BICEP2 – The Video!

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on July 23, 2014 by telescoper

A video about cosmic inflation and the BICEP2 results produced by the University of Sussex and PhD Comics!

Time for a Factorial Moment…

Posted in Bad Statistics with tags , , on July 22, 2014 by telescoper

Another very busy and very hot day so no time for a proper blog post. I suggest we all take a short break and enjoy a Factorial Moment:

Factorial Moment

I remember many moons ago spending ages calculating the factorial moments of the Poisson-Lognormal distribution, only to find that they were well known. If only I’d had Google then…

The Origin of Mass

Posted in Biographical with tags on July 21, 2014 by telescoper

Back in Cardiff for the weekend I was looking for some documents and stumbled across this, my National Health Service Baby Weight Card (vintage 1963). I’m told that I even lost a bit of weight between my birth and the first entry on the card:


Aside from my considerable mass two further facts about my birth are worth mentioning. One is that I emerged in the incorrect polarization state, with shoulders East-West instead of North-South; the result of this was that my left collarbone was broken during the delivery. I imagine this wasn’t exactly a comfortable experience for my mother either! I subsequently broke the same collarbone falling off a wall when I was a toddler and it never healed properly, hence I can’t rotate my left arm. If I try to do the front crawl when swimming I go around in circles! The other noteworthy fact of my birth was that when I was finally extricated I was found to be completely covered in hair, like a monkey…

The Thunder Shower

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on July 19, 2014 by telescoper

A blink of lightning, then
a rumor, a grumble of white rain
growing in volume, rustling over the ground,
drenching the gravel in a wash of sound.
Drops tap like timpani or shine
like quavers on a line.

It rings on exposed tin,
a suite for water, wind and bin,
plinky Poulenc or strongly groaning Brahms’
rain-strings, a whole string section that describes
the very shapes of thought in warm
self-referential vibes

and spreading ripples. Soon
the whispering roar is a recital.
Jostling rain-crowds, clamorous and vital,
struggle in runnels through the afternoon.
The rhythm becomes a regular beat;
steam rises, body heat—

and now there’s city noise,
bits of recorded pop and rock,
the drums, the strident electronic shock,
a vast polyphony, the dense refrain
of wailing siren, truck and train
and incoherent cries.

All human life is there
in the unconfined, continuous crash
whose slow, diffused implosions gather up
car radios and alarms, the honk and beep,
and tiny voices in a crèche
piercing the muggy air.

Squalor and decadence,
the rackety global-franchise rush,
oil wars and water wars, the diatonic
crescendo of a cascading world economy
are audible in the hectic thrash
of this luxurious cadence.

The voice of Baal explodes,
raging and rumbling round the clouds,
frantic to crush the self-sufficient spaces
and re-impose his failed hegemony
in Canaan before moving on
to other simpler places.

At length the twining chords
run thin, a watery sun shines out,
the deluge slowly ceases, the guttural chant
subsides; a thrush sings, and discordant thirds
diminish like an exhausted concert
on the subdominant.

The angry downpour swarms
growling to far-flung fields and farms.
The drains are still alive with trickling water,
a few last drops drip from a broken gutter;
but the storm that created so much fuss
has lost interest in us.

by Derek Mahon (b 1941)

Sleep well last night?

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , on July 18, 2014 by telescoper

We had a spectacular thunderstorm over Brighton last night. I do love a good thunderstorm. Although I enjoyed the show, I didn’t get much sleep. Judging by the following graphic from BBC Weather, I’m not the only one…


Romance – from the Gadfly

Posted in Music with tags , , on July 17, 2014 by telescoper

It’s too hot today to stay inside blogging at lunchtime, so here’s some lovely music from the Gadfly Suite by Dmitri Shostakovich. I’ve been called a Gadfly myself from time to time, but I’m also partial to a bit of romance now and then….

IAU Symposium 308 – Conference Photo Caption Competition

Posted in The Universe and Stuff, Biographical, Beards with tags , , on July 16, 2014 by telescoper

Regular readers of this blog (Sid and Doris Bonkers) will recall that I recently attended IAU Symposium No. 308 in Tallinn, Estonia. To prove that I didn’t make it all up, here is the official conference photograph.

iau308 conference_photo 1 lres

You can see me three rows back on the right-hand-side of the picture; you can click on the image to make it largely should you wish. Behind me and to my left as I look at the camera you will see the esteemed cosmologist Carlos Frenk wearing an unusual facial expression.

I wonder if anyone might like to suggest an explanation for Prof. Frenk’s behaviour by way of a suitable caption for the photograph?


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