Tag Archives: Miscellaneous

Well strung

The Deceived Wisdom: The classic Stradivarius violin has a unique sound that justifies the reverence with which these instruments are held and the million-pound price tags. That's as may be, but scientific analysis of Stradivarius violins reveals there was actually no secret sauce in the wood nor the varnish used by the luthier ClassicFM's Tim Lihoreau refers to as the Cremonese Creator. Indeed, repeated blind tests with expert listeners and virtuoso players has shown that they really cannot distinguish between the absolute top-quality modern instrument and a classic Strad. Read more [...]

Dark matter – Missing you already

It's a moot point that perhaps only one of Einstein's papers went through the modern scientific peer review process and I often wonder whether an email received from him today suggesting that he's overturned Newton's work with talk of warped space-time and wormholes wouldn't simply fail at the first or second step of my "Fraudulent Invention Debunkifier" flowchart mentioned around this time last year on the Pivot Points column.
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Robot soccer – an interview with Seán McLoone

The football game starts, and the players dash across the field. With control of the ball, the striker readies to shoot and the goalkeeper tenses in anticipation. With a swift kick, the ball glides across the pitch towards the goals. These players aren’t humans though. They are two-foot tall, autonomous humanoid robots, programmed by a team of engineers and computer scientists in the National University of Ireland Maynooth to compete in the annual world cup of robot soccer, RoboCup.  Euroscientist interviewed Seán McLoone, head of the Department of Electronic Engineering, about the team, and watched a game with team members Tom Whelan and Fiachra Matthews.
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Cloudy thinking on light therapy

The winter blues are commonplace (allegedly). Most of us in Northern climes have dull days when we'd like to float a little longer in the dreamy cloud of a warm duvet rather than tackle the cold, hard-edges of cloud computing and the day job. Limited exposure to sunlight and the feelings of lethargy it brings have even been medicalized in the form of Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD, a rather too convenient acronym, to my mind. However, there are studies that show that the so-called "winter blues" are actually more common in summer or moreover, that there is no seasonal pattern to misery and depression at all. That hasn't stopped a whole industry emerging from this "illness" selling light as a therapy.
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Looking forward to Christmas

In the West, it's relatively easy to get caught up in the euphoria of Christmas, isn't it? Regardless of one's beliefs in the origins of the Universe and humanity's place in it, countless millions of us succumb to the fake snow and the artificial sentimentality. The twinkling lights, the shops full cotton polymer resin reindeer, the children's (and adult toys), chocolate goodies, the interminable loops of festive songs on the radio, the TV shows you just know were recorded in July but have jolly tinsel and baubles nevertheless. Then there are the parties, the lunchtime "Christmas" drinks, Secret Santa, the bustling shopping centres, the ubiquitous sound of a Jingle Bells sample in every muzak track. Oh isn't it all so wonderful?
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The hour of the amateur scientist – FTL neutrinos part 2

So. There have been lots of responses to my last article on the faster than light neutrinos. Some readers have asked me to explain to them the consequences of the measurement being correct. Others have been interested to hear more about the changing landscape of digital publishing. While a rare few were quietly satisfied with the idea that the neutrino result was well off being a ‘discovery’, and that we would have to wait patiently for a few years to find out what it might all mean.
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Urban trees not just for show

Trees in London are not just for decoration - they are playing an essential role in filtering out pollution particulates from the air. Published this month in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning, this is the outcome of the BRIDGE ('Sustainable urban planning decision support accounting for urban metabolism') project, which has won over 3 million Euros under the Environment Theme of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
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Science of sounds

In his latest book, Harnessed, cognitive scientist Mark Changizi, reveals how and why language, speech and music exist, and why they are apparently uniquely human attributes that separate us, as a species, from the rest of life on Earth. A fact that also gives us special responsibility for the Earth, you might say. According to Changizi, the "lower" parts of the brain, the bits that recognise the sounds of nature, the scuffs, cracks and bangs, were hijacked by the "upper" parts of our brain and give us speech as we evolved from our ape-like hominid ancestors.
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