Wednesday, 31 August 2011


This Week’s Rumor from Not Even Wrong

A commenter on the previous posting has helpfully given us the abstract of an internal ATLAS note claiming observation of a resonance at 115 GeV. It’s the sort of thing you would expect to see if there were a Higgs at that mass, but the number of events seen is about 30 times more than the standard model would predict. Best guess seems to be that this is either a hoax, or something that will disappear on further analysis. But, since spreading well-sourced rumors is more or less in the mission statement of this blog, I think I’ll promote this to its own posting.

1 Neptunian Year since discovery

Fascinating article by way of The Guardian this morning, tomorrow is 1 year since the discovery of Neptune 167 Earth years ago...

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

More Higgs and an explanation...

Excellent explanation of what Higgs is and why it matters (link to PDF slide set):
The Higgs Boson Lecture
Physics and Art Summer Institute 2010
Derek Robbins
August 4, 2010
and a host more interesting lectures and presentations here.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

End of a theory? Sypersymmetry and the LHC

Now this really could change things, as reported via the BBC:

LHC results put supersymmetry theory 'on the spot'
By Pallab Ghosh, Science correspondent, BBC News
Results from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have all but killed the simplest version of an enticing theory of sub-atomic physics. Researchers failed to find evidence of so-called "supersymmetric" particles, which many physicists had hoped would plug holes in the current theory.

As sympersymmetry (SUSY) or or correctly in this case the Minimal Supersymmetric Standard Model seems not to be true then we're in for some radical changes in particle physics.

Recently, LHC narrowed the range of the mass of Higgs to 115-140GeV which itself is suggesting that the Higgs mechanism might have to have change or that there could be a number of Higgs in there. Some are now even pushing the claim that Higgs might not exist at all which in the light of the M-SUSY results would radically change our understanding of physics.

Trouble is, SUSY and the standard model have a long history, very beautiful mathematics and very good predictive powers...and who said science was boring?

Next in the firing line: string theory ..... ( XKCD

Saturday, 27 August 2011


Currently making its way all over the net is the discovery of a "type Ia" supernova only 21 million light years away - what makes this special is that it was found within a few hours of a star (or possibly stars - a Hubble picture shows two red giants very close to each other) exploding.

The Bad Astronomy blog has an update and pictures: M101 supernova update

 and here's the article from Sky and Telescope: Supernova Erupts in Pinwheel Galaxy

But credit goes to The Palomar Transient Factory for the discovery which according to their website: The Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) is a fully-automated, wide-field survey aimed at a systematic exploration of the optical transient sky.

The Supernove is  located in the Pinwheel Galaxy and should be visible to a small telescope in about a week.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Visualising Irrational Numbers (with Mathematica)

Interesting blog posting from a couple of years ago admitted, but it was only today I was looking for stuff on irrational numbers...

Lunchtime Playground: Fun with Mathematica

For example, visualising "e":

Thursday, 18 August 2011

"Siberia across your screen"

Interesting service from Russian Railways by way of the Railway Gazette:

Siberia across your screen

22 February 2010, Railway Gazette
RUSSIA: Google and Russian Railways have launched a ‘virtual’ Trans-Siberian journey from Moscow to Vladivostok.
Anyone with a broadband internet connection will be able to make a 'journey' along the route starting from any city or station without leaving home. 

Video footage totalling around 150 h was shot through a train window during daylight hours, enabling the viewer to watch almost 9 300 km of scenery pass across their screen. The journey can also be tracked using Google Maps, allowing the user to click on any point to see footage of that section of route.
and the service provided by Google:

Moscow-Vladivostok: virtual journey on Google Maps

The great Trans Siberian Railway, the pride of Russia, goes across two continents, 12 regions and 87 cities. The joint project of Google and the Russian Railways lets you take a trip along the famous route and see Baikal, Khekhtsirsky range, Barguzin mountains, Yenisei river and many other picturesque places of Russia without leaving your house. During the trip, you can enjoy Russian classic literature, brilliant images by photographer Anton Lange and fascinating stories about the most attractive sites on the route. Let's go!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Pluto's Fourth Moon

Not so long ago a fourth moon around Pluto was discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope and was given the temporary name of S/2011 P1 which contrasts slightly with the other 3: Charon, Nyx and Hydra.

The New Horizon's team announced on their twitter feed a request for suggestions for a name - along with a similarly themed article on New Scientist (400+ suggestions so far).

So, here's my suggestion: Apate - being the the daughter of Nyx (already used as a name for another moon of Pluto) and a suitable nasty character from Greek mythology to match the rest of the Plutonian gang.

I sent this as a tweet to the New Horizon's team as they asked :-)   You never know I could be following in the footsteps of Venetia Burney.

Aside: 3 posts in one day....I guess I'm taking up for not posting so much recently and working through a back-log of things I have meant to record for posterity....


Just discovered this site on topology: Sketches of Topology, visualizations of low dimensional topology.

What makes this site different is the emphasis on visualisation of some very abstract but stunningly beautiful mathematical structures. I'd post some pictures but the author's (Kenneth Baker)  Flickr site while providing links to sharing the pictures, Blogger won't link to them...

The Elusive Big Idea

An excellent article from the New York Times on "The Elusive Big Idea"; the thesis that in today's society we just don't care about ideas anymore...

The Elusive Big Idea
Published: August 13, 2011

If our ideas seem smaller nowadays, it’s not because we are dumber than our forebears but because we just don’t care as much about ideas as they did. In effect, we are living in an increasingly post-idea world — a world in which big, thought-provoking ideas that can’t instantly be monetized are of so little intrinsic value that fewer people are generating them and fewer outlets are disseminating them, the Internet notwithstanding. Bold ideas are almost pass√©.


Post-Enlightenment refers to a style of thinking that no longer deploys the techniques of rational thought. Post-idea refers to thinking that is no longer done, regardless of the style.

The post-idea world has been a long time coming, and many factors have contributed to it. There is the retreat in universities from the real world, and an encouragement of and reward for the narrowest specialization rather than for daring — for tending potted plants rather than planting forests.


Scary thought indeed that "thinking is no longer done"; the implications of this will extend everywhere and affect every facet of our existence.

A further quote from the article:

...we get instant 140-character tweets about eating a sandwich or watching a TV show. While social networking may enlarge one’s circle and even introduce one to strangers, this is not the same thing as enlarging one’s intellectual universe.

A direct reference to Twitter and social media overall - the nature of communication is changing such that if you can't get your idea in 140 characters no-one is going to read it - assuming that anyone reads and thinks about what is actually contained in those 140 characters.

Is this some kind of existentialist crisis for ideas? And finally as a conclusion:

We have become information narcissists, so uninterested in anything outside ourselves and our friendship circles or in any tidbit we cannot share with those friends that if a Marx or a Nietzsche were suddenly to appear, blasting his ideas, no one would pay the slightest attention, certainly not the general media, which have learned to service our narcissism.

As Levitt and Dubner state in the Freakonomics series of books ( see: Superfreakonomics ) humans need incentive, and if ideas don't provide any incentive in either their thinking, development or execution to our narcissism then those ideas have no value. The problem here is rather self-referential in that narcissists aren't interested in anyone else's ideas - be honest who reads anyone's Twitter feeds or Facebook comments and partakes in deep rhetoric?

Saturday, 6 August 2011

The math of the Rubik’s cube - MIT News Office

The math of the Rubik’s cube - MIT News Office

New research establishes the relationship between the number of squares in a Rubik’s-cube-type puzzle and the maximum number of moves required to solve it.
Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office

Last August, 30 years after the Rubik’s cube first appeared, an international team of researchers proved that no matter how scrambled a cube got, it could be solved in no more than 20 moves. Although the researchers used some clever tricks to avoid evaluating all 43 quintillion of the cube’s possible starting positions, their proof still relied on the equivalent of 35 years’ worth of number crunching on a good modern computer

Friday, 5 August 2011

Landscape Gallery - Test Posting From Picasa

Nikkilä landscape looking towards the churches.

This is a test posting from Picasa using the Google+ stuff