Saturday, May 19, 2007

Learning Google Earth

A quick look at some of the KML samples on the Google site show that it is quite easy to plot a track of points as WGS84 lon,lat,height and extrude a plane to the ground. This could be used for plotting satellite orbits. I can't see any way to overplot datasets yet, but then I've not looked very hard either.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The universe is laughing at me

So I decide to write some stuff on my blog in the hope of getting other people interested in science, maths and academia in general. I think 'I'll stick some Google ads on the page and see if I can generate some cash to pass on to worthy causes'. The first ad that comes up? "Degree essays uk Guaranteed 2:1 and 1st Class Level £1000 No Plagiarism Guarantee". These people are the problem that pointy sticks were invented to cure!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Maths and me

Thought that I'd best make some notes on what I know about maths, just in case anyone wonders:
  1. GCSE - Doddle. Grade A without much effort due to a fantastic teacher and a school that taught in small(ish) classes of similar ability.
  2. A-Level - Tougher. Managed the 'mechanics' part ok but struggled with the pure. Grade C. Now wish I'd done the further maths paper as well, the extra lessons might have helped.
  3. Degree - Whoops! The first year maths course was taught by a maths professor. To physics students. Lost me in the first lecture and I didn't realize that the stuff he was saying was relevant to the subject until the middle of the second year. B.Sc. Physics with Astrophysics (Third)
  4. Couple of Masters degrees, not that much maths content.
  5. Real life - Improving. Set myself the task of improving my maths skills. Ten years of an hour per day with the Open University later, I'm about to get my second (undergraduate level) degree, B.Sc. Mathematical Sciences (Upper Second)
As far as the puzzle was concerned, I tackled it because it reminded me of stuff we did back at GCSE level (almost 20 years ago...). I resorted to more advanced stuff for the later parts of the question though.

So, I've done a lot of maths, and I use it quite a bit for work, but I'm no maths genius. It's something that I have to plod though slowly and check my working. Hence my comments about not expecting to get the whole of the puzzle correct.

Chinese Maths Puzzle

It's been an odd week. After attempting the (now famous) 'Chinese Maths Puzzle' while eating my lunch one day last week, I discovered on Monday that:
  1. I'd actually managed to get it right, and
  2. They had pulled my solution out of the hat and I was the prize winner
My phone never normally rings at work. This week I've had to answer the damned thing. Yes, Newsnight can come and film. No, I don't mind having some photos taken for the Brighton Argus. Ring, ring, ring...

I shouldn't complain, because I did volunteer to do some publicity for the RSoC when I spoke to them on the phone. It's an important message that they are trying to get across: if we don't sufficiently challenge our students at GCSE and A-Level, then they aren't going to be able to cope at degree level and our supply of new British engineers and scientists will dry up. That would be a shame, because science and engineering are two things we're good at in this country.

It's starting to look as if the media are reporting this as either a) Yay, we beat the Chinese, or b) RSoC were wrong, we can do maths. Neither of these quite get the point behind all of this, unfortunately. I may have a go at putting my thoughts down later.