Friday, 30 April 2010

Tim Minchin - Pope Song

Brilliant, this should be the official song to welcome the Pope when he arrives in the UK later this year. Play it loud folks!

Tim Minchin - Pope Song (Warning - Offense Possible)
Grow into these trousers... >>

Thursday, 29 April 2010

A tune to cheer me up

Before I listen to the final leaders' debate.

Bob Marley - Three Little Birds
Grow into these trousers... >>

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Boobquake Day - a bit of a flop?

No major earthquakes yesterday, nothing but the normal everyday tremors. Go to Blag Hag for the low down and the stats.

News reports and photographs are everywhere.

So Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi you've got what you deserve for babbling your ignorant, primitive beliefs. Utter ridicule all over the world. Let it be an education Mr Sedighi, because you really need one. Grow into these trousers... >>

Monday, 26 April 2010

I finally worked it out

This puzzle has bugged me for years. Take a right angled triangle and split it up like this, call it triangle1

Now rearrange the pieces like this to give triangle2

The overall triangle is still the same size 13 by 5, none of the pieces has changed, so where does the hole come from?

Not convinced? Here’s an animation.

Draw it out yourself and cut it up with scissors. It works. It is true, or so it seems. Of course it's a subtle trick. It all looks convincing to the eye and, given the accuracy of drawing on graph paper and cutting with scissors, it works on paper.

The solution? The easy way to see it is to superimpose triangle1 on top of triangle2.

Hey! there's a bit left stuck out along the hypotenuse - that bit is the trick. Here's a blowup:

In truth, triangle1 is a smidgeon smaller than a real 13 by 8 triangle, triangle2 a gnat's hair bigger. That slender difference, surprisingly, adds up to 1 and that's the size of the hole.

Just as a last observation, look at the whole (integer) numbers needed to make these shapes.

The main triangle is 13 by 5
red is 8 by 3
blue is 5 by 2
yellow and green have sides of 1, 2, 3 and 5
the hole is 1 by 1 but really zero


Where have I seen that before? Of course, now that's interesting!
svg code for images adapted from here. See also Missing square puzzle. Grow into these trousers... >>

Sunday, 25 April 2010

A thought for a Sunday

"You must have been warned against letting the golden hours slip by; but some of them are golden only because we let them slip by".

James Matthew Barrie (1860 – 1937) Grow into these trousers... >>

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Late night music - Grateful Dead

I just tripped across this old tune, cool with a capital COO...

Grateful Dead - Bertha
Grow into these trousers... >>

Thursday, 22 April 2010

A quick bit of music

I just wanted something to listen to before I listen to the next leader's debate.

Grow into these trousers... >>

Wednesday, 21 April 2010


We have (probably) all heard of crazy Iranian Ayatollah Kazem Sedighi, who believes earthquakes are caused by immodest dress codes. If not. catch up at Madhatters.

Well, the Blag Hag has the answer: Boobquake!

"On Monday, April 26th, I will wear the most cleavage-showing shirt I own. Yes, the one usually reserved for a night on the town. I encourage other female skeptics to join me and embrace the supposed supernatural power of their breasts. Or short shorts, if that's your preferred form of immodesty. With the power of our scandalous bodies combined, we should surely produce an earthquake".
I am right behind this project and will offer whatever support I can. Grow into these trousers... >>

Solar beat

"A simple ambient musicbox, with sounds generated using the orbital frequencies of our solar system".

Solar Beat from Whitevinyl.

OK - it's not to scale, the orbits should be ellipses and if you include Pluto then what's wrong with Eris or even Ceres?

It makes pleasant sounds though. Grow into these trousers... >>

Sunday, 18 April 2010

A thought for a Sunday

"People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within".

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926 – 2004) Grow into these trousers... >>

Saturday, 17 April 2010

UK still grounded

The dust plume from the Eyjafjallajökull (don't ask me to pronounce it) volcano is still quieting the skies over Europe, and it seems set to continue.

This is becoming a serious problem and I am not just thinking of holidaymakers and jet-set businessmen. A lot of manufacturing relies on rapidly moving small mechanical or electrical components, much fresh fruit and veg travels by air and of course there are cut flowers. This is a huge industry, often employing very low paid workers whose livelihoods depend on bringing an ephemeral product to market.

The previous eruption of 'the volcano which cannot be named' lasted about two years. It began in 1821 and I suspect that the direct descendants of the Montgolfier brothers had different air safety concerns.

Today there are clear skies and lovely sunshine. It's strange how something unnoticeable can have such a profound effect; but then again, I remember Chernobyl.

Whilst the Earth decides our fate, there are some stunning photos of 'that place in Iceland with a volcano' at the Big Picture. Worth a look. Grow into these trousers... >>

Thursday, 15 April 2010

What a day it has been

Much of western Europe has had to close airspace because of volcanic dust from Iceland. I do not belittle this event. It serves as a reminder that the Earth is much bigger than we are.

Tonight we get the first ever live debate between the main contenders for prime ministerial office in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This will probably have one of the highest viewing figures ever recorded in the UK, for about 15-30 minutes. I am listening on the radio rather than viewing so I can do something else at the same time - blog and then probably fall asleep.

The British Chiropractic Association has dropped it's libel case against Simon Singh. That's good, a courtroom is not the place to decide scientific validity. Now the BCA should continue and provide a scientific reasoning for the treatments they practice. Otherwise it's still "bogus".

Then the best thing of all today. I just discovered The Merseyside Skeptics Society. And they have a podcast, and it's spot on! Even better is their spoof panel game InKredulous where they take "a satirical look at science and pseudoscience news".

Not a bad day after all :) Grow into these trousers... >>

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Geometry in Nature

Many things in the natural world have a simple underlying mathematics, and we often miss it unless our eyes are open; but the symmetry is always there.

We are all familiar with the interlocking hexagons of a honeycomb, made from equilateral triangles.

But there is another mathematical trick which Nature uses in some surprising ways. The shape of a snail's shell, the scales on a pine cone, the whorls in a flower, the breeding of rabbits (it's true, see below). Much more, and it all follows a simple mathematical sequence -
The Fibonacci Series.

It goes like this:

You start with nothing, zero
along comes a 'first', the number one
0, 1
add them together 0+1=1
0, 1, 1
then add 1+1 to get 2
0, 1, 1, 2
keep adding the last two numbers, so 1+2=3
0, 1, 1, 2, 3
then 2+3=5
0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5
and so on...
0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144...

If you divide each number in the sequence by the previous one* you get increasingly more accurate approximations to one particular number...


That number is the Golden Ratio, that pleasing blend of height and width beloved of artists and architects for millennia. But Nature has been using it for far longer:

Take the Golden Ratio and make a triangle where, if the base equals 1 then the long sides are 1.6180. A Golden Triangle, Now let's play by putting them together...

And again you can join the dots to find a snail shell:

Now watch this short animated video by Cristóbal Vila which explains things in a beautiful way.

Nature by Numbers [3:44]

Oh! I promised rabbits, here you go...

Fibonacci with RABBITS!!!! [1:57]

*Avoiding division by zero (1÷0 is not infinity, it is just not a number, it's undefined and so it's the worst approximation you can possibly get) Grow into these trousers... >>

Sunday, 11 April 2010

A thought for a Sunday

"If a man would follow, today, the teachings of the Old Testament, he would be a criminal. If he would follow strictly the teachings of the New, he would be insane".

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833 – 1899) Grow into these trousers... >>

Friday, 9 April 2010

I don't want to be counted

Catholic American Paul Constant, a 'confirmed' member of that faith, has written an outspoken letter to the Bishop of Portland asking to be excommunicated. It's a penetrating piece and worth reading, here's a snip:
"I demand to be excommunicated because I do not believe women are second-class citizens. I demand to be excommunicated because your missionaries are informing impoverished citizens of third-world countries that birth control is a sin..."
It is not all such a rant; here is a clear thinking man asking not to be included in the ranks of such believers. If this is a free world his wish will be granted, it's no different from changing political allegiance, but I wonder what the Bishop will say.
Via The Freethinker. Grow into these trousers... >>

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Showers and flowers

Jill poses another of her monthly challenges so I am happy to try.Showers and flowers, well I could say it's due to the Earth's tilt and gyroscopes and chaos theory in weather and where you live in the world, but I won't. I will do this...


It is at this time, when winter loses its grip and the slowly increasing warmth from the Sun releases moisture to the soil. Somewhere is a niche at a woodland edge or in the shade of nothing but trunk and bare branch. There, beneath the soil, rest fortunes for the future.

There is but little time. Soon the canopy above will burst forth in green, greedily stealing the life giving rays of the Sun. Here it comes, a poke of green, sucking in energy. Bursting with one desire. Reproduce.

Stored within itself, as it hid under the snow, there are now few rations left, but enough to try.

A point of beauty claims the sky and shouts to the entire world...

Love me. Grow into these trousers... >>

Sunday, 4 April 2010

A thought for a Sunday

"And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything".

William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616) Grow into these trousers... >>

Friday, 2 April 2010

Can you see what it is yet?

It seems we will be getting a new landmark structure in London, the ArcelorMittal Orbit. According to the BBC this will be a "monument to mark the London 2012 Olympic Games", but what is it?

Much as I like artistic work there are times I have to wonder at the expense. The proposed cost, £19 million, is trivial these days but would easily pay the (government policy induced) debts of a couple of hospitals, or universities, or many, many small schools.

So other than go "Ooh, Ahh" what will people do there? Will they think about the historical London and why the city came to be? How this teeming metropolis became one of the nerve centres of the world? Why it is, from the north, we still go 'up' to London? Or will it be "Ooh, I used to live over there", or "Ahh, that's where our hotel is"? I suspect too much of the latter.

"It will enhance tourism" many may say, but how many hot-dog stalls can it sustain? I notice the plaza is depicted as full of people, but has no indication of markets or craft fairs or side-shows; something that would put money in the local pocket and be better than Fagin and his gang. Otherwise any turnstile revenue will evaporate into the corporate aether and be of scant benefit to anyone but a very small minority.

I don't see any use to this structure. More than that I feel if we don’t stop wasting what people are good at, and I am thinking engineers and architects here, then too much pointless fancy like this will impoverish our world, rather than enrich it. Grow into these trousers... >>

Thursday, 1 April 2010

I just came home from Jerry's funeral

And it was quite a moving experience. This was the second completely non-religious funeral I have been to. No hymns, no prayers, but music and poetry. It was a recantation of his life with a quiet time for remembrance, or for personal prayer for those who wanted to. Then off to the pub where Jerry had already paid on a two-pin (= a firkin, or 8 gallons) of Excelsior for his wake; so perhaps, now I am back home, I am not just sad but drunk but maudling...

There were many old faces present, some I will be keeping i touch with, but I spent much of the time talking with Jerry's granddaughter, who I've known since she was a precocious tweenager. She was always the smart one though, with just the right quip, snub or put down line. Now, with a degree in 'psychology and criminology' or something like that, she is everyone's equal. Love her to bits, and she seems to have got herself a nice boyfriend too.

A good day, but a sad day. I leave you with this song from The Incredible String Band. Jerry's daughter found this track on his iPlayer among the last things he listened to, and she played it at the funeral.

Incredible String Band ~ October Song
Grow into these trousers... >>