Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Sex and Drugs and ...

I can't remember where I found this cartoon. I had it on my office wall for many years before it was taken down last year. There is clearly an allusion to Ian Drury's song 'Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll'. However, by substituting chamber music for rock and roll, the whole phrase takes on a quite different and more humourous perspective.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Random Text

I've often wondered whether randomly generated text might give rise to something interesting. So, I've given it a go. The three brief paragraphs below were generated using the 'Creativity Tools - Random Paragraph Generator' webpage. Two words - 'random' (as the primary subject) and 'text' (as the primary subject) - were entered and I clicked the 'New Paragraph' button three times.

I'll leave it to you to judge what you think. It is probably not the words and whether they make any sense that matters. Rather it is what the words inspire in the mind of the reader and what they then go on to do with it that matters.

This is what came out with each click:

Into this fringe scratch jumps the assisted boss. Random indicates another struck sister. Text walks under random. Near the permissible marriage rattles text. Will each infantile ceremony nail random?

Random changes under the invisible burst. The eyesight gasps within a synthesis. A lesbian mist excepts the laid concern. When can a grown gender dispose of the youth? Random approaches a fossil. The coffee fails in an incompetent.

Text carpets random into a flute. The farmer propositions the universal. Random spikes the surrounded center underneath the crush. Will random react beside the autobiography?

Sunday, 17 July 2011

'Two' Jokes

There are only 10 types of people in the world —
those who understand binary, and those who don't.

Why do mathematicians always confuse Halloween and Christmas?
Because 31 Oct = 25 Dec.

There are 3 types of mathematician in the world —
those you can count and those who can't.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Happy Birthday, Neptune

The planet Neptune is one year old today!

It was on 24th September 1846 - one Neptunian or 164.79 Earth years ago - that the planet Neptune was observed for the first time.

For more, see the BBC News website or Wikipedia.

Monday, 11 July 2011


I've never really been a fan of epidemiology. The media are forever reporting stories of 'recent findings' - based upon epidemiological research - that this or that food or indulgence is 'bad' for you. Frequently, I have heard people say that they now don't know what to believe any more. This tends to undermine the otherwise positive role that science has in society.

Once on the evening news, I heard that chewing a piece of cheese after every meal was a good defence against tooth decay. This was put down to increased saliva flow and changes in mouth pH. The reporter asked the researcher who had discovered this whether eating cheese didn't pose the risk of increasing one's cholesterol and so might lead to heart disease. The response was little more than (and I paraphrase) 'Ah. Well. We only looked at teeth'. Or, put another way, 'We didn't engage in joined-up thinking'.

As somebody once noted at a scientific conference I attended (in Oxford no less), while it may be true that smoking kills, it is more accurate to say that smoking happens to kill a minority of the people that smoke! That is not to advocate smoking. There is a larger quality of life issue involved than simply numbers killed. Rather, it is a criticism of the way in which its harms are presented to us.

This cartoon rather sums it all up.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

First Floor Toilet

I'm going to Zurich in August for a conference. When my hotel was booked, I thought I'd have a quick look at where it was on GoogleMaps and StreetView. As I strolled virtually down the street, I came across this. I hope it wasn't occupied and that it isn't a flushing toilet!

Friday, 1 July 2011

Interesting Minds

It is only fairly recently that I have discovered TED Talks. My route in was via a YouTube sidebar link to the talk embedded below. There are not enough thinkers like Clifford Stoll around. Even in academia, people like him are no longer tolerated as once they were.