Archive for the “News” Category

In the days of TOS Scotty was an inspiration for engineers, today I believe the inspirational figure is Tony Stark.

Spock was my inspiration in following a life of science – it is as simple as that.

I first came across Spock on TOS whilst living in New Zealand.  Strange that New Zealand being at the arse-end of the Universe actually got TV programmes before the U.K.  But I digress.  Star Trek became compulsory weekly viewing.  Strangely, the day we left New Zealand to come back to the land of the living dead – the U.K. – some two years later, we saw Arthur C Clarke’s 2001 in a Cinema in Auckland.  That evening we boarded the Australis and returned to the U.K.  That was the shittiest day of my life – so far.

However, the U.K. did offer repeat viewings of TOS over the following years and this reinforced my interest in science, chess, maths, logic and all things Spock related.  Eventually, driven by Star Trek, more specifically Spock,  I ended up taking a B.Sc. in Physics Maths and Astronomy at the University of Sussex which in turn led to a career in Semiconductor Physics and finally in Academia at the University of Southampton.

The driving force behind the science all this time, for me, was Spock.  A hugely influential part of my life has gone – I will miss you Spock :(


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The one-way trip to Mars known as Mars One seems to be unfolding as it fails miserably under close scrutiny.  This is a great shame, and potentially a missed opportunity.  We should embrace this ground-breaking idea and support it with as much cash as we can spare, and indeed spur the team on to an even greater Mars One expedition!  Why?  Here we have a chance to create and launch our very own B-ark.  We can give a glorious send off to all those middle-men, Politicians, PR Consultants, Lawyers, Solicitors, used-car salesmen and of course the telephone sanitisers, and at the same time push forward the frontiers of Space Science.  It’s clearly a win-win situation and we shouldn’t let it slip through our fingers.

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Never forget Dr. David Kelly:

I won’t forget!


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Last night I was very disturbed by a one and a half hour documentary on BBC4 about a young man I had never heard of before – Aaron Swartz.

For those of you in the American Government Departments responsible for this young man’s death – and you know exactly who you are – you are the most despicable pieces of filth I’ve ever come across in my lifetime.

If there is a Higher Being out there dishing out Justice – you’ll be getting yours soon!!

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O.K. here’s something I don’t quite understand.
The current Conservative party will hold a referendum on the EU IF they are voted back in. They will also build thousands of new homes IF they are voted back in. They will also send “hit teams” into all our secondary schools to “sort things out” IF they get voted back in. And they have promised a million and one other things they have no intention of carrying out IF they get voted back in.
So why are they hell bent on trying to sell off our forests and get fracking carried out wherever the hell they like BEFORE they (don’t) get voted back in?? Funny that innit (not).

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This is a well-known fact, apart from a certain misinformed person (Professor?  I somehow doubt it) who felt it necessary to impart his faulty “knowledge” at a talk I gave at the Lymington Yacht club.

For the benefit of the misinformed individual there is an interesting article that can be found here:  which spells out in detail how adaptive optics gives large ground-based telescopes the edge in resolution over Hubble (as I actually said at the end of my talk but which obviously went straight over the head of said Yachtie).  However, to any thinking person it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise should it?  The new Extremely Large Telescope (ground-based) will have 16x yes that is SIXTEEN times the resolution of Hubble.  But it’s hardly a fair race when you are putting a 39-metre mirror (the ELT) against the piddling little 2.4-metre mirror of Hubble is it?  Yes you need the adaptive optics to get the best out of ground-based telescopes, but it is hardly surprising (to most people) that the huge ground-based telescopes can outdo Hubble in terms of resolution.


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There is a 4-page article in the February 2015 issue of Astronomy Now on the mini-WASP array at the New Forest Observatory.

To save trawling through the last 2 years of development on this site, buy the Feb 2015 issue of Astronomy Now and get the whole story in one place :)


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Sorry – another non-astronomical post – if you don’t like seeing this stuff stop here.

But I have reached an age where I don’t have to suffer crap anymore because for the first time in my life I answer to no one – and let me tell you it’s like being reborn.  Retirement – bring it on!!

I have had to keep the vomit bowl within easy reach these past few days as the Conservative and Labour dements spout their crap, trying their hardest to keep a straight face and look as if they actually mean what they say.  I swear they amaze themselves at how they don’t break down in tears of laughter during one of their moronic diatribes.

And if I feel like that I KNOW that millions feel exactly the same way too.  So what can the “hard working British people” (give me strength) actually do to teach these morons a lesson they have never been dealt before?  Now on this one I do not agree with Russel Brand that not voting is a good idea.  That is a passive response to the insulting and provocative behaviour of our politicians.  No – what I would like everyone to do is vote for UKIP.  This has NOTHING to do with agreeing with UKIP’s policies (whatever they are) or philosophy (whatever that is) – but it has EVERYTHING to do with sending a message to Labour and Conservatives alike, in a language that even these morons can understand.  I have not mentioned the Liberal Democrats at all as they completely lost all credibility the moment they backed down on the Student Fees issue – shame on you, you lily-livered plebs!!

O.K. everybody – this is YOUR chance to show “those in charge” that you haven’t just got off the boat.  Are you going to just sit there and do nothing – or are you going to upset their whole year?


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O.K. so there appears to be some more Idiocracy-based garbage that needs to be put to bed.

Killer planet Nibiru – it ain’t there people, sorry but your quick life cop-out isn’t just around the corner – not with non-existent Nibiru anyway.

However – if you are dead keen (pun intended) on killer scenarios, how about dealing with some straight facts rather than pure fiction.

Remember that massive Russian meteor/meteorite that came crashing in unannounced around a year or so ago?  That would have ruined your day if it had arrived more intact in your location. And around a year or so before that we got a near Earth asteroid the size of an Olympic swimming pool (to put it on scale that the Idiocracy can appreciate) that shot past us at a distance that put it inside the orbit of some Earth-orbiting satellites – so that was REALLY close – and I got a picture of that one too :)  And again if that had come down near you, you would have noticed it.

And do you have any idea why you are actually still here to read this stuff I’m writing, at all?  No of course you don’t.  You can actually thank a Russian submarine commander who disobeyed orders and didn’t set his nukes off as he suspected the order was a false alarm.  Thank you my man for engaging your brain and not ending our world in such a pointless fashion.

Then of course we have the possibility of a nearby (in galactic terms) Gamma Ray Burst that would instantaneously sterilise everything for cubic light years around – no life whatsoever remaining – except perhaps for the odd Deinococcus radiodurans or two.

So why get yourself all upset and agitated about the fictions of an over active imagination (nutter if you prefer)  – when there’s so much more really mundane stuff out there ready, willing and waiting to snuff you out, before you even saw it. And let’s go back to our Russian mate just for a moment and remember – it is pure good luck, and an unexpected act of bravery from a virtually unknown man – that you’re still around today.

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I had the misfortune to read something on Facebook that sent me off on a rant.  Here is that rant.

We were given RULES not guidelines about the exams we set as Lecturers at the University. And these rules stated that the mean of the class HAD to be at the 50% level, and if your results deviated significantly from this you had to explain how you managed to screw up, and what you would do next time to make sure this didn’t happen again. I kid you not. This was a Russell Group University, and it was (and is) common practice amongst other top U.K. Universities too. Is this the way to teach at the University level, or is this just a way of maximising the numbers of bums on seats for 3 or 4 years given a lackluster and mediocre student intake? I certainly did not have the luxury of this Idiocracy approach to education when I was an Undergraduate. I entered Sussex University with a Higher National Certificate in Applied Physics from Oxford Polytechnic and I had Distinctions in all subjects – so I thought I was pretty shit hot. At the end of my First Year at the University of Sussex I got a 2:2 mark. I was completely devastated, but it showed me the level that was expected of me. So what did I do? I worked my butt off for the next two years and nearly blew my brain and ended up with a First Class Honours Degree that actually meant something. What would have happened if Sussex had taken the Idiocracy approach to setting exams? Well I probably would have still ended up with a First – but I would have understood about a 1/10th of what I ended up knowing, and I would have been about a 1/10th as useful in all the jobs I had following graduation. End of a Grumpy Old Man’s rant.

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