Monday, 30 November 2009

Surface View

UK specialist printer Surface View is now offering selection of original, hand-drawn, cutaway diagrams by Terry Davey that appeared on the cover of Haynes Workshop Manuals. The Surface View website is very slick, and I'd love to decorate a house using some of their murals and prints.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Golden Spokes Win

On Sunday November 8, C. C. Coglioni del Nord won their first cycling team trophy by 0.15s. Full results are here.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The Amazing Mr. Henry Keck, The First Governor Of Darlinghurst Gaol

I think that the life story of Henry Keck would make a great book (and film). Some interesting quotes from the online history of Darlinghurst Gaol:
Henry Keck was appointed to be the first governor of Darlinghurst Gaol. He had papers saying that he had been an officer in the British Army and in charge of Dublin Castle. This was his first deception. Many more were to follow. The papers were all forged.

Keck was a man of culture and found some musicians among his prisoners. He was able to train and assemble small orchestras which were hired out to functions around Sydney Town.

However, his most enterprising exploit was the establishment of brothel activities within the gaol for prisoners with spare earnings. It operated from the women's cells and proved so popular that he expanded it to include prostitutes from local brothels outside the gaol. Finally Keck installed two prostitutes in the courthouse next door, using lawyers' chambers that were empty at night, and allowing prisoners access to the court through the underground passage.
I can imagine Simon Winchester doing a great job of this story. One can order the biographical cuttings on Henry Keck from the National Library of Australia.

Chase starts in Shents

From the November 7 Subiaco POST:
Police investigating the theft of an Aston Martin from Shenton Park this week went on a high-speed chase early on Thursday morning after spotting another vehicle being driven suspiciously. The Aston Martin was stolen from the Lake Jualbup area on Monday night.
Actually, I thought it was stolen from outside 1 Harvey Road, two doors down from our house.
Police were on high alert during subsequent night patrols. At 2am on Thursday, Cottesloe police saw a stolen Holden Commodore GTS in Harvey Road, Shenton Park.
Indeed they were on high alert. They asked for permission to park an unmarked police car in our driveway. And seeing a young lad running down the street after being dropped off, entered another property in the street with guns drawn!
An hour later it was spotted in Cottesloe’s Curtin Avenue. The chase led police to Leach Highway, south of the river – they abandoned the pursuit when the driver of the stolen Commodore reached about 250kmh. Police believe the Commodore driver could be connected to recent western suburbs burglaries.
Seems like they know which houses to target. The number of trades vehicles parked in Harvey Road over the last few months might help identify promising houses to burgle ...

Friday, 2 October 2009

Dawkins on a Divine Designer

A recent excerpt from Richard Dawkins on Man vs. God:

"A divine designer is all but ruled out by the consideration that he must at least as complex as the entities he was wheeled out to explain."

Even as an atheist, I disagree with this statement. It is simple to "design" very simple, even trivial, systems—for example, cellular automata (Wolfram's NKS)—that have exceedingly complex behaviour. A designer could start a system in a simple state (such as the initial conditions for the big bang) and just let it evolve via a simple set of rules.

However, if Dawkins is defining the "designer" to be able to foresee all possible outcomes of his or her design then indeed the statement holds true (essentially the principle of Computational Irreducibility).

So the definition of "designer" is paramount here.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

SBS

Can't get enough of SBS. Tonight, on SBS2, I caught Das Wunder von Bern, which is a true classic. Sentimental, but not over the top. And, somehow, I immediately knew that the story centred on the coal-mining town of Essen, where my friend Markus lives. I had an enjoyable visit there a few years back, and clearly remember the Krupp mansion.

And then I switched to SBS1 and landed part-way through La Pianiste. I should have gone to bed but, once you've started watching a French movie, it is hard to stop.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

My (Physics) Genealogy

Many mathematicians include a Genealogy (all mathematicians reachable by following links from an advisor to a student) or link to the Mathematics Genealogy Project on their website, so I looked for something similar for Physics. There does not seem to be such a tool but, with the help of wikipedia and starting from Dorothy Hodgkin, here is my Genealogy:
  • Paul C. Abbott (UWA 1987);
  • E.N. (Ted) Maslen (Oxford 1959?);
  • Dorothy Hodgkin (Cambridge 1933?);
  • John Desmond Bernal (Cambridge 1922/3?);
  • Sir William Henry Bragg (Cambridge 1884);
  • Sir Joseph John “J. J.” Thomson (Cambridge 1883);
  • John Strutt (3rd Baron Rayleigh) (Cambridge 1868);
  • Edward John Routh (Cambridge 1857);
  • William Hopkins (Cambridge 1830);
  • Augustus De Morgan (Cambridge 1826);
  • Adam Sedgwick (Cambridge 1811);
  • Thomas Jones (Cambridge 1782);
  • Thomas Postlethwaite (Cambridge 1756);
  • Stephen Whisson (Cambridge 1742);
  • Walter Taylor (Cambridge 1723);
  • Robert Smith (Cambridge 1715);
  • Isaac Newton (Cambridge 1668).
Note that once you link to Cambridge it is quite likely that you will reach Newton.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Musician Physicists

Reading The Weekend Australian Magazine found out that Don Walker of Cold Chisel fame did his honours in quantum mechanics. I knew that Brian May from Queen had recently completed a PhD in physics and that Brian Cox from D:Ream ("Things can only get better") was a physicist at Manchester University. Made me wonder how many musicians were physicists and vice versa.