Thursday, 30 July 2009

Second Derivatives in The News

d2S/dt2 >0, S = number of swine flue cases, t = time.

The news broadcast didn't say that in so many words, but their circumlocution amounted to that.

I don't recall ever hearing a third or higher derivative in the news; we must listen carefully!

When I edited the html source to get the superscript 2's I noticed that Google seems unaware of the paragraph tags, using div and /div instead. I wonder why ?

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Looking on the Bright Side.

"Everything in the world is perfect, so there must be a God" said a visiting Mormon.

Had I been unkind I might have replied "Even your acne?", but I was feeling benevolent so I just told him to enjoy the sunshine.

Friday, 17 July 2009

My first form

I've now got a little further with CGI programming, and have got data entered into a form emailed back to me. This time I had to make a few changes to the code I copied from the website.

However, receiving emails containing my own statistics is gradually losing its excitment, so I should be grateful if some of my readers would go to the new visitors' page of my website and fill in the form.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

My first CGI program

It was remarkably easy. Admittedly I copied the program from a book, or rather cut and pasted it from the website accompanying the book, but still, it did work first time.

Any readers who have forgotten what computer, browser or operating system they are using should go here to be reminded.

They will also be reminded how much information may be divulged to any web site to which they connect.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Birmingham Science Museum

A fortight ago I led a visit to Birmingham Science Museum by members of the Leicester U3A Science and Technology Group. It has taken me a long time to write an account because I've been very busy gathering fruit, making jams and jellies, and struggling to control frames with javascript.

There were ten of us in the party; we met on the platform at Leicester Station and travelled together, obtaining a 30% discount for travelling by public transport.

Ever since my early childhood I’d often changed trains in Birmingham, and had sometimes wandered around the Pallisades shopping centre that engulfs New Street Station while waiting for a connection, but the first time I visited Birmingham to look round rather than to pass through was in 1994. Much of the centre had clearly been rebuilt in the course of the previous 30 years or so. On subsequent visits, made at intervals of three or four years, I’ve noticed the re-rebuilding of Birmingham as the 1960’s buildings have been demolished in their turn, and at each visit I come across bits that I suspect were not there last time. My Birmingham street map, published in 1993, now seems badly out of date.

One thing that seems to increase remorselessly is the cost of using the lavatory at New Street Station. Forewarned by one of our group, we all managed our eliminative functions well enough to avoid that expense.

On this visit, we walked through the Palisades shopping centre and out along a sort of plastic pedestrian tube that I’d never seen before.

I don’t recall ever being in the part of Birmingham where the museum is situated, though there are large areas where previous buildings have been demolished, so old landmarks will have disappeared. There seems to be no haste to rebuild. Sites have been cleared but are not fenced off; they are just grassed over. I was puzzled by the state of the grass. It was not long and unkempt, yet neither was there any sign that it had recently been mown. It looked well grazed, and I imagined the Birmingham City Council Shepherd watching his flocks by night.

The Museum shares a large building with Aston University and Matthew Boulton College. That made the topology complicated. To get from the Museum to the only open coffee bar, that was outside the museum but inside the main building and on the first floor, one had to get to either the second floor or the ground floor of the museum, go out, and then use stairs or lift to get the first floor. That was particularly irritating when two of us were on the first floor of the museum, could see the coffee bar through a window, but could reach it only by one the tortuous routes described.

The Museum is on five floors. The ground floor houses a large collection of machinery, and goods manufactured in Birmingham using such machinery. In the 18th Century the Lunar Society flourished in the Black Country. One of its members was Matthew Boulton who manufactured a wide variety of consumer goods, samples of which were on display.

The first floor was a viewing platform overlooking the larger of the exhibits on the ground floor.

Floors 2 and 3 displayed various exhibits primarily directed at children, but still not without interest to the elderly visitor. There were various devices that responded to visitor input, including simulated recycling machinery, and there were displays showing what happens to our food during its passage through the digestive tract right up to the final extrusion of the faecal bolus, though this was unfortunately not animated. Another static display illustrated the development of a foetus. Animation of the various stages would have been particularly illuminating in that case.

The fourth floor was devoted to transient exhibitions which on our visit were a small display about robotics, and a much larger one of models of dinosaurs, the highlight of which was a video of animations of dinosaurs, arranged so that if one stood in a particular region of the room ones image was imposed on the video.

Unfortunately I forgot to take my camera. My new mobile phone takes photographs, but I haven't yet found out how to get them out of the phone into my computer. Both phone and computer have several means of communication, but they don't seem to have any in common.

I find I enjoy looking at things much more enjoyable when accompanied by people with whom I can discuss them. Had I visited the museum on my own, I'd have been through it in an hour; at it was I spent nearly 4 hour there - including two long chatty breaks in the coffee bar. I seem to enjoy the trains of thought and conversations stimulated by looking at things much more than I enjoy the looking.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

A misplaced Quantifier

I winced this afternoon when I heard someone interviewed on Radio 4 say:

"There's something we can learn from every event"