Thursday, 29 August 2013

Do Octopi Have Distributed Intelligence?

Two thirds of octopi neurons lie outside the head and instead in the tentacles. The theory is that the cognitive load away from the head allows for and is a product of eight highly flexible and intricate limbs.

But how much intelligence is delocalised away from the head?

A resent study investigated the behaviour of severed octopi limbs and found that these limbs remain responsive to perceived danger long after being severed and the octopus owner has been euthanised. I feel I must address the ethics of this study and say that the animals were used in other unrelated previous studies and would have been euthanised regardless.

"After the animals were euthanized, their arms were removed and kept in chilled seawater for up to an

hour until they were ready for experimentation. Some arms were suspended vertically, and others were laid out horizontally. When pinched, suspended arms recoiled from the unpleasant stimulus by shortening and curling in a corkscrew shape within one second. (After this, the arms slowly relaxed and returned to their previous length.) Tap water and acid applied to the arms evoked a similar response. Horizontal arms also moved away from the undesirable stimuli, many bending in a sort of contrived joint toward the top.

 The authors of this study believe this is due to the tentacles containing nociceptors, neurons that respond to danger. In humans and most other vertebrates these cells are controlled by the spinal column, and a severed limb will not respond to dangerous stimuli.

Some experts are saying this is evidence of 'distributed intelligence', a theory that some animals with a large proportion of neurons not located in their head have thought processes distributed throughout the body. This theory is not limited to invertebrates, and other conglomerations of neurons have been postulated as 'second brains'. This has been postulated to have occurred in some sauropod species (from fossil evidence) and even a collection of neurons in the human stomach has been called a 'second brain'.

I guess it's all still at the theory stage still, albeit with some great evidence. One thing is for sure though, there is an increasing grey area when dealing with grey matter.

Link to the research paper.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Book Review: 'More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops' by Jen Campbell

Jen Campbell, the poor lady who deals with the general public when they enter a bookshop, is back with more tales that will make you question the future of the human race.

Not all are encounters with morons, there are encounters with cool people, and funny encounters with children. And I think that some readers of her previous book are visiting her store and saying shit to get in her next book.

Here is a great example:

CUSTOMER (pulls her Kindle out of her bag): Look at it! I dropped it in the bath!
BOOKSELLER: If you did that with a book, you could just put it on the radiator and then flatten it out between two heavier books.
CUSTOMER (seriously): Do you think that would work for this, too?

This is another book full of chuckles for book nerds and cynics. It is a quick read, and there may not be much volume for your dollar, but still, laughter is pretty valuable. 


The Meanest/Coolest Practical Joke Ever

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Analytical Chemists to the Rescue: The Syria Chemical Weapon Attack

I do not know much on the Syrian conflict and I'm not really interested in who did what, but I would like to champion the work of analytical chemists. My peeps.

From New Scientist:

"In the past, weapons inspectors have used portable equipment to run gas chromatography and mass spectrometry on the samples, which can separate the samples into their physical components and analyse them.

If this team doesn't have that equipment in the field, they would have to freeze the biological samples and ship them to a lab certified by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

There's always the chance that samples will be smuggled out of Syria for analysis before the inspectors gain access. President Obama has instructed the US intelligence community to gather information about the recent attack. This may involve using covert agents to gather samples and smuggle them out of the country, as they have done in past conflicts.

Of course – the most conclusive evidence would be an analysis of the remains of the munition used to deliver the weapon. This could prove that it was a malicious attack, and what chemical was deployed."

Wow, undercover analytical chemists sneaking in gas chromatography-mass spectrometers (GC-MS). Well they are getting more and more portable as time goes on, but I'm guessing they take samples from the site to a nearby facility.

So for for the layman, chromatography = separation. So you heat things up to make a gas right? Different molecules will have different boiling points. If you heat a sample slowly and what gets turned into gas over that time period travels through a long thin tube you get a separation of whats in your sample. Put a detector on the end to tell you how much of that compound you have and you're onto a winner.

So a gas chromatograph will separate you sample and tell you how much of each part you have!

Strap all this onto the front of a mass spectrometer which helps identify structures of molecules and you have know what the molecule is!

GC-MS is a wonderful tool that kicks ass. It would be invaluable for identifying what chemical weapon was used even if it has started to degrade.

Anyway sarin is an extremely potent nerve agent and 500 times more toxic than cyanide. It was the nerve agent that the crazy Japanese cult released into a subway in the nineties.

Kevin Dart: Cartoonist and artist

Kevin Dart is cartoonist and artist, who is largely influenced by 60's illustrators like Saul Bass and Bob Peak. All his art has a very 60's feel with mid-century modern architecture and scantily-clad, boot-wearing woman abound. He worked on 'The Powderpuff Girls' for TV and over the last few years has developed short films based on his own characters. He also does a lot of advertising work.

Check out his tumblr:
You can buy some of his art in Australia from Outre Gallery

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Simon Stalenhag: 1970s Style Science Fiction Artwork

I came across these artworks the other day by Swedish artist Simon Stalenhag. Aren't they wonderful? They remind me of 'The Tripods', John Wyndham and 'Half-Life'.

Here is a link:
Simon Stalenhag

Prints and posters are available and looks like the website gets a local supplier to make and send to you. Low cost shipping! When I have some more cash I shall buy one.


Bilfärd över Björksättersfjärden   

 Tillbud Med Monohjul, Färingsö

Book Review: 'The Passage' by Justin Cronin

'The Passage' is a post-apocalyptic fiction where U.S. government-made vampires have wiped out most of humanity. Wait! I know that sounds shit. Haven't vampires been done to (un)death? They're actually more like zombie/vampires. This is not helping is it?

Anyway, despite the blurb and description, 'The Passsage' is a great novel. Plenty of post-apocalyptic coolness, a great mystery to keep you theorising and some interesting characters. It reminds me of 'The Family Trade' which I read a few weeks ago in that there is nothing new about the book, it's a reworking of several themes and story lines that have been done before. But it brings all these ideas together and tells a damn good story that pushes the genre forward and this can only be a positive.

This is a long novel and it took me a long time to read (physical books tend to lack attention in winter; I can curl up under the covers in the warm darkness and read an ebook). But a lot happened in the book. There was a great introduction to the event, then a journey.
Yes, it's a quest book.

'The Passage' has left me with some great sequences and imagery in my mind. Cronin can definitely bring post apocalyptic middle America to life. I enjoyed this greatly and look forward to starting the second book in the trilogy, 'The Twelve'.

Book Review: 'Because I Said So!' by Ken Jennings

Ken Jennings gets out his bullshit detector after telling his son that he shouldn't run and eat a lolly pop because a tragic accident would ensue. He realised he got this from his mother and wondered if there were any basis to other 'parentisms' such as chicken soup for a cold, don't eat cheese before bed because you'll have weird dreams, running with scissors and not swimming for an hour after eating.

Ken digs through medical journals, interviews experts and tirelessly researches each parentism to gauge the level of nonsense. But if you are worried that this would be dry, you always have Ken's humour to fall back on which is certainly up there in non-fiction humour with Mary Roach and Bill Bryson.

What is lacking compared to his other books is the geek charm. There are no long form interviews with weird people with weird obsessions. The short form of each section limits the charm factor.

While it's harder to love this book as much as his previous two ('Mapheads' and 'Brainiac'), it is still a funny and informative read that is top of my non-fiction reads for the year. So if you are a fan of Mary Roach, 'Mythbusters' or just a snarky 12 year old looking for material to come back at your parents with, get reading.

Abandoned Underwater Strip Club

From Huffington Post.

It's like something out of Grand Theft Auto. Marine biologist Gil Koplovitz took these pictures of an abandoned strip joint in Eilat, Israel. The place was a restaurant, then when it went under (geddit?) it was replaced by a strip club. Access was from a bridge to an above water section.  The place looks totally encrusted, and so does the exterior.

Ok, I'm done with the dad jokes.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Ten Rules for Success According to Adam Savage

From Boing Boing

Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame as well as a figurehead for all Makers, gave a closing talk to a Boing Boing event on the weekend where he offered his ten rules for success. Although they may not be new to most of us, and others may argue the validity of this advice, they speak volumes to the type of success that I would like to achieve.

1. Get good at something.
Really good. Get good at as many things as you can. Being good at one thing makes it easier to get good at other things.

2. Getting good at stuff takes practice.
Lots and lots of practice.

Everyone at the top of their field is obsessed with what they're doing.

4. Doing something well and thoroughly is its OWN reward.

5. Show and Tell.
If you do something well and you're happy with it, for FSM's sake, tell EVERYONE.

6. If you want something, ASK.
If something piques your interest, tell someone. If you want to learn something, ask someone, like your BOSS. As an employer, I can tell you, people who want to learn new skills are people I want to keep employed.

7. Have GOALS.
Make up goals. Set goals. Regularly assess where you are and where you want to be in terms of them. This is a kind of prayer that works, and works well. Allow for the fact that things will NEVER turn out like you think they will, and you must be prepared to end up miles from where you intended.

8. Be nice. To EVERYONE.
Life is way too short to be an asshole. If you are an asshole, apologize.

9. FAIL.
You will fail. It's one of our jobs in life. Keep failing. When you fail, admit it. When you don't, don't get cocky. 'Cause you're just about to fail again.

Work like your life depends on it...

I will print these up and put a copy above my desk.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

A Brief History of Physics

A wonderfully animated BBC produced video on physics. Yes that's Dara O'Briain.

Book Review: 'My Planet: Finding Humor in the Oddest Places' by Mary Roach

Thanks to Netgalley and Readers Digest for a reviewers copy in exchange for an honest review.

After an ambivalent start with her early books, I have grown to love Mary's later works such as 'Packing for Mars', 'Stiff' and 'Gulp'. Mary's long form writing addresses all those questions that we are all thinking yet do not ask such as "What the hell is a shit transplant?", "When you donate your body to science, what happens to it?" and "What happens if you vomit in a spacesuit helmet?". Her curiosity is a mix of the curiosity of an eight year old, mixed with the humour of a great comedian.

'My Planet' is a collection of Mary's column for Readers Digest. As opposed to her themed books, these essays centre upon her everyday life. While they are just as funny as her other works (possibly slightly more laugh out loud), you lose the science and just experience Mary and her husband Ed buying a bin and visiting Costco. Don't get me wrong, Mary is probably the best person in this world to share these activities with.

 While each story was fun and witty it isn't nearly as satisfying as her other works. But as what I call a "toilet read" it's a winner.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Book Review: 'Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and The People Who Play It' by David M. Ewalt

Thanks to Netgalley and Scribner for an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

David Ewalt is a D&D fan. And like a significant portion of D&D fans he played a lot as a youth, gave it up as a young adult and has recently come back to the game. Combine these facts with a career as an award-winning journalist and it's not surprising that the product is a warm look at the culture of D&D combined with an accurate and unbiased look back at it's history and development.

Growing up I think I missed out on the initial D&D craze by 5 years, and by a continent. I'm curious and I have been looking at playing D&D when I have more time. Possibly when the new edition comes out. So I guess I am part of the ideal 'D&D virgin yet curious' audience.

I feel like I should contrast this book with another I read last year, Mark Barrowcliffe's 'The Elfish Gene'. This book was more of a personal memoir, with the attitude being that the author wasted his youth playing D&D and is a bitter about it. It did not portray the game in a positive light at all. Although there was a few chuckles and some connections with growing up a geek, it left a bitter taste in my mouth and did not inform me on why I should consider playing the game.

David Ewalt's book is less memoir, more journalism, with an enthusiastic pro-D&D message that is not fanatical. The most interesting parts were looking at the development of the game, the personalities of the developers and the dismal history of the companies formed around it. This information seems balanced and based upon a lot of interviews and documentation.

So, if you're like me, curious about D&D and would like a balanced view on it's history and how it is played this book is highly recommended.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Dear Steven Moffat

Dear Steven Moffat,

No, this isn't going to be one of those letters about how you are the Antichrist and you are ruining Doctor Who. Because on both counts you are not. Instead this is a letter about how I am ruining Doctor Who.

The measure of how big a fan you are seems to be how many spoilers you know. If that is true I want to be a lesser fan. I'm all spoilt out. Here you are trying to create a stories full of mystery and intrigue and your biggest fans are discussing possibilities to the nth degree, exposing spoilers and generally removing any air of mystery that you have built.
I want out of the endless cycle of speculation, blurry on location photographs and talk about leaked BBC documents. It's driving me crazy and making the show less fun. My constant obsession with checking the Doctor Who news sites is giving me a little daily thrill at the expense of actually enjoying the show I love.

I know who the John Hurt Doctor is, I know some locations for the 50th Anniversary episode. I know what recurring characters we are likely to see. I can make a good prediction as to what the story will be about. But the thing is that if the story is different I may be disappointed because I felt I have missed out on something. If the story is the same as what I predicted I feel disappointed that there was no surprises. It's a lose/lose situation.

All this happens while you are expending a huge amount of resources to keep secrets in the aim that we fans have something to amaze and shock us.

I need to stop this bad cycle and not visit these websites.I've deleted the links. I can do this. We can all do this. We need to embrace the mystery of Doctor Who again.

Book Review: 'Haunted and Mysterious Australia' by Tim the Yowie Man

What does a travel book written by Tim the Yowie Man, the Steve Irwin of Bunyips and Things That Go Bump in the Night, offer a complete sceptic like myself you may ask?

Well the book is not that crazy, and it doesn't take itself seriously. I see it as a travel guide to Australia that shows quirky places with weird tales. I really don't want to climb the harbour bridge or hug a koala. Cliche. I want to see the supposed Egyptian hieroglyphs on the mid NSW coast and see if I can witness the Min Min lights in the outback.

The book does not get too heavy on the believer side. It tells the tale of each locale and leaves the evidence open. Plus there are locations here without spooky tales; they're just great and weird places to go.

Since reading this book I have visited several places featured, including:
  • Picton "The most haunted town in Australia". Nothing to report. Old train tunnel. People around me "seeing lights" in there. Overactive imaginations and suggestibility in combination with sensory deprivation.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive - definitely a great atmosphere with all the stone. It used to be a medical school and the theory is that with so much cold stone and cadavers it surely must be haunted. Great place to visit despite this.
  • Monte Christo, "Australia's most haunted house". A bit gimmicky. Owners have restored the old house, but instead of removing the rendered outside, have decided to paint bricks onto the house.

In summary, a great alternative travel guide for Australians or visitors who don't want to visit the boring and predictable tourist spots.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Addicted to Geoguessr

GeoGuessr is a brilliantly addictive game created by Anton Wallen where the object is to guess where the hell you are. So the main image (left hand side) is a Street View from Google Maps with no info on location. You can move along the road, zoom in and out and see the cardinal direction. On the right is a map of the planet where you must place a marker for where you thing the Street View is from. You can zoom in on this map also if you need greater accuracy. There are 5 rounds to each game and points are awarded for accuracy, or how far away your guess was to the actual location.

I have discovered two ways you can play this. The first is what I guess is the way it was intended to play and to actually look at the surroundings and take a guess. The second way, the 'cheat' way is to move along the road until you see something that may identify the location, such as a sign and google the information. This way is much more time consuming, especially if you are plonked in the middle of nowhere and there are no signs for kilometres. But the eventual tracking down of the exact location, the very high score and the aim to get a 0 m distance is a real buzz.

So fellow geeks, put aside a few hours, follow the link: Geoguessr

Maybe post your high scores in the comments, both cheating and non-cheating scores.

Book Review: 'Brainiac' by Ken Jennings

Ken Jennings stamped himself onto my psyche with 'Maphead', a book about geography and geo geeks, which I read last year. I adored this book for many reasons and I connected with Ken's sentiments about learning, obsession and being a nerd. I've now gone back to a previous book of his, 'Brainiac' which deals with the history and obsession of trivia and the events that made Ken a household name in the U.S.

For those of you not from the U.S. or who like 'Jeopardy!', Ken shot to fame by being a carry over champion on the game show a record 74 times. But that is not like being a champion on 'Wheel of Fortune', this is 'Jeapordy!', an intense and highly difficult quiz show where you answer with a question.

So you may be thinking "Why the hell would I want to read a book about this guy bragging about his conquest?". I can assure you that this is not what this book is about and Ken wouldn't do that type of thing anyway.

Ken does take us through his tale of 'Jeapordy!', but it is interspersed with his lifelong relationship with trivia and mainly the worldwide history of trivia. Like 'Maphead', Ken finds all different types of trivia nerds and connects with them and tells their stories also. We meet a U.S. town that goes trivia crazy once every year for 70 or so hours non-stop. We also meet a trivia writer fallen on hard times after a bad court case with the makers of the 'Trivial Pursuits' games.

What also makes Ken's books great is his voice. He is funny and self-deprecating, while being knowledgeable and insightful. He is everything I and every other geek aspires to be like.  I still can't believe he is a Mormon. He doesn't seem to have that glazed-over, I-married-my-cousin-at-the-age-of-nineteen-just-so-I-could-have-sex, we-all-float-down-here thing going on. And I totally agree with Ken when he says:
"It was nice to have someone on TV for a few months who was openly religious and yet wasn't (hopefully) the usual stereotypical mouth-breather or nut job."

You said it Ken. It is encouraging to find a religious voice that seems to be part of this reality and I can connect with.

And I want to quote Ken once more. Here a summary on geek:

"After all, we're currently living in a Bizarro society where teenagers are technology-obsessed, where the biggest sellers in every bookstores are fantasy novels about a boy wizard, and the blockbuster hit movies are all full of hobbits and elves or 1960s spandex superheroes. You don't have to go to a Star Trek convention to find geeks anymore. Today, almost everyone is an obsessive, well-informed aficionado of something. Pick your cult: there are food geeks and fashion geeks and Desperate Housewives geeks and David Mamet geeks and fantasy sports geeks. The list is endless. And since everyone today is some kind of trivia geek or other, there's not even a stigma anymore. Trivia is mainstream. "Nerd" is the new "cool.”"

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Book Review: 'The Family Trade' by Charles Stross

'The Family Trade' is the first part of a six part series written by Stross nearly ten years ago. They have been republished in 3 volumes this year, with each volume containing two books. This is the first Stross I have read even though I know it is not his most popular work. But the concept attracted me.

Miriam Beckstein, a technology journalist, stumbles into intrigue when she is fired from her job and discovers that she can travel to a mirror universe where she seems to have heritage. As a baby she was found alongside a murdered woman who was never identified. Seems a bit cliche and contrived right?

Correct. But it is a wonderful ride. Sure you can see some plot points coming from 100 pages away, and the main character seems a little too well-equipped for the situation she finds herself in. I really didn't care too much about this because it was clever and fun.

I think an analogy to the 'Harry Potter' books is apt. The 'Potter' books did not offer any new insights into the fantasy genre. Everything in those books had been done before. But they told a fun story, with lots of detail, and explored plenty of ideas. This book was the same idea. Definitely not of the same quality of the 'Potter' books, but a great read anyway.

The storyline seems like it could easily have been a 90s/2000s US TV show that had a cult following but only lasted one season. Something pitched as 'Sliders meets The Godfather'. It has an air of cheesiness to it, but all the ideas and adventure make it so much fun.

I have been careful not to spoil too much of the storyline, and I'm reluctant to say any more. The details that I revealed above happen in the first 30 pages and are probably less that what you'll get reading the blurb on the cover or above on the goodreads page. It is one of those books where you need to stay away from spoilers as you do read it to find out what is happening and what can happen next. So my recommendation is steer clear of blurbs on this one. I'm continuing on with the series and I'll not be reading any blurbs or reviews just in case.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Doctor Who Exhibition: ABC Ultimo Atrium, Sydney, Australia

From the ABC

The ABC and BBC Worldwide ANZ join forces to celebrate 50 Years of Doctor Who with a special Commemorative Exhibition to be held at the ABC Ultimo Centre, Sydney. This exhibition event is open to the public from 15 August until 31 January 2014.
Come along and see original props from the show's 50 year history including William Hartnell's cane, a Tom Baker scarf, monster costumes and of course the iconic Dalek and TARDIS and much more. Exhibition open Mon-Fri 9am – 5pm and selected weekends, see below for details.
Details: Exhibition: Doctor Who Celebrating 50 Years of Adventures in Space and Time
Duration: Thursday 15th August – Friday 31st January 2014
ABC Ultimo Centre Atrium
700 Harris Street, Ultimo, Sydney NSW

Open Days/Times: Weekdays (Mon to Fri – 9am to 5pm)
NB: Exhibition unavailable from Monday 2nd September – Sunday 8th September due to election coverage

Selected Weekends (Sat & Sun – 10am to 5pm)
Saturday 17th & Sunday 18th August
Saturday 31st August & Sunday 1st September
Saturday 5th & Sunday 6th October
Saturday 2nd & Sunday 3rd November
Saturday 23rd & Sunday 24th November
Saturday 25th, Sunday 26th & Monday 27th January (Aust Day public holiday)

Free to the public. Open to all ages.

How exciting! I know I'll be dropping in one weekend to check it out.

Superpowers schmuperpowers!

Yesterday, yet again I found myself explaining to a fellow geek why I enforce a non-superhero existence upon myself. And it all boils down to both a suspension of disbelief and a lack of quality storytelling.

On some level I do find it ironic that an overly muscled human flying around in spandex is ridiculous, yet a crazy man who changes faces and has a time machine that looks like a phone box is totally fine in my mind. I guess we all have differences on when we can suspend disbelief, and the quality of a story influences this ability.

I reached a point a few years ago, probably coinciding with the movie releases 'Spiderman 2' and the second 'X-Men' where I found myself not really impressed with the first in each series and sitting down to watch the second and thinking "What the hell am I wasting my time for?". I have tried more movies than this (Hellboy, Batman series, etc), so I do not feel I have not seen a fair enough selection to make this call. The comic book industry hasn't rectified the problem also. I am a fan of the medium when it is done right, but here I am avoiding anything with a cover depicting spandex or muscles.

And what is a 'superpower' but a thinly-veiled, conveniently lazy attribute to bestow upon a character as motivation. Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider and that is why he has these wrist glands. Superman is an alien child who got dumped on earth and his home planet had a much stronger gravitational field so that is why he can fly on Earth. I just cannot suspend my disbelief.

In the interest of time and quality I made the decision that it is far more worthwhile to just say no to all superhero stories than to trudge through the piles of shit to find that one hidden gem. Finding a good story should not take that much effort.

"But you gotta try X. It is really smart and different".
"But the new movie is a reboot that retells the origin story in an intelligent way. It's like a metaphor or something."
"Oh it's just good mindless fun."

I've heard it all before. Life's too short to waste my time with 'superpowers'.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Book Review: 'Quiet' by Susan Cain

I am introvert, hear me curl up and read a book!

This book is a great big "Fuck You!" to society and it's current worship of the outgoing, bubbly, fake, collaborating mindset. But the book isn't angry; it's a well-researched argument that delves into the last 100 years of psychological research to back up the arguments.

Susan questions how and why the outgoing gregarious type became the epitome of success in the last few decades. The rise of these values has given way to leaders who may have the loudest voice, but may not have the sharpest mind. The success of a person is defined in how well they can sell themselves and their work. These factors are no longer judged purely on their merit.

The book discusses the difficulties that an introvert faces in study, the workplace and in relationships while giving case-studies and examples throughout. Susan doesn't recommend that all us introverts curl up in a ball in the dark, she encourages us to push our boundaries; all the while questioning where these boundaries are set.

This book was affirming and even though I am proud of my personality, it gave me more confidence in who I am and that my behaviours are normal and should not be viewed negatively.

The Twelfth Doctor: Peter Capaldi

4 am Monday morning. Here is the face that you will come to adore.  To associate with intrigue, adventure and mystery. To be added into montage posters, plastered on lunchboxes and grace covers of books, DVDs and comics.

I may sound rather dramatic, but that is essentially what it means to me.

The casting didn't shock me as I had been keeping up with the casting rumours last week, albeit sceptically. So it was only a slight surprise that the bookies were correct. I remember googling his name last week and seeing that he was that mad guy from "The Thick of It", and he had previously been in Who; "The Fires of Pompeii" (I need to re watch this episode). 

Personally I am very happy with the casting. I was hoping for an older Doctor as I really do think the age of Matt Smith was pushing the envelope. We haven't had a decently aged looking Doctor since Sylvester as Seven, who, even though early episodes were terrible, came to portray the Doctor in such a dark and enigmatic way. So the older Doctor box was thoroughly ticked. Between knowing his acting talent and the talent of Moffat and the crew, I am certain that we will see another successful Doctor.

It's funny seeing all of Peter's past Doctor Who fandom coming out of the woodwork. Old letters, drawings and articles from 70s and 80s fanzines. This man grew up adoring this show and possibly is acting due to it's influence. Contrast this to Smith, who had not watched an episode before being cast. Smith is also young in his career, he wants to try different things, break into the US movie market. Here we have Capaldi, a fan who has acted for years. Nothing to prove, has already made a name for himself. Are we going to get a longer term Doctor? One who is happier to take on the gruelling schedule for more than three seasons?

Even though his first full episode is more than likely a whole year away, I sit daydreaming about what he'll be like, what he'll wear. Will he be funny, angry, stern, flippant? I just have to reassure myself that whatever he'll be, he'll be the Doctor and he will be fantastic.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Doctor Who 4 am wake up call

So for those not in the know, the identity of the actor who will portray the 12th Doctor will be revealed live on Sunday night GMT. Thankfully the ABC will be simulcasting the event, which occurs at 4 am Monday morning my time and they will replay the program at 8:30 pm Monday night. Three cheers for the ABC.

So am I getting up at 4? Hell yes! I cannot wait any longer and if I don't I'll only get spoiled by some post on the Internet later in the morning. And why would I not want to experience this event live with the rest of the fans? It is the first opportunity I have had to do this. The last couple of times anyone outside the UK has had to deal with finding out online.

The program is only a half hour long and there will be Moffat and Smith along with Peter Davison and Tom Baker. Yes it will be 28 minutes of fluff, but it's 28 minutes of Doctor Who fluff!

So to all the analytical chemistry students who will be in my Monday morning class, I do not apologise. I'm tired. Shut up and do some UV Vis spectroscopy.

Book Review: 'Death by Black Hole' by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil is without doubt one of the greatest scientific communicators alive. He is erudite and hilarious with no apparent effort and can always bring the 'wow'.

I enjoy his podcast and have probably watched near all videos on youtube that feature him. This is the first time that I have tried his written work and I am very pleased with the results.

This work is a collection of editorial pieces that Neil writes for a periodical. They are intended to be short, punchy scientific stories and not form an ongoing dialogue.

In this respect Neil did a brilliant job. I dipped in and out of this book over the last couple of weeks and it was simple to pick up again after each break. I read it while doing experiments in the lab, and I read it while on the toilet.

What let the collection down (just the tiniest smidgen) was that some material was covered twice. Fine for an ongoing column and understandable for a collection, but still, a little work could have been taken to cull and back reference sections.

Don't get me wrong, I adored this book. And anyone who has not discovered love for Neil needs to read it immediately. You'll definitely connect with him if you are sceptical, scientific or just a spotter of bullshit.


This book left me wanting more. I want some long form stories, woven into a larger narrative. I have 'The Pluto Files' on my shelf. Maybe it won't be long before I open it.