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June 2004
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August 2004

Black Holes


Scientific theory about black holes was turned inside out today, after Professor Stephen Hawking backtracked on a 30-year-old theory.

Professor Hawking, one of the world's leading scientists, has solved the riddle of how black holes not only suck matter in like a giant vacuum in space, but also release it.

For years scientists were baffled by the holes, which they believed were bottomless pits in space into which matter and energy would fall, vanishing forever.

But at the 17th international conference on general relativity and gravitation in Dublin, Professor Hawking revealed new calculations that proved the surface of a black hole had fluctuations allowing information to leak out.

In a 1974 study, the Cambridge professor found that black holes were not completely black, as they emitted energy, which became known as Hawking radiation.

This leaking of energy would shrink the black hole before it disappeared in a final explosion.

Scientists were puzzled for 30 years as to how a black hole can let energy escape - an information paradox. The basic problem was that black holes would suck in matter from space, but also quantum mechanical information.

According to the fundamental laws of physics, this information must be preserved as the universe evolves.

Professor Hawking, who suffers from motor neurone disease, today revealed new calculations that showed the surface of a black hole had quantum fluctuations in it.

These fluctuations allow information in the black hole to leak out. A consistent picture is formed and the paradox unravelled.

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Where VLEs can go wrong

via Seblogging:

From the article Cybernetics, e-learning and the education system by Oleg Liber from the Bolton Institute of Higher Education, UK.

... there is a mismatch between what people are doing on the internet, and what leading learning environments are providing. The internet empowers people by giving the possibility of control over content and organisation; many VLEs shift the locus of control further away from learners and teachers to institutional management... [Oleg Liber]
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Prince accused on science fears

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Prince accused on science fears

Nice to see someone else suggest that the Prince might be one or two ideas short of his self-adopted role as scaremonger to the people...

Fertility expert Lord Winston has accused Prince Charles of raising unfounded scientific "scares" over comments he made in a newspaper.

The Prince used an Independent on Sunday article to warn against the possible risks posed by nanotechnology.

Lord Winston told the BBC's Today programme it was "very unfortunate" the Prince had chosen to raise the spectre of a thalidomide-style disaster.

He added that "much more informed debate and dialogue" was needed.

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Mitch Hedberg

Mitch Hedberg Quotes

I fell upon these one-liners from Mitch Hedberg. We've not heard of him across in the UK - but obviously we should have done...

"I was at this casino minding my own business and this guy came up to me and said your gonna have to move you're blocking a fire exit. As if there were a fire, I wasn't gonna run. If you are flamable and have legs you are never blocking a fire exit..."


"I'm sick of following my dreams. I'm just going to ask them where they're going and hook up with them later."


"One time a guy handed me a picture of himself and he said. "Here's a picture of me when I was younger." Every picture of you is of when you were younger. Say, here's a picture of me when I'm older. How'd you pull that off? Let me see that camera."

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Teach more about British Empire

BBC Education

Ah yes. Back to more sport, more uniforms, more discipline...

I remember from my early school days that we were allocated to "Sets" called Nelson, Drake, Wellington, etc so clearly Independent schools weren't getting it all wrong...

Schools spend "insufficient time" teaching about the British Empire, education watchdog Ofsted has warned.
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Military Jams Wireless Doorlocks?

Daily Wireless

SlashDot mentions a Washington Post story about mysterious failure of keyless entry systems in cars around military towns.

Three years ago, thousands of drivers in Bremerton, Wash., were stumped on two occasions when their push-button remotes proved impotent when the Carl Vinson was in port. It happened in Las Vegas in February, prompting hundreds of calls to car dealerships and locksmiths. And in May, a two-way radio system being tested at Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle jammed remote control garage door openers in communities near the base.


Some SlashDot readers have a different theory; radar.

"...The SPS-48E radar, has such power because it is an Air Search radar. There are ranges at which we are required to turn off our radars in vicinity of land, but this is soley at the attentiveness of the watchstander, and we frequently got reports during Operation Iraqi Freedom thaty our 48E was jamming the airport radars in Kuwait, and we were requested to lower the power output.

...The interference is in the Military A-Band, which covers 233-403 Mhz. This is used for shipboard radars, as well as radar at airfields."

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Norwegians try out TV on mobiles

BBC Technology

Mobile users in Norway can now watch TV on their phones, courtesy of the public broadcaster NRK.

The service from the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation allows people to watch television on their mobiles 24 hours a day. Alongside the live streaming, people can pick more specialised content such as a news bulletin every hour and a Top Gear style motoring show.

NRK expects the content to become more tailored as the market picks up. For the moment it simply testing whether consumers will want and use TV on their phones. So far the feedback has been encouraging.

Mobile networks are getting faster and better and by next year 80% of handsets will have a media player.

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Oh dear... not again...

The Prince of Wales - that well known arbiter of matters scientific - has yet again ventured to express his views, only days after a leading scientist pointed out that the Prince speaks with no tangible authority whatsoever...

If Charles must use his constitutional authority to provide a platform for his personal views then the least he could do is to ensure that his views are more appropriately balanced in favour of evidence-based "hard science" rather than appearing to support all sorts of rather soggy pseudo-science.

I really don't feel comfortable with a prospective Head of State who lets his heart rule his head...

As Professor Baum so succinctly observes, the Prince's "power and authority rest on an accident of birth."

Perhaps we should all be allowed a say on the matter?

BBC News

The Prince of Wales has warned of the possible risks of nanotechnology and called for the cutting edge science to be used "wisely and appropriately".

BBC News

A leading cancer expert has criticised the Prince of Wales for embracing "unproven therapies".

Professor Michael Baum of University College London said Prince Charles had "overstepped the mark" by promoting some alternative treatments. His comments in the British Medical Journal come just weeks after the prince suggested a controversial diet had helped one woman to beat cancer.


In an open letter to the prince, he said: "You promote the Gerson diet whose only support comes from inductive logic - that is, anecdote."

Professor Baum said he supported the use of complementary treatments if there was evidence to show they worked. But he added: "I have no time at all for 'alternative' therapy that places itself above the laws of evidence." He urged the prince against promoting alternative treatments that have not been proven.

"The power of my authority comes with a knowledge built on 40 years of study and 25 years of active involvement in cancer," he said. "Your power and authority rest on an accident of birth."

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Crisis plan for tolls on all roads

Guardian Unlimited

The biggest shake-up in the history of British motoring is to be outlined in a government-funded study that proposes a national toll scheme to charge drivers up to 90p a kilometre (£1.45 a mile) for using the nation's roads.

The Observer has obtained a draft copy of the year-long investigation into the feasibility of road-user charging, which reveals that the revolutionary new scheme could slash congestion in half, saving Britain from a devastating transport crisis.

Compiled by motoring organisations, environmentalists, government officials, economists and transport experts, the study was ordered by Transport Secretary Alistair Darling last year in a clear signal that satellite charging could be the only way to tackle rising levels of traffic and delays.

The scheme, which would involve fitting Britain's 30 million cars with electronic chips linked to satellite and charging for every kilometre travelled, could raise more than £10 billion a year for the Treasury and boost the economy by another £12bn through better transport links.

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Page 42, The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci

The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci

All the problems of perspective are made clear by the five terms of mathematicians, which are:--the point, the line, the angle, the superficies and the solid. The point is unique of its kind. And the point has neither height, breadth, length, nor depth, whence it is to be regarded as indivisible and as having no dimensions in space. The line is of three kinds, straight, curved and sinuous and it has neither breadth, height, nor depth. Hence it is indivisible, excepting in its length, and its ends are two points. The angle is the junction of two lines in a point.
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