An Eccentric Anomaly: Page 1: General

Ed Davies's Blog

Pages tagged: General

Life, the universe and everything

How big are newtons and joules?

Previously I've said that a newton is about the weight of a smallish apple and a joule is the potential energy of an apple on a table. A tweet by @UnitFact reminded me to check.


A Rant About Kilograms On Mars

The CACM have published a reasonably interesting article by Gerard J. Holzmann about verification of the software on the Curiosity Rover: Mars Code.

Near the beginning, though, it says:

On Earth, Curiosity weighed 900 kg. It weighs no more than 337.5 kg on Mars because Mars is smaller than Earth.



Bye Bye, Skype

I've cleared out my Skype account and will not be using it further. There doesn't seem to be an obvious way to delete the account otherwise I'd have done that, too. Here's why…


UK Email Surveillance

Apparently, and sadly, this Daily Mail article (FreezePage) about the Home Secretary's wish for the security services to have access to records of a lot UK internet accesses is not a spoof. Expressions like “non sequitur” and “foaming at the mouth” float into my mind for some reason. They're followed, not far behind, by “mission creep”.

The BBC manages not to get quite so embroiled in the nuttier aspects of the home secretary's rant. I'm not sure this is entirely good; maybe people need to see the whole thing to make their own (non-clinical) judgement.

Still, from a practical point of view it's interesting to consider what the implications of email logging would be.


Extradition to the US

I've just signed the petition (via Boing Boing) against the extradition of Richard O'Dwyer to the US. Here's why.



Some comments made on other people's blogs:


Electronic Statements

Dear Company X,

You want me to get my statements electronically. This is quite understandable; it'll cost you a significant amount of money to print and post statements which must be a bit irritating when you're already running a website for me to access my account. And moving bits of paper around has some ecological impact which would be worth avoiding.

But, sorry no, I always resist if I possibly can.


"It's" & "its"

Dear Web,

The words it's and its are distinct and not interchangeable. Abuse rarely produces real ambiguity though it often results in the need to backtrack and reparse a sentence thereby slowing down reading but it does have the benefit of flagging the writer as likely to be careless: a powerful but not 100% accurate initial filter to apply to Internet writing.


Alternative Vote

Next month (on 2011 May 5th) various parts of the UK are doing miscellaneous democratic things. The whole country, though, is voting in a referendum on a change to the electoral system for MPs in the House of Commons (the lower house of the parliament of the UK). The option is to replace the current first past the post (FPTP) system with an alternative vote (AV) system.

I think AV is horribly flawed and in some circumstances even worse than FPTP. Never the less, I'll be voting for it. Firstly, a vote to retain FPTP would be seen as a vote against any form of electoral reform (which we badly need). Secondly, I think AV would normally be slightly less bad than FPTP.

But what do I mean here by "better" and "worse"?


Scotland's Census

I can't be bothered with the possible faff that might arise from full-on messing with the census but on the other hand it does seem worthwhile to make Lockheed Martin do some work for their money so a little bit of literal truth feels about right: