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Glass half empty?

I was considering the book “Defiant Dreams” by Sola Mahfouz and Malaina Kapoor. Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers denied Sola even the most basic education. Irrepressibly, she secretly taught herself maths and is now working on quantum computing in the US. Bill Gates is quoted as saying “Seeing the way people like Sola think about the world reinforces my optimism about the future”. Inspirational as it may be, I’m afraid I just can’t say Sola’s journey makes me feel more optimistic. That people should still be having to battle such circumstances in the 21st century does nothing other than reinforce my pessimism. How do stories like this make you feel?


Media bias

Why do our news media have to be so unrelentingly pessimistic?  Because bad news sells papers.

A couple of weeks ago, there was widespread reporting that the pound had “fallen to a 37-year low”.  The real story was that the US dollar had risen spectacularly against the vast majority of other currencies, including Sterling.  The way it was reported in British media served to unnecessarily alarm the public and create doubts about Sterling in the minds of foreign market makers. Continue reading “Media bias”

2021 Census

Humanists UK is targeting the non-religious – a majority in the UK population – because it wants to see them counted accurately in the upcoming census. Their reasoning is that millions of people have never thought about the implications of their answer to questions about their religion. Many who have grown up in our secular society to have no religious belief still put themselves down as belonging to the church of their forebears. To read about why this matters, please follow this link.

TIDK #2 – My gravitational radius

One thing I learned pretty quickly was that astronomers don’t only use a lot of weird units (like milliCrabs for example – more on this in another post) but they also use a lot of terms that don’t mean much at first hearing by the unenlightened.  One such is ‘gravitational radius’… someone may say that something is ‘three gravitational radii from” an object. Continue reading “TIDK #2 – My gravitational radius”

TIDK #1 – Neutron star interiors

TIDK = Things I Didn’t Know… until I started gathering the knowledge that in another lifetime may have made me a professional astronomer. This may become a long list…

I knew that neutron stars were stellar remnants, leftovers of stars that had finished with nuclear fusion and collapsed under their own gravity to the point where protons and electrons were crushed together to create more neutrons to join those that were there already.  So my answer would have been “neutrons” whether you had asked me “what’s the surface made of?” or “what’s the centre made of?”. Neutrons all the way down and through. Continue reading “TIDK #1 – Neutron star interiors”

Nuthatch protection

Years ago, we had a wooden nest box that was used regularly by the blue tits in our garden but it eventually proved itself not to be woodpecker-proof.  On seeing a woodpecker industriously enlarging the hole in the front of the box we had to make emergency repairs with gaffer tape, which also deterred the woodpecker so the tits could fledge.  We replaced the damaged wooden box with a woodcrete one, and the blue tits came back every year until three years ago when we noticed that nuthatches had moved in. Continue reading “Nuthatch protection”

Free text books

If you have an institutional sign-in to Springer Nature then you have the opportunity to download free soft copies of hundreds of text books.  Springer Nature has taken this admirable initiative in support of worldwide learning and teaching institutions which are currently closed because of the Corona virus pandemic.

Simply click on this link and then download an Excel spreadsheet giving details of all the books on offer, including a download URL for each one. Continue reading “Free text books”

Helmets for car occupants?

What a bizarre idea.  Or is it?  Many years ago, when I was walking to school, any friend passing by on a motorcycle or scooter could offer me a lift, and I would just hop on without a care. Then we had compulsory helmet-wearing, despite the best efforts of the then newly-formed Motorcycle Action Group. Now the busybodies are trying again to get helmet-wearing made compulsory for cyclists.  I thought it odd that the notion of helmets for car occupants never, ever, gets a mention so I consulted Dr Google to find out if being in a car makes you invulnerable to head injuries.  Continue reading “Helmets for car occupants?”