Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Blogging: Mission Accomplished

I have now been posting on average just over once a day for seven months. It has helped me to recover from some difficult medical times. Now I am going to carry on with life some more so blogging will be light.

Stats on posts are:

September (34)


Top Emerging Tech 1/10: Fuel-cell vehicles

Zero-emission cars that run on hydrogen

Fuel-cell vehicles have long promised several major advantages over those powered by electricity or hydrocarbons. The technology has only now begun to reach the stage where automotive companies are planning launches for consumers, however. Initial prices are likely to be in the range of $70,000 but should come down significantly as volumes increase within the next couple of years.

Unlike batteries, which must be charged from an external source and can take from five to 12 hours depending on the car and charger, fuel cells generate electricity directly, using hydrogen or natural gas. In practice, fuel cells and batteries are combined, with the fuel cell generating electricity and the batteries storing it until demanded by the motors that drive the vehicle. Fuel-cell vehicles are therefore hybrids and will likely also deploy regenerative braking, which recovers energy from waste heat, a key capability for maximizing efficiency and range.

Unlike battery-powered electric vehicles, fuel-cell powered ones have a long cruising range—up to 650 kilometers per tank (the fuel is usually compressed hydrogen gas); a hydrogen fuel refill only takes about three minutes. Hydrogen is clean-burning, producing only water vapor as waste, so fuel-cell vehicles using hydrogen will be zero-emission, an important factor given the need to reduce air pollution.

There are a number of ways to produce hydrogen without generating carbon emissions. Most obviously, renewable sources of electricity from wind and solar sources can be used to electrolyze water—although the overall energy efficiency of this process is likely to be quite low. Hydrogen can also be split from water in high-temperature nuclear reactors or generated from fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas, with the resulting carbon dioxide captured and sequestered rather than released into the atmosphere.

As well as the production of cheap hydrogen on a large scale, a significant challenge is the lack of a hydrogen distribution infrastructure that would be needed to parallel and eventually replace gas and diesel filling stations. Long-distance transport of hydrogen, even in a compressed state, is not considered economically feasible today. Innovative hydrogen storage techniques, such as organic liquid carriers that do not require high-pressure storage, however, will soon lower the cost of long-distance transport and ease the risks associated with gas storage and inadvertent release.

Mass-market fuel-cell vehicles are an attractive prospect because they will offer the range and fueling convenience of today’s diesel and gas-powered vehicles while providing the benefits of sustainability in personal transportation. Achieving these benefits will, however, require the reliable and economical production of hydrogen from entirely low-carbon sources as well as its distribution to a growing fleet of vehicles, expected to number in the many millions within a decade.

Note - Well not a surprise winner and not a new idea. The difference is we are close to seeing mass market fuel cell vehicles and that will change everything.

Source: Scientific American

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Does the moon change because a mouse looks at it?

The answer laid out by Professor John D Norton of Pittsburgh University (more here):

Does the moon change because a mouse looks at it?



This "yes" depends upon quantum mechanics, in whose founding Einstein played a major role. It is our best theory of matter and is usually applied to deal with matter in the very small, that is, little particles like electrons. It tells us that matter in the very small has properties quite unlike the ones we are used to with ordinary objects.

We are used to the idea that ordinary objects are either particles orwaves. It turns out that in the small, particles are both particles and waves. They have a dual character that is quite preplexing when you first learn of it and, as far as I can tell, that perplexity never really goes away, even if you know a lot about them.

Take electrons, for example. They are familiar to us from old-fashioned television tubes. The electrons are fired from a glowing element at the back of the tube. They are formed into a beam by deflecting magnetic fields.

When the electron is in flight in the beam, it behaves just like a wave. It spreads out in space, has a wavelength and frequency and can produce all sorts of wavelike phenomena, like interference patterns. These are just like the rippled patterns that water waves make on the surface of a pond when pebbles are dropped in. We can only get them because the waves are spread out in space.
TV2When these electrons strike the screen of the TV tube, they behave very differently. According to the standard text book accounts of quantum mechanics, they instantly cease to be wave. They collapse to a point, so they are now behaving like a particle. We see that localization through the emitting of a brief flash of light from just one point on the screen. (Many of those flashes combine to make the images we watch.)

So sometimes an electron behaves like a wave; and sometimes like a particle. So what? The odd part is what decides whether the electron behaves like a wave or a particle. In the standard text book treatments, we decide by the act of observing the electron. An electron left to itself behaves like a wave. The moment we observe it--for example by having it smash into the screen of a TV tube so that we can see where it is from the flash of light produced--then it behaves like a particle.

That means that the second picture is incomplete. The electron will only cede its wavelike character if there is someone there observing it. Only then does it collapse.

TV Einstein looking left

That is the odd part. Standard, text book quantum mechanics tells us that the act of our observing the electron has caused it to collapse to a point. This astonishing idea troubled Einstein very greatly and he could never accept it. What difference does it make to the electron if we observe it or not?

What Einstein also saw was that the difficulty could not be confined to minute objects like electrons. If individual particles have this dual wave-particle, then so do collections of particles. Our observing of them will also cause them to collapse. Big objects like steam locomotives, moons and planets are just many, many particles all in one place. They will also have a slight wave character, too small for us to notice, but there nonetheless. And when we observe them, they will collapse!

Einstein lookingmoon ... moon blurr ... moon blurr ... moon blurr ...

... Einstein lookingmoon sharp...


His collaborator and biographer Abraham Pais reports

"...during one walk, Einstein suddenly stopped, turned to me, and asked whether I really believed that the moon exists only when I look at it."

Abraham Pais, Subtle is the Lord. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982. p.5.

The famous physicist (and inventor of the name "black hole") John Wheeler also reported of Einstein

"...No one can forget how he expressed his discomfort about the role of the observer, 'When a mouse observes, does that change the state of the universe?' "

John A.Wheeler, "Memoir", pp. 21-22 in A. P. French, Einstein: A Centenary Volume. Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1979, on p. 22.

The question above is a combination of these two remarks and the answer of yes is just standard text book physics.



Monday, 28 September 2015

Fact of the day: UN General Assembly

It is meeting today at the UN headquarters in New York. Over 150 world leaders are attending. A new record and a security nightmare.

The United Nations General Assembly is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations and the only one in which all member nations have equal representation. Its powers are to oversee the budget of the United Nations, appoint the non-permanent members to the Security Council, receive reports from other parts of the United Nations and make recommendations in the form of General Assembly Resolutions. It has also established a wide number of subsidiary organs.

Today both President Obama and President Putina addressed the Assembly and both spoke of Syria. They have different agendas but finally it looks like everyone will concede the general slaughter should stop, Assad might have to hang around for a little while before being retired, ISIS must be dealt with and if all the institutions of Syria are destroyed the vacuum will not be filled with nice happy people. A further tricky bit will be agreeing on which oil pipeline goes where. The US, Europe, Russia and others all have differing ideas.

The UN Assembly summary - At present an expensive and only very occasionally useful talking shop. The best option given the lack of any other.


Sunday, 27 September 2015

How to Watch Sunday's Rare Supermoon Lunar Eclipse in the UK

The details courtesy of Wales Online:

How to Watch Sunday's Rare Supermoon Lunar Eclipse in the UK

Lucky star-gazers across the UK will be able to see the supermoon lunar eclipse on Sunday night, a phenomenon that was last seen in Britain more than 30 years ago.

The supermoon lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes through Earth's shadow, which creates the illusion that it's turned a fiery red as light from the sun bends around the Earth. It also means that within the space of a few hours the moon will be at its darkest, then at its brightest and a whole 14 percent bigger, which is bound to look pretty spectacular.

It'll be the first eclipse of its kind since 1982 and Nasa has revealed that we'll have to wait until 2033 to spot another one - time to make the most of it now. The eclipse will last five hours and 11 minutes and start at 1.11am early Monday morning for those of us who live in the UK. But it'll start getting really good at about 3.47am. If you live in Wales there's a big chance you'll be able to view it, but those in England may not be so lucky.

[Via Wales Online] [Image Via Carl]

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Public Sector numbers at record low

Statistic of the week

Britain’s public sector workforce has fallen by 960,000 since 2010, while the private sector has created 2.7 million jobs. The number of people employed by the civil service has fallen to 398,000 – down by almost 140,000 in ten years, and the lowest figure since 1939.

Office for National Statistics/The Times


Friday, 25 September 2015

Great video of Cape Town

Having seen this I would love to go. It all looks amazing.

View on YouTube

Polling on Corbyn

Worst start ever. It's going to be tough for Corbyn and co. I think there is a general malaise about politics and the general state of things but Corbyn is going to find it hard to be "the answer" outside of his core support.


How to make money from Facebook

Certainly saves time at the very least.


Thursday, 24 September 2015

GoPro Drones for 2016

TechCrunch got the news at their disrupt event.

"GoPro founder and CEO Nick Woodman confirmed that a GoPro drone was on its way in an interview with our own Matt Burns at Disrupt SF. “Development is on track for the first half of 2016. We have some differentiations that are right in the GoPro alley,” he said.

Other than that, Woodman didn’t give any hint about what this drone will do. But it’s clear that a GoPro drone makes a lot of sense given the company’s camera expertise.

For example, GoPro recently released the tiny Hero4 Session. “The Session doesn’t look like a GoPro that we’re used to. We tried to make the smallest, lightest, most convenient GoPro we could ever imagine. It’s waterproof out of the box,” Woodman said.

When it comes to sales, Woodman said that sales are going well but could be even better if the other GoPros weren’t so durable. The Hero4 Silver and the Hero4 Black are still selling well.

As this camera is perfect for a drone given how tiny it is, the conversation naturally shifted toward drone projects. “A drone opens up a perspective for our world that we’ve never seen before,” Woodman said. “I think it’s awe-inspiring to see yourself in the world in that way.”"

The rest of the article is here.


Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Volkswagen - The People's Polluter

In the USA alone a potential $18 billion dollar fine: based on the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) saying that the fine for each vehicle that did not comply with federal clean air rules would be up to $37,500 (£24,000). With 482,000 cars sold since 2008 involved in the allegations, it means the fines could reach $18bn.

Now the EU and no doubt virtually every country on earth are looking into it too. In addition in the USA they are likely to prosecute some bosses. Plus I can imagine dozens of class action cases firing up. Its stock market valuation was around $75 billion. If the whole world goes for it, it could be curtains.

Even the best scenario, like no other country being affected will cost them a fortune, tarnish their name, finish them in the USA etc etc.

Their VW in USA boss has his contract up for renewal on Friday. Good luck to him.

Apart from the sheer scale and audacity of it the thing that gets strikes me is that it could help finish diesel and finally push the EU into better car tests.


Top Emerging Tech 2/10: Next-generation robotics

Rolling away from the production line

The popular imagination has long foreseen a world where robots take over all manner of everyday tasks. This robotic future has stubbornly refused to materialize, however, with robots still limited to factory assembly lines and other controlled tasks. Although heavily used (in the automotive industry, for instance), these robots are large and dangerous to human co-workers; they have to be separated by safety cages.

Advances in robotics technology are making human–machine collaboration an everyday reality. Better and cheaper sensors make a robot more able to "understand" and respond to its environment. Robot bodies are becoming more adaptive and flexible, with designers taking inspiration from the extraordinary flexibility and dexterity of complex biological structures, such as the human hand. And robots are becoming more connected, benefiting from the cloud-computing revolution by being able to access instructions and information remotely, rather than having to be programmed as a fully autonomous unit.

The new age of robotics takes these machines away from the big manufacturing assembly lines and into a wide variety of tasks. Using GPS technology, just like smartphones, robots are beginning to be used in precision agriculture for weed control and harvesting. In Japan robots are being tried in nursing roles. They help patients out of bed, for instance, and support stroke victims in regaining control of their limbs. Smaller and more dextrous robots, such as Dexter Bot, Baxter and LBR iiwa, are designed to be easily programmable and to handle manufacturing tasks that are laborious or uncomfortable for human workers.

Indeed, robots are ideal for tasks that are too repetitive or dangerous for humans to undertake, and can work 24 hours a day at a lower cost than human workers. In reality, new-generation robotic machines are likely to collaborate with humans rather than replace them. Even considering advances in design and artificial intelligence, human involvement and oversight will remain essential.

There remains the risk that robots may displace humans from jobs, although previous waves of automation have tended to lead to higher productivity and growth, with benefits throughout the economy. Decades-old fears of networked robots running out of control may become more salient as next-generation robots are linked to the Web, but at the same time they will become more familiar as people employ domestic robots to do household chores. Undoubtedly, however, the next generation of robotics poses new questions about the human relationship with machines.

Notes - Scary!

Source: Scientific American


Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Is time travel possible?

The answer laid out by Professor John D Norton of Pittsburgh University (more here):

Is time travel possible?


The "yes" is intriguing, but there is a catch. The question did not ask if there really is time travel; it asked only if it is possible. Something can be possible without actually happening. It is possible for our earth to have two moons. In fact it has only one.

While we have no evidence that time travel actually occurs, all our latest work in theories of space and time tell us that it is entirely possible. Broadly speaking, there are two senses of time travel, both possible.

1. The first sense is the the H. G. Wells sense. This one is named after the author of the most famous story about time travel in which a voyager hops into a machine and travels about in time. Special relativity has room for something close. If we had things that traveled faster than light, then, for some observers, they would travel backwards in time. These faster than light objects are "tachyons." For some observers, they would leave today and arrive yesterday.
Of course how we could get ourselves to travel faster than light is an unsolved problem! We cannot accelerate through the speed of light. But is there some way to recreate ourselves traveling faster than light? If so, some observers would judge us to be traveling backwards in time. Time Machine page 1

"There was a young lady named Bright,Whose speed was far faster than light.She set out one dayIn a relative way,And returned home the previous night."--Arthur Henry Reginald Buller.

2. The second sense is more topological and has been called "Goedelian" (by John Earman) in honor of the great logician Kurt, Goedel, who was a friend of Einstein's and did pioneering work on spacetimes that admit time travel.

We can imagine space and time as forming a huge sheet of paper. the vertical line is the complete history through time of a person, experiencing the years ..., 1980, 1981, ... etc.

Time travel 1
Time travel 2What Einstein did in 1917 was to get us to wrap up the sheet of paper in the spatial direction so travel in the direction "left" is wrapped around to meet travel in the direction "right". That way we always end up where we started.
What Einstein's theory also allows is that travel into the future of time can be wrapped around to connect with the past, so that if we persist long enough in time we end up back at the present.
Time travel 3


This is not a type of time travel that we create with a machine. There's no device we can build that could somehow turn our spacetime into one that has this global structure. The best adviceto someone who wants to travel in time this way is that they should be sure to be born into the right universe! However there are special circumstances that might bring about the wrapping around of future into the past at least locally. It might happen near black holes generated by gravitational collapse. It also may happen if we get very dense, very rapidly rotating matter.


Sunday, 20 September 2015

Another day another Greek election

There they go again. Voting. Not sure how many will bother this time. The EU has told them their future and yet they continue to insist on "democracy"! The Greek economy was run disgracefully and the downfall has come. But the EU has messed up massively in trying to help and thereby save the Euro:-

"Voting has begun in Greece's general election, with opinion polls indicating a tight race between the left-wing incumbent Syriza party and the conservative New Democracy.

The snap election, Greece's fifth in six years, was called after Syriza lost its parliamentary majority in August.

Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras's popularity plummeted after he agreed a new bailout deal with European leaders.

The bailout involved austerity measures which Syriza had vowed to oppose.

Greece is mired in a deep financial crisis and whoever wins Sunday's election will have to oversee further tough economic reforms.

The BBC's Richard Galpin in Athens says whichever party wins is unlikely to get enough seats to form a government alone.

That could mean a period of political instability just as deadlines loom for the implementation of a series of key financial reforms, he adds."

For the rest of the article see here.


Thursday, 17 September 2015

Rugby World Cup 2015 starts tomorrow

The 2015 Rugby World Cup is scheduled to be the eighth Rugby World Cup, the quadrennial rugby union world championship. The tournament will be hosted by England from 18 September to 31 October. Twickenham Stadium in London will host the final.

The official website is here.

England v Fiji is the first match tomorrow evening at Twickenham. It should be a cracker.

Previous World Cup winners are New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and England.

The matches are spread over the country as shown below.

London London Cardiff Manchester London
Twickenham Wembley Stadium Millennium Stadium Manchester City Stadium Olympic Stadium
51°27′22″N0°20′30″W 51°33′21″N 0°16′47″W 51°28′40″N3°11′00″W 53°28′59″N 2°12′1″W 51°32′19″N0°00′59″W
Capacity: 81,605 Capacity: 90,000 Capacity: 74,154 Capacity: 55,097 (est.)[27] Capacity: 54,000
Twickehnam Pitch.jpg Wembley Stadium interior.jpg Inside the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.jpg City of Manchester Stadium East Stand.jpg London Olympic Stadium Interior - April 2012.jpg
Newcastle Birmingham
St. James' Park Villa Park
Capacity: 52,409 Capacity: 42,785
54°58′32″N1°37′18″W 52°30′33″N 1°53′5″W
St James' Park, 23 October 2012 (2).jpg Villa Park.jpg
Leeds Leicester
Elland Road Leicester City Stadium
53°46′40″N1°34′20″W 52°37′13″N 1°8′32″W
Capacity: 37,914 Capacity: 32,312
Elland Road, East Stand.jpg The Walkers Stadium, Leicester - - 143206.jpg
Gloucester Exeter Milton Keynes Brighton
Kingsholm Stadium Sandy Park Stadium mk Brighton Community Stadium
51°52′18″N2°14′34″W 50°42′33.51″N3°28′3.26″W 52°00′34″N00°44′00″W 50°51′42″N 0°4′59.80″W
Capacity: 16,500 Capacity: 12,300[28] Capacity: 30,717 Capacity: 30,750
Kingsholm in 2007.jpg Sandy Park 3 - geograph-376587.jpg Mk stadium upgraded.jpg AmexPanorama (cropped).jpg

Source: The Telegraph[29]