Archive for the Politics Category

Diversity, Inclusion, Rain and Brexit

Posted in Biographical, Politics with tags , , , , on October 11, 2019 by telescoper

So here I am in a very rainy London. I arrived yesterday for a meeting of the IOP Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which was an interesting occasion with many new things about to unfold, tempered by a bit of sadness that the wonderful Head of Diversity at the IOP, Jenni Dyer, is leaving shortly to take up a new job. However will we manage?

Anyway, instead of flying back to Ireland last night after the meeting, I stayed in London last night because today there is an ordinary meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society at Burlington House, to be followed by a Club Dinner. I’ll be going home to Ireland tomorrow.

Unfortunately the weather has put a dampener on my plans to spend a bit of time wandering around London because it is raining quite heavily and is forecast to do so for the rest of the day. Still, at least the hotel I’m in has WIFI so I can get a few things done this morning before venturing out into the inclement conditions.

Meanwhile the pound is rising against the euro on optimism that there may be a Brexit deal on the horizon after yesterday’s meeting between Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar. Nobody knows the details but it seems likely that it’s basically the same as Theresa May’s `deal’ except that the `backstop’ is to be replaced by what is effectively a  customs border in the Irish Sea.  My personal preference would be Boris Johnson thrown in the Irish Sea.

I doubt the Democratic Unionists will be happy with this, but Johnson is probably gambling that enough Labour quitlings will vote for it that he no longer needs their support. Of course, that all depends on whether what was discussed yesterday turns into a concrete legally-binding agreement signed off by the EU.

P.S. Bookies’ odds on a No-Deal Brexit on October 31st have drifted out from 4/1 to 5/1.



Topical Mechanics Problems

Posted in Politics, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on October 6, 2019 by telescoper

In writing the homework problems for my first-year Mathematical Physics module I was sorely tempted to include some political references but I restrained myself in order not to cause any offence. That doesn’t stop me posting some examples here, however, so here are three examples of the sort of thing I had in mind:

  1. Arlene and Boris arrange to have a secret meeting near the Irish British Border. Arlene drives a car at 20 mph along a straight road that takes her within one mile of a customs post where Boris is waiting. Boris has a bicycle on which his top speed is 12 mph and he wishes to leave the customs post at the last possible minute to intercept Arlene. How far away is Arlene when Boris leaves the customs post, and how far must Boris cycle to meet her?
  2. Donald falls 200m from the top floor of Trump Tower. Neglecting air resistance, what is Donald’s velocity when he hits the ground? Assuming he has a mass of 200 kg and he is brought to rest by the impact, what is the energy dissipated? Is this likely to cause serious damage (to the sidewalk)?
  3. Jacob is reclining on a bench in the House of Commons with his head against an arm rest. The coefficient of static friction between Jacob and the armrest is 0.3 and between Jacob and the seat it is 0.4. Assuming that Jacob is infinitely thin, one-dimensional and entirely rigid, calculate the minimum angle he can make with the bench without slipping.

You may wish to refer to Fig 1 and Fig 2 here.

A Drunk and Disorderly Brexit

Posted in Politics with tags , , on September 28, 2019 by telescoper

Having to return to Parliament following the Supreme Court’s unanimous (and undoubtedly correct) decision that Boris Johnson’s attempted prorogation was unlawful seems to have driven certain Tories to drink (or something stronger).

The clip above shows a clearly inebriated Michael Gove (not just an MP but a Cabinet Minister) in the House of Commons.

More generally I’m sure that alcohol played a big part in the appallingly offensive language and shouty behaviour coming from the Government benches, including from the Prime Minister who, for some reason, has not yet resigned but is regularly too tired and emotional to speak any sense at all. It wouldn’t surprise me if he were to be found dead drunk in a ditch before too long.

The Houses of Parliament are supposed to be places of work for MPs. Most of us would be summarily dismissed if we turned up at our workplace steaming drunk and I don’t see any reason why it should be any different for Members of Parliament.

If I had my way all MPs would be breathalysed before being allowed to participate in a debate or vote at a division. Anyone over the limit should be barred.

After much sobre reflection, I think keeping the drunk and disorderly out of Parliament might not only improve the quality and civility of the debates but also improve the decision-making of the House.

What do you think?

Johnson Close To Deal

Posted in Politics with tags , on September 25, 2019 by telescoper

Thank you, Google, but that isn’t really the information I was looking for.

Supreme Predictions

Posted in Politics with tags , , , on September 24, 2019 by telescoper

This morning the Supreme Court delivered a ruling that the UK Government acted unlawfully in its recent prorogation of Parliament and so Parliament is consequently no long prorogued. After its decision in this case that the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament with the intent of stopping it carrying out its duties, I look forward to a similarly shocking ruling in the vexed matter of whether or not ursine mammals defecate in forested areas.

I have noticed over the years that everyone on Twitter is – or at least thinks they are – a legal expert, so not to be outdone I last night posted my own prediction of the Supreme Court ruling:

My legal acumen having been established beyond any reasonable doubt, I mention for the record that I posted this tweet at the same time:

This is the correct way to make predictions in the age of social media.

Diana Ross is 75.



Lord, Let Me In The Lifeboat

Posted in Jazz, Politics with tags , , , , , , on September 16, 2019 by telescoper

Yesterday I noticed a now-typical outburst of British mean-spirited xenophobia in that people are cancelling their donations to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution on the grounds that it spends a massive 2% of its budget saving lives abroad rather than in the UK. Or at least claim to be cancelling donations. Judging by the kind of people commenting on Twitter I’d bet than none of them has ever donated anything to anyone in their entire crab-faced existence. The face of `Global Britain’ as represented by the Daily Mail gets more umpleasant by the day.

Anyway, as a regular donor to the RNLI I have this morning increased my contribution and will be wearing my RNLI pin badge in support of the brave men and women who regularly risk their lives to save those in distress at sea.

Incidentally, in case you were wondering, the RNLI also serves Ireland: there are 59 lifeboats based in 45 stations in the Republic as well as Northern Ireland.

Anyway, I don’t want to let all this get anyone down so I’m sharing this piece of music which sprang to mind. Lord Let Me In The Lifeboat was recorded in 1945 for the Blue Note label by a band led by Sidney Bechet and Bunk Johnson. The latter had just come out of retirement courtesy of Sidney Bechet’s brother Leonard, a dentist, who furnished trumpeter Johnson with a new set of false teeth to allow him to resume playing. Not a lot of people know that.

Understandably, Bunk Johnson’s chops were not in great shape on this session but Bechet’s certainly were! When I was a lad I used to spend a bit of time transcribing clarinet solos from old records, and I remember doing this one by Sidney Bechet. The notes in themselves are not hard to play, but few people could generate that heavy vibrato and rich tone!

UPDATE: Oh look! I found it. If you want to play along at home, here you are. It’s in B♭ Major, and comes with a best guess as to the chords:


Update: Great News

Across the Border

Posted in Biographical, Politics with tags , , on September 5, 2019 by telescoper

I’ve got a bit of time to spare between breakfast and the start of a new day of talks at INAM2019 so I thought I’d rattle off a short travelblog.

I went straight to Armagh Observatory and Planetarium from the bus station when I arrived yesterday so had to check in to my hotel after the end of the day’s session. I had reserved a room online (and brought the confirmation with me) so I thought that would just take a few minutes. Unfortunately the hotel had lost the booking so had to start again, which took quite a while. However, to make up for the inconvenience they put me in an `Executive Room’ with a balcony. It is indeed quite luxurious and I now wish I were staying for more than one night. Sadly, however, I have to get the bus back to Dublin this evening as I have lots to do tomorrow.

On the trip up here the main thing I noticed after crossing the border into Northern Ireland was the number of Union flags on display on telegraph poles, lampposts and buildings. I learned from a booklet in the conference pack that the Orange Order was founded in County Armagh and there are obviously strong unionist sentiments around. Flags and sashes and regalia as symbols of national and/or religious identity seem to mean a lot to some people. I find it all rather baffling.

Among the more trivial things I noticed were a change in typeface for the road signs, the fact that roads are numbered as in Great Britain (e.g. `A28′) rather than in Ireland, and that post boxes here are red rather than green. Oh, and Tayto crisps are different here too..

Of course yesterday was a big day in the United Kingdom Parliament, with Boris Johnson suffering yet another humiliation as a cross-party bill was put through the House of Commons attempting to stop a `No Deal’ Brexit. Johnson then attempted to call a General Election but failed to secure sufficient votes, Jeremy Corbyn refusing to support the motion unless and until the No-Deal Bill becomes law.

I don’t know where these shenanigans will lead, but it seems to me that humiliating Boris Johnson is a good thing in itself so I watched the events last night in my hotel room with some satisfaction. Of course if there is a General Election, a new Parliament could repeal the `No Deal’ Act anyway, so in the long run this could all amount to very little.

I’m still eligible to vote in a UK General Election but there is one soon I really don’t know what I’ll do.