Thursday, 28 January 2010

Standard model notes

This will be a VERY short.

for those that are interested this is a link to some notes I typed up for my standard model course.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Seismic Shock

go read this article on the police being brought in to warn people off blogging

Will talk about this properly later


Sunday, 24 January 2010


For anyone who's been wondering where my blog has gone its currently on hiatus due to me having exams soon, for this I have been trying to type up 60+ hours of standard model notes into LaTeX. I've currently produced about 120 pages and I still have many more to go.

Normal service will resume in about 2 weeks time when I will spam out the (currently) 6 blog posts that I have noted that I want to write.

If people are interested and I get the OK from the lecturer I will also post up the notes for anyone that might be interested but as they're his notes that I'm writing up I will get the OK first

Friday, 15 January 2010


Hey reader (who ever you are)

Sorry there haven't been any updates for a while, I've been keeping stuff going on twitter but at the moment I'm in exam season so not really able to post anything worth reading so I'm sitting on it until it goes stale or I can commit some time to writing


There should be something up with in a few weeks (hopefully before)

Monday, 11 January 2010

Thought/rant for the day: "Isn't that odd" or when your just not thinking

I have acquired a new pet peeve: the rhetorical question "isn't that odd?". My peeve is not with the question: things that are odd should be remarked upon and investigated. It is the latter part of this that causes me the annoyance: that thing's aren't investigated.

Things that people remark "isn't that odd" to will be of one of two catagories: either something of at least passing interest (eg sun dogs or ice formations) or that is out of place ("I'm sure I put my keys here"), the cause of my irritation is that situations of the former do not provoke investigation. Often they won't even illicit 5 seconds of thought as to the possible origin of the subtle strangeness that triggered the observation. Why is this?

Why are we so blasé and jaded that upon being presented with something we don't understand or is strange we are more likely to dismiss it that give it even a moments thought? While this point has any number of reasonable answers I think it highlights something that is deeply wrong about how we approach the world we live in: we apparently don't think.

In one of my favourite books (Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy) there is a point where Ford Prefect hypothesises that humans talk to exercise their jaws, he then adjusts this to the theory that by talking we stop our brains working. This should not be something we find funny.

I am not advocating full scientific investigation just a little more thought when using the the expression, if only as a form of mental exercise. I find that I feel much better when I walk home from university than when I get the bus. The reason for this is that on the bus I will read whilst when I walk I will think (in fact this post was born on the walk home today). Letting my mind wander as I walk presents me with many little puzzles that I love to work out eg. why is that when I bus I people watch while on my walk I am not offered this luxury? Because on the bus I pass people but when I walk I don't. I could list many other realisations that I have experienced but most of them, like this one are utterly boring. Why then do I encourage it?

It may seem a daft point but firstly because its relaxing, the act of walking is relaxing but so is the act of finding small problems and solving them: teasing apart the situation based on what you know and what you've observed gives an amazing feeling of accomplishment (this is especially nice when the day has yielded few results). The second reason why I would encourage you all to pause after uttering or hearing uttered the phrase "isn't that odd?" that occasionally you will discover something profound.

NB. While writing this I had to work hard not to get distracted by sun dogs or ice formations, these are subjects that I have read about before and even then the lure of re-reading and investigating them was strong (yes there is also an ironic confirmation bias in my selection of topics that interest me as examples here).

Anyway I'm done with my thought for the day, to those of you who made it this far: well done! 

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Ten23: campaigning to get homoeopathy out of boots

Ten23 is a new campaign in the UK working to raise awareness of homoeopathic products, firstly that they don't work and secondly how they waste time, money and can prevent people seeking genuine medical advice when they should.

I won't go through the reasons that homoeopathy doesn't work, there's a wonderful explanation here so go read it. Simply put it's water. You spend a lot of money for a bottle of water.

Ten23 work to raise public awareness that it doesn't work and is a waste of money, they have an open letter to boots asking them to remove homoeopathic "treatments" from their shelves as they are a trusted pharmacist that many will go to as a first line of treatment, using homoeopathic remedies can put these people at risk and they will likely assume that boots, being a trusted party, will have their best interests at heart: stocking only treatments that work.

Talking of worthwhile campaigns this is another: Libel reform which is working to revise the libel laws in the UK. To reduce their cost and make them less plaintiff friendly (which is so bad that the UK experiences "libel tourism": people visiting the UK to sue others). The state of UK libel laws is so bad that they are putting journalists at risk of being sued for investigative journalism (see trifigua or Simon Singh).

Please sign both these petitions, they are important and without acting on them we put health and freedoms at risk.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Religion: why is it privileged?

There is a recent news piece on the BHA about the Department for Communities and Local Government's (CLG) recent creation of "faith advisors" this really annoys me.

Why does this annoy me? because there is a persistent rumour that we should give a damn what various religious leaders think.  Having a religion does not give you special insight into anything. Being a priest to a religion does not give you extra useful knowledge. In fact what little insight it gives you will most likely be through a haze of out-dated rules and laws set down in a completely different time.

There are many community leaders, priests are just one example. If we're giving priests a special position within government (as advisers) why not scout masters? The argument that many people base a large portion of their life around their religion is normally trotted out at this point and I would like to take that trotting target and shoot it down now.

Apparently 66% of the population of the UK have no connection at all with a Church and I would be surprised if the number who genuinely shape their life by it is anywhere near that. People base their morals and tastes on those around them. This is part of what's called "social contract" essentially it is "I won't kill you because you might kill me first".

The religious already have a voice, it's called a vote. In a democratic society that is the only voice they or anyone else deserves. Other experts advise within a narrow realm that is defined specifically by their expertise. These "faith advisers" are going to advice on "economy, parenting, achieving social justice and tackling climate change" or the "big issues". Of all the groups in existence those that follow a religion are rarely the same that I would want to tell me how we can solve the complex problem of reducing green houses gasses against everyone's desire to produce them. They may have a "unique insight" but I don't consider praying for salvation a useful input.

If these people have genuine contributions to make from a standpoint of actual knowledge fair enough but some empty headed assumption that they connect with the people (that minority of 34% or less) and that this connection is somehow special beyond that of just grabbing someone from the street is bollocks.

This is not a post advocating the insertion of a humanist or atheist onto this panel it is advocating the removal of this panel, if you want the advice of community leaders ask them with reference to a specific situation. 13 advisers is too few to cover even a fraction of the many, many, many facets of life in the UK that they will need to in order to garner useful opinions on the topics they want. Will there be a Scientologist? how about a 18 year old street preacher from Brixton? or an anarchist Humanist? Faith may be a major point in a lot of people's life but given the department concerned I think they would be better served looking for representatives of specific socio-economic groups. not faiths.

NB the 66% figure is from this page here:

Fun stuff

This sort of post will turn up from time to time - mainly when I should be doing something else and as I have a problem paper due it seemed like a good time to start it.

Some of you may have noticed the new little toy to the right - its the Transport Chaos-o-meter, using TFL, National Rail and traffic reports it guesses how much chaos is being caused to public transport at the moment. Today with snow its in pandemonium mode. The full info on it can be found here. 

Next up are two faux news papers newsBiscuit and The Daily Mash.

So there's a bit of fun I should get back to work....

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Firefox woes...

This is will be a pretty brief post. I have recently been having trouble with certain websites not fully loading, mainly webpages with dynamic content (eg facebook or twitter) it turns out this was because I was running an older version of JAVA,  having now updated to 6.17 it seems to have fixed the problem

SO if you find that certain webpages in firefox will not load or never finish loading try going to and check that you have the latest version installed.

I hope that helps someone

Monday, 4 January 2010

What to expect: Blogs I read and stuff that has made me laugh

As this is a new blog I thought it would be useful to post up a list of some blogs and news feeds I read and like, as there are quite a lot this will be a brief list but it should give you some idea of what it is I will be mainly be writing about.

Here goes, first up the non-standard news (ie not the bbc): - Geek news basically - useful stuff of all types (Gadget reviews to how to find north with a watch)
BHA - The British Humanist Association - I am a humanist, skeptic, and atheist I will try not to rant too much about religion (especially those of a dogmatic bent) but I promise nothing
Singularity hub - A website about cutting edge technology that is likely to aid the singularity or to do with transhumanism etc.

Actual Blogs:
Pharyngula - 'Militant' Atheist blogger PZ Myer's home, apparently one of the most read blogs on the net
Blag Hag - a US girl who posts on Athiesm, University life and general life.
Charlie's Diary - Charles Stross's blog - if you haven't read any of his Sci-Fi then go out, buy some and read it now (favourites of mine are 'Accelerando' and 'Halting State')
Jack of Kent - A UK Blogger who covers legal matters very well and is a key figure in the Simon Singh Libel movement
Spoonblog - Blog of artist Paul Duffield who draws Freak Angels as well as drawing an awesome (free) comic he posts up many interesting titbits
Bad Science - Blog of Ben Goldacre, awesome skeptical blog that dissembles various bits of bad science from around the net
Respectful Insolence - Blog of a US cancer researcher and surgeon who goes by the name of Orac - another anti quackary blog

Interestingly enough I don't read many physics blogs, mainly because I've yet to find one: I tend to find blogs via other blogs - if I searched for them I would have far too many too quickly. Also working in physics its something I am not as likely to blog about - tech and science in general but less physics.

Anyway that is a sample of things that I am likely to link to or post from or comment about so enjoy.

it also doubles as a reminder of who I'm following should I lose my feeds...

Beginning of the end; or how the election campaign was started

Right first actual post. I've had a fun morning, suffering from jet lag means I'm actually inhabiting a normal sleep pattern for the moment so I was up early enough to see the un-official start of this years UK government election campaigns.

It would appear that Labour spent their Christmas trying to figure out how much the Torys want to spend, while the Torys spent it coming up with ways of changing the NHS. I'm not sure which route will score them the most points in the end but I think Labour will edge ahead on this one.

I think this for several reasons: reporting that there is a £34bn hole in the Tory's plan will be a hard idea to budge, a lot of what the Torys are saying about the NHS will be old hat to most voters and Labour have cunningly left the Torys little to attack in return.

Hole's in their accounts seem to be a running theme for the Torys: all parties use it as a standard cheap stab "how are you going to pay for X" but it seems to often cause the Torys the most problems. In addition ringfencing the NHS will be hard to achieve, even without spending more on it above inflation it accounts for a huge proportion of the yearly budget.

The points the Torys have made about the NHS will sound good but I think a lot of the will suffer from being a secondary worry to the economy and cuts in general. When Labour took power they did so by highlighting what were major problems in the NHS of the time, trying the same trick when Labour have managed to deal with a lot of the problems facing the NHS will be a hard to pull (there are problems but saying that league tables are a poor measure isn't like saying that people wait up to 10 hours in A&E which was the case when the Torys lost).

As for leaving the Torys little to attack I hope Labour will hold off publishing a manifesto for a while. If nothing else it will damage politics in the UK to have a 5 month election campaign as it will be boring and kill debate.

Of course if the Torys are cunning they may be able to turn this about and use the early attack by Labour to unfoot them and then set the pace with their manifesto, drafts of which they are cunningly publishing over the next few months.

Anyway that was pretty boring but engaged me for the morning so enjoy!

First Post AKA what this blog is about


This is the Blog of Sam Cook. I am a particle physics PhD student based in London, I started in September last year (2009) and I'm loving it. I play too many games (board games, computer games, drinking games what ever really). I spend pretty much all of my time either on a computer, eating or sleeping; yes I am a geek (probably a even a nerd).

The purpose of the blog is that it's somewhere for me to write; mainly on things that annoy me but sometimes on things I like as well. As a physicist I spend a lot of my time writing code so this will hopefully mean that in 2 years time when I have to write a book (my Thesis) I may actually still know how to form a sentence, it also aids me in not getting killed by my friends/flat mates/people in the street for ranting at them too much.

Anyway I hope that has bored you because it's bored the hell out of me and I actually want to post up something a bit more interesting.

So on to the actual blog!