Monday, November 16, 2009

Cool Periodic Table

Found this recently on Terry Tao's website, a periodic table where each element has its uses documented with it. Should make a poster for each lab in the country.

PM apologises to Alan Turing

On Thursday, 10 September the Prime Minister apologised for the treatment of Alan Turing, who took his own life two years after he was prosecuted for being gay. The apology came in response to a petition, created by computer scientist, John Graham-Cumming, which has over 30,000 signatories.

The Prime Minister’s apology also recognised Alan Turing’s vital role during World War Two:

Turing was a quite brilliant mathematician, most famous for his work on breaking the German Enigma codes. It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of World War Two could well have been very different.

And the Prime Minister concluded by saying:

So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better.

These quotes are taken from The Official site of the Prime Minister’s Office, and the full apology is available at

This article quoted from the IMA site

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Long-due Update

I passed my transfer assessment - now I'm a Stage 2 phd student. Hooray! Then I got married and had a great holiday with my lovely husband. Then we moved house. Now I'm back in phd-land again, finding it hard to settle in and fighting exhaustion.

I also have some interesting science-related plans which will be highly funding-dependent. I will keep you posted of developments.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Books & update

Finally finished Charles Stross' Accelerando. Hard work but probably worth it. Taking a break now to re-read Philip Pullman's Dark Materials. Always a good read. Waiting to be transfer assessed for my Phd. Can find me on ravelry where there will soon be pictures of my obsessive hat crocheting.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Understanding the Financial Crisis

There's a very interesting half-day conference coming up in U.C.D. called 'Understanding the financial crisis: Did mathematical models fail?'. I'm fascinated by the implications of the recent crash for financial mathematics and can't wait to hear what some of the experts have to say. Be there or be a regular quadrilateral.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Primary School Problems

I was thinking this morning about the training systems for teachers in Ireland, at all levels. I have various views on the topic, probably quite unusual or controversial. However it struck me today how there might be a correlation between falling numbers of male teachers and the statistical evidence that females tend to gain, on-average, more points in the Leaving Certificate than males (can't find the reference or precise terms). I would be interested to see what percentage of males applying to primary level teaching courses are successful and compare this to the percentage of successful females. I have long thought that interviews should be re-introduced for courses which lead to a professional qualification reliant on human relations. This could be incorporated into the CAO system in a similar way as the portfolios are for artistic options. Perhaps this would help to mitigate the effects of the high points required and encourage those who might be intimidated by them. There is also a strange situation in effect where Leaving Cert males do not think it is socially acceptable to express an interest in primary teaching, while society considers it a laudable choice. This arises from a dichotomy of thought in society. But perhaps that is a rant for another day on the status of teachers in the new millennium.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Excellent Hunky Dorys

Hunky Dorys are a brand of Irish crisps made in Meath and Lisburn. I had some in my sandwich today and they were tasty. But the best bit of all was the packet. Under allergy advice it has:
"Doesn't contain Kryptonite (but does contain soya)".
What originally caught my attention though was the advice:
Storage Conditions:
Treat Hunky Dorys like Gremlins. Keep them cool, dry & away from bright lights &strong flavours.

I don't remember the strong flavours being a problem for the gremlins but it's been a few years since I last saw it. Must re-watch!

The 3rd Annual Science, Engineering, Communications & Outreach Conference

On Thursday 21st May I attended this conference in Engineers Ireland. It was an excellent day, full of insightful presentations and discussions. I was delighted by the opportunity to meet some of the most eminent practitioners in the field of science communication and promotion. I took many thoughts, ideas and tips away with me and hope to have the opportunity soon to apply them.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Confessions of a Science Librarian

On the blog list to the right -------------->
you will find a blog called Confessions of a Science Librarian.
Read the May 4th post entitled 'Is Canada losing the lab-rat race?'. In fact, read plenty of the articles as otherwise I'll have to keep linking to them.
In the aforementioned article we see that the worldwide epidemic of poorly paid lab-trapped souls is certainly rife in Canada. There will be no success in outreach programmes until we don't have to lie to prospective scientists and make science seem more glamorous than it really is.

Also of interest in terms of the dissemination of scientific ideas is this one day conference in Dublin. Perhaps I will see you there.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Book Review: Ender's Game

'Ender's Game' by Orson Scott Card.


Won the 1985 Nebula Award and the 1986 Hugo Award. A thoroughly enjoyable book. Set in the future, the tale centres around the life of a boy and the struggles he faces. Despite the science-fiction background this is a story of humanity with well-developed characters and a page-turning plot. My only complaints about the book are (1) there are ONLY 6 further books in the series and 4 in the related shadow series, hoping for more as he's still writing (2) The rest of my life was accidentally put on hold while reading these books, still recovering from the extreme sleep deprivation. I will tell you nothing further, I read the book based only on the recommendation that it was a good book and I'm glad no one spoiled it on me.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Invisibilty Cloak a reality.

Well, almost. Scientists at Cornell and Berkeley have created a 'cloak' that can bend (certain wavelengths of) light around an object, effectively making it invisible. Unfortunately it's only a few thousandths of a millimetre in size. Read more about it on the bbc, or even read the original article in Nature.

Science Speaks

Congratulations to Julie O' Donovan who won this year's Science Speak Competition in the R.D.S. on Monday for her talk 'Collections of Spherical Obstacles that Brownian Motion can Avoid'. I'm sure U.C.C. are delighted to win again. Personally thrilled a mathematician won, particularly after a theoretical physicist ( Suzanne Mc Endoo from U.C.C. ) won last year.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

U.S. Voting Rights Act

The Voting Rights Act in the United States is due to come under review in the supreme court shortly. Currently there is a provision whereby some states and/or counties are required to get pre-approval for changes in voting procedures. Typically the jurisdictions included are those who had a history of racial discrimination. Section 5 of the act, as mentioned, is designed to prevent changes that would impinge on the rights of any section of voters. Objections have been lodged against this, despite evidence that it has been an effective preventative measure. Read more about it.

Personally I think that discrimination based on race is still rife in the United States, only now it happens for several different races. In addition the poverty gap is immense and the polarisation of social classes has been noticed as a basis for discrimination. I agree that the Section 5 of the act as it stands, applying to only a handful of areas, is highly divisive. However I believe that, rather than discarding it, they should extend the provision to all states, counties and jurisdictions and reinforce the multi-faceted nature of the anti-discrimination act.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Writing in the new age, a terrifying prospect.

Follow the link, read it all and you will understand the terror that fills so many of us when we think about young people nowadays. My youth not withstanding.

I was reading 'Confessions of a Science Librarian' and found this:

Check out the syllabus for ENG 371WR: Writing for Nonreaders in the Postprint Era:

As print takes its place alongside smoke signals, cuneiform, and hollering, there has emerged a new literary age, one in which writers no longer need to feel encumbered by the paper cuts, reading, and excessive use of words traditionally associated with the writing trade...


Students will acquire the tools needed to make their tweets glimmer with a complete lack of forethought, their Facebook updates ring with self-importance, and their blog entries shimmer with literary pithiness. All without the restraints of writing in complete sentences. w00t! w00t!


Monday, April 20, 2009

Projective Geometry

Learning a lot about Projective Geometry at the moment. Even gave a talk on it to the maths society. It's really interesting and fun, unfortunately I think geometry is a little too literal minded for my abstract take on everything. The idea is to generalise to geometries on rings and then use these to create low density parity check codes in an analogous way to how they are created using geometries over finite fields. Watch this space! (but not too enthusiastically)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

We can see God's Hand in the Universe

Or certainly a very big hand!

See this amazing pulsar at Nasa.

Monday, March 9, 2009


Haven't done much new research lately, I've been writing up my work and creating posters and preparing seminars based on this work. Have some more changes to make to the latest draft and I'll post a link to it once I'm done. Then I can be back to some good real work! Visit my site for electronic versions of my latest poster and recent seminar slides. If you're interested, it's all on weights on codes over rings. i.e. math of coding theory. Should be fairly accessible.

Reading Orson Scott Card's Ender Series at the moment, incredibly addictive! Will post reviews once I stop reading for long enough! Also will post a review of Neil Gaiman's American Gods, another excellent book.

Found myself reading lots of motivational-based books to beat the 2nd-year slump of the phd. I'm open to any good suggestions! Or if anyone has suggestions for coding-theory or algebraic geometry 'summer' schools or workshops etc.

Gathering together some scientists from all walks to put together a science-communication group in Ireland, might post some more information here as it arrives. Could be interesting and lots of fun!