Everyone loves black holes. Immense gravity, a one-way space-time membrane, the possibility of links to other universes. All lovely stuff. A little trawl of the internets reveals an awful lot of web pages discussing black holes, and discussions about spaghettification, firewalls, lost information, and many other things. Actually, a lot of the stuff out there on the web is nonsense, hand-waving, partly informed guesswork. And one of the questions that gets asked is "What would you see looking out into the universe?" Some (incorrectly) say that you would never cross the event horizon, a significant mis-understanding of the coordinates of relativity. Other (incorrectly) conclude from this that you actually see the entire future history of the universe play out in front of your eyes. What we have to remember, of course, is that relativity is a mathematical theory, and instead of hand waving, we can use mathematics to work out what we will see. And that's what I did.
Wow. It's been a while since I have written a blog post. Much of this is because of work and travels, and book writing (more news on that in the near future). But I'd like to get into blog writing, so here's a little science musing. Is an elephant heavier than a mouse? Now, you are probably saying "well, of course". Surely event the heaviest mouse weighs less than the newest born baby elephant, so why am I asking such a stupid question. Well, because science can never really prove that an elephant is heavier than a mouse. I know, I've gone and put that word in, and I've written about how proof has no place in science. But let's examine this in a little more detail. I've stressed many times before that while measurements are important in science, without an uncertainty such measurements are useless. And while professional scientists pour over papers focused on the error bars in figures, errors and uncertainties are typically waived ov
So, my plans for my blog through 2017 have not quite gone to plan, but things have been horrendously busy, and it seems like the rest of the year is likely to continue this way. But I did get a chance to do some recreational mathematics, spurred on my a story in the news. It's to do with a problem presented at the 2017 Raytheon MATHCOUNTS® National Competition and reported in the New York Times. Here's the question as presented in the press: Kudos to 13 year old Texan, Luke Robitialle, who got this right. With a little thought, you should be able to realise that the answer is 25. For any particular chick, there are four potential out comes, each with equal probability. Either the chick is pecked from the left pecked from the right pecked from left and right not pecked at all Only one of these options results in the chick being unpecked, and so the expected number of chicks unpecked in a circle of 100 is one quarter of this number, or 25. ABC journalis