Sunday, 20 March 2011

Fermat's Last Theorem

Currently residing on YouTube - possible the greatest documentary every made and a link to Simon Singh's superb book.

Part 1 is here:

and links to Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5 .

Some more links:
And a link to the original papers.

Despite(!) the papers being presented in June 1993 and finally published in 1995, this still stands are probably one of the greatest pieces of mathematics every. Not much is going to top this in terms of breadth and depth - maybe proofs of P=NP (or not) or the continuum hypothesis?

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Fukushima - sanity in the media?

After days of speculation, disaster predictions, another Chernobyl etc, the BBC finally reports something approaching sanity and with a hint of science...

Japan nuclear plant power 'close'

As it was almost bound to do at some point, Japan's nuclear safety agency has uprated its assessment of the Fukushima power station incident from a level four to a level five.

Firstly, 99.999% (or more) people have no idea what the nuclear power incident scale actually means, but at least the above report makes a hint at explaining it...though not well.

One of the "best"  reports comes from The Register:

Fukushima one week on: Situation 'stable', says IAEA
Shameful media panic very slowly begins to subside
By Lewis Page • Get more from this author
Posted in Physics, 18th March 2011 12:56 GMT

The situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant in Japan, badly damaged during the extremely severe earthquake and tsunami there a week ago, continues to stabilise. It is becoming more probable by the day that public health consequences will be zero and radiation health effects among workers at the site will be so minor as to be hard to measure. Nuclear experts are beginning to condemn the international hysteria which has followed the incident in increasingly blunt terms.

Anyway, anything to do with anything "nuclear" makes great, sensationalist reading and sells news papers or generates hits on news websites...and unfortunately that's where most people get their information and exposure to science.

Here're links to Wikipedia about Radiation, Iodine-131, Caesium-137, Uranium, Plutonium and Nuclear Power. There's an interesting graph onthe Iodine-131 page about radiation exposure in the USA after the Nevada Tests in the 50's and 60s - which dwarf anything Fukushima, Windscale, 3 Mile Island or even Chernobyl output.

There's a good, un-biased (at the moment) write-up of the accident also on Wikipedia.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Messenger in orbit around Mercury

Finally! Seems a long time since launch and one of the first postings here about Messenger, but finally she's in orbit as of last night... From the Messenger site a NASA:

MESSENGER Begins Historic Orbit Around Mercury

NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft successfully achieved orbit around Mercury at approximately 9 p.m. EDT Thursday. This marks the first time a spacecraft has accomplished this engineering and scientific milestone at our solar system's innermost planet.

For the next several weeks, APL engineers will be focused on ensuring the spacecraft’s systems are all working well in Mercury’s harsh thermal environment. Starting on March 23, the instruments will be turned on and checked out, and on April 4 the mission's primary science phase will begin.

Monday, 14 March 2011

The Daily Mail really does talk bollocks

Just two websites keeping track of just a small amount of dangerous, utter bollocks printed in The Daily Mail...

Friday, 4 March 2011

30 years of the ZX81

Sinclair ZX81: 30 years old tomorrow
All hail the pioneer of UK home computing
By Tony Smith • Get more from this author
4th March 2011 11:45 GMT

Tomorrow, 5 March 2011, marks the 30th anniversary of the arrival of the machine that did more to awaken ordinary Britons to the possibilities offered by home computing: the Sinclair ZX81.

While its successor, the Sinclair Spectrum, got the nation playing computer games, the ZX81 was the tipping point that turned the home computer from nerd hobby into something anyone could buy and use.