Archive for the Uncategorized Category

‘Beards, shorts & sandals’ 2015 season declared officially open

Posted in Uncategorized on May 16, 2015 by telescoper


The season has arrived and weather here in Brighton is just about right. This morning I bought woolly socks to wear with my sandals and tomorrow will venture forth appropriately clad..

Originally posted on Kmflett's Blog:

Beard Liberation Front


Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266



The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that Saturday May 16th marks the official start of the 2015 Beards, Shorts and Sandals  seasons with broadly warmer weather forecast for the coming period

The BLF has updated guidelines for the 2015 Season:

1] Shorts and sandals may be worn after midday until 8pm at the discretion of the wearer.

2] Where sandals are worn the wearing of socks is discouraged but not forbidden

3] If socks are not worn toenails must be neat, trimmed, clean and fungus free

4] Shorts should ideally be no longer than knee length to provide a balanced image with the beard

5] Shorts should be of conservative design and colour. Wearing of bright red, yellow or floral patterned shorts…

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The polls and (all but one of) the forecasts WERE wrong. Ed Miliband was nowhere near becoming Prime Minister

Posted in Uncategorized on May 9, 2015 by telescoper


Fascinating detailed analysis of what went wrong with the opinion polls and Labour’s campaign strategy.

Originally posted on shaunjlawson:

Thursday May 7, 2015. Britain goes to the polls at what is universally – entirely wrongly – believed to be the closest General Election in fully two generations. The opinion polls are deadlocked, and have been for months. The choice facing the country is by far the most stark since 1992: this wasn’t, contrary to what 99.99% of people assumed, a close election – but it was certainly a watershed.

On Tuesday morning, I set out why I believed that almost all forecasts and predictions were wrong: Ed Miliband’s strategy had been hopelessly flawed; his party would find itself squeezed from all sides; and above all, that the methodology employed by every single opinion polling company was wrong. Alarmingly wrong. Disastrously wrong. Inexcusably wrong.

At this point though, I want to highlight that, in no small part, I was wrong too. While I foresaw an enormously disappointing night for Labour…

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The Morning After…

Posted in Uncategorized on May 8, 2015 by telescoper

Just time for a few comments on the General Election result.

Contrary to the picture painted by nearly all the opinion polls, which indicated an extremely close vote leading to a hung Parliament, it is clear that there will actually be a majority in the House of Commons for the Conservative Party. This isn’t the result I had hoped for, but at least it’s a clear outcome.

One question on my mind is how the opinion polls managed to get it so consistently wrong. They were so wrong, in fact, that most pundits didn’t believe the BBC’s exit poll showing a far stronger Tory voite. TAs it turns out, even the exit poll was an understimate of the Conservative vote. The actual share of the vote is about 37% Conservative to 31% Labour whereas the opinion polls suggested rough parity at 34% each.

It seems to me that there are three distinct (but not exlusive) possible explanations of this, although before discussing them I should point out that a 3% error is within the margin of most opinion polls. Fluctuations of this size were seen during the course of the campaign, but the long term average was pretty consistent, and offset from the actual result.

One explanation is that the turnout was fractionally higher among those who had expressed a preference for the Conservatives than those who had indicated that they would vote Labour. A few percent difference in this would have made a huge difference in key marginal seats. Perhaps the Conservatives just mobilized their voters more effectively. The other explanation is the reappearance of the “shy Tory”. This was generally accepted to be the reason why the opinion polls got it so wrong in the 1992 General Election. People might tell a pollster what they think he/she wants to hear, but actually vote differently when they get to the polling station. The last option is that some people may well change their mind when they see the ballot paper. Opinion polls generally only ask about the party, not the specific candidate. Perhaps seeing the name on the ballot paper makes a small difference?

Whatever the explanation the fact of the matter is that we have a Conservative majority government and whatever we think about that we just have to make the best of it, though I am worried about many things. The future of the National Health Service now hangs in the balance. And the fact that the SNP  won 56 out of 59 seats in Scotland makes me wonder how the United Kingdom can possibly survive much longer. I wouldn’t bet against Scotland being an independent country within a few years at the most. It seems we will also have a referendum on whether to remain inside the EU…

As expected Caroline Lucas held onto her seat in Brighton Pavilion (winning by a very large margin). Labout took Hove by a narrow margin, but Nancy Platts fell just short of ousting Simon Kirby in my own constituency, Brighton Kemptown. Only 600 votes in it. Close, but no cigar for Nancy.

All Purpose Opinion Poll Blog Post

Posted in Uncategorized on May 3, 2015 by telescoper

 A dramatic new (insert name of polling organization, e.g. GALLUP) opinion poll has revealed that the (insert name of political party) lead over (insert name of political party) has WIDENED/SHRUNK/NOT CHANGED dramatically. This almost certainly means a (insert name of political party) victory or a hung parliament. This contrasts with a recent (insert name of polling organization, e.g. YOUGOV) poll which showed that the (insert name of political party) lead had WIDENED/SHRUNK/NOT CHANGED which almost certainly meant a (insert name of political party) victory or a hung parliament.

Political observers were quick to point out that we shouldn’t read too much into this poll, as tomorrow’s (insert name of polling organization e.g. COMRES) poll shows the (insert name of political party) lead over (insert name of political party) has WIDENED/SHRUNK/NOT CHANGED dramatically, almost certainly meaning a (insert name of political party) victory or a hung parliament.

Meanwhile, Lord Ashcroft.. (continued, page 94)

Small Business letter to the Telegraph; an attempt to defraud the electorate?

Posted in Uncategorized on April 27, 2015 by telescoper


This unravelling story shows that the Conservative Party’s campaign is both inept and dishonest. Initially I though it was hilarious but now it’s getting very serious indeed.

Originally posted on sturdyblog:

How the letter from small business owners to the Telegraph in support of the Tories fell apart

There is a lot, so I’ll be brief.

Huge thanks to the many people on Twitter who sent me discrepancies all day, as they discovered them.

The day started with the Conservatives and the Prime Minister claiming a major victory.


Things soon began to unravel, when it emerged that this wasn’t the unsolicited, spontaneous combustion of love from small business to the Tories, which had been presented. In fact the Conservative Party had generated the letter and asked its members to sign it.


Things got much more tangled up when it was discovered that the background document, containing the names and signatures of the “small business owners” on the Telegraph website, still bore the metadata tags of Conservative Campaign Headquarters.


Say what you want, claimed a Tory councillor to me. The source is not important. What is…

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Another Awayday..

Posted in Uncategorized on April 23, 2015 by telescoper

Just a quick post to say that I spent today in London with the other Heads of School at Sussex University (or most of them). We met in the British Library Conference Centre, which is next door to St Pancras station. It wasn’t in the library itself, so I wasn’t able to try out the famous echo in the British Library Reading Room…

After leaving that meeting at ten-mile I had another appointment, near this relatively well-known landmark..


I won’t divulge the purpose or location of Meeting B as it’s a bit hush-hush, though not in a bad way…

An Einstein Ring – Courtesy of ALMA

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on April 8, 2015 by telescoper

Just back from a short Easter holiday, I thought I’d resume blogging activities by showing you this remarkable image.



What you see is a near-perfect example of an Einstein Ring which is a result of a chance alignment between a background galaxy and a foreground concentration of mass, sometimes a cluster of galaxies but in this case another galaxy. A more usual effect is the formation of a number of bright arcs; here there are two bright segments, but there is enough detail to see the rest of the circle. The lensed galaxy has a redshift about 3, so that light from it was emitted when the Universe was about one-quarter its current size, about 12 billion years in the past.

This object, codenamed SDP81, was initially detected as a potential lens system by the Herschel Space Observatory, which turned out to be superb at identifying gravitational lenses. I posted about this here, in fact. Working in the far-infrared makes it impossible to resolve the detailed structure of lensed images with Herschel – even with a 3.5m mirror in space, λ/D isn’t great for wavelengths of 500 microns! However, the vast majority of sources found during the Herschel ATLAS survey with large fluxes at this wavelengths can be identified as lenses simply because their brightness tells us they’ve probably been magnified by a lens. Candidates can then be followed up with other telescopes on the ground. A quick look during the Science Demonstration Phase of Herschel produced the first crop of firmly identified gravitational lens systems published in Science by Negrello et al. This one was followed up last year by the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA), itself a remarkable breakthrough in observational technology; the image was actually made in an extended configuration during the commissioning tests of ALMA’s long-baseline interferometric capability, which gives it stunning resolving power of about 23 milli-arcseconds. It’s absolutely amazing to see such detail in an image made in the submillimetre region of the spectrum.

The press release accompanying this can be found here and the full scientific paper by Vlahakis et al. is already on the arXiv here.

For the specialists the abstract of the journal paper reads:

We present initial results of very high resolution Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) observations of the z=3.042 gravitationally lensed galaxy HATLAS J090311.6+003906 (SDP.81). These observations were carried out using a very extended configuration as part of Science Verification for the 2014 ALMA Long Baseline Campaign, with baselines of up to 15 km. We present continuum imaging at 151, 236 and 290 GHz, at unprecedented angular resolutions as fine as 23 milliarcseconds (mas), corresponding to an un-magnified spatial scale of ~180 pc at z=3.042. The ALMA images clearly show two main gravitational arc components of an Einstein ring, with emission tracing a radius of ~1.5″. We also present imaging of CO(10-9), CO(8-7), CO(5-4) and H2O line emission. The CO emission, at an angular resolution of ~170 mas, is found to broadly trace the gravitational arc structures but with differing morphologies between the CO transitions and compared to the dust continuum. Our detection of H2O line emission, using only the shortest baselines, provides the most resolved detection to date of thermal H2O emission in an extragalactic source. The ALMA continuum and spectral line fluxes are consistent with previous Plateau de Bure Interferometer and Submillimeter Array observations despite the impressive increase in angular resolution. Finally, we detect weak unresolved continuum emission from a position that is spatially coincident with the center of the lens, with a spectral index that is consistent with emission from the core of the foreground lensing galaxy.

ALMA will only work in long baseline mode for a small fraction of its time, and it is bound to be in very heavy demand, so it’s not clear how many of the hundreds of candidate lenses flagged up by Herschel will ever be mapped in such detail, but this is definitely one for the album!


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