Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Less benign use of Arduino

Some of you will have seen the Arduino demonstrated at my recent talk. This article is about how one has been used to defeat the electronic locks found in most hotel rooms around the world.

Quite frightening really ......  and one to take into account when you are traveling.  For those of you interested in the background, following the links in the article gives the full detail of what is possible and how to do it..... even more frightening. It appears that with basically the board I demonstrated and a little(?) know-how, most hotel rooms are an "open door".  This information is now in the public domain and there are a lot of clever and unscrupulous (you need to be both!)  people out there. It looks like the basic problem is that the lock makers never expected anyone to be able to do this sort of thing, so left easy access to the lock codes wide open.

James Gleick - Royal Society Winter Prize

Some of you may have seen that science author James Gleick has just won the Royal Society Winter Prize for his book "The Information - A History - A Theory - A Flood.

Gleick is a favourite of mine and I recommend his biographies of Richard Feynman and Isaac Newton.  As it happens, I am 95% through his prize winning tome, and it's good too: albeit it starts easy but gets rather hard. Eg, is quantum information destroyed when matter enters a black hole?  Stephen Hawking once thought it was, but now thinks it isn't! Enjoy.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Re SWF Forum

I've now glanced at the South Woodham Ferrers Forum - which is here

It does seem to have lost momentum, with few contributions in the last 6 months - but the latest relates to Raspberry Pi, as well as an earlier one which is rather ill informed.

Interesting to see the 'voting' on the items in their programme

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

South Pole

Someone said to me recently that when Amundsen reached the South Pole in 1912 he planted the Norwegian flag, then sent men out north, south, east and west, 5 miles in each direction, to take readings to confirm his position. In fact they discovered he was a few miles out, and he moved the flag to a new position.

This got me wondering, what instruments did they use, and what degree of accuracy could they achieve?

Atomic Structure

The talk I gave in November, A Sketch of Atomic Structure is now on the web at my ondotdot site or through the Cheltenham U3A Science & Technology site.

It is a bit fuller than the talk and you can look at it in a more leisurely fashion.

Monday, 19 November 2012

O so cold

Did you hear about the scientist who wanted to explore cryogenics?

He's 0K

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Chocolate and Nobel Laureates

Eating more chocolate improves a nation's chances of producing Nobel Prize winners - or at least that's what a recent study appears to suggest. But how much chocolate do Nobel laureates eat, and how could any such link be explained?

Franz Messerli of Colombia University took the number of Nobel Prize winners in a country as an indicator of general national intelligence and compared that with the nation's chocolate consumption. The results - published in the New England Journal of Medicine - were striking.

"When you correlate the two - the chocolate consumption with the number of Nobel prize laureates per capita - there is an incredibly close relationship," he says.

"This correlation has a 'P value' of 0.0001. This means there is a less than one-in-10,000 probability that this correlation is simply down to chance."

It might not surprise you that Switzerland came top of the chocolate-fuelled league of intelligence, having both the highest chocolate consumption per head and also the highest number of Nobel laureates per capita.

This is the sort of study you find published on April 1st ........ but it's November!
Read the whole article and if you believe the facts it's pretty convincing.  Can it be true???


There was a big splash recently about the Voyager spacecraft, launched in 1977, being ‘at the edge of the Solar system’. So is it out of the Solar system yet? How would we know – there’s no boundary sign, equivalent to ‘Welcome to Glorious Gloucestershire’?

Anyway, is there really an edge to the system? Doesn’t radiation etc just keep getting weaker and weaker for ever?

Sunday, 4 November 2012

BBC has just released new iPlayer app for radio, usable on most mobiles.  You will probably know you can download oodles of BBC progs - radio and tv - via podcasts.

iTunes leads to dozens of podcast sites with hundreds of downloadable podcasts on every subject under the sun - well - nearly.

Many mobiles have built-in radio so you can listen to BBC while digging the garden or walking the dog.

iPhone doesn't have FM radio built-in, but with podcasting you can deliver tons of progs - which is better than listening live as you can choose the prog from yr archive.


Monday, 29 October 2012

Elephants and bees.

Dr Lucy King at Oxford discovered or re-discovered that elephants are afraid of bees, which sting their eyes and trunks. In Kenya she devised a scheme for suspending specially adapted beehives on very thin fence wire.  When elephants rattle the fence wire bees sting them and they flee.  Lives and animals and crops have been saved.  A beneficial outcome.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Interesting apps

A couple of apps you might like to try:

1.  Scape produced by Brian Eno - experiment with soundscapes.

2. ItunesU - gives quick access to thousands of academic sources of info on multitude of subjects.  Most are course material from Unis and colleges - all free.

Good hunting


Monday, 8 October 2012

Stem Cells

Good news that the Nobel prize for Medicine etc has gone to two pioneers of stem cell research, John Gurdon from the UK and Shinya Yamanaka from Japan.

Wish I understood how skin cells (etc) could be 'reprogrammed'. I thought specialisation of cells was all to do with which genes are switched on or off - thousands of switches. I'm sure that's what Steve Jones said on In Our Time last month!

BTW I love the new background: light blue, very celestial.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Eureka Oct 2012

A couple of ‘scientific’ studies to brighten your day, quoted from The Times Eureka magazine

Page 11: “Few things are more frustrating than teaching an elderly relative to use a computer (‘The mouse has to be in contact with the desk, Grandad...’)   [Cheek!]
“But ... a study in Australia has shown that the more older men use computers, the less likely they are to develop dementia...”

Also page 11: “Swiss scientists are testing a sheep collar that protects the animals from wolves. It monitors Flossie’s heart rate and if it’s too high sprays a wolf repellant and sends a text message to the shepherd.”

[Thus brightening the life of the lonely goatherd, high on a hill ?]

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Blog Design

I have spent a little time finding out what flexibility the Google Blog allows for design of how a Blog looks and works.  If you have thoughts on what works and what doesn't then add a comment here and we can assemble some sort of common view. I should then be able to make a few changes to the template and we can evolve a working design within the constraints of the Blog application.  We are probably pretty basic at the moment. but things like is a dark or  light background better?  What about page width?, Can you find things ? ... probably lots more.

Monday, 24 September 2012

PV Panel Economics

for info - Which Oct says PV panels installed after Aug 2012, costing £7,500 could net only £6,462 profit after 20 yrs - £1,500 less than a savings a/c paying 4%,  UNLESS pv earnings are invested in cash isa at 4% over 20 yrs when net profits = £13,358.

Apparently Which Money Oct 2012 has more details.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Hurray, it works, albeit slowly.

If dark energy is causing expansion of the universe, and one day it runs out and the universe starts collapsing back to a singularity.  Will time run backwards too?

Sunday, 16 September 2012


JMJ here.  Great that we S & T blog up and running.


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