Blogging hiatus

October 21, 2006


1. a break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series, action, etc.
2. a missing part; gap or lacuna: Scholars attempted to account for the hiatus in the medieval manuscript.
3. any gap or opening.
4. Grammar, Prosody. the coming together, with or without break or slight pause, and without contraction, of two vowels in successive words or syllables, as in see easily.
5. Anatomy. a natural fissure, cleft, or foramen in a bone or other structure.

Is hiatus is the correct word? Not sure, perhaps “holiday” is a better.

I’m going to have a break for blogging for a week or two. While I enjoy blogging, it’s a hobby that takes quite a bit of my time and energy and can be a diversion. I’m going to focus on more important things for a little while.

A billionaire ex-mathematician believes he has a simple formula for improving math education and making America more competitive

October 20, 2006

Here’s an article from Seed Magazine, a US magazine on math and science, about a program encouraging people who have math degrees to (re)train as teachers in an effort to improve kids learning of mathematics, by increasing these new teachers salaries for the first five years in their new career.

The first few paras of the article are as follows:

James Simons has a considerable amount of money. He’s the head of the top-performing hedge fund in the world, Renaissance Technologies Corporation, which he started after leaving a successful academic career in mathematics. More compelling than Simon’s acquisition of wealth is what he chooses to do with it. Rather than collecting art or jets like many of his Wall Street peers, the former mathematician is donating substantial quantities of cash and time to basic science and math education. Read the rest of this entry »

Stats job at QUT

October 19, 2006

I’ve done something strange to the formatting with my last post. I’ll try to fix it!

There’s a job in statistics at QUT (see here for the ad). The ad is for 40 early-career academics, over a range of disciplines.

Desalinating water cheaply – exploring technologies

October 19, 2006

Here’s the notice for what looks like an interesting talk at the Australian Academy of Science.

Venue:             Australian Academy of Science,  Shine Dome, Gordon Street , Acton, ACT

Date:                 Thursday 26 October 2006, 5.30pm refreshments, 6.00–7.00pm seminar

Speaker:        Dr Jason K Holt, Chemistry and Materials Science Directorate, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory , California , USA

Cost           FreeBookings are recommended for those wanting refreshments. RSVP to Susie:; phone 02 6201 9401; or fax 02 6201 9494.

Jason’s research could dramatically alter the economics and energy costs associated with desalination and water purification (Science 19 May 2006). ‘More permeable nanotube membranes could reduce the energy costs of desalination by up to 75 per cent compared to conventional membranes used in reverse osmosis’. Read the rest of this entry »

The Spartacists in Martin Place

October 17, 2006

Last Friday afternoon, Mr T and I arranged to meet under the mushroom (the Commercial Travellers Club) in Martin Place. Unbeknownst to me, this was when the Spartacists, an obscure marxist group, had their stall up in Martin Place; about 15 people milled around the stall holding up posters/selling their paper/giving a speech on a megaphone while three security guards from the MLC centre looked on.

I had heard of the Spartacists, but hadn’t seen much evidence of their existence apart from a few posters on streetlight poles around Sydney Uni when I started studying there in Easter 2000.

Unfortunately for them, their message about the liberation of the working class seemed to of no interest to the (suited) members of the working class walking around and through their stall and going off to enjoy the very material delights of a Friday after-work drink.

Maybe these workers were imbued with false consciousness.

The idea that Australians should have more kids

October 14, 2006

Recently, the idea that Australians should have more children (eg Costello’s line: one kid for the mum, one for the dad and one for the country) has been more prevalent than for a couple of decades, and some related research on male fertility as a function of time has appeared in the media in the last few days (SMH – Young men told to make babies now and the ABC – Male fertility drops with age).

Whatever the benefits of Australians having more children (whether it’s the awful argument of ensuring a large enough workforce or otherwise), nowhere have I heard how having more children is acting in accordance with sustaining the life support systems of the Earth. It just isn’t enough to just look at the direct impacts on Australian society of more people in Australia.

If at any time Australia needs more people, could it perhaps attract them from the 6 billion or so who currently don’t live here with carefully tweaked incentives? We’ve recently seen that many people want to come and work here (under the union-maligned work visas).

Unfortunately, a broad view of these sorts of questions doesn’t appear very often. Carl Sagan wrote about our “identification horizons” (eg here), and I wonder if sometimes our identification horizons are far too small.

Please discuss.

I’m ranked 318 455!

October 14, 2006

Inspired by Andrew Norton, I’ve connected this blog on the Technorati site, and am ranked 318 455. Perhaps the ranking is made by counting the number of links from other blogs.

Sustainability Science

October 14, 2006

Last night Mr T and I went to hear Prof. Ian Lowe give the first Rick Farley Lecture at the Sydney Conservatorium. It was quite interesting, and good to hear the phrase “sustainability science” again, which I havn’t heard for a while.

Essentially, sustainability science seems to be about understanding the life support systems of the planet and then, hopefully, it’s up to societies to live in accordance with these life support systems. A few years ago I found this CSIRO paper  on sustainability focussing on Australia.

In the Q & A session I asked Ian about the oft-levelled charge at renewable energy sources: that electricity supply is not guaranteed. His reply drew on Australia being such a huge continent and that it was known to be possible.

North Korea’s testing of a nuclear device

October 11, 2006

So North Korea has a nuclear device of some sort (See here for a page on the seismic data.) Apart from the uncertainty in the behaviour of North Korea’s leaders, it’s a problem that any new country may gain nuclear weapons in the near future, especially one that thinks that it may be able to threaten its neighbourhood with either the nuclear weapons themselves, or with the possibility of selling them to other countries/non-government actors/individuals.

A cogent question is what can be done to stop North Korea obtaining a nuclear device…

I was talking with someone last night about this, and they introduced the standard questions (which seems to be more directed against the US than anything) about why North Korea is less able to be trusted with nuclear weapons than other countries. Firstly, the fact that any further countries gain nuclear weaponary is something to try to prevent, but I’d like to see someone properly compare the potential stewardship of nuclear weapons by North Korea with the (what is known of the) stewardship of these weapons by the countries that have them. 

Links to: PolemicaCatallaxy and LP

The devil wears prada

October 11, 2006

The weekend before last Mr T and I saw “The Devil Wears Prada” and enjoyed it, but I would have liked it to be a more adult film – it was too cutesey; perhaps it had been targeted towards young movie goers. Anne Hathaway’s Andrea was ok, but not completely believable. There was little understanding from Andrea’s friends of her wanting to experience new ways of living and working and the ending was not extraordinary: the moral tale of Andrea’s turn back to her original life was completely unsubtle. Real life is far less black and white.

Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly was fantastic, and quite believable even if some of her behaviour was more exaggerated than reality would give.

Read the rest of this entry »