There exist a bunch of fundamental physical constants that define (or at least describe) important characteristics of our universe. Traditionally these are dimensionless numbers, which means they have no units like kph or grams, although they often describe relationships between dimensioned constants.
Alpha (also know as the fine structure constant), for example, describes the strength of the attraction between the electron and proton. It combines the speed of light, the elementary charge, Planck’s constant and something called the ‘permittivity of free space’ to arrive at its value. The value itself is approximately 1/137.
I think these constants are extremely sexy.
If these constants were different, the universe could be a very different place. Your trousers might fall apart or maybe the universe would have blinked out of existence shortly after (or even before) the big bang.
Scientists have often wondered if these constants are, in fact, constant. Maybe they were different in the past. It has however been difficult to measure what these constants were in the distant past.
The article I link to on ArsTechnica describes a new approach to measuring what a couple of these constants were in the past.
I've been thinking about whether I prefer title case or sentence case for titles on my blog. I find the decision difficult.
A pizza triggers a memory of a song I then had to hunt down on YouTube.
Armed with more knowledge about how it works I've recently revised the way I use schema on this blog. In this article I explain how I reflect both the physical and logical structure of my website via schema.
I've recently got a grip of how to use schema IDs and I thought I'd write a quick blog about it in case anyone else is struggling with them.
As most of the TV channels had decided not to bother marking Easter Sunday with any special programmes I watched a film called Serpent, which I'd recorded from Sky about a week ago. This was something I soon regretted.
I've created what I think are a reasonable set of rules to create difficult to crack passwords.
The Freshies released one of my favourite songs of all time and I decided to have a Sunday ramble about them in this article.
It's astonishing that we now have a picture of a black hole. It's a triumph of science and technology but I think what it represents is even more significant.
The UK government has written a white paper that suggests how it plans to go about regulating internet companies to prevent 'online harm'. I summarise the white paper in this article.
I love the Stieg Larsson 'Millennium' books. Following Larsson's death, David Lagercrantz took over the storytelling and 'The Girl in the Spider's Web' is the first Millennium book of his to be made into a film. I review that film in this article.
Via the article I link to on Gizmodo:
For the most part, the experiments showed that the cats were able to distinguish their own name, even when the name was said by a complete stranger. All cats were equally good at distinguishing their names from general nouns.
However, if you read the article you’ll see the study does come in for some criticism and it may not be as clear cut as the scientists who organised this study claim.
I can see some difficulties in interpreting a cat’s responses. Cats do not see themselves as in any way inferior to humans. Quite the opposite in fact — they rule most households they live in.
It’s perfectly feasible that a cat would recognise it’s name just fine but simply cannot be bothered to grace the idiot human with any sort of response. It's a case of "Hey, you’re wasting your breath. I'll call you if I want something."
After restarting weight-training about eight years ago (after a 20 year layoff) I've used three main bits of kit - the Ironmaster IM2000, the Powertec Workbench LeverGym and the Body-Solid Series 7 Smith Master System. In this article I compare those three bits of weight training kit.
Brexit seems to have been a monumental mess from the start and parliament has been singularly useless in finding a way forward. Anyway, these are my views on the situation.
The iPad is, I think, becoming a different device to the one that was originally released. As a result there are some features I'd like to see in iOS 13 (or, perhaps more realistically, in future releases of iOS).
I think the world went mad in 1989 but sometimes I read something that makes me wonder if it has breached the ‘crazy’ barrier and now resides in some category of lunacy that’s so extreme it doesn’t even have a word to describe it yet.
This particular section of the article I link to was what did it:
Mother-of-four Cecilia Leslie has built up a stash of about 500 nappies.
The full-time midwife is now a cloth nappy "influencer" with more than 22,000 Instagram followers.
A cloth nappy influencer? Really? I had to check to make sure it wasn’t April 1st.
Now I’ll forgive anyone who has a strange hobby and when she says:
"I paid £60 for a limited edition print that TotsBots brought out when Prince George was born. And I once paid £160 for a pair of limited edition Bumgenius nappies - there were only 100 made."
It makes me cringe but, well, each to their own.
It’s the fact that we have ‘influencers’ that astonishes me; that 22,000 people are ‘influenced’ to purchase something ludicrously expensive just for a baby to crap into.
When she says:
… she's chatted to her husband about how he feels about her nappy habit. "He agreed the money could be better spent … “
I can’t help but sympathise with the guy.
If you measure something and then I measure what you measured, we could disagree about the measurement yet both be correct.
Eugene Wigner proposed this in 1961 as part of a thought experiment called Wigner’s Friend and it has now been proven to be true.
So does this mean you could be eating a bag of cheese and onion crisps yet I could 'measure' that you're eating a bag of smokey bacon crisps and we'd both be correct? Well, not really. This all takes place at the quantum level and your choice of crisp flavours remains safely agreeable.
Mind-bending stuff though.
Nothing in Apple's March 2019 announcement excited or inspired me. I'll remain open-minded but, as it stands, I can't see me signing up for any of Apple's new subscription services.
Having enjoyed watching Equalizer 1 a few years ago, I watched the sequel, Equalizer 2, during the weekend just gone. I present my review of that film here for what it's worth.
Wired reports on how reCAPTCHA tests — which aim to determine whether a website visitor is human or a bot — can be fooled by AI.
But the question I ask is why do we have to see these things in the first place?
I hate having to decipher some barely legible text to prove I’m human, and I positively despise those tests that ask me to highlight any buses or crosswalks in a set of small, unclear images, often numerous times.
In all likelihood I’ll just give up with the website. Few websites are worth the bother.
I know I’m human and if a computer doesn’t believe me then that’s its problem. If it needs to do any checks, they should be invisible to me and not involve me fighting with crappy text or images.
Don’t bother me with “there’s no other way”, find one. The visitor’s experience should be untarnished. I don’t care if bots are visiting your site, that’s your problem. Please don’t make it mine.
'Mandy' is a 2018 psychedelic horror film that was generally praised by critics and the public. I review that film here after watching it the other day and I have to say I largely disagree with the praise it has received.
I'm having a bit of a rant about a phrase I see organisations use all too often, a phrase I sometimes think is not being used honestly.
Panic's announcement that Coda will be replaced with entirely new software is enticing and interesting, although I also find some bits of the announcement worrying.
‘Pi day’ is when we celebrate the number pi. Streamers are hung from ceilings and we wear party hats to honour the most famous of irrational numbers. It’s on the 14th of March because of the odd way Americans write dates: 3.14.
As part of their celebrations, Google announced that one of its employees with rather too much time on her hands has set a record for calculating pi digits. She calculated it to 31,415,926,535,897 digits, which is a lot.
It would be easy to mock and ask why she bothered but I have a grudging respect for things that are done purely for the sake of interest or challenge, but are otherwise pointless. So well done to Emma Haruka Iwao.
If you’re interested — and really you should be — NASA has previously posted 18 ways in which it uses pi.
And if your geekdom knows no bounds you might want to read about how ancient geometers went about squaring the circle.
All hail pi.
I couldn't find anything I wanted to watch on telly yesterday evening so I downloaded 'Hunter Killer' from Apple and watched that. This is my brief review of that film.
Y2K went off without too much trouble despite the predictions of many doom-mongers. Legacy GPS systems face a similar situation on 6 April 2019 when their internal week number will roll over back to zero. So are we all doomed?
Mark Zuckerberg says:
I believe we should be working towards a world where people can speak privately and live freely knowing that their information will only be seen by who they want to see it and won’t all stick around forever.
If we can help move the world in this direction, I will be proud of the difference we’ve made.
Hmm, forgive my disbelief from a man whose reputation in areas of privacy is, frankly, terrible and has recently even exploited two-factor authorisation security as means to invade users’ privacy via their phone number.
It’s a bit like hearing Hannibal Lector plead he’s strictly a salad man these days.
As a content creator you’d have to be window-licking mad to sign up to Facebook’s planned fan subscription model.
Amongst the truck-load of things wrong with it, you give Facecbook:
Non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use [creators’ content]
This license survives even if you stop using Fan Subscriptions.
Which essentially says Facebook has control of your content now and forever more.
On top of which they can take up to 30% of creators’ royalties.
Facebook is trying to compete with Patreon (which, incidentally, only takes 5% of your royalties) and Patreon do indeed have similar terms to the ones Facebook propose. There are differences, though. Patreon is a dedicated platform for this sort of stuff. Facebook isn’t and it has a poor reputation when it comes to data, content and the treatment of creators, as recent scandals have demonstrated.
I really hate flat-pack furniture. I'm terrible at putting it together because I'm a clumsy oaf. I would not, however, deprive anyone who likes this sort of junk but I'd certainly like a change to he way flat-pack items are advertised.
Having failed in my first attempt to replace my Omega with a new watch, I went back to the drawing board and started researching watches again. This time I ended up with the Suunto Core All-Black, which I'm quite happy with. It has one or two minor faults, though, which I describe in this review.