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Showing posts from April, 2012

A truly super computer

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A short post, but the greatest computer ever built, the ZX Spectrum is 30 years old. Check it out!

I've written about this machine before, and it's influence on me, but one can only truly understand its greatness in song.
Yes, the graphics were not as spiffy as a PS3, and yes, games took forever to load (and there was the terror of tape loading errors), but you could program it in a real language (which let you play around with raw memory). For a certain generation, this song will bring a tear to your eye.

And if you don't know who the disembodied head is singing later on in this song, shame on you, shame!!!    
Through him, and the spectrum, I feel I had a distinct advantage entering university and becoming an astrophysicist. Thank you, Clive.

Drawing the line

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There has been some noise out there in the matrix about a recent book by Lawrence Krauss called "A Universe from Nothing".


It has been seized upon by by the atheist community (and to lay my cards on the table, I am an atheist) as another nail in the coffin for the God Delusion.

It has gone so far that Richard Dawkins (husband of the wonderful Lalla Ward, one of the Doctor's greatest companions) has said in the forward
"This could potentially be the most important scientific book with implications for supernaturalism since Darwin." and
“Even the last remaining trump card of the theologian, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?,’ shrivels up before your eyes as you read these pages. If ‘On the Origin of Species’ was biology’s deadliest blow to super­naturalism, we may come to see ‘A Universe From Nothing’ as the equivalent from cosmology. The title means exactly what it says. And what it says is ­devastating.” I haven't read the book (but will once I hav…

Falling into a Black Hole

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For someone who works in relativity, you'd think I'd know where the time goes! Things have been quite busy with grants, Easter and packing up my office as the building I am in is to be demolished. We're going to be off campus for a couple of years, in the lovely suburb of Redfern; at least we'll be closer to the  train station :)

This has meant I've not had a lot of time to get a lot of research done, so I thought I would post a little lesson on relativity, namely what happens when you fall into a black hole. Not the painful bit where you get torn limb from limb, but what you see.

I've worked on this in the past, but this post was sparked by this article, especially this statement.

"First of all, you approach the speed of light as you fall into the black hole. So the faster you 
move through space, the slower you move through time," he said. "Furthermore, as you fall, there are things that have been falling in front of you that have experienced an …

How science is done

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Hmmmm - I originally wrote this while twiddling my thumbs at Changi Airport in Singapore for a few hours, but the "one the road" blog software I was using seems to have deleted it (perhaps it had a read and didn't like the post :)

So, I was returning from a very busy and fruitful week in France. While there, I got to thinking about just how we do science. If you read textbooks (or, if there is nothing left on the shelf worth reading, philosophy) then you get told science is testing ideas and models with experimentation, and then reworking your ideas in light of new evidence. The problem is that this viewpoint, however, is that it is too clean, to clinical, too robotic.

But let's start with the environment, the beautiful city of Strasbourg, in Alsace, France. It is home to the very impressive Strasbourg Cathedral, which, between the years of 1647 to 1874 was the tallest building in the world.
The keen-eyed amongst you will recognise this view from the recent movie, Sh…