Archive for April, 2017

One-day Cricket: Glamorgan versus Surrey

Posted in Football on April 30, 2017 by telescoper

This morning I headed down to Sophia Gardens to watch a limited-overs match between Glamorgan and Surrey, the first game I’ve ever seen in the Royal London One-day Cup, a 50-overs a side competition.

The weather forecast for today wasn’t encouraging and I almost didn’t go as I thought there wouldn’t be much play. I did, and am glad I did so as there was a full session despite the murky weather.

As it turned out, most of the thick cloud passed over on the rather stiff breeze without dropping any rain. Even this lot didn’t produce a drop:

As I settled into my seat I noticed a gentleman nearby who was wearing a thick overcoat, scarf and gloves. His ensemble was completed, somewhat incongruously, by a white sun hat.

Anyway, having lost the toss and been put into bat, Glamorgan were all out for 239 in the 48th over.  The highlight of the innings was a belligerent 72 from Colin Ingram, who hit two enormous sixes on the way. That aside, it wasn’t a great batting performance, and 240 to win does not seem to be a particularly challenging performance.

Rain had actually arrived by the last few overs of the Glamorgan innings. but it wasn’t heavy enough to stop play. It was,  however, enough to persuade me to go home for a late lunch and to warm up a bit.

If it stops raining and I decide to return to Sophia Gardens I’ll post an update, but it’s possible that there won’t be any more play as the rain is getting heavier and Surrey haven’t even started  their innings yet…

Glamorgan’s next game in this competition is on Tuesday 2nd May against Sussex at Hove. I would have liked to go to that, but unfortunately I’ve got work commitments on Tuesday so I can’t. The next game in Cardiff is on Friday 5th against Somerset. I will go to that, weather permitting..

UPDATE: after a lengthy delay, Surrey were set a target of 182 to win off 29 overs (by the Duckworth-Lewis method). They rattled off the runs with 5 overs to spare.

Championship Update

Posted in Football on April 29, 2017 by telescoper

Well, the plot thickens.

The penultimate round of matches this weekend has seen another twist in the story of this  year’s Championship.

Last night Newcastle United played Cardiff City here in Cardiff, beating the home side 2-0. I didn’t go to the match, but there seem to have been plenty of Newcastle fans in town last night.

That result meant that Newcastle United were still 2nd, but only one point behind leaders Brighton and Hove Albion.

A win for them this afternoon at home against lowly Bristol City would have given them the Championship. Surprisingly, however, they lost 1-0.

The title race, somewhat unexpectedly, therefore goes to the last round of matches next Sunday. If Brighton win, they are Champions. If they don’t, and Newcastle win or draw, then Newcastle United are champions (the latter courtesy of goal difference). If Newcastle lose then Brighton are champions whatever their result.

Given the way this season has gone it seems rather fitting that it will be decided in the final round of matches. May the best team finish top (as long as it’s Newcastle)!

And in other news, to crown an excellent weekend for Newcastle supporters, Sunderland got relegated from the Premiership.

Precision Cosmology!

Posted in Books, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on April 28, 2017 by telescoper

Well, look what the postman brought me today!

Hot off the press, here is a textbook by my friend and erstwhile collaborator Bernard Jones. As you will see, it even has an endorsement by me on the back cover. I think its a very fine book indeed and it will be immensely useful for cosmologists young and old alike!

A Joe Morello Drum Master Class

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , on April 28, 2017 by telescoper

After a busy morning, I reckon it’s time for a pause and a quick blog post. I stumbled across this clip of a great drum solo a while ago and immediately bookmarked it for future posting. As happens most times I do that I then forgot about it, only finding it again right now so I thought I’d post it before I forget again.

This is the great Joe Morello at the very peak of his prowess in 1964, with the Dave Brubeck Quartet with whom he recorded over 60 albums. That band pioneered the use of unusual time signatures in jazz, such as 3/4, 7/4, 13/4, 9/8 and most famously in their big hit Take Five which is in 5/4 time throughout; they recorded a number of other tracks in which the time signature shifts backwards and forwards between, e.g., 7/4 and the standard 4/4.

A few points struck me watching this clip. The first is that it’s a great example of the use of the ‘trad’ grip which is with the left hand under the stick, passing between the thumb and index finger and between the second and third fingers, thusly:

The right stick is usually held with an overhand grip. Most jazz drummers (whether they play ‘trad’ jazz or not) use this grip. Most rock drummers on the other hand use a ‘balanced’ grip in which both sticks are held with an overhand grip. You might think holding the left-hand and right-hand sticks the same way is the obvious thing to do, but do bear in mind that people aren’t left-right symmetric and neither are drum kits so it’s really not obvious at all!

The trad grip looks a bit unnatural when you first see it, but it does have an advantage for many of the patterns often used  in jazz. Once you’ve mastered the skill, a slight rotation of the wrist and subtle use of the fingers makes some difficult techniques (e.g. rolls) much easier to do rapidly with this grip than with the balanced grip. I’m not claiming to be a drummer when I say all this, but my Dad was and he did teach me the rudiments. In fact, he thought that drummers who used the balanced grip weren’t proper drummers at all!

(I’ll no doubt get a bunch of angry comments from rock drummers now, but what the hell…)

Anyway you can see Joe Morello using the trad grip to great effect in this clip, in which he displays astonishing speed, accuracy and control. The way he builds that single-stroke roll from about 2:28 is absolutely astonishing. In fact he’s so much in command throughout his solo, that he even has time to adjust his spectacles and move his bass drum a bit closer! Jazz musicians used to joke that atomic clocks could be set to Joe Morello, as he kept time so accurately, but as you can see in this clip he did so much more than beat out a rhythm. It’s only about 3 minutes long but this solo really is a master class.

Joe Morello was never a ‘showy’ musician. He never adopted the popular image of the drummer as the madman who sat at the back of the band that was cultivated by the likes of Gene Krupa in the jazz world and later spread into rock’n’roll. Bespectacled and wearing a suit and tie he looks a bit like a bank clerk, but boy could he play! The expression on Dave Brubeck’s face tells you that he knew he was very lucky to have Joe Morello in his band.




Posted in Uncategorized on April 27, 2017 by telescoper

I’ve had today off to work on the launch of my new project, called WikiLeeks.

I’m thrilled now to be able to publish our first findings.

The STFC ‘Breadth of Programme’ Exercise

Posted in Science Politics with tags , , , , , on April 26, 2017 by telescoper

I suddenly realized this morning that I there was a bit of community service I meant to do when I got back from vacations, namely to pass on to astronomers and particle physicists a link to the results of the latest Programmatic Review (actually ‘Breadth of Programme’ Exercise) produced by the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

It’s a lengthy document, running to 89 pages, but it’s a must-read if you’re in the UK and work in area of science under the remit of STFC. There was considerable uncertainty about the science funding situation anyway because of BrExit, and that has increased dramatically because of the impending General Election which will probably kick quite a few things into the long grass, quite possibly delaying the planned reorganization of the research councils. Nevertheless, this document is well worth reading as it will almost certainly inform key decisions that will have to be made whatever happens in the broader landscape. With `flat cash’ being the most optimistic scenario, increasing inflation means that some savings will have to be found so belts will inevitable have to be tightened. Moreover, there are strong strategic arguments that some areas should grow, rather than remain static, which means that others will have to shrink to compensate.

There are 29 detailed recommendations and I can’t discuss them all here, but here are a couple of tasters:

The E-ELT is the European Extremely Large Telescope, in case you didn’t know.

Another one that caught my eye is this:

I’ve never really understood why gravitational-wave research came under ‘Particle Astrophysics’ anyway, but given their recent discovery by Advanced LIGO there is a clear case for further investment in future developments, especially because the UK community is currently rather small.

Anyway, do read the document and, should you be minded to do so, please feel free to comment on it below through the comments box.



One Hundred Years of Ella Fitzgerald

Posted in Jazz with tags , , on April 25, 2017 by telescoper

This morning Radio 3 reminded me that the great jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald was born exactly one hundred years ago today, on April 25th 1917. She passed away in 1996, but her legacy lives on through a vast array of wonderful recordings. I couldn’t resist marking the anniversary of her birth with this track, which I hope brings a smile to your face as it does to mine every time I listen to it. This track won her  Grammy award for the best vocal performance that year, which is pretty remarkable because she forgot the lyrics to the song! Besides this, there’s a lot of other great stuff on the album Ella in Berlin (including more improvised lyrics and some sensational scat singing on How High The Moon) so if you’re looking to start an Ella Fitzgerald collection this is a great place to start.

Mack the Knife had been a huge hit for Louis Armstrong in 1956 and then again for Bobby Darin in 1959. By all accounts Ella was prevailed upon to add it to her repertoire for live concerts. She wasn’t that keen but  reluctantly agreed. Obviously however she wasn’t so  enthusiastic as to actually learn the words! On the other hand, when you have a wonderful voice and an amazing musical imagination, who needs the words? Ella not only made up some lyrics herself on the fly, but also threw in a rather wonderful Louis Armstrong impersonation for good measure. Enjoy!