Saturday, 12 December 2009

The equation of Creation

This is a link on the so called "Equation of Creation" purportedly linking the Hydrogen Fine Transmission line (Hlf), Pi and the speed of light (measured in 'Thoms') to some strange "Omega Constant" (0.0123456789). This is the equation:

Hlf.π/Ω = C

For the rest of this post I'm going to attempt to disassemble the paper defending this equation.

The main thing that sticks out in reading this paper is that the author seems determined to prove he can do multiplication, it is littered with "if you multiply a by b you get c" I'm not sure if this is an attempt to sound scientific or what but its very irritating show's nothing.

Anyway onto the 'science': I'm going to work through this section by section skipping over a lot of stuff but trying to pick out the main points.

The paper starts out with some odd justification of "I'm a scientist and even I believe it" kind and then goes on to justification of the use of Hlf, as you can see from the wiki link yes this is an important frequency. Light at the Hlf frequency will penetrate interstellar dust etc yes SETI search on it (along with many other frequencies) so what there are lots of frequencies that are searched for all sorts of reasons. Hlf has some half hearted justification that if you wanted to  send a message to humanity you would use a frequency that we are looking on but that's about it. The justification for the inclusion of pi is that it has been suggested that Intelligent life might transmit at a frequency of pi*Hlf as there are no natural sources at this frequency and pi is a number that almost any advanced civilisation should recognise.

My first major issue with this is omega, this is an arbitrary number, 1/81 is roughly the ratio of masses of the Earth to the Moon

5.9736*10^24 Kg - Earth
7.3477*10^22 Kg - Moon
R = 81.298
1/R = 0.012300425594

but not anywhere near acurately enough to justify 10 significant figures and the claim that 0.0123456789 is attached to the Earth and the Moon, it just isn't. Additionally what is the obsession with 10 significant figures with all measurements, apparently other than this one. Having 10 significant figures on your estimate if you can only measure to 5.

The next section "Where is the science?" contains one of the more comic statements, apparently π/Ω gives a value in milliThoms, reading ahead a thom is also known as a megalithic yard. now fogive me but pi is a ratio, omega is an arbitrary number possibly a ratio of masses either way a ratio of ratios is just another number, not a distance.

Now while a frequency multiplied with a wavelength gives a speed I've yet to see any evidence that we have a wavelength with which to multiply. Anyway the rest of this section is mainly "wow our numbers give us the speed of light in an arbitrary unit how cool is that?!" as well as pointing out that this value of the Thom scales the hydrogen line to the speed of light, well whoop you can solve an equation!

Next section the mysterious 'Thom' is explained: originally it started out as a unit used in stone circles, the fact that a length that is roughly one standard human's pace was used throughout many many stone circles isn't that amazing is it? If I had the time (maybe later) I would see how accurate this number is, given that 0.8297 gives us fractions of millimetres I will be VERY surprised to see if there is evidence for this.

Anyway there is an "exact" method to calculate the Thom so don't worry - it's 1/366th  of the transit of Venus across the horizon. This section finishes with how it turns Atheists into Creationists and other such voodoo as well as how there is still more! yes, the Thom relates the circumferences of the Sun, Earth and Moon!

To relate the circumferences you multiply the full value of the Thom (0.829417864 metres) by some number (to get a second arc), then 360 (to get an degree arc) then finally by 366 to get the full circle. Now this is the first actual error I've found, but I'm pretty certain there are 360 degrees to a full circle as well as 360 arc seconds to a degree. For example using 366 Thoms to get a second then 360 and 366 to get the full circle you get 39,997.98kms, not bad given the Earth circumference is between 40,000kms and 40,008kms, using the standard number of degrees in a circle you get 39,342Kms not so good given that any number has been used. Further examples and their accuracy are given for the Moon and the Sun.

Using arbitrary numbers to get reasonably close to an actual number is not much of a skill or much of a challenge, especially when you are moving from values of an order 1 to order hundreds of thousands. The claim that:
As a side note, the values 100 and 40,000 used above in calculations of circumference, are not arbitrary numbers, but are very significant values in the large volume of research about the message embedded in the characteristics of the Solar system
is rubbish as well - until I see that evidence they are arbitrary numbers that help you get close to your goal value.

So what have we seen? Basically it is very easy to pick arbitrary numbers and make them look roughly like other numbers. For this to be evidence of a Creator I would expect much better than 99.9% accuracy especially given the very odd selection of units and mangled maths. As well as this complaint this whole paper has two massive errors: firstly the claim that π/Ω gives a length, unless you show me what Ω measures I will think of it as a number and nothing more, secondly in the proofs that the Thomis an exact proportion of the circumference of the Moon, Sun and Earth there are only 360 degrees in a circle.

As a final point below is the "proof" that my finger made the moon as I can use the length of my finger as a starting point for maths that calculates the Moon's surface area. This proof took about 5 minutes.

eg 8*8*16*365*100 = 37,000,000Km² the surface area of the Moon, 8 is the length of my finger (in cm), 16 is the average male age for puberty and 365 is the length of a year 100 is a special number we have evidence for.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Libel reform

This (should) be a quick post, for those of you who haven't seen there is a new website that I think you should all go an look at:
it is a lobbying group that aims to improve the way libel cases are dealt with in the UK, have a read about on it have a look here for Ben Goldacre's info on it (he's one of the founders).

If you live in the UK and in any way care about science this is important, if you live elsewhere and care about science its important. If you don't care about science you should and then this is important.

Essentially our current libel laws are crap. The cost of libel in the UK is about 170 times that of mainland Europe, and the burden of proof is upon the defendant: ie when someone sues you for libel you are guilty until proven innocent.

For better (and probably correct) arguments about why you should give a fig about libel laws look around on the libel reform page as well as Ben Goldacre's blog or Jack of Kent's blog or just read up on what's happening to Simon Singh.

Please look at it and come to your own decision; this is important.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Link dump

hey guys (well ok guy)

here are a couple of links that I think people should read firstly: - transcript of 500million (I think) pager messages sent in the 24 hours surrounding 9/11 from the DC and NY areas

As a follow up to one of my earliest posts there is this report in the Guardian with the full report here.

Finally another follow up (of sorts) to this: there is a list here of "8 awesome cases of vigilantism".

The first I think was one of the most poignant things I have read in years and I'll say no more about it. I want to put up a blog posting as to my thoughts on it but at the moment im too tired and they're too conflicted so it'll happen another day - maybe.

The second was mainly for historic purposes and that it interests me.

The last is the one (surprise surprise ) that is most worrying. Aside from the standard "anonymous did it" fallacy (seriously guys the hint is in the name they're not organised they're anarchists even if they don't know it) it is a little worrying the pure psychological terror that the internet can aim at someone. Yes the people in this piece at least deserved something; but not the ire of 4chan.

Having watched the swell of a 4chan mob against someone its a sight to wonder at as well as flee from.

I wonder how many more people will find this out the bad way?

Monday, 23 November 2009

This is just cool

Howdy net!

This is going to be a very short post as I'm currently struggling to keep my eyes open (hooray for 12 hour day with 4 hours on public transport)

so I'll just leave you all with some awesome pictures

pretty pictures!


Seriously cool stuff - they should be slowly stepping up the power over the next few months.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

the FUD is coming! the FUD....

This is a quick post. I don't want it to be but currently I can't quite form up a good post about it (needs some work me thinks)

So until I get round to writing a post on it here's an interesting link.

Personally I think its FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) but it holds the promise of some interesting impending debates about the internet as well as some big problems if it does go through as written.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Step-hen free speaks!

This is more so that I can find it later but I recommend watching this:

What has the Particle Physics ever done for us?

Other than this? i.e. the internet.

While the LHC may not be about to give you a new version of the microwave a lot of the 'spin-off' tech is VERY useful (HTML, radiation imaging for medicine, modeling systems used in finance etc click here for more). More direct uses are common as well this is a report from CERN on a new experiment that's just starting up to look at how cosmic rays may affect cloud formation and climate change. There are also experiments being designed that will create x-ray lasers (XFEL, LCLS and one in japan who's name I forget)use linear electron accelerators, to create x-ray lasers that will allow us to probe matter at even deeper levels: being able to image the absorption of chemicals into a cell, for example.

Anyway that's it - just a micro-rant on "what have the particle physicists ever done for us?"

Saturday, 14 November 2009

It may be a religious view but that doesn't mean you can use it to investigate

This is a somewhat depressing story, I don't have the full details but going on what's in this report the guy was sacked for believing that pyschics should be used to investigate crime. Fine by me, believe what you want; but if you try and follow through on that then expect to get sacked, psychic evidence is not permissible in court and should not be used as a resource.

If the guy was sacked for merely stating his opinion that psychics should be used then he's being persecuted, he's an idiot for suggesting it but he's allowed to voice such an opinion. If he tried to use or pushed for psychics to be used then its another matter.

Ah well

What's more irritating is this, again it's a case of not know enough: either the police force were (hopefully) following up the tip to reassure the family and on the off chance that a real tip was being obscured as pschic, or they actually wasted time and money on a psychic tip off. That being said it should have been obvious after finding no petrol in the guy that the tip off was rubbish

ah well

Friday, 6 November 2009

The burning stupid

This really hurts my brain. To suggest that being secular is what has caused the reduction in the number of births and overall family size is stupid. To quote a parliamentary report I found:
"The number of births in the UK has declined throughout the
century [1901 to 2001], interrupted only by the two post-war ‘baby booms’ and
a secondary peak in the 1960s. " [1]
Unfortunately I can't find any information about relative percentages of secularism to any form of religion other than in 2001 when only 15.5% [2] identified themselves as having "no religion (inc Jedis)". Now this strikes me as not really a reasonable way of accounting for the massive drop in birth rates over the last century:
"Between 1901 and 1905 the general fertility rate in the UK was
about 110 live births per 1000 women aged 15-44. By 1971 this
had fallen to 91 and in 1997 to 597." [1]
Call me scientific but might it just be that the number of people surviving birth has increased: 140 infant deaths per 1,000 births in 1900 to 5.4 per 1,000 in 1997. With more people surviving birth you don't need as many children, life expectancy has also increased (75 for boys, 80 for girls in 1999 compared to 45 and 49 respectively in 1901). A longer life expectancy reduces the pressure to have children at a young age, or at all.

Anyway, moving on from the stupid argument my main interest is this: over the last year what happened? maybe I'm being more focused in my reading but the number of public figures (Tony Blair for example) basically slagging off those who take a humanist or secular world view has seemingly massively increased.

As a standard test: re-read what Lord Sacks said but substitute the word 'muslim', 'black' or 'gay' where he says "neo-Darwinists". Not sure a bastion of great "interfaith relations" is he now?

Gripe the second: WHAT THE HELL is a neo-darwinist with respect to religion? They have nothing to do with eachother unless you happen to be some knuckle-dragging idiot. If anyone out there seriously thinks that secularists or humanists work from any sort of Darwinian principle they are utterly mistaken. We just don't believe in God. Evolution is an utterly seperate argument and the continued muddling of the two is stupid.

Repeat after me: "Evolution, The Big-Bang, Cosmology, Chemistry, Geology have NOTHING to do with the fact that I don't believe in any deity". They may both come from the fact that I think about things and draw what I think to be rational conclusions but one does not cause the other. 


Thursday, 5 November 2009

mmmmm retinal projection...

This is insanely cool. Near real time translations subtitled and beamed onto your retina. Who doesn't want one? while I get the impression this will (initially) be like the voice recognition software of the late 90's (ie requires a fair bit of work for 50/50 results) it has several features that are very significant.

The actual translation system is the not too surprising amalgamation of voice recognition and translation software. While both these technologies have been around in vague forms for the last 10 or so years it has only been in the last 5 years that they have become truly viable. Voice recognition interfaces are pretty common now on dial in services (eg for national rail) and while they do get it wrong from time to time they are pretty good. The same goes for translation, most things can be translated by, for example, google translate; it may have some interesting turns of phrase but the fundamental message gets through and this is a free, web-based tool.

The most exciting feature of this though is the retinal projection, this is something that has been slowly emerging of the last year or so (either as micro screens or direct projection) and is one of the last technologies needed to achieve complete augmented reality. We nearly have complete internet data coverage (it may not be fast but there are fewer and fewer places where I can't get some sort of net) and with technologies like 4G, BT openWorld (all BT customers can jump onto free open net connections from BT) or the cloud all poised to become very common it shouldn't be too long before people are wondering how they coped without being able to access wikipedia while walking down a street.

Augmented reality is a while off yet (and still limited by battery life) but as more technologies start to use it (see the phone app layers) it is fast becoming reality. I would say that within the next 10 years at the latest people will have augmented reality headsets (most likely glasses) and that they will be common within 15 years. As a technology I suspect that it will be similar to voice recognition in that for the next year or so everyone will be claiming to use it with no actual utility. After that, and especially with things like the translator specs, it will start to re-emerge as general utility, to steal an idea from Charles Stross: wouldn't it be cool to have a map of the city your in over-laid on your vision and then be able to watch the progress of your bus towards you?

This is, I think, the most significant part of these glasses: not so much what they can do (which is very cool) but that they represent a protrusion of what so far as been a fun toy in labs into useful utility.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Smoking up a storm

yes ok I'll stop with the bad titles, this is the last one, maybe.

On to the actual purpose of this post: it appears that the government of our dear island has sacked Prof. Nutt from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). The reason? saying that by changing the classification of drugs to "scare" people from them you were "devaluing" the evidence. The BBC report on the sacking can be read here and the report on his comments here.

My main gripe with this is the lack of respect that politicians (of all parties) seem to have for the people who advise them. If you are employed to offer advice on a policy your agreement with that policy shouldn't be a contingent of your employment.

In this case I think that the Prof. Nutt has a very good point: we allow the use of alcohol and tobacco (which can cause, among other, things cancer and cirrhosis) but ban the use of cannabis (a chance of developing psychosis or other neurological problems).

Moving on from this to a more general outlook this seems to highlight one of the main problems currently experienced by the scientific community: our expert advice (a few dozen years studying a small field) is routinely being over thrown based on 'gut-instinct' and anecdotes. There is a distinct distrust at all levels of society of those with expertise. This would be less worrying if it wasn't for the fact that often this expertise is replaced by much more dubious sources of information: how many people now will take the advice of someone who uses 20 minutes at the university of google to discover that vaccines are bad over someone who has spent a greater portion of their life researching and studying exactly how vaccines work.

I think this is more than just a new anti-intellectualism (which it is), I think it's the beginning of global future-shock. As technology and knowledge moves on people are becoming increasing terrified by the change and looking for simpler explanations of how the world works. The continued inability of science to do what people expect of it (why do we still have AIDS why isn't my car flying yet) has given people the impression that as a group scientists are detached from the concerns of pretty much everyone else.

This leads me back to the reports on the BBC: people no longer want experts. They don't want people who are willing to tell them that we don't have all the answers yet, to tell them that actually drug abuse is endemic in pretty much all societies and has been for years. People are actually losing a lot of the rationality that drove us to where we are now. I'm not saying that we are going to back-slide, just that we might move sideways a bit. As this century progresses the number of new technologies in people's lives will drive many to consider it magic. People won't want to be told that the nanotech injection they just received is very carefully molded to them specifically they will want to just know that the magic juice will cure their cancer.

Science has raised us so much higher than we have ever been before and now most people cannot see the difference between it and magic. It's a shame but for many people I think that the 21st century will be one of magic and will miss out on the wonder that we can create.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

how habitable is the earth?

If you have any interest in futurism and possible extra-solar habitation (ie living on other planets) this is an excellent post by an excellent author

The rise of journal sharing?

There is a very interesting (and short paper) on the impact of and ease of illegal sharing of journal articles here.

For those of the tl;dr (too long didn't read) variety basically a large number of journals that practice closed access (you have to pay to read articles) are having their articles shared via websites etc. The estimated cost of one of these websites to the 2,000 odd journals whose articles were republished as $1.4Million (based on $30.00 per article).

I'm not a big fan of intellectual property (IP) laws (maybe because I have nothing to protect) but I feel that several things have come into play in recent years. The IP laws are now as likely to protect large companies from individuals as the opposite (in fact more likely as an individual will rarely have the resources to cover legal costs) and the rise of the internet which has blurred the line of what can actually be protected. Is code something that you can patent? that particular bit of code or the concept behind it. These issues have already been met by firstly music, then movies and now slowly the publishing world (look at the trouble google is having with news that they license and various books).

In the case of scientific publishing the real question is whether we should pay for information. Prior to the internet a lot of the work of publishers was exactly that: editing and publishing articles that would then be bound together and sent to those who were interested often costing a lot of money in the process. Now in the publishing world most of the work is done electronically, editing and organisation of the information is still important but the cost of actually printing the article is often no longer an issues as people will read the papers online. Should we then be paying up to $30 for an article?

I don't think we should. Information is at its best when everyone can access it, creating a situation in which multiple people can all review and learn from someone's contribution is far preferable to creating an arbitrary barrier for people to cross. This is especially true in the case of the sciences where people are interested but only a very minor percentage will want to pay up to $100 for a paper that they're only interested in browsing. The upshot of charging people to learn is that you create a capitalist market for information. On the internet this means that people will go where it's freely available (eg wikipedia) or where it's free but wrong (eg Answers in Genesis). As part of the purpose of science is the propagation of knowledge forcing people to pay to get good information seems counter-intuitive. This is more of a problem now when information is so freely available in general and people are treating science more and more like magic: either something to be feared or avoided as un-knowable. Giving good and easy access to genuine science will mean that those who are interested can get hold of the actual information that is needed and make their own mind up about it. I'm not saying this will stop websites like Age of autism from spreading misinformation but with access to genuine papers on vaccines or the LHC people who might otherwise take these websites at face value (especially when presented with the scientific world hiding its information behind a pay wall) they may read up and find out the real facts.

While this is a very similar situation to the one found in the entertainment industry I think the subtle differences make the case stronger for open access journals. While the entertainment industry should be free in some form (I pay for the cinema and yet still insists on adverts why!?) funded through pay-to-dodge ads or a pay-to-own system etc. The journals system should be completely free, a lot of journals already have adverts if these moved onto their websites in a "pay for the ad free premium version" system I would be more than happy.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

"It's only a theory"

Interesting program on BBC iPlayer called "It's only a theory" hosted by Andy Hamilton and Reginald D Hunter, first episode has a very interesting man on talking about the possibility that the first 1,000 year old person has probably already been born. Seems to be a reasonable argument based on bell curve concepts.

The idea is that people being born now will likely have access to technology that will extend their life significantly and once they get old (again) the process will repeat to the point that essentially life will be sustained ad finatum.

The guy presenting the argument is awesome (HUGE beard) bit of a strange program not too well created, interesting idea with a reasonable approach to science but somewhat trying to hard for jokes that aren't really there.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Further VHDL adventures

Well I've finally made my shiny toy do something vaguely useful. With the amazing power of science (and several weeks hard work/hackery of other's code) I've made my board into an 8-bit binary to hexdecimal converter. It does this by changing the output of the seven-segment LED display to the relevant character based on the position of the 8 sliders.

That's about it. Next stop something genuinely useful.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

First week

Well half way through my first week as a PhD (well technically MPhil) student and what have I learnt? Mainly that PhDs HURT I've spent the last 2 days trying to cram the better part of a terms worth of electronics (well logic mainly) into my brain. Doing fairly well so far.

I have also learnt that there are far too many annoying webmail systems that don't sync with stuff properly also that the new Microsoft Outlook live sucks utter balls.

anyway that's all I have to report at the moment (yes this was a worthless post but no one reads this so sod it).

will maybe post something more substantial soon when I think of it.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The obligatory late post

Hello again! I'm back (well while I remember this anyway). Various things to report: firstly I'm heading into a PhD so back to uni very soon (which is just awesome!) Also in a new flat (that's my excuse for lack of posts anyway) and finally loving the iPhone - if you use the net a lot while on the go get one.

Anyway on to something slightly less egotistical: interesting developments. The main thing of interest to me at the moment has been the prospect of building a CNC Milling machine (basically a computer controlled router - the type for carving). This is a project between me and a friend and we're hoping to start on it very soon. This will mean I should have access to an amazing carving machine: essentially plug in the information for what you want to build and it will (so long as it can be carved from a block of whatever).

Other cool gubbins that has been circling is that I've recently finished Iain Bank's "Crow Road" this is an amazing book if quite sad. Well worth a read.

Anyway looks like I can't think of much else to post and I'm ready to install Dawn of War II so I'm off to enjoy that

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

New Comic

Hey Guys,

I'm back again (briefly) to post a link to this a comic a friend of mine is drawing. Should be a good read once a week so take a look - only one up at the moment though so not too much to worry about.

In other news I'm still fighting with VHDL and my lazyness in trying to get my JAVA-fu going again. Will be posting up some more games reviews soon as well (mainly once I've got some second games down), I'm hoping to put up reviews for 'Race for the Galaxy' and 'Crunch' I've had a single game of RftG and a few of crunch and both are very good. As I'm off to a games club tomorrow I should hopefully have a few more games down to pass judgement on.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Lit-bots and Comp-scripts: how the world is getting faster...

I saw this while on holiday published in the International Herald Tribune I was going to blog about it then decided not to becuase it was an isolated case, well I thought it was then I read this about half way down Ben describes this:

"Professional complaints followed in May, mostly about individual chiropractors’ claims. Then, in June, blogger Simon Perry found the BCA database of 1,029 members online, containing 400 website URLs. He wrote a quick computer program to automatically identify all the chiropractors in the UK claiming to treat colic, locate their local Trading Standards office, and report them (more than 500 in total) automatically, followed up with printed letters."

This made me look up. If you haven't read the links here is my main interest in these reasonable disparate stories: they both use simple bots within a legal framework to spam requests. Respectivly one spams buy orders (buy for 1cent more and get a lot of money) the other spams legal letters requests for investigation. This has been online for a while in the form of trawling take down letters, these are simple bots that look for things that may be copyrighted material posted illegally and then spam the ISP of the concerned website with cease and disist letters. My main interest in this is that this sort of thing will produce an arms race, already this is the case on the stock exchange where groups are trying to out do each other with faster systems and smarter algorithms, legally similar systems are likely to evolve: clouds of company bots that exist to absorb the flak of other's take down bots and simlar...

for more ideas read accelerando by charles stross

anyway just thought I'd flag that up as it interests me

Saturday, 18 July 2009

DNA databases, Charlie and Ben

This is going to be a pretty short post as there isn't much to add to this discussion other than what is said in these two reports: first Ben Goldacre on the bad evidence used to justify long term retention (ie 24 years retetion) of DNA data taken from those who are arrested but not convicted or cautioned. Second is this article by Charles Stross on the odds of being a false positive in a government database check (in this case CRB check and why he doesn't give school readings of his books).

The only thing really that I want to add to the debate on a database of our DNA etc run by the government is that the risk in terms of security of a database that will ultimately link ALL your information in one place if breached is pretty horrible. I'll briefly expand this: the DNA database would be likely allowed to expand (through ID cards etc) to cover everyone and be multi-use, ie your medical history would be there you NI number what ever. Even if this doesn't happen a single source of information would make identity theft a utterly crippling crime, especially as it would be most likely a random person who would be used to act as a patsy for someone else. Although this is less likely given the current technological state it is likely only a matter of time before the current DNA system starts leaking.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Adventures with VHDL part 1.

Well I've finally got my arse in gear and started playing around with VHDL. I am subjecting myself to this for two reasons: 1) being able to program firmware is cool and useful as well being a reasonably rare skill 2) it's going to be useful for my PhD.

So what am I doing I hear you cry? Firstly I have been lent a very fun piece of kit: a Digilent NEXYS 2 board this is a programmable board with all sorts of ports and switches LEDs and similar to play with. Attaching it to my pc is a basic USB cable and then I have the Xilinx WebPack (a free download containing IDE and other useful programming gubbins). The final thing needed was the digilent program 'Adept' which allows you to upload your program via USB.

Armed with these I have ventured forwards into the world of chip programming.

So what have I learnt? thus far not much, I've got a basic program running that depending on the configuration of 4 switches the 7-segment display will give the number converted from binary into hexadecimal this was done by follow thing this fairly basic tutorial.

I learnt two major things: firstly check the EXACT setting of your card. I had a lot of issues in that I was getting a "device IDCODE conflict" error every time I tried to load the program on to the hardware this was because I had it set for the XC3S500E not the XC3S1200E in the 'Design properties' (right click the any of the files in the 'design' pane). The second thing I learnt was that to set the start up clock you need to right click 'Generate Programming File' in the process pane.

This sort of programming is interesting it that everything has two entries into your code: the first is called the entity which describes the number of inputs and outputs to a given structure; the second is the architecture that actually describes what is to be done with those inputs and outputs.

In my case the inputs are the switches and the outputs are the 7Seg display as well as anodes which switch of the bits of the display that I don't want (there are 4 separate 7seg displays I need only one).

The architecture is where the interesting programming happens (as far as I can tell) with '<=' directing inputs to outputs. In this case 'select' was used select a binary string for controlling the 7seg when a certain value was input via the switches (x0 through to xE). The anodes were all set manually via the line 'anodes <= "1110"; ' (remember that for this '1' is off '0' is on) this was done so that only the right most display was on.

On the entity side ports (inputs/outputs) were declared as a block of '3 downto 0' giving ports 3,2,1,0. each being declared "STD_LOGIC_VECTOR" which I assume defines the arithmetic to which it subscribes.

Finally once your .hdl file is finished you need to declare what physical ports everything attaches to. This is via a .ucf file that simply translates the port from the VHDL file to an actual port (in this case by looking up the number on the board itself).

Cool stuff

Frstly: the Chap Olympiad, a very daft but fun event recently held in London here's a link to an ITN report on it.

Secondly: big news in engineering and opto-electronics (if it gets off the ground) scientists have set up 'circuits' such that light can be used to open and close gates. This is important as it means that fully controlable gates can be made either way here is the report.

Sorry about the lazy reporting feeling tired and working on a programming project. Will probably update some information on it soon

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Update and first games review: 'War on Terror'

I haven't posted for a while, mainly because I've been skimming the news (busy week because of new job) and not seen anything too interesting.

Anyway I'm going to try and instigate some interesting blog material which will be to do with the various games I've been playing. I have plans to play some D&D at some point soon so that will be going up here but today I'm going to write about 'War on terror' (WoT).

I can't review it fully as I've only played a 1v1 game and it requires a few more people for the full affect but what I have seen so far is very good, very very good in fact.

At its most basic level WoT is a souped up version of risk with elements of settlers of catan; from the risk side comes the global domination/war aspect and from the catan side comes the resource production/settlement building side. The basics are fairly simple: each go you can build or upgrade a certain number of settlements as determined by the action dice, these can only be built in countries adjoining your existing settlements. Once you've built all you want to you roll two dice and gather oil money from the countries with the corresponding number (these are hidden until you build upon that country). As well the building there are two decks of cards (empire and terrorist) and the terrorist counters. The decks allow you to attack other countries or terrorist groups as well as other actions (free builds etc). The terrorist groups can be bought by anyone and placed anywhere on the board but once they're on there they are usable by anyone, this means that your opponent can move them into your countries or anywhere else. There is one final rule which is that a random player will be made the 'evil empire' this allows you to draw cards from both empire and terrorist stacks giving you a greater range of options but also giving others a bonus for attacking you.

These three mechanics work very well together, the building is simple and quick, attacks can be resolved by rolling two dice (unlike risk's hundreds) and once someone goes out they can control the terrorists.

In terms of actual gameplay WoT is highly intuitive, fast paced and funny; a game can take quiet a while but no one gets left out because they lost early which is very nice. The balance of it makes the terrorists very powerful and a dangerous group to deploy. It will take at least a few goes to get the balance of cash right as you need to spend money to make money as well as defend or weaken oponents with terrorists keeping money in reserver is also vital as some of the terrorist cards demand that you pay a hefty ransom.

The other advantage that I have found with this game is because of how you start (only 4 teritories each for a 2 player game) you don't have to start in direct competition with someone (like risk) and that global position is not quiet as crippling as in risk (ie starting in Australia doesn't mean instant win for you).

Outside of gameplay the game is very nicely designed, colourful with lots of nice touches it is wonderful just to look through the cards and around the board for the tons of little comic touches.

Generally this is a game for a pretty much anyone it is a long game and it does require a bit of thought to play BUT that being said it is excellent fun and doesn't penalise people who go out early.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Nextgen screens.

I've been recently reading 'Halting state' which is an amazing book by Charles Stross on the what will happen as the Internet becomes more and more ubiquitous. Among the technologies he uses in the plot is continuous Internet as a HUD (heads up display) this sort of HUD would be projected onto what you see from a pair of glasses giving you anything from the best route to your destination (think an iPhone whose screen you see all the time).

Most of this technology already exists (see the sixth sense prototype), iPhones supply constant GPS capabilities, 3G phone systems allow for some degree of Internet access almost anywhere (the newer 4G will improve this massively). Things like the cloud and the grid give constant wifi connections. MMORPGs (Massively-Multiplayer-Online-RolePlaying-Games like World of Warcraft) are becoming mainstream and as they become less esoteric and video games become a common media more MMORPGs will crop up. Urban gaming is already appearing with examples such as geocaching or the more paranoia inducing StreetWars.

In terms of non-existent technology only the ability to create overlays onto the real world are missing and this has moved a lot closer to reality with the creation of a .97" screen by the American company Kopin the big thing about this is that at less than an inch they have created a fully functioning 1280x1024 screen (that's the same resolution as a standard 19" monitor). While an inch screen sounds like the ultimate in eye-strain-o-vision at the distance of a glasses lens it is reasonable to view.

At most much of this technology will happen within the next 10 years or so, the full overlay technology may take a little longer but if nothing else we are now (pretty much) fully capable of hooking a good webcam to a pair of glasses and running the lens as screens. Of course what happens if someone hacks this would be pretty horrible.

UPDATE 1340 03/07/09: this news just broke. The theft was via standard abuse of privileges (something that is not punishable in eve although the subsequent sale of the kredits is) while the value of the theft was ~£3,000 and technically hard to punish legally it will be more and more common and is only a matter of time before someone starts testing this legally.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Chick Tracts

The chick tracts are immensely annoying short web comics that promote Christianity, they're not so much annoying for their promotion of religion (what ever floats your boat) more for their utter lack of logic and horribly contrived feel that should fail to persuade any rational reader of their truth (a perfect example is this on homosexuality see if you can reach the bottom with out rage!).

Anyway for those of a lovecraftian bent this is a wonderful parody

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Sex, drugs and rock n' roll.

Well one out of three isn't bad. Here is a summary of some interesting reports on drug use. These interest me for a couple of reasons: I have tried various chemicals and enjoyed them; I have read (well skimmed) various government reports most of which go against the accepted wisdom that 'drugs are bad'; finally I have always wondered why people are so blind to the affects of alcohol/tobacco and so vocal on the affects of everything else.

While this is the age old argument there is VERY little reason why alcohol should be acceptable while cannabis or MDMA isn't. There are two reasons for my confusion; firstly while none of these drugs are safe (don't believe me look up liver failure from alcohol and permanent psychosis for cannabis) secondly I fail to see how most people don't realise this. I would expect it's from the propaganda that says drugs are bad you are hooked the instant one touches your lips (or vein or what ever) and that they will kill you in seconds.

It is this second point that depresses me the most; the double standards I can understand to a degree: people are comfortable with booze but the rest is strange and scary, fine. The second point though raises a much more dangerous truth: that we should lie utterly to children and ourselves. This isn't the science "this is mostly true but not everything" lying this is out right driving fear in to people's hearts to the point where those people who genuinely need help (ie addicts) cannot admit it most of the time because of the stigma and hence are denied what should be an avenue out for them. It also raises the worrying question of what else we let ourselves be feared into (ID cards anyone, net monitoring?)

This is a wonderful highlight of an endemic problem in our society: that expertise is no longer trusted, in any way. I'm not saying we shouldn't question what we are told be experts or anyone, but they are experts for a reason. The number of government policies that are created despite experts turning round and saying "what you planning is rubbish" is a sad indicator of something found at all levels of society.

I hope it ends soon...

New news on old news I missed

This (yes one day I'll come up with a better start to these but until the bite me) is a worrying story. The reasoning behind a trial without jury is sound, the case had been seen three times previously and fallen through each time due to jury tampering. It still makes trial by judge alone a worrying situation especially in criminal cases.

While our current government (incompetent and rubbish as it is) probably wont start black bagging and trying without jury its the sort of law that means if someone is an arse at a future point there is worrying precedent, especially when combined with some of the other more interesting laws that have been passed in recent years.

More worrying news from the gov, this sort of stuff will most likely bite them in the arse as public backlash. Ironic though that a nominally left leaning centrist party has introduced so many laws and policies that look like they should be in 1984...

Pay pal and other people's woes

This is a revealing blog posting; revealing it that it points something that I'd never noticed about paypal (which I don't often use anyway) but paypal only guarantees purchases made via eBay. This means for everything else your on your own.

Friday, 12 June 2009

More joy from YouTube and the Discovery Institute

Two related videos today, both by the same person highlighting what will become an interesting problem online: the use of cease and desist notices to take down and censor content. This is nicely tied to another irritant of mine which is creationism (now going by the name of intelligent design). This is the sort of insidious anti-science that could set us back years if it gets accepted. Firstly ID explicitly relies on a none testable hypothesis: that at some point all of life was designed at a deep level. This can only be tested if they can prove that a biological is irreducible, that is that there is no way in which it could have been produced naturally, this in itself is the definition of supernatural.

Moving away from my loathing of ID the second part that is interesting is the use of law to smash websites; especially hosting sites like youtube. These sites have to comply quickly (I expect they use automated services) as failure to do so makes them liable BUT it does mean there is an easy was to remove content that you don't like.

Luckily the internet does not forgive and it does not forget.

Here are the vids, the first is the vid that was taken down the second is a vid about that act.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

nanowin and biofutures!

This is a short video of a carbon nanotube muscle, it is very cool. This sort of technology can be used for all sorts of interesting micro motors, engine parts and other machinery such as very manipulatable arms for robots (search and rescue anyone with a cam mounted on one of those to look inside the rubble).

Next is this interesting article on grown organs, so far a bladder, bone marrow and a rat's heart have been made with the bladder having been successfully transplanted into a patient. This is the future of medicine: constant refreshment of organs as and when they are needed. Neat huh?

oh dear..

This is silly, very silly.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Chiropractic and other fun

Two interesting posts that I'm linking to today. First is a very funny letter being sent out to various chiropractic peoples informing them that they should be very careful about what they claim to be able to help with. Second is an interesting (American) post on the break-down of their government's spending.

Starting with the latter (the government spending) click here the blog itself is a favourite of mine with lots of interesting physics and astrophysics posts but what is genuinely interesting is how the break down of spending appears: only 0.8% is on science and technology combined. all it beats is general government. That's NOTHING, I find it highly annoying when people complain about the costs of for example the LHC; especially as they rarely realise that the $5 billion (I think ~£4bn) is spread over about 25 years of total R&D compared to the Olympic games which will no doubt run to more than its predicted £4bn budget for not even 1 year of heavy use. Anyway an interesting post and one well worth sending to the 'science is a waste of money' brigade.

The former post I won't comment on other than to say that considering that Simon Singh currently has to prove that the claims of the BCA were deliberately misleading this seems to be a wonderful piece of evidence that they may have been...

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Politics - who needs it?

This made me grin today

source: b3ta (if you've never been there a worthwhile hour).

Saturday, 6 June 2009

CAPTCHA humour

It's early moring so this is excused, but does anyone else find humour in the silly sequences of letters that you have to type in to let a website know your a human?

For example today I had one that was 'humpa' as these are randomly generated I wonder if they ever produce rude words etc?

Anyway bed time, need an early start so chores can be done early prior to massive amounts of world of warcraft.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

This, sign it, NOW

This is a petition on the Simon singh case - sign it.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Job hunting

Well it's summer again which can mean only one thing: time for another soul sucking summer job. In years previous I've been very lucky in being able to get jobs through friends this year with the economic situation being what it is it doesn't seem as likely, certainly no luck so far. The upshot of this is that today has been spent a) in the sun and b) sitting in my room trawling through pages of job agencies which mainly consist of various recruitment firms pertending to be employers looking for jobs rather than agencies looking for more people to put on their books, oh the joy!

Instead of doing further searching and CV massaging I'm here; procrastination how I love ye!

bah jobs suck!



It takes a lot to sicken me online and this manages it. What I find sad about it is the utter contempt, it takes true work to write something so utterly hate-filled, then to publish it and pretend to be the good-guy is amazing.

I don't have a huge interest in the whole abortion debate - personally I think that abortion should be an option and in late cases where the woman's life is in danger it may be the only sensible option.

The other thing that shocked me a bit about this article is the whole-hearted love for capital punishment this isn't someone who thinks that it is whats needed as a deterrent but that it should be loved and used as such.

and I thought reading fundies say the darnedest things helped expose me to the extremes of human belief - looks like I have to work harder.


This video is annoying me. I like LOTR but the thought of a kids game of it grates at a fundemental level. A large part of the attraction to LOTR for me is that it has so much depth (the huge mythology woven through, the languages and the sub-plots) and I don't think the games will pick up on this even remotely, the films did well in balancing it and created something beautiful. By the look of it though a cell shaded game aimed at children and their parents probably wont.

Ah well


Monday, 1 June 2009

This would be funny if it weren't so true

This article sums up the onion pretty well. It's funny. It's accurate. And painfully true.

I don't know if it's just my tinfoil hat blocking my ears but when you see stuff like the Simon Singh case the various insanities that are always about (ie creationism and vaccine quackary) it just seems that anti-science is on the rise (ironicly often helped by the 'net).

This is a problem on a number of fronts. Firstly anti-science generally goes hand-in-hand with loss of critical thinking which is not what you want in a democracy - even more so given the current economic and political climate (hello BNP, anyone?) The second reason is that in the increasing technical age that we live in loss of scientific thinking doesn't help anyone. Our current knowledge is close to pushing science far beyond anything we've previously seen: both nanotech and biotech have the potential to fundamentally change how we live beyond even what the internet has done. This will not be helped if half the population are unable to think critically and more importantly unable to get hold of the information that will help with this.

Now more than ever we need GOOD science writers and a GOOD flow of information. Here's hoping it happens

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Black Lines

Interesting story here about so called 'black-lines', these are the lines that don't show up on maps and no-one admits to owning. They're the fibre optics of goverenment services and similar.

I wonder if there are any near me to hit with a spade? could be fun....

Thursday, 28 May 2009

viva la revolution!

Well ok maybe not revolution but this is a excellent article on the affect that the internet is having upon the world.

More precisly it explores the emerging digital socialism that the internet has helped breed. More and more systems are being developed collaborativly (linux, wikipedia etc) and for free.

I won't go on because right now my brain is hungover and I can't form thoughts properly but to quote my friend

"You're foolin' yourself mate, we're living in an ad-hocracy. Come and see the meritocracy inherent in the system!"

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

I hope this is a hoax...

This is a wonderful money spinner and a horrible idea.

I'm all for highlighting the general daftness of most religous views but the thought of people paying money into a bank for the express reason of coming back from the dead and claiming the money is just painful.

I dearly hope that they get shut down or DDoS'd.

This (like most woo) just prays on those who are gullible.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Age of obession

This is an idea that I've been bouncing around for a while and still keep coming back to so I'm going to inflict it upon you (who ever you are).

The premise is simple, over the last few hundred years society has changed drastically (in case you've been in hibernation or something). A few hundred years ago we were mainly rural family/village centred, with the industrial revolution we became urban but remained locally focused (either about jobs or just road/church what ever). As last century progressed the focus has changed again from job to friends who may be much more spread out than previous networks. With the advent of the internet this has become global and based much more upon common interests, for example I could go to most major cities of the world and have crash space through friends I've made juggling.

This is the age of obsession, a lot of people now meet via the internet, its no longer taboo to meet someone from online or even date/marry someone met via IRC or WoW. Now more than ever we can group with people not because we have to but because we want to through common interests.

These groups form a double edged sword on the one hand its utterly possible to realise your not freak for liking Bavarian folk music as played by chinchillas on the other hand the same is true for being a fascist or snuff-film enthusiast. Hopefully the internet will still help people account for this and experience the lovely corrective glow of peer pressure.

While often labeled a bad thing peer pressure is vital, it acts as a normaliser, I'm all for weird but when it is considered normal your get into trouble. This is where peer pressure comes in, those dirty little habits you have don't get worse because of peer pressure - unfortunately it is also through peer pressure that shame for normal things can occur - for example enjoying that most dirty of acts - sex. It still amazes me that people are more worried about sex than seemingly any other act that humans perform on one another.

Anyway I would be very interested to ear whether people think that this new 'Age of the obsessive' will be good bad or indifferent. Personally I think it will be for the better as it will allow people passion that has until recently been frowned upon, I'm sick of hearing "you have too much time on your hands - how else do you do all this fun stuff?" most of the time the answer is simple - I'd rather be messing about learning to program than watching 99% of whats on TV.

Roll on the age of the geek where passion for the strange is respected!

this is more for me than you

This is cool.

I like steampunk, I have a PS3. I want this.

4chan iz in ur mainstream, corruptin ur yoof!

This made me smile this morning. 4chan (for those of you sane enough to avoid it) is the internet cess-pit. All those mind searing images? those terrifying memes? They come from 4chan (and a few similar sites).

I've been wondering how long before it was mentioned by name in the main stream news for a while. Whats interesting is that obliquely 4chan and its ilk are mentioned often - normally confused with the 'terrorist group' anonymous. This is explicitly wrong. Anonymous is not a group - it is the outward affect of the anarchy of 4chan and co. These are the places that have no rules and upon which anything goes.

The reason anonymous isn't a terrorist group is that it is not organised, Project Chanology was a meme. Lots of people thought it would be fun or interesting or agreed - so it happened.

This is the new face of protest: flash memes that spread across the internet in a matter of days and then die or explode. Two other good examples are the circle line pub crawl last year (spread via facebook) and the G20 protests this year (spread via facebook and twitter). These are the early sightings of the net truly showing its power - not just breaking news faster and better but impacting upon the world.

The original version of these phenomena were flash mobs - these were light hearted displays of surreality. They have changed and become a method of demonstration as well as a method of anarchy. Which is the only way to describe a lot of the internet.

Stories like the one on the bbc today are just a way of showing how powerful peoples urges and mob mentality can be and online a mob can be huge (4chan's /b section has several million hits a day and managed to get its founder posted as the Time magazine's number one person in the top 100 as a prank as well as a proper interview).

It's things like this that make it easy to see why so many people want to control the internet. It also makes it pretty clear why they will fail. The music industry tried to stop napster and got winMX and so on - these got shut down and we got bittorrents if these die more dark nets will occur (invite only networks for p2p file sharing). The same is happening more generally with content. A lot of the reactions to this story on the bbc page were "why doesn't every youtube video get checked" and "how can this be allowed to happen". This kind of thinking doesn't work online. The responsibility is for the person to stop things to moderate themselves.

Big brother may be watching you online but can't really stop anything - only the people online can change the internet. This doesn't mean that 4chan will be stopped - but it does mean that people need to take things into their own hands and moderate, mark down and report.

oh and supervise their kids online if they don't want them to see porn.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

worth reading

Charles Stross is a dude - near future sci-fi is a) VERY interesting and b) not often done well. He pulls it off - if your interested I highly recommend accelerando.

Either way this is his keynote speech from a recent MMO conference - which doesn't have too much to do with MMO's but a lot to do with the future of the internet and computing in general.

The concept that I think is most interesting and already semi-visible within current high-end gadgets (ie the iphone) is the dissolution of the net-space/meat-space boundary (ie internet becoming part of the real world rather than something on the other-side of a screen). This is something that will be most likely the next paradigm shift (the advent of the 'net was the last one). Moving to a society that treats information and the access of it as a basic human right. Currently its only the hard-core netizens (ie me) that get annoyed when they are cut off from internet access but this is rapidly changing.

The business and academic worlds have accepted email as the standard method of communication, Twitter and its blogging brethren are becoming the accepted methods of breaking news (see swine flu and the Mumbai bombings). While much of the populous consider the internet a hobby or something to use to send the odd email it is rapidly (for people under 30) becoming the only method of communication and research.

In my case more and more of my 'luxury' purchases (ie DVDs) come from online and using google maps on my phone has saved me several times (can't wait to get my iPhone once i can afford it). With things like the sixth-sense in development and pushing more of the internet into the real world.

Going back to the speech I think one of the most interesting aspects of this is that it is predicted within the next 20 years - with e-readers and similar already hitting the market as well as the iPhone considered the bench mark for next-gen mobiles I wonder if a lot of this won't be here sooner. It's also interesting to see how the rate at which we lose the ability to predict the future is lessening. In the 1900's people thought they could see clearly to about now. Now people are un-willing to bet beyond the next 5-years let alone several decades.

Weighing in (feather weight stylee) on Simon Singh..

For those of you haven't heard of this story click here otherwise keep reading (a copy of Simon's piece can be found here).

This is going to be pretty quick as I expect what I'm about to say has been said before by people much better at it that myself but here is my take.

Firstly Simon did say something a bit dumb.
You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact they still possess some quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything. And even the more moderate chiropractors have ideas above their station. The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.

That is not a statement to win friends. Equally though it doesn't deserve to be labeled libel. The piece is clearly comment/opinion to begin with and within the realms of comment/opinion the claim that there "is not a jot of evidence" should be reasonably permissible - the argument should be clearly that within the author's opinion there is no reputable evidence that supports the BCA's claims.

This isn't how the court has seen it.

In fact the court didn't even hear the case as the judge read a pre-written judgment as soon as the parties had said their piece.

This judgment was impressive in taking the case far beyond what was expected (even I expect by the BCA) in that by using the word "bogus" Simon supposedly meant that BCA made its claims with fore-knowledge that they were harmful (some of them are but I don't think many chiropractors believe this). That the BCA practices maliciously is clearly far more than Simon meant through the use of the word "bogus" (in fact I've never known it to have the connotation that something was maliciously false just false).

This case is terrible on two fronts - firstly it highlights some of the problems with libel rules, secondly it shows just how important good scientific reporting is and how hard it is to produce.

In terms of libel like a lot of the grayer areas of law its a very difficult thing to balance - too much on the side of the plaintiff and it becomes to write anything without either filling it with 'apparently's and 'maybe's or being sued. Too far the other way and you can say what you want with impunity.

Whats interesting about this in terms of the law though is it highlights the problem of online blogging. If Simon had initially published his piece as a blog would the reaction have been the same? whats going to happen when blogs start getting picked up and published by papers? Will it be libel in the country posted from? from the country its hosted? In the US blogs are protected speech and cannot be sued for libel. As more of our journalism is done from the net these sorts of problems will arise.

Moving on from the legal aspects (which I can only question as my law knowledge is pretty poor) the journalism aspect is even more interesting. This sort of case is a huge problem for scientific reporting. The bottom line is that this case represents a large group suing someone for being critical of their methods.

Scientifically Simon is reasonably well supported - there isn't much good evidence that chiropractic treats much other than bad backs. Saying that shouldn't get you sued. Even in a national paper - if there is a genuine scientific basis for a statement saying so shouldn't land you in trouble.

If we're being fair so long as you set it as opinion you should be allowed to say pretty much what you want. It doesn't work but it might encourage people to be a little more critical in their assessment of claims made by people. Libel laws are their to protect people from unfounded claims - unfortunately a lot of organisations know how to avoid them and a lot of individuals don't.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

back - kinda

Well I am now a free man - at least until September.

Today is my first day online post celebratory boozing and as expected the weather has been mainly cloudy and I think I have a cold. Ah well.

anyway I'm still alive but I need to exorcise my room and start plotting/planning for the summer.

Monday, 11 May 2009

i recommend that you sign this

Who ever it is that actually reads this I suggest you sign this as woman should be well represented in politics.

back to revision with all its joys

Sunday, 10 May 2009

awesome parable

This is a very nice little story that highlights the difference between a lot of faith based thinking and scientific thinking.

Unless your willing to change your mind (which a good scientist should be) your doomed to failure.

Friday, 8 May 2009


This is win...

Monday, 4 May 2009

words cannot describe how cool this is

Its been a few days since I saw something blog worthy (also been RL busy with exams, revision and friends) but this is amazing. Takes a few min to get to the mind blowing stuff but its all good to watch and worth the wait.

Parkour (urban free running with gymnastics) with a BMX....

I'm a big fan of watching parkour etc (too unfit to actually do it myself) and this is just awesome... enjoy!

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Just a warning - be careful of acrobat reader

Interesting story here about Adobe reader (the thing that opens those wonderful pdf files you get all across the net). Basically there is a critical bug in the software.

Critical bugs in terms of net stuff tends to mean that someone can hack into your computer and do lots of fun stuff. Proof-of-concept code already exists for this vulnerability so its likely that malicious code is already out there. This seems similar to another vulnerability found a while ago.

There are two simple things that you can do to make sure your protected from this. First option is to disable javascripts in adobe (under options i believe. The second option is to download a free adobe alternative.

either way be careful with which ever pdf reader and which pdfs you use.

"its natural" do you say this? punch yourself.

This is a wonderful blog post by one of my favourite bloggers, blag hag.

A simple discussion of what is actually natural when it comes to animal mating habits, and yes there isn't really anything that is natural or 'normal'. This is one of those arguments that really does annoy me on two fronts: first as the post shows there isn't any single mating habit that is natural. Second the naturalness of an action is a rubbish rationale to use with relation to humans, again as the post reports many animals eat their young, or their partners or carrion.

The naturalness of something is a stupid arguement and the sooner we move on from it the better. Either everything is natural (we are after all products of a natural environment) or we are better than that and it doesn't matter anyway. We certainly can't claim that some subset of our actions should be natural (sex etc) and another it doesn't matter (wearing skins of other animals).

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

WBRTBN films...

....or "White Background, Red Title and Blue Name" films.

In terms of poster design these films suck. They are universally the same sort of film: 'quirky' (ie mass produced) rom-coms, these are the films where a board of people have sat around and brain stormed what ever hasn't been done recently and make what ever falls out:

"ohh lets have a ghost"
"done! where's the coke?".

I hate this kind of film (I've yet to see one I've enjoyed) and it really annoys me that they seem to be breeding - I guess in a recession they're cheap and easy to produce.

Either way utterly sick of seeing the adverts for them on the sides of buses - they could at least try to vary them and try to stand out/lighten my day a bit.....

This annoys me

This story really annoys me. It is worrying that a paper is willing to publish something that is quite so wrong.

Gah... stupid paranoid ....

Monday, 27 April 2009

More government optimism

Well looks like the government is shelving the database of all our communications idea (at last!) in preference of asking Communication Service Providers (CSPs) to log who connects to what and how - ie if you access Facebook from your iphone or similar. This seems to be an extension of the existing laws regarding telephone logs that allow the police and security services to see who called who when.

What strikes me about this is that it is a £2b scheme that will most likely be futile. Just as cheap pay-as-you-go mobiles have made telephone logging pretty obsolete because it becomes very difficult to log who calls who when the phone isn't registered it is very difficult to glean useful information from the internet when you can send stuff via a proxy and have the information of who your talking to disappear especially when systems like The Onion Router (TOR) exist that helpfully cover who your talking to and where without any real effort.

Basically this seems a lot of money on a system that will achieve next to nothing. If people want to organise via the net there are a hundred ways of doing it that make it near impossible to trace who spoke to who, asking the CSPs to log this information doesn't really help at all especially when you don't even have to route most of your stuff via your ISP - open DNS servers in other countries will allow alot of the useful (to the services) information to by-pass the UK utterly.

The anarchistic social experiment that is the internet

There's an interesting story here of a family in America who were very upset to find that photos of their daughter's death were available online. The girl had died in a car crash and some cops had taken photos as a cautionary tale which then escaped online.

I think there are a lot of interesting aspects to this story: firstly the wonderful way that pretty much all censorship attempts online eventually fail (google search for the images they're trying to ban they're still readily available), secondly how pretty much all legal systems fail online and finally how depressing how anarchistic (and deprived) the internet can be.

The first point I think is most simply shown here, a very daft woman on LBC radio said some very poorly thought out things about how taking MMR jab was optional because no one ever got those diseases any more. Ben Goldacre responded by posting the radio debate online as an example of truly poor science and got asked to removed it. Soon after the radio clip was available and talked about on more than 150 other blogs either in bits or as a whole. The internet doesn't like censorship - stop trying it on.

The legal aspect is interesting. Privacy is a right, but online you only have as much privacy as you protect yourself and that's not easy. This is especially true when something like /b/ decides to come after you (I won't link there its easy enough to find). Well I say 'decides'....

This comes down to something that pretty much all governments, people and organisations don't seem to have realised: the internet is anarchy. There is no law in any way, not yet and so sites like /b/ proliferate, not because people are suddenly worse online - just that they can relax and these sites become the ultimate games of dare - you can do what ever you can think of and type. Just every now and then someone is stupid and actually does it. The internet has brought out some truly nasty sides of people; but I hope this will fade.

The internet is still socially very young - people are still adapting to it in a social way and the anarchy is to be expected - sooner or later some form of law will emerge as will more of a social ethos, and no just because Facebook is a social site doesn't mean the internet has a social code or ethic - this will take a while to evolve.

Anyway moral of the story: nothing is private online so think before you upload other people's personal information (I think that the cops involved should face charges).

It's truly terrible what some people have done to the family. Emailing them with pictures from the crash scene is vile but I think their time would be better spent ignoring it.

Hopefully stories like this will be few and far between and hopefully people will learn from them.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Who ever says windows "just works" can sod off..

I have recently got the orange box. I love it. Well that's a lie. I love the copies of the games I've played on other people's machines as mine it seems to have a grudge against.

I can play 'counter-strike' and anything up to and including 'Half life 2: episode one' but beyond that it stops working. As in no error messages (not even a crash) it just stops. It sets up the loading screen and sits there, filling up my primary screen with hazy boxes (I'm trying to play portal).

I'm not sure what it is (as if windows was ever helpful with methods to interrogate start up of programs or even useful error messages) and I can't close it because it fills my primary screen where pop-ups appear. I can open the task manager and see that nothing much is happening and its not responding but if I try to close process it just sits there.

For anyone with a similar problem here is an exact run down of whats happening.

I'm running a Windows XP system
AMD 3500+ processor
MSI AM2 motherboard
Nvidia GeForce 7600 GS with a 24" (1920x1200) Dell as primary and a 17" (1200x1024) samsung as secondary
I have the latest driver (Nvidia 182.something)

I can run 'counter-strike'; 'counter strike-source'; 'half-life 2'; 'half-life 2:episode one'

but with 'half life 2:episode two'; or 'portal' it will run the valve video get to the hazy loading screen (ie the menu but out of focus with 'loading' in bottom right) and stop. I can move the mouse around, although when I move it over the loading screen I get an hour glass I can move it to the secondary screen (where I'm typing this) and work normally.

In fact it just seems as though it locks down that part of the screen and stops.

I have tried manually setting the width and height of the game with the:
'-width 1920 -height 1200'

launch options in case it was something to do with loss of the actual menu or weird graphics problems (none of the half-life games auto-detect my resolution). I have also tried:
'+mat_forcehardwaresync 0 +snd_async_prefetch_priority 1'

which should force the game to use the monitor's defaults. Neither have worked and I'm about to try the

command to (hopefully) bring up just the menu options with out real graphics controls.

I will update with whether it works - or if I go mad....

UPDATE 01:52 26-04-09: well '-console' failed....

UPDATE 02:13 26-04-09: GAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH *~$£*%"£$%"$£% WINDOWS turns out that portal had been going full screen. This meant that when steam bounced stuff off a server somewhere zone alarm froze the game and wouldn't allow further loading until I clicked something in a pop-up. This pop-up was cunningly underneath the full screen window. GAHHHHHH. Those that are interested the useful launch command was

I hate windows.... wine + ubuntu can't be much harder than this...

Pirate bay fun...

Well this is a little late but for those that haven't heard the pirate bay people lost their case and have been sentenced to a year in jail as well as a large fine.

Interestingly an appeal has been filed based on an alleged bias on the part of the main judge (here's the story). I've got to say that if nothing else this should have been declared (which it wasn't).

A final interesting fact (the one I find the funniest) is that the membership of the pirate bay political party in Sweden has now gone up 150% (see here).

Ah the fun and games of the weird mess that is the internet....

Facebook in the news...

As a 'netizen Facebook accounts for a reasonable amount of my time online, certainly while in procrastination mode, even when I'm not I probably check it daily. This makes stories like this all the more interesting for me.

I can understand the rationale that "those who are well enough to use Facebook with a migraine are well enough to work with a migraine" but it does raise an interesting point: what activities are reasonable if you are off sick?

For me I would be deeply angry if I was sacked for checking Facebook when ill - firstly my computer is logged on almost 24/7 so it would be hard to tell when I was actually using Facebook and not just logged in. Secondly I would consider checking the net (if not Facebook certainly gmail) as normal as checking my snail-mail; its just one of those things I do everyday (yes, I'm an addict but I like it).

It seems daft that an employer would expect you to spend the whole day immobile in bed if you are ill; even if that illness is a migraine you might listen to quiet music or read a book for a bit between sleeping. While superficially this seems the same as being caught out and about in town when ill I would argue that it is very different. Its akin to being caught out of bed when ill. I suppose this is just part of the penalty we pay for being more connected at all times; we get more information on each other and so everyone else gets a little more information on us.

Hopefully situations like this will be few and far between. I certainly hope that no employer (should I ever get one) thinks that it's okay for them to follow me online. I don't mind work colleges, even my boss following my Facebook or similar but when it becomes the company as a whole or is done for reason other than genuine friendship I get worried. The age of privacy is essentially dead - but that doesn't mean that we can't protect what privacy we do have (which is one of the reasons I don't like to make it too obvious who I am in the blog).

All that being said I can't help but wonder if this is something along the lines of the straw that broke the camels back. Unless the employer is truly draconian I suspect that the person concerned has probably had a few run-ins, especially if either they were spying on here or that the hear-say of a college spotting you online is enough to be sacked for.

Why I shouldn't breed.....

To anyone who knows me in real-life (ie no one because I'm pretty sure no one reads this) this is a(nother) reason I shouldn't have kids...

xkcd rocks....

and if you don't already READ XKCD

Procrastination (book of biff)

Found another comic to read - I'm too good at this.

Either way It's very good - just a series of one panel picture + caption types. Simple, surreal and just a little gruesome. The only down side is that it has been updated almost daily since 2006.... I'm up to 18th June 2007.

Ah well its this or stats.

Well its been a while since a health scare...

bbc report here.

Well who'd have funk it? WHO (the World Health Organisation) has been caught unawares; while bird flu has had a lot of medical types concerned (with good reason, the damn thing when transmitted to humans has been pretty good at killing us) out of left field comes swine flu.

According the to WHO there have currently been 60 suspected deaths due to this in Mexico City recently. The main reason this has got WHO's boss rushing back to Geneva to co-ordinate activities is that March-April is the end of the flu season and most of the deaths have been among young adults. This leaves the worrying question of what happens if it jumps to the southern hemisphere where the flu season is just starting and infects the vulnerable (ie very young or old).

The second worrying aspect of this is that as well as the 1,000 reported cases in Mexico City there are several in California, okay both are reasonably close together but it shows that it has already left Mexico so you have to wonder where else it has spread to.

Either way looks like bird flu has a challengers for 'most likely next pandemic' award.

This is probably worth following so I'll keep an eye out for it as if its still around in a month or so I'd say (with no basis behind it but as a blind guess) that we may still see it in a year or so - if its gone it'll be just another SARS....

Friday, 24 April 2009

just wow...

Found this on blag hag (a fun atheist blog that I read).

The link (to iccm) has to be one of the most fantastic examples of over design ever committed in web history. When I say fantastic in the same way that giant spiders are fantastic - they are of fantasy although in both cases something fantasised by the Marquis de Sade after too much late night cheese and kink...

Anyway watch, enjoy, vomit a little and then run away!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

I've aquired a new comic... DAMN!

'Hark A Vagrant' is nice line drawn comic with historical references - I get some of them and the nonsense ones are good fun :)

rantidote - just so Cool

As an antidote to my rant on science journalism here is a 4 min video ABOUT ROBOT PENGUINS!

As far as I know this isn't a spoof here is a New Scientist report on the penguins and here is the link to the learning bionics network.

Interestingly I think one of the most important bits of the video is hidden away towards the end when they discuss how they're pushing for home matter printers. If this can happen (in a significant way ie circuitry printing) it will be as big a shift as the internet.

Either way


UPDATE 11:27 23-04-09: is equally cool - air manta ray

UPDATE 11:38 23-04-09 robo - jelly fish!

interesting the mechanical engineering (ie moving bits) for a lot of these seem reasonably simple a lot of the elegance seems to stem from using very clever materials that flow and bend in a very natural and useful way.

Here's to riding around on manta ray dirigibles or using an air jelly fish rather than a lift!


science rage!

The media fails at reporting on science. This is a wonderful example of how much. Having read the actual article the bbc get the gist right but fails in the presentation.

My objection to this is that a lazy reading of the bbc article gives the impression that pollution is stopping global warming. It isn't. Not even a little. It is slowing the process a bit. It does raise the point that by cleaning our air the added removal of CO2 via this diffuse effect will be removed and that it highlights the incredibly complex nature of climate modeling for that I applaud it. It still utterly fails to point out that the paper doesn't mean driving a hummer is helping the environment.

That being said the bbc has better title than some...
"Climate change fight could raise CO2 levels" - thank you Glascow Herald

I raise this because this is exactly the sort of thing that denialists/the lazy/the unconcerned will point to and say 'see we're helping' without any comprehension of whats actually happening. That being said this is a perfect example of the constant problem in all science reporting - take a technical paper written to be read by experts. Pass to intelligent but non expert journalist. Speed read/research. Associate with something that public will understand. Condense to 10th original size and 1/100th scientific content.

Maybe I should have a go at this scientific wroting that everyone seems to think is such a good idea. Then again given my patience and spelling ability maybe not.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Real terrorism...

This will soon be terrorism, 6 wires and an entire city was stranded - luckily they coped well but this sort of thing could soon be the face of terror.

Very interesting read and worth thinking about

Future history of Windows

This is a nice opinion piece on the possible future of computing under the "good enough revolution" in which (apparently) people will realise that they don't need all the gunk and extras that windows and new pcs offer and in fact buy to replace not upgrade.

This seems plausible as a general idea. The market share for Linux, while still not huge (less that 1% I think), is still slowwly growing. With netbooks making good use of the free and lighter running Linux it is possible that they will carve a niche for themselves. That being said the soon to be released Windows 7 marks is specifically targetted at netbooks and with most computers still pre-installed with windows I think 2025 quoted is a little optimistic for Microsoft's death.

Amusingly this is a rare time in which this is published from XP (I refuse to run F/Vista) although 7 does look nice. Every time I log back onto windows it annoys me now - in fact the only use I have for it now is gaming and I'm hoping that with some summer work I can shift to wine for this.

All in all the next 10 years may be make or break for Linux as a major OS (ie greater than 1%). One way or another it will continue but if it can't make it big during a recession its going to be a wait for the stranglehold of microsoft to lessen; which would be a nice thing if only because a computer hegemony is one reason viruses happen.

Steam and all that

Well I'm not much of a gamer but I have finally got the Orange box - mainly because I played portal once at a friends and finished it one evening and would like to play it again. Also I want to play my flat mate at counter-strike.

Seems ok (I may post further musings on it as I go here), I am looking forward to the half-life games again having played a bit and enjoyed it.

Here's hoping it was worth the £15 that I paid for it.

speaking of the post-biological era...

Well looks like my post yesterday may have been a bit off.

A project running on the blue gene super computers has (supposedly) modeled the action of the neo-cortex from molecular level up. The neocortex is the area of the brain that houses most higher-functions (my neuro-scientist friend would kill me for that simplification).

While it is unclear quite how accurate this model is or quite how it works the researches claim that upscaling it to full brains is only a matter of money. Sentient space lobsters here we come!

In all it looks like research to watch (main site is here) certainly if they get funding we may see some interesting results soon.