Seamus K - Irish tech industry expat living in Sweden.

Tag: science

The 8,000 year old word

This was fun – what is the English word (present across many other languages too) that has been unchanged in meaning and pronunciation for about 8,000 years?



Best photo I have seen all day

This image of a dust storm on Mars is from last year. It’s amazing to think this is a shot of weather happening on another world!

Dust storm on Mars

Dust storm on Mars

It was taken by the ESA Mars Express craft which has been doing science over Mars for 15 years now. As a European citizen about €10/year of your tax money goes on space exploration and science. Which is bloody great value in my view.


Imperial vs Metric units

Jon Pratt this week at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

Today in Paris, the kilogram will be redefined in terms of the some universal constants instead of a chunk of metal kept under (several) glass jars. Its a bit step forward and one that future proofs the measurement.

For those that use imperial measures, there will be change soon as well. Under the 1957 US-UK “Greenwich protocol on weights and measures” the imperial foot has been defined based on the size of the King of England’s feet. However as the UK currently does not have a King they default to using a measurement based on the size of the US President’s feet (the idea that there would be a reigning queen in Britain and simultaneously a female president being preposterous). 

Early in his first term Donald Trump had his feet measured to set the new standard for the foot (which incidentally shrunk a bit as his feet, like his hands, were smaller than average). 

On the death of his mother, one of (King) Charles first tasks will be to take off his shoes and socks to be measured, and allow this important standard to be reclaimed by Great Britain from the USA.


Conspiracies – it’s hard to keep them secret

I see my one time drinking buddy David Grimes made the front page of the BBC (and a lot of other places) with his paper on the how possible is it to keep a conspiracy theory secret for any length of time.

He cleverly user data from some real conspiracies (NSA Prism, the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) forensic scandal) to model the likelihood that a secret held by many will eventually come out.

And then he applied that to some of the big “popular” conspiracies – that the moon landings were faked, global warming is a conspiracy amongst scientists, and that pharmaceutical companies are concealing a cure for cancer.

The model shows that it would be impossible to keep such large conspiracies under wraps for any length of time. But then what would you expect. Think of all the trivial persona; secrets you are aware of that have gotten out. And then think could thousands of people keep massive things quiet in defiance of their conscience like – We have a cure for cancer. We lied to the world about the moon landings. We are causing deceiving the world about climate change, just so we can get some research funding. The moon landing one always struck me as particularly daft, as you would need the Russians (ostensible “losers” in the race to the moon) to keep quiet as well.

And like all good scientists Dr Grimes used his work to make some predictions. To keep something like the moon landings secret for nearly 50 years the would need a group of conspirators of about 250 people. Considering how many were involved just in running each of the Apollo missions it’s farcical to maintain there is a great secret here.

There is great scope for future work here. Looking at some other real failed conspiracies would refine the model and allow for better estimates. And then I want it applied to some other great conspiracies. Not we can at last figure out how big and how extensive is the reach of the Illuminati, and the Elders of Zion! My bet is the size will come out to be around 0-1 with the greater probability of the lower estimate 🙂


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