A notebook of useful things

Month: July 2012 (Page 1 of 2)

Reverse-engineered jellyfish

A tissue-engineered jellyfish with biomimetic propulsion

Nature Biotechnology (2012) doi:10.1038/nbt.2269

Medusa and medusoid video Continue reading



On 7th March, US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta, testifying before a Senate committee, declared that “it is not clear what constitutes the Syrian armed opposition – there has been no single unifying military alternative that can be recognized, appointed, or contacted”. He was right. Continue reading

The first drunken commentator

“The Fleet’s Lit Up!”

In 1937, the BBC were to cover the Illumination of the Fleet at the Spithead Royal Naval review with live commentary by Lt Cdr Thomas ‘Tommy’ Woodroffe. Pre-transmission naval hospitality had been lavish, and Woodroffe was already listing heavily to port, awash in pink gins.

What followed was a masterpiece. The full eloquence of his commentary is a monument to radio broadcasting, full of long gaps, repetition, vagueness, and sudden changes of tone from obsequious to aggressive, against the whistling crackle of vintage radio.

There’s nothing between us and heaven. Nothing at all.

At this point Woodroffe was faded out and replaced by music. He later denied being “lit up” himself, claiming to have been affected by the emotion of the occasion – possibly the first recorded example of broadcaster euphemism.


Fukushima, one year later


Nature reclaims the city. Photos of Fukushima exclusion zone, one year later.


More photos

And here’s Chernobyl after 25 years.


It’s over

The time for analyses is over. You’re better off burning your money and arming yourself with a bow and arrow. There may not be many mammoth still roaming the wastelands but at least you’ll die with dignity.

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The Last Universalist

Henri Poincaré
29 April 1854 – 17 July 1912

Henri Jules Poincaré, dubbed “the last universalist”, died one hundred years ago, on 17 July 1912.

One word: symmetry.

Continue reading

We’re officially screwed


Paul Krugman On The Euro Crisis – Business Insider.

A fascinating interview with 2008 Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, in which he describes the last two possible solutions to the Euro crisis. Both are impossible.

He basically sees two possible outcomes, both of which are “impossible.” Continue reading

The wrong tool


Défense : les objectifs d’Hollande | Atlantico.

These last twenty years have seen a spate of defence white papers and policy announcements by various western nations. They have failed.

A white paper on defence has one purpose: to define a future strategic posture. All of the armed forces reorganisations announced since 1990, particularly those of France and the UK, have had to be revised, often after a couple of years.

If the new structures do not meet the new requirements, then the whole exercise is a (very costly) failure. Barring the United States in its latest Defence Strategic Guidance, no western nation has had the political courage and intellectual honesty to define the new threats. So they tinker with budgets and sketch out strategies to fight yesterday’s wars.


The God of the Underworld gets a new companion

Hubble discovers new Pluto moon

Pluto and its moons

The Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a fifth moon circling the dwarf planet Pluto.

The new moon (P5 in the picture), visible as a speck of light in Hubble images, is estimated to be irregular in shape and between 10km and 25km across.

We need a new name for Pluto’s new companion. After Charon, Nix and Hydra, the fourth moon is sitll nameless. And now comes the fifth. I propose Orpheus and Eurydice. Didn’t Orpheus visit the underworld to rescue his Eurydice?

As an alternative, we could try Continue reading

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