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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas

I am away from home visiting family and as such my net connections are infrequent.
I want to take this opportunity to wish my readers a very merry christmas, or a happy winterval or whatever. if you have a holidayof any sort, enjoy it; if you don't, well tough.
I raise a glass to all my friends from Spinsanity, Cabal and other e-places. I am grateful for your continued friendship and I count myself lucky to have discovered you all through t'internet.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Wet Horses

An argument that I heard from a few Republican voters/sympathisers/pundits during last year's Presidential Election in the US went along the following lines:

the country is at war and as such we should not switch horses midstream

This bounced around the echo chambers of the media and it seems to be quite a strong sentiment in various walks of life. But what does it really mean when we are talking about a war-president, a term that Mr. Bush has used to describe himself?

The US is still heavily involved in a war in Iraq and beyond that the War on Terror continues. It will continue for a very long time, if not for ever. In fact it is possible that the war in Iraq will still be ongoing by the next presidential election.

Now I wonder, what do those who ascribe to the horses in streams argument think about that? Indeed what if the last election had been at the end of Bush's second term? Would we have heard that argument as a reason for allowing more than two terms for a sitting president?

So what's wrong with Typepad

Timewarp for Typepad?

I cruised over To Hubris' blog today and was surprised to see that the comments on his latest post had been culled from around 13 to 3. I thought it peculiar that Hub might have deleted so many innoccuous comments but shrugged and carried on my blog perusing.

A short while later I stopped by the Dilbert Blog. Strangely this had reverted to a post from several days ago, December the 10th in fact. Now as much as I liked hearing about Scott Adam's tiny goat, I was looking for new things.

I next decided to do a little investigation. I checked out the Typepad front page and what did I find? I found that none of the blogs in their 'Recently Updated' list were newer than 11 December. In fact the only thing on that website that was newer was the 'News' section which had an update on the 14th. No mention of problems though.

All in all looks like Typepad is having problems. Glad I am on blogger (never thought I'd say that), though I notice that it is having problems of its own. When I look at my blog, I see only the posts from last week or earlier until I do a refresh. Anyone else (who has made it to the new posts) having that problem?

Oh by the way is anyone else having problems accessing Ryan's site, Ideonexus? I can't get through.

UPDATE:
Okay so my problem with Blogspot is fixed - whatever the hell it was.
Similarly, I note that Typepad blogs have recovered upto the 12th December. This is interesting - is this effecting just my viewing or is everyone else having this problem?

No news here, lots of news in Fuddland

Still working hard here, but am gearing up for a burst of posts.

In the meantime, my friend David has recently arrived back in the UK after a trip to Argentina. He has been blogging about his experience over on his weblog including some cracking photography.

In addition, today he passed his viva voce (or Defence for my American readers) and has earned his Ph.D. Of course it is only in mathematics, which we all know is just a tool and not a proper science, but regardless, please pay him a call and offer hearty congratulations.

Congratulations david.

Oh and if that wasn't good enough he is volunteering for charity work over the Christmas period. This guy really is one of the good ones.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Can you f**king believe it


Just a couple of days ago I said this:

The blog needs a bit of an overhaul since some of the blurb no longer fits; I am no longer being forced to teach, the course that I was going to be contributing to has been cancelled. As a consequence I am back to full-time research, and the timing could not have been better.

What do they say about being careful before opening your big mouth? Suddenly, due to the desires of one bloody student, the course has had to be reinstated for this year. What does this mean? It means that a module has to be written and then I may well have to teach some material.

Just when I thought I had been saved for the rest of the academic year!!!!

AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Say what?


Okay so when I read this head line from a BBC article I completely misunderstood the context.
I had this vision of Condi visiting a prison in which she went cell to cell along a row of cells and, well, I am sure you can all imagine the rest.

Isn't English a funny language?

Search roundup

A question for my American readers:

Have you recently been sullied by the arrival of the Crazy Frog on your shores?

I only ask because I have noticed a much increased number of searches for crazy-frog originating from the US which led them to this post. In fact, since the 2nd December 10% of my hits have come through searched for the crazy-frog.

At the same time, 'female circumcism' continues to lead searchers my way to this post (or this one). 7% since 2nd December came looking for imformation on that hideous practice.

Strangely, I continue to get searches leading to this post. These tend to be the result of searching for images on google. I don't know why Java Sparrows are so fascinating, but I note that they are predominantly coming from China and Japan (with one from the US, searching for images related to 'monday morning').

Anyway that is enough filler for now. I am off to bed :-)

The Nuclear Solution

Note: I started writing this two weeks ago and as such it is somewhat outdated.

Tony Blair is throwing his weight behind plans to increase the UK's dependence on nuclear power.

With some of the issues to do with climate change, and you can see it with the debate about nuclear power, there are going to be difficult and controversial decisions government has got to take. And in the end it has got to do what it believes to be right in the long-term interests of the country.

I agree with him on the immediate need for increased nuclear power. My mother is currently spinning in her grave since she was vehemently anti-nuclear power. I do worry about the somewhat dictatorial tone he has been adopting about this issue, but then why should this be different to any other topic for Tony.

I am a great advocate for forms of energy such as wind and wave power and solar power, but at this time I am far from sure that they will provide for all of our energy needs unless some breakthroughs in efficiency are found. Of course more can be done on the savings side: many of us waste water, better insulation can be employed in many buildings and electricity is often over-used.

A major problem with nuclear fuel over here is that it is one campaign that the Greens have been very effective at. Pressure, brought to bear over the years, has put the UK in the state of closing virtually all nuclear power stations within the next couple of decades. This was of course helped by accidents such as Chernobyl; how could anyone advocate for nuclear power in the face of irradiated crops and livestock? And what about the length of time that the waste remains dangerous; what do we do with it? We are coming up with better methods of reprocessing spent fuel, so that it can be reuses - enhancing the efficiency. Plus new techniques for improving the thermal efficiency of the nuclear fuel pellest could lead to much less waste in the future.

The author James Lovelock is also an advocate for nuclear power:

I find it sad and ironic that the UK, which leads the world in the quality of its Earth and climate scientists, rejects their warnings and advice, and prefers to listen to the Greens. But I am a Green and I entreat my friends in the movement to drop their wrongheaded objection to nuclear energy.

Even if they were right about its dangers, and they are not, its worldwide use as our main source of energy would pose an insignificant threat compared with the dangers of intolerable and lethal heat waves and sea levels rising to drown every coastal city of the world. We have no time to experiment with visionary energy sources; civilisation is in imminent danger and has to use nuclear - the one safe, available, energy source - now or suffer the pain soon to be inflicted by our outraged planet.

Also:
Opposition to nuclear energy is based on irrational fear fed by Hollywood-style fiction, the Green lobbies and the media. These fears are unjustified, and nuclear energy from its start in 1952 has proved to be the safest of all energy sources. We must stop fretting over the minute statistical risks of cancer from chemicals or radiation. Nearly one third of us will die of cancer anyway, mainly because we breathe air laden with that all pervasive carcinogen, oxygen.
It comes down to Lovelock's view that the dangers inherent to nuclear power are much smaller than those associated with carrying on as we are. This is just one view, one side in an ongoing debate. Is nuclear power the only solution? Well if we insist on a centralised power generation and distribution network, then it probably is. I think that we need a massive paradigm shift in order to make the option of solar, wind, wave and tide power viable, I just don't think we are capable of making it in time.

So I am a tentative supporter of the nuclear power option, but I am in a position to be swayed either way with persuasive arguments or numbers.

Excuses, excuses...

J.D. 's chiding leads me to explain my absence.

The blog needs a bit of an overhaul since some of the blurb no longer fits; I am no longer being forced to teach, the course that I was going to be contributing to has been cancelled. As a consequence I am back to full-time research, and the timing could not have been better.


If you recall I was in Norway a couple of months ago. My reason for being there was to run some experiments on the ionospheric radar we have up there. One of these was an 'active' experiment whereby we modify the temperature profile of the ionosphere and use it as a laboratory. This has major advantages over using a plasma chamber or
tokomak: we have no boundary effects (chamber walls) and a whole source of natural plasma on large scale sizes. This is not something I am particularly interested in, I am more interested in natural processes; however my boss wanted to see whether we could monitor temperature increases in the lower ionosphere using the radar and another instrument.

Now it could be that we managed to do what we set out to do, I don't know at the moment as that analysis has been left at the roadside. Why? Well, when we were running we saw another effect, one that has never been seen before making it hot stuff - my colleague calls it my 'fame and glory' data. I don't know about that but I do know it is a really unique result. Unfortunately it is something I know very, very little about. So for the past few weeks I have been doing some intensive reading in an effort to get up to speed. I am also hastily writing a paper. Why the rush? Well it just so happens that there is a rival group of experimenters who are looking for this exact phenomenon. I have offered to share my data with them after I publish the first paper, but in the meantime I need to get it written and out before they manage to do the same thing that I did.
Hence I have had very little time to blog. I hope the situation eases very soon.

Very, very soon!