A notebook of useful things

Category: Uncategorized (Page 3 of 4)

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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Die Schleuder

Not quite the Deutscher Bauernkrieg. This one’s coming from 172 economists, led by Hans-Werner Sinn who published an open letter demolishing Angela Merkel’s economic policies in favour of a European banking union. The letter was published two days ago in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Is this an Economists’ Revolt, after the Manifesto for Economic Sense?




Lord of Happiness


Richard Layard has become (once again) something of a household name after the publication of the Manifesto for Economic Sense, which he wrote with Paul Krugman.

Baron Layard (he is a Labour peer) rose to prominence after having lobbied the Blair government to include happiness economics in its policies. The results have been mixed. But that is to be expected. The real world has a nasty habit of derailing the best-laid plans.

On the substance though, Layard is right.



Cracking open the (vintage) champagne

Higgs boson-like particle discovery claimed at LHC

Thus spake the headlines. To be precise, it was a five-sigma detection. Of course cynics will say that we’d been using the Higgs boson in our calculations for half a century. Given enough energy, we were bound to observe it. And the Large Hadron Collider was built exactly for that purpose.

Expect torrents of commentary about “the god particle” over the next few weeks.

There’s a lesson for us here. If physics allows it, and if you throw enough money at the problem, it’s a piece of cake. The LHC is a very expensive bit of kit. So in the end it all boils down to money.




Vorticity in Venice

No technicolour here, but this is what it actually looks like.

‘Twisted light’ carries 2.5 terabits of data per second

Bo Thide of the Swedish Institute of Space Physics and a team of colleagues in Italy recently demonstrated the encoding of data using the orbital angular momentum of light, sending two beams made of different OAM states across a canal in Venice. Casanova would have been delighted.

Radio spectrum policy groups should be delighted too. The two beams were in fact incoherent radio waves, with the same frequency, but with different OAM states. With the airwaves getting crowded, this could be the next big thing.

I endorse this radio message


The future is now

Or is it?

Blade Runner: Which predictions have come true?

Futurology and futurism are only a couple of centuries old. Why? Because that’s when the first uncomfortable socio-economic shift occurred. Agrarian to industrial doesn’t really sit comfortably with human nature.

Attempting to predict the future is risky business. As someone pointed out:

I think the most telling technology in Blade Runner is the telephone. The flying cars landed to use payphones, no sign of a mobile anywhere from memory.


Chris Busby, Crawley, UK

Hard power, soft power, computing power

US’s IBM supercomputer overtakes Japan’s Fujitsu as world’s fastest

In 1800 B.C., Babylonians were carrying out siege computations on clay tablets, working out the number of bricks needed for siege ramps. World War II saw the birth of operational research.

Knowledge gives strength to the arm. Information is power. We’ve heard it all. In strategic terms, computing power increases its owner’s decision space, i.e. the range of options that can be chosen, by decreasing the time it takes to calculate the effects of each option.


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