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.