable to spam marketing and malicious hacking

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Blue1 and the 717

Sadly phasing out two great aircraft types the MD-90 and Avro RJ (BAE146), but getting something interesting instead...the greatest aircraft Boeing have (n)ever produced, the 717...(MD-95). Here's the news and a picture of the liveries (designed by students of Aalto University, Helsinki)...look forward to these very much!

News and pictures from Flightglobal.


Blatant advertising: Blue1 offer a great deal, excellent with families - unlike Finnair who are expensive and are greatly reducing their almost non-existant on-board service and BA, again reducing service onboard and penalising families who wish to sit together.

Ps: McDonnell Douglas produced the best.


Fantastic result from CERN:
Particle Chameleon Caught in the act of Changing

Geneva 31 May 2010. Researchers on the OPERA experiment at the INFN1’s Gran Sasso laboratory in Italy today announced the first direct observation of a tau particle in a muon neutrino beam sent through the Earth from CERN2, 730km away. This is a significant result, providing the final missing piece of a puzzle that has been challenging science since the 1960s, and giving tantalizing hints of new physics to come.

Another modification to the Standard Model coming up :-)

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Future...

Not sure if this really is a joke or not...and now from our sponsors...

New Google Phone Service Whispers Targeted Ads Directly Into Users' Ears

...trouble is, I'm partially responsible for this in a small way....don't say I didn't warn you!

Friday, 21 May 2010

London 2012 Mascots

Wenlock and Mandeville....the Daily Mash has the best report so far:

MILLIONS of children are waking up this morning drenched in sweat and urine following the unveiling of the London 2012 Olympic mascots.

They smell of whisky and feast on tongues

Wenlock and Mandeville were greeted with a chorus of blood-curdling screams as onlookers trampled each other in a desperate bid to escape.

The best bit however of this article is the description of said Wenlock and Mandeville:

"What we've got here is two giant, damaged teeth, each with a massive, psychotic eye and razor sharp claws. And the blue one seems to be using bright, friendly colours to draw attention to his genital area.

"So these things - designed specifically for children - are basically lobster-clawed pervert monsters that remind them of the dentist. Bravo."

Artificial Life...

"First artifical life?", here's the news from J Craig Venter Laboratories:

Now, this scientific team headed by Drs. Craig Venter, Hamilton Smith and Clyde Hutchison have achieved the final step in their quest to create the first synthetic bacterial cell. In a publication in Science magazine, Daniel Gibson, Ph.D. and a team of 23 additional researchers outline the steps to synthesize a 1.08 million base pair Mycoplasma mycoides genome, constructed from four bottles of chemicals that make up DNA. This synthetic genome has been "booted up" in a cell to create the first cell controlled completely by a synthetic genome.
NB: Above summary truncated for space reasons (see original)

And the news from the BBC:
'Artificial life' breakthrough announced by scientists
By Victoria Gill, Science reporter, BBC News

Scientists in the US have succeeded in developing the first living cell to be controlled entirely by synthetic DNA. The researchers constructed a bacterium's "genetic software" and transplanted it into a host cell. The resulting microbe then looked and behaved like the species "dictated" by the synthetic DNA.

and the reference in Science:

Creation of a Bacterial Cell Controlled by a Chemically Synthesized Genome
20 May 2010 DOI: 10.1126/science.1190719

Daniel G. Gibson, John I. Glass, Carole Lartigue, Vladimir N. Noskov, Ray-Yuan Chuang, Mikkel A. Algire, Gwynedd A. Benders, Michael G. Montague, Li Ma, Monzia M. Moodie, Chuck Merryman, Sanjay Vashee, Radha Krishnakumar, Nacyra Assad- Garcia, Cynthia Andrews-Pfannkoch, Evgeniya A. Denisova, Lei Young, Zhi-Qing Qi, Thomas H. Segall-Shapiro, Christopher H. Calvey, Prashanth P. Parmar, Clyde A. Hutchison III, Hamilton O. Smith, J. Craig Venter

BBC World Service radio has a very good interview with Dr.Venter (Wikipedia entry here). Unfortunately this hasn't really stopped the accompanying hysteria. BBC World Service's Newshour ( 14h05, 21 May 2010 UK Time: link - which may work in the future ) has a superb interview with Prof Steve Jones, Dept. of Generics, UCL which discusses what has actually happened in clear, precise, scientific terms in a way that is readily understandable to the general public.

However, for most media outlets, Newsbiscuit has a rather more accurate take on the reporting of this and regrettably anything related to science usually:
Journalists create world’s first artificial news story

Journalists in the UK have succeeded in creating the world’s first synthetic news story about artificial DNA.The hacks developed the outline of a normal piece of reporting about a tentative, abstruse scientific discovery, and transplanted into it some organic tripe about an unprecedented scientific breakthrough which will change the world and possibly wipe out all human life

Frighteningly Newsbiscuit's report probably has more accurate, scientific comment than most mainstream media.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010


Admittedly it has been years since using Usenet, but back in '92 it really was quite something - many many wonderful groups such as and the official (I was part of that!) ...

Now Duke is shutting down its Usenet server...

A Piece of Internet History
Duke to shut Usenet server, home to the first electronic newsgroups
By Cara Bonnett
Monday, May 17, 2010

This week marks the end of an era for one of the earliest pieces of Internet history, which got its start at Duke more than 30 years ago.
On May 20, Duke will shut down its Usenet server, which provides access to a worldwide electronic discussion network of newsgroups started in 1979 by two Duke graduate students, Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Free Software and a Movie

This is impressive - an "free/open source" produced movie -

all produced using Blender - read more at the Sintel pages. Move over Pixar!

Happy Birthday

Been nearly a month since the last post...anyway, here are some birthday wishes for a piece of "blue-sky" research which almost accidentally became one of the most ubiquitous technologies we know*

*manager, accountants and lawyers take note!

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Beauty at the LHC

Somehow this is so much cooler than writing specs in Alloy*...from El Reg, that bastion of scientific journalism and hats off the the scientists at LHC:
Beauty with antimatter bottom' created out of pure energy
By Lewis Page • 23rd April 2010 13:41 GMT

Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the most powerful particle punisher ever assembled by the human race, say that experiments there are going well. In particular, they have managed to create out of pure energy a thing which they describe as a "beauty" featuring an antimatter bottom.
Comes complete with the "Standard El Reg Disclaimer on Scientific Reporting" - on the otherhand El Reg does report science far better than nearly every other magazine and newspaper - electronic or paper based...
STANDARD REG SCIENCE QUALITY WARNING: The chance that we are following this correctly is roughly equivalent to that of a man with no arms throwing a handful of jelly through a falling doughnut at fifty yards without touching the sides
Anyway, here's the link to the LHC Press Releases which contains this:

21 April 2010: First reconstructed Beauty Particle

LHCb has reconstructed its first Beauty Particle! You can see below a computer view of this event in two projections (images on the left hand side). The Beauty Particle (called B+) is composed of an anti-quark b (that has a very short lifetime of 1.5 thousandth of a nanosecond!) and a quark u. It is produced by the collision of two very high energy protons from the LHC at a location marked as "Primary vertex", together with many other particles (shown in black). The B+ decays after travelling about 2mm into two particles (called J/ψ and K+) at a place marked "B decay vertex". The J/ψ particle decays in turn immediately into two long lived particles called μ+ and μ-. The μ+ , μ- and K+ are traversing the LHCb detector where the tracking system is used to reconstruct their trajectories with such a very high precision, that it is clear they do not come from the primary vertex. The fact that the reconstructed tracks do not cross exactly in two points reflects experimental precision of computer reconstruction. The real particle tracks originate at the two vertices. The images on the right hand side show the same event when the tracks from the "Primary vertex" are forced to come from the "Primary vertex".

*I happen to like Alloy as a specification language and tool ... probably one of the best of the bunch!

Monday, 19 April 2010

UK Election 2010

Now it gets interesting: Election 2010: Lib Dem policies targeted by rivals

with the Liberal Democrats actually showing around 30% of the popular vote and in some polls even in first place. However, in the UK's electoral system neither the head of state nor the upper house are voted for. Then there's the lower house which works on a first past the post system which produces a very skewed result - primarily because the the vote is for a constituency rather than a party; and the winning party then rearranges the constituency boundaries to its favour.

So, what happens if the Liberal Democrats win 30% of the vote, Conservatives 30% and Labour 30% with 10% going to Plaid Cymru, SNP and the other parties? According to the BBC's vote calculator the UK gets this:

Party, Popular Vote, Seats in Government, %age of seats
Labour 30% 315 seats (~48.5% of seats)
Conservative 29.9% 206 seats (~31.5% of seats)
LibDem 30% 100 seats (~15% of seats)
Other 10% 29 seats (~4% of seats)

*NB: figures are +/- 0.5%

Friday, 16 April 2010

We Own Your Soul

The dangers of not reading terms and conditions:
GameStation: "We own your soul"
Author: Joe Martin
Published: 15th April 2010

In a bid to prove that nobody reads the T&Cs of an online sale, GameStation added a new clause of their own...GameStation has today revealed that it legally owns the souls of thousands of customers, thanks to a clause it secretly added to the online terms and conditions for the official GameStation website.

The "Immortal Soul Clause" was added as part of an attempt to highlight how few customers read the terms and conditions of an online sale. GameStation claims that 88 percent of customers did not read the clause, which gives legal ownership of the customer's soul over to the UK-based games retailer.

Interesting not because they wrote such a clause - though I'm not sure of its legality: both Richard Dawkins and the Catholic Church would have something to say about its precise details, but rather the fact that we habitually agree to terms and conditions of software, eg: Windows 7, Windows XP without understanding the ramifications upon our personal privacy and rights.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Graph cohomology

Graph cohomology. Just a link for future reference (and a reminder to do a search), though this paper> looks interesting, especially the embedding graphs in Rn...

Facebook --- warning...

And the Wondermark permalinks
Finally, pornography in the original internet...     --- Morse code if you're wondering.


Clever little movie this - quite like the 2001 touch at the very end.

Uploaded by onemoreprod. - Independent web videos.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Graphs and Topoi


In this paper we survey the fundamental constructions of a presheaf topos in the case
of the elementary topos of graphs. We prove that the transition graphs of nondeterministic
automata (a.k.a. labelled transition systems) are the separated presheaves for the double
negation topology, and obtain as an application that their category is a quasitopos.
Keywords: topos theory, graph theory, automata theory, transition systems

1 Introduction
Sheaf topoi are usually associated to continuous mathematics, such as differential or algebraic
geometry. Nonetheless, several (pre)sheaf topoi with simple (even finite!) base categories describe
fundamental mathematical objects such as trees and graphs. It has been suggested by
Lawvere [5] that these simple topoi have a rich combinatorial structure. Nonetheless, very few
results are known about them, and their internal workings seem to be mostly unexplored.


Tuesday, 30 March 2010

7 TeV Collisions!!!!!!!!!

LHC makes new record with 7TeV collisions.

I'd go straight to CERN for the details and official press release, but The Register writes about the LHC so much more "fluently"...

LHC particle-punisher in record 7 TeV hypercollisions

Earth apparently still here: Tinfoilers omelette-visaged
It's official: as this is written, the most powerful particle collisions ever achieved by the human race are taking place inside the great subterranean detector caverns of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

Tinfoilclad doom prophets around the world - fearing some kind of planet-imploding black hole mishap, planetary soupening or custardisation event etc - no doubt found it a trouser-moistening moment, but in fact as we write everything seems to be nominal at CERN. Evidently, as it turns out, all the world's top physicists were right and the tinfoilers were wrong.

Science fans can now look forward in the immediate future to a volley of excellent collision pictures from the various detectors. Thereafter, once the enormous supercomputing arrays of CERN get to crunching on the resulting stream of data, various promised scientific treats are to be expected: the Higgs boson (or "God particle") may make its appearance, or not, so settling the long-running feud between Professors Higgs and Hawking.

Congratulations to CERN and for those tinfoil hat wearers worried about the LHC you can always check with the "Has the Large Hadron Collider Destroyed The World Yet" web pages to check if that event has happened.

Twitter feed here for regular updates.

Finnish Post Offce

According to this news report the Finnish Post Office intent to save money by opening peoples' mail, scanning then and then transmitting the contents by email...

Itella avaa postia asiakkaiden puolesta
julkaistu tänään klo 07:22, päivitetty tänään klo 09:39
Itella kokeilee postin jakamista sähköpostin välityksellä. Postityöntekijä avaa kirjeen, skannaa sen ja lähettää sähköpostilla vastaanottajalle. Tavoitteena on helpottaa haja-asutusalueiden postinjakelua.
Some of the comments suggest this might be an April fool's March...

What could go wrong? Discuss...

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Teaching mathematics....late...

Very interesting article from Psychology Today regarding an experiment by L. P. Benezet in 1929 where we deliberately stopped the teaching of mathematics (specifically arithmetic) to very young school children with the result that they became much stronger at mathematics when it was introduced much later on in the curriculum:

When Less is More: The Case for Teaching Less Math in Schools
In an experiment, children who were taught less learned more.
Published on March 18, 2010 by Peter Gray
In 1929, the superintendent of schools in Ithaca, New York, sent out a challenge to his colleagues in other cities. "What," he asked, "can we drop from the elementary school curriculum?" He complained that over the years new subjects were continuously being added and nothing was being subtracted, with the result that the school day was packed with too many subjects and there was little time to reflect seriously on anything. This was back in the days when people believed that children shouldn't have to spend all of their time at school work--that they needed some time to play, to do chores at home, and to be with their families--so there was reason back then to believe that whenever something new is added to the curriculum something else should be dropped.
A further link to more information about Benezet and references to the original papers on the subject:

L. P. Benezet, "The Teaching of Arithmetic I, II, III: The Story of an Experiment," Journal of the National Education Association

  1. Volume 24(8): 241-244 (November 1935)
  2. Volume 24(9): 301-303 (December 1935)
  3. Volume 25(1): 7-8 (January 1936) 
The articles were reprinted in the Humanistic Mathematics Newsletter #6: 2-14 (May 1991).

And a link to a PDF of all three parts.

Monday, 22 March 2010

nCategory Cafe wk294 - Control Theory

Some interesting work from the nCategoryCafe regarding open vs closed systems, control theory and categoric formalisms.
So, I should get back to my tale of electrical circuits. I'm really just using these as a nice example of physical systems made of components. Part of my goal is to get you interested in "open systems" - systems that interact with their environment. My physics classes emphasized "closed systems", where we assume that we've modelled all the relevant aspects of what's going on, so the interaction with the outside environment is negligible. Why? It lets us use the marvelous techniques of symplectic mechanics - Hamilton's equations, Noether's theorem giving conserved quantities from symmetries, and all that. These techniques don't work for open systems - at least, not until we generalize them. But almost every device we design is an open system, in a crucial way: we do things to it, and it does things for us. So engineers need to think about open systems.
And mathematical physicists should too - because life gets more interesting when you treat every system as having an "interface" through which it interacts with its environment. For starters, this lets you build bigger systems from components by attaching them along their interfaces. We can also formalize the problem of taking a system and decomposing it into smaller subsystems. In engineering this is called "tearing".
(John Baez)
With a good reference to  Jan C. Willems, In control, almost from the beginning until the day after tomorrow, European Journal of Control 13 (2007), 71-81. Available at:

Friday, 19 March 2010

"Doing" mathematics...

Required materials: marker pens, coffee (strong), large whiteboard

My Numbers, Higher Dimensional Categories, Sheaves and Modal Logic

Erdos: 5
n-Category: 2  (actually I think it's 1 and a tends towards 0 depending on the time of day :-) )*
Bacon: infinite

*Dan Freed claims his is still 1

So what the hell is an n-Category anyway?
Higher-Dimensional Categories: an illustrated guide book
Eugenia Cheng and Aaron Lauda
University of Cambridge, 2004
and I happen the like this neat mix of sheaves and modal logic found here:

Topology and First-Order Modal Logic


Thursday, 18 March 2010

A Categoric Theory of Music?

Published in the March 2010 edition of the European Mathematical Society's Newsletter

How to theorize music today in thelight of mathematics? A musician’s point of view
François Nicolas

discusses a musician's (and mathematician's) view to the theorisation of music - in particular is the idea that music is really a topos...quite nice really.

Urban Exploration

France24 has an excellent article on urban on:

Exploring society's ruins

 We became interested in ruins in 2002, first through sheer curiosity, but now more so for the historical side. We feel a bit like budding archaeologists; we dig out empty buildings that are just next door from our homes but we never knew existed. We don't touch however, we only photograph.

And their website and forthcomming book ... some superb photographs in there.


Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Lunokhod 2 Found!

Damned cool animation made from real pictures thanks to Nasa:
And the image from The Univesity of Western Ontario:

Monday, 15 March 2010

Going to the toilet in Canada during the Olympics

Interesting graph found at Pat's Papers:

It shows water consumption in Edmonton during the Canada-USA Ice Hockey Final (Canada 3-2 USA).

I guess the same was true in many, many places Worldwide and not just Edmonton - certainly was true in the Marriot Hotel Burlington's bar...

Dave Carroll is my hero

I'm not saying that United Airlines' customer service is bad, no, it is much much worse. Anyway, here's Dave Carroll's third video about United:

Not only do they break guitars but screw passengers (families in particular) out of money ( 1x23 kg takes a lot less hold space and fuel than 8x20 kg, but the former will cost you at least 150USD ) AND they don't process I94-W forms correctly either.

If your I94-W form is handed back to you at check-in when leaving the USA, inform the CBP as soon as possible with the name of the airline,check-in person, date, flight, airport etc. I'm told that not doing this is "very bad" for the airline.

Good thing that Finnair isn't going the same way....oh wait....

Saturday, 27 February 2010


Personally I love the stuff - anyway, how many different types of salmiakki (and in English, though is there really a good translation?) are there? Leave it to the contributors to The Daily WTF to solve that one:

and the obligatory blog about experiences of eating salmiakki...

Sunday, 21 February 2010

The Romance of Flying...

"Ladies and Gentlemen, you make now unfasten your seatbelts, smoke and move about as you wish. We shall be serving cocktails, lunch and afternoon tea...."

Not quite Ryanair or United Airlines ... anyway, enjoy a time when flying was a pleasure and the flight was longer than check-in and security...

Friday, 19 February 2010

Nazi Nuclear Bomb Project Uranium Found

From The Register:

Lost Nazi nuke-project uranium found in Dutch scrapyard:

Atomic CSI team fingerprints 1940s 'Joachimsthal' metals

By Lewis Page Posted in Physics, 19th February 2010 13:37 GMT
EU nuke boffins say that mysterious bits of uranium found last year in a Dutch scrapyard originated in the Nazi nuclear-weapons programme of the 1940s.

Forensic nuke scientists at the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) traced the two pieces of metal - described as a cube and a plate - back to their exact origins and dates. Apparently both came from ores extracted at the "Joachimsthal" mine in what is now the Czech Republic, though the two are from different production batches.

Thursday, 18 February 2010


How the hell this particular school failed not to understand the implications of what they were doing is completely incomprehensible to on:

School used student laptop webcams to spy on them at school and home

A class action filing has been made on behalf of 1800 children and their families. It is already known that some teachers and possibly other staff already have images of the children at home in their possession. I wonder how many of those could (and will) be classed as child pornography? Who else saw these photographs? How many photographs were taken and of what? The invasion of privacy is utterly without precidence here.

Here are the list of complaints:
  • Electronic Communications Privacy Act - interception of communications
  • Computer Fraud and Abuse Act - exceeding authorized access
  • Stored Communication Act - more unauthorized access
  • Civil Rights Act - Invasion of Privacy
  • 4th Amendment - Invasion of Privacy
  • Pennsylvania Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act - wiretapping
  • Pennsylvania common law (1) - Invasion of Privacy
(1) footnote reads: "Should discovery disclose that the Defendants are in possession of images constituting child pornography [...] Plaintiffs will amend this Complaint to assert a cause of action thereunder."

Slashdot - as ever - has an interesting discussion.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Flight 666 videos

OK, so its a Boeing, but at least it was a 757 - anyway, a nice shot of the aircraft and Captain Dickinson at the helm...

Friday, 5 February 2010

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Language death...

This is incredibly sad, from the BBC; basically an way of thinking has been lost...

Last speaker of ancient language of Bo dies in India 

By Alastair Lawson
BBC News

Boa Sr
Boa Sr remained the last Bo speaker for at least 30 years
The last speaker of an ancient language in India's Andaman Islands has died at the age of about 85, a leading linguist has told the BBC.
Professor Anvita Abbi said that the death of Boa Sr was highly significant because one of the world's oldest languages - Bo - had come to an end.


Saturday, 30 January 2010

Osama Bin Laden and the environment

Seems like Greenpeace and the rest of the climate warming/change movement have an unlikely hero according to a report on Finland's MTV3 channel.
Osama bin Laden: USA tuhoaa ympäristöä
translation: USA is destroying the environment
Quite some irony...

Thursday, 28 January 2010

The Apple "iSanitaryPad" ....

This mixed reviews here, to me it sounds like some kind of "feminine sanitary product"... but I'm sure the Apple fanboyz well tell otherwise.

Seems like someone else also had the same idea given the products here (not for the overly sensitive or Apple fanboyz)

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Finland's Internet for all

A rare moment of infrastructure provision sanity from the Finnish Government as reported by the BBC:
Delivering Finland's web 'human right'
NB: Emsalö is actually in Porvoo not Helsinki

Sikulu - Screenshot driven programming

Now this looks interesting: Project Sikuli (via a mention on LTU and and MIT News). From the web pages for Project Sikuli:
Sikuli is a visual technology to search and automate graphical user interfaces (GUI) using images (screenshots). The first release of Sikuli contains Sikuli Script, a visual scripting API for Jython, and Sikuli IDE, an integrated development environment for writing visual scripts with screenshots easily. Sikuli Script automates anything you see on the screen without internal API's support. You can programmatically control a web page, a desktop application running on Windows/Linux/Mac OS X, or even an iphone application running in an emulator.
And the ever present Hello World example.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Friday, 15 January 2010

WHO to look into claims it exaggerated swine flu

Article from the Irish Times on Swine Flu:

A few interesting quotes from the article:

THE WORLD Health Organisation is to examine its handling of the swine flu pandemic after accusations that it exaggerated the dangers of the virus under pressure from drug companies.

Council of Europe parliamentarian Wolfgang Wodarg called for an inquiry into what he called a “false pandemic” and the way it was handled at national and European levels, claiming pressure from pharmaceutical firms.

The Council of Europe is to discuss the claim and whether drug companies influenced public health officials to spend money unnecessarily on stockpiles of H1N1 vaccines later this month.
Finland should take note, especially as they've just started to vaccinate everyone against a possible 3rd wave - not exactly sure when the 1st and 2nd came, nor do they have any records about whether anyone actually had swine flu because they never tested persons - just assumed.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Categorification of Databases

Interesting paper: SIMPLICIAL DATABASES David I Spivak (Arxiv 0904.2012.v1) and the discussion on LtU.

From the abstract:
In this paper, we de ne a category DB, called the category of
simplicial databases, whose objects are databases and whose morphisms are
data-preserving maps. Along the way we give a precise formulation of the
category of relational databases, and prove that it is a full subcategory of
DB. We also prove that limits and colimits always exist in DB and that they
correspond to queries such as select, join, union, etc.
and then from the introduction:
One reason that relational databases have been so successful is that their de -
nition can be phrased within a precise mathematical language.
It is no accident that SQL uses tables instead of relations: Tables are inherently
more useful, yet just as easy to implement.
So, a category of databases based around tables and morphisms between tables - now as my interest is rather in graph based databases, ie: RDF - there are papers on categorification of RDF or at least using category theory over RDF structures. Of course an isomorphism can be shown (and does exist), but how easily do operations such as join etc (which form limits in the above category DB) correspond to "objects" or more accurately structures such as "molecules" and named graphics in RDF. The description logic handbook has references to papers about the expressability of ER in terms of various DLs...something to think about in the meantime.

Security Theater

Interesting read at The Register: Trouser-bomb clown attacks - how much should we laugh?

Of course Schneier has much to say about this on his blog.

Now ask yourself what the hell is going on?

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Physics, Topology, Logic and Computation: A Rosetta Stone

This has been around for a while in the draft form, but now there's a (re)post on Lambda the Ultimate for the forthcoming book(?):
Physics, Topology, Logic and Computation: A Rosetta Stone
John C. Baez and Mike Stay, 2009.
Mentioned in the discussions are two other papers linked here: