Archive for the Uncategorized Category

What time is it, Eccles? – 100 Years of Spike Milligan

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 16, 2018 by telescoper

Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of comedy legend Spike Milligan. I couldn’t resist paying a small tribute to his by
posting this piece, taken from an episode of The Goon Show which was first broadcast in 1957. Spike wrote most of the scripts for this long-running and hugely popular radio show as well as playing several of the characters including, in this clip, the gormless Eccles heard in dialogue with Bluebottle, played by Peter Sellers.

The Goon Show shattered the conventions of radio comedy with its anarchic humour, nonsensical plots, and sheer silliness; it was a direct ancestor of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, a debt acknowledged by the Python team. However, the strain of producing weekly scripts for The Goon Show exacted a heavy toll on Spike Milligan who had numerous nervous breakdowns. Not surprisingly, given the rate at which they had to be written, the episodes are uneven in quality but at times Spike Milligan’s comic writing rose to extraordinary heights of genius, as exemplified as this joyfully absurd sequence, which I think is totally brilliant.

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Pictures from a Mediaeval Bestiary, No. 69 – The Turtle

Posted in Uncategorized on April 14, 2018 by telescoper

The Day’s Events

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 13, 2018 by telescoper

Today has been a very strange day. The strangeness started last night when, without any notice being given to us mere residents, a crew arrived at 8pm to do roadworks (resurfacing). There then followed an excruciating racket right outside my window well into the early hours of the morning.

So, having not had much sleep at all, I wasn’t in a very good mood when I got up. Things went from bad to worse when, just after 8am, all the electricity in my flat went off. I checked the trip switches and saw no problem. I then went outside and saw the traffic lights were off. It turned out that the power supply to all of Maynooth was off (including the entire University), as well as quite a bit of the rest of County Kildare.

With no electricity I couldn’t have a shower or make any coffee or have the bacon sandwich I’d planned to have for breakfast. The prospect of sitting in a cold flat all morning with nothing to do and not even the radio to listen to didn’t appeal so I got dressed and went to the office (which is only 15 minutes walk away). No shops were open on the way. There was no electricity anywhere on campus, so no internet connection, and quite a lot of students sitting around wondering what to do. At least the office was fairly warm and I had plenty of things I could do without a computer.

News eventually started coming through that power was returning gradually to the campus buildings. Ours came back at about 10.30. At that point I finally got a cup of coffee. I still don’t know what caused the fault.

The other major event of the day was that the result came through from the Universities and Colleges Union ballot on whether to accept the Employers’ offer on pensions. A majority of the members voted `yes’, so strike action – which had been planned to resume at Cardiff on Monday 16th April – is now suspended. I wouldn’t bet against a resumption later this year, as the major issues seem to me unresolved. However, I will be leaving Cardiff in July so that’s the end of the matter for me.

Anyway, this now means that I’ll be resuming my teaching in Cardiff on Tuesday next week (17th April). I’d already decided to spend this weekend in Ireland so I’ll be going back on Monday morning, Flybe willing…

Mathematical operations with the Normal distribution

Posted in Uncategorized on April 12, 2018 by telescoper

Interesting post about the USS pension `deficit’ and why it is strongly dependent on the valuation method.

corp.ling.stats

This post is a little off-topic, as the exercise I am about to illustrate is not one that most corpus linguists will have to engage in.

However, I think it is a good example of why a mathematical approach to statistics (instead of the usual rote-learning of tests) is extremely valuable.

Case study: The declared ‘deficit’ in the USS pension scheme

At the time of writing nearly two hundred thousand university staff in the UK are active members of a pension scheme called USS. This scheme draws in income from these members and pays out to pensioners. Every three years the pension is valued, which is not a simple process. The valuation consists of two aspects, both uncertain:

  • to value the liabilities of the pension fund, which means the obligations to current pensioners and future pensioners (current active members), and
  • to estimate the future asset value of the pension fund…

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Pictures from a Mediaeval Bestiary, No. 57 – The Oyster

Posted in Uncategorized on April 7, 2018 by telescoper

Burgundy Passports For Life!

Posted in Uncategorized on April 3, 2018 by telescoper

It being my first day back after the Easter break I’ve been too busy to write a proper post but I do have time to pass on a piece of important news about passports. Those of you UK citizens worried having to trade your lovely burgundy passport for a nasty blue one need fret no more.

According to the BBC news, you can carry on using your current passport until you expire:

I hope this clarifies the situation.

P. S. My own expiry date has been helpfully provided by the Irish government on my recently provided PPS card:

Why Physicists Leave Physics

Posted in Uncategorized on March 31, 2018 by telescoper

Interesting post. Only about one in twenty PhDs go on to be professors in the long run. People leave academia for various reasons, not all of them negative, but I still think we overproduce PhDs in the UK. There has never been a proper study of the merits of funding fewer PhDs and more Masters degrees, for example.

4 gravitons

It’s an open secret that many physicists end up leaving physics. How many depends on how you count things, but for a representative number, this report has 31% of US physics PhDs in the private sector after one year. I’d expect that number to grow with time post-PhD. While some of these people might still be doing physics, in certain sub-fields that isn’t really an option: it’s not like there are companies that do R&D in particle physics, astrophysics, or string theory. Instead, these physicists get hired in data science, or quantitative finance, or machine learning. Others stay in academia, but stop doing physics: either transitioning to another field, or taking teaching-focused jobs that don’t leave time for research.

There’s a standard economic narrative for why this happens. The number of students grad schools accept and graduate is much higher than the number of professor jobs. There simply isn’t room…

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