kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
[personal profile] kate_nepveu
I finally put up the spoiler post about the conclusion to the series, League of Dragons, today. (Here's the entirely-spoiler-free review if that's what you're after.)

And I'm also doing daily Toast Retrospectives, looking back at what the Toast published three years ago each day, over at the ToastCrumbs subreddit.
[syndicated profile] markpack2_feed

Posted by Mark Pack

By-elections are usually on Thursdays but they do not have to be, hence this by-election tonight:

Not often your vote goes up by over 40% but that is not quite enough to win… congratulations to Roger Mullenger and the team on getting so close. There were just nine votes in it (236 to 227).

Get by-election results by email

If you sign up for my daily email with the latest pieces from this site, you’ll also get included as a little bonus the full set of council by-election results each week:

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Linkblogging For 26/07/16

Jul. 26th, 2016 11:33 pm
[syndicated profile] andrew_hickey_feed

Posted by Andrew Hickey

I am hoping that I will be able to keep up a daily blog posting schedule from now on (so Patreons PLEASE make sure you’ve got a cap on your maximum amounts — I’ll be reminding you a few times over the next month or so, because I don’t want anyone to be accidentally paying me more than they can afford). Of course, even though I can write a lot more now than I used to, some days will still be linkblogs. This is one of those days.

I don’t *think* I’ve linked this before — a large collection of public domain (in the US) SF stories, in PDF format.

A regularly updated list of the 100 oldest living rock stars (includes a handful of pre-rock people still hanging on, too…)

Nick Barlow is more positive about MoreUnited than I am. I actually agree with a lot of what he says too, though.

An examination of the endemic, systemic, racism in SF publishing. Yet the Puppyfascists think that the 2% of stories by black authors, when they get awards, do so because of “affirmative action”, unlike the 98%…

Jennie reviews the two big blockbusters at the moment

An Amnesty petition to stop the current human rights abuses in Turkey

A bibliography of science fiction pornography novels of the 60s and 70s

A long article from 2004 about the mysterious death of a Sherlock Holmes expert


Tagged: linkblogging
[syndicated profile] robinince_feed

Posted by robinince

Written while my son was distracting me with things he’d built in Minecraft, so expect strange spelling.

Our latest Infinite Monkey Cage podcast is about Frankenstein. It is 200 years since the teenager Mary Godwin (Shelley) imagined the story of a man obsessed with reanimating life. It has become a modern folk tale. It raises deep scientific and philosophical questions. It is one of the most important works in terms of inspiring the horror genre. Shelley is, with Austen, Eliot and the Brontés, one of the pioneer figures of female fiction writers. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, wrote The Vindication of the Rights of Woman, though Shelley would never know her, as she died of puerperal shortly after she was born. With that background, it is perhaps ironic that our panel for the Frankenstein show is the only all-male panel of the series.
It was not meant to be an all-male panel, but unfortunately we had a guest drop out a few days before recording. Brian shares a hair stylist with Noel Fielding and, while sharing tinting advice, he persuaded Noel to join us.

When the show became available, I tweeted a link and went on to tweet that I was sorry this had become an all-male panel. This seemed to affront some readers. Why did I feel it necessary to tweet that? Isn’t the whole thing in danger of being tokenism?

Firstly, if it was tokenism, then it wouldn’t have been an all-male panel, as we would have just found any old woman to take over from our departed guest.

Why did I feel the need to tweet the apology? Well, it wasn’t really an apology, it was just a point of information. Also, I would always prefer that our show was not all men. I know we’re not very manly men, but we are still men, even if some men would probably challenge us on that and ask us to leave the XY group.

Social media is not always a bringer of education, getting tangled up in vivid abuse and misspelt aggression, but from my own experience, I think it really helped highlight a frequent shortfall in the mixture of sexes on panels, whether at conventions or on TV and radio. With live shows, I had been reasonably attentive, this was not out of some empancipatory zeal so much as the fact that I found performers like Josie Long, Joanna Neary, Isy Suttie and Danielle Ward very entertaining.

On Monkey Cage, we had been less observant. In one series, the only female guest was Helen Arney, and she only came on to sing a song at the end. From about that time, we were compelled to be a little less Garrick Club. When I say compelled, I do not mean from a memo sent down from head office, but from a clear sense that we were failing where we didn’t need to.

There was no shortage of female scientists who were adept at expressing their ideas on the radio. As I got further into the scientific world, it became blindingly apparent that we had to strive to battle the cobwebbed cliché that scientists was a male pursuit, preferably males who had escaped from a 1920s Punch cartoon.

We do not always succeed. We also have a problem with the breakdown of sexes by percentage because there are two hosts, both male, and though I think we should strive for equality, that striving abruptly stops if it means me giving up one of my favourite jobs. Yes, I selfishly covert my chair.

I hope we continue to improve. I think we will. Once you start putting the effort in to look, it becomes easier, just like finding the number 23, eh discordians? We have still only had one all female panel, but I think we’ll soon have another.
We never put someone on just to ensure the end of series quota reaches industry standards, they are always chosen because they will be interesting and/or funny. Similarly, with Robin and Josie’s Book Shambles, since we returned, we have attempted to keep it a 50/50 balance, and it hasn’t been difficult.

It’s not as if any of us have to throw ourselves in front of a horse, it just requires a bit more work and rethinking the stereotypes that solidified in your mind when you were young and a diet of On the Buses may have damaged your cortex.

I don’t know why anyone should get angry about it, but they do. I blame the weakling Y chromosome, it must have made our faltering male brains susceptible to neophobia.

New Horror anthology w/ stories by Josie Long, Stewart Lee, Alice Lowe, James Acaster, Isy Suttie and is available now

Josie and Robin’s Book Shambles is HERE

 

 


Anyone?

Jul. 26th, 2016 08:59 pm
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

“This would break open the chest of secrecy that exists in UK tax havens – places including the British Virgin Islands, which featured heavily in both the BHS affair and the Panama Papers.”

BVI in BHS?

[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

Or, to put it not too unsubtly, it’s been an argument about whether ideas I have promoted (the Green New Deal to create jobs, tackling the tax gap to beat austerity, delivering tax haven transparency and People’s Quantitative Easing to fund investment) are what Labour is about or not.

Which is why I am now a little annoyed to be told I’m a Blairite when I have had to acknowledge that Jeremy Corbyn cannot (and may not even want to) deliver this radical agenda, when I wished he could.

For the record, I think that Owen Smith would deliver the agenda I have proposed: the hype Wearing offers in the second half of his article is just that, and wrong. It’s time he worked out fact from fiction. There is only one chance of a Green New Deal right now, and Jeremy Corbyn has never been near the idea.

Charles Pooter had nothing on this bloke, eh?

Richard Murphy says:
July 26 2016 at 4:33 pm
There is one and only appropriate term for team Corbyn

Useless

Yep, that no peerage he was chuntering about hurts.

Richard Murphy says:
July 26 2016 at 3:21 pm
And let’s be honest, it was also just the pure drivel I have come to expect from Corbynistas that I think shows an absolute lack of judgement or ability to think critically in any way

If you honestly think Owen Smith is Tory lite, or a neoliberal then you left your ability to appraise a situation behind long ago

But there’s always another chance, eh?

Carol Wilcox says:
July 26 2016 at 8:44 pm
Jeremy Corbyn is not an economist. He’s a trade unionist, a pacifist and an internationalist. John McDonnell deals with the economy – as he has been doing for many, many years.

Reply
Richard Murphy says:
July 26 2016 at 8:56 pm
But he isn’t

That’s the problem

Although it’s true that bridges can be burnt prematurely…..

Disney mashup is awesome

Jul. 26th, 2016 08:18 pm
andrewducker: (Default)
[personal profile] andrewducker


I hesitate to think how much time went into this.

Yard sale! Yard sale!

Jul. 26th, 2016 12:05 pm
cupcake_goth: (Default)
[personal profile] cupcake_goth
It’s that time! It’s a multi-family Gothy and Eclectic yard sale!

August 5 - 7 (Friday through Sunday), 9am - 5pm

Clothes, shoes and boots, books, art and craft supplies, kick-knacks, all sorts of things!

122 N. 105th Seattle 98133
[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by Mike Smithson

Just 19% of Scots LAB GE2015 voters say Corbyn doing well, 66% badly

Remember in those by-gone days in September 2015 when Mr. Corbyn pulled off his sensational leadership victory? Remember what he said would be his biggest initial priority? That was going to be Scotland where five months earlier Labour had slumped from 40 seats in the general election to just one – the same as the LD and CON.

This was absolutely awful for the party and raised serious doubts over whether at Westminster they could ever be a party of government again. Corbyn, quite rightly I’d suggest, said Scotland would be a major early priority.

Well LAB got hammered in the May 2016 Holyrood elections and now we have a YouGov Scotland poll which focuses almost entirety on leader ratings.

There are some reasonable numbers for Sturgeon, May and Ruth Davidson but the finding over the UK LAB leader, Mr. Corbyn are appalling, particularly amongst those who voted for the party at GE2015.

I don’t recall ever seeing as bad ratings figures for a party leader from party supporters.

All this will add to the pressure as he strives to hold onto his job.

Mike Smithson


[syndicated profile] markpack2_feed

Posted by Mark Pack

Here it is, including Europe, Trident and the outcome of the party’s governance review which includes some major proposed changes to the way the party is run and, i particular, the way strategy is made:

Download this document

 

Keep up with news about Lib Dem conference

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in the cute pixel animals department

Jul. 26th, 2016 12:52 pm
yhlee: Sandman raven with eyeball (Sandman raven (credit: rilina))
[personal profile] yhlee
[personal profile] inkstone has started [community profile] pokestop as a community for people playing Pokemon Go to share tips, tricks, fanworks, etc. If that's something that interests you, take a look! I plan on lurking--Pokemon Go sounds very entertaining, but as someone who gets instant headaches walking around in the Louisiana heat, I'm unlikely to play it anytime soon. :p

Big News From Tor Books

Jul. 26th, 2016 03:45 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Involving my editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden and others. Allow me to reprint the press release:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden has been named Associate Publisher of Tor Books, effective immediately. This award-winning 28-year veteran of Tor has brought numerous prestigious and bestselling authors to the list, including John Scalzi, Cory Doctorow and Charlie Jane Anders, to name a few. His vision has been instrumental in the development of Tor.

Devi Pillai, who led the US division of Orbit to its position as Tor’s fastest-growing competitor, will be joining Tor, also as Associate Publisher. “I’ve watched Devi’s work with admiration for a long time now; her qualifications are outstanding, and she’ll be a great addition to our team,” said Tor Books publisher Tom Doherty. “As we continue our 35-year commitment to adult SF and fantasy, Devi and Patrick will work alongside each other to oversee our numerous editors who work primarily in these twin genres,” he continued.

In addition, Doherty has named Linda Quinton Publisher of Forge Books. Previously she was Associate Publisher and Vice President of marketing for Tor/Forge. Forge publishes many popular and bestselling authors, including William R. Forstchen, Eric Lustbader, Douglas Preston, Patrick Taylor and Bruce Cameron. The company will announce a new head of marketing and publicity in the near future to fill the role Quinton leaves behind.

Kathleen Doherty, Publisher of Tor Teen and Starscape, has spent 30 years growing our YA and middle-grade publishing, first through book clubs and book fairs, and then by developing our program into a pair of full-fledged, NYT-bestselling imprints full of excellent YA and middle-grade authors. Kathleen has also been responsible for the tremendous school, library, and educational market growth that our whole house has benefited from over the past three decades. The company intends to increase the marketing support we provide to her excellent team.

“At a time when so many of our competitors are cutting back, consolidating imprints, and reducing staff, it’s wonderful to know that Macmillan enthusiastically supports our plan for growth,” says Doherty.

“We will shortly be announcing further additions and promotions within our editorial staff. Here’s to an amazing team that it’s my privilege to lead into a great future.”

I am first hugely thrilled for Patrick, with whom I have worked for the entire length of my novel-writing career. Hugely thrilled but not in the least surprised. He’s been at Tor for nearly three decades and has had a very large role in making it the success it has been to date. He’s a natural hire here.

I’m also hugely thrilled for Devi Pillai, and for Tor that they have managed to convince her to join the team. She’s generally considered to be one of the smartest people in the field and she’s done fantastic work at Orbit, hands down. They couldn’t have picked better.

And I’m hugely thrilled for me, and other Tor writers, present and future. It is in fact a big deal that Macmillan is investing Tor rather than standing pat, or cutting back. It’s important for authors, no matter who they are or how they publish, that the total ecosystem for publishing is robust and offers a range of options to get their work out in the world. So whether you’re self-pubbed, small-pubbed or large-pubbed (or some combination of the three), one of the largest publishing companies in the world deciding to grow its science fiction and fantasy publisher is an unambiguously good thing. I’m glad to be a Tor author today and look forward to continuing to be one for some time to come.


[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Joe Otten

The outline agenda for Federal Conference in Brighton this September has just been published here, with the full agenda to follow mid-August.

Highlights include a slot reserved to debate Europe with an extended deadline for a motion and amendments so that we may consider something topical. Federal Conference committee was concerned that the motions proposed in July might have been overtaken by events by September.

Other policy debates include Welfare, Transport, PreP, Racism (with reference to the rise in hate crimes as a result of the Leave campaign), the Green economy and Parent Governors; there are consultative sessions on Nuclear Weapons and Sex Work.

Speeches are from Norman Lamb, Alistair Carmichael, Kirstie Williams, Willie Rennie, Susan Kramer, Sal Brinton and Tim Farron, and finally four hours of debate has been allocated to the governance review and the constitutional amendments arising from that. Something for everyone!

SATURDAY 17 September
Opening of Conference / Federal Conference Committee Report 09:00 – 09:20
Federal Policy Committee Report 09:20 – 09:35
Federal Finance and Administration Committee Report 09:35 – 09:50
Members Subscription 09:50 – 10:00
Specified Associated Organisations and Associated Organisations 10:00 – 10:20
Federal Appeals Panel Report 10:20 – 10:35
Policy motion: Safe and Free 10:35 – 12:05
Policy motion: An End to Homelessness 12:05 – 12:50
Consultative Session – Nuclear Weapons
Consultative Session – Sex Work
Fringe Lunchtime 13:00 – 14:30
Policy motion: Tackling Corporate Corruption and Crime 14:40 – 15:25
Speech: Norman Lamb MP 15:25 – 15:45
Policy motion: Adopting Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis 15:45 – 16:30
Towards More Effective Party Governance 16:30 – 17:15
Constitutional Amendments: Party Strategy 17:15 – 18:00
CONFERENCE RALLY 18:30 – 19.30

SUNDAY 18 September
Policy motion: Combatting Racism 09:00 – 09:45
Policy motion: The Opportunity to Succeed, the Power to Change 09:45 – 11:05
Speech: Alistair Carmichael MP 11:05 – 11:25
UK and European Collaborative Research and Erasmus 11:25 – 12:05
Education Q & A 12:05 – 12:50
Fringe Lunchtime 13:00 – 14:00
Policy motion: Campaign to Save Parent Governors 14:10 – 14:50
Speech: Kirsty Williams AM 14:50 – 15:10
Q & A Leader 15:10 – 15:55
Policy motion: Restoring Access to Justice 15:55 – 16:40
Federal Executive Report 16:40 – 17:15
Constitutional Amendments: Changes to the Leadership 17:15 – 18:00

MONDAY 19 September
Emergency Motion or topical issue 09:00 – 09:30
Policy motion: Europe Motion 09:30 – 11:00
Speech: Baroness Kramer 11:00 – 11:20
Fringe lunchtime session 1 11:30 – 12:30
Fringe lunchtime session 2 13:00 – 14:00
Policy motion: Investing in the Green Economy 14:10 – 14:55
Speech: Willie Rennie MSP 14:55 – 15:15
Policy motion: Mending the Safety Net 15:15 – 16:45
Diversity Engagement Group Report / Campaign for Gender Balance Report 16:45 – 17:00
Constitutional Amendments: Diversity Quotas 17:00 – 18:00

TUESDAY 20 September
Emergency motion or topical issue 09:00 – 09:45
Constitutional Amendments: Committees 09:45 – 10:35
Standing Order Amendments 10:35 – 10:50
Parliamentary Party Reports 10:50 – 11:30
President’s Speech: Baroness Brinton 11:30 – 11:50
Policy motion: Future Transport 11:50 – 12:50
Fringe Lunchtime 13:00 – 14:00
Leader’s speech: Tim Farron MP 14:10 – approx. 15:30
Conference ends

Timings may not be final.

* Joe Otten is a councillor in Sheffield and Tuesday editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_forbes_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

A slightly alarming report that the end of Moore’s Law is nigh. And this isn’t the usual suspects shouting that technology won’t save us but rather something backed by the industry heavyweights like Intel and Samsung (yes, Samsung is a heavyweight in chips). Moore’s Law is this idea that the number of transistors on a chip (or, perhaps, per area of chip) will double every 18 months or so. It was a prediction by Gordon Moore way back in the dawn of the silicon chip era and it’s been chugging along as a description of our reality for many decades now. What worries of course is that if this no longer holds true then where is our technological development going to come from? For as we all know that computer industry has been the source of a great deal (perhaps a majority) of our technological advance over these decades and also a seriously important part of increasing living standards.

However, that’s not quite the way we should be thinking about it. Because it’s not that we cannot make more transistors fit on a chip it’s that it’s not worth doing so. Or, as we might put it, economics matters.

Here’s one story:

According to tech experts, by the year 2021, Moore’s law will challenge further miniaturization in the semiconductor industry. Despite this, however, the progress will be ensured by using 3D packaging and cooling technologies.

Sounds bad, given how much of a driver this has been:

After more than 50 years of miniaturization, the transistor could stop shrinking in just five years. That is the prediction of the 2015 International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors, which was officially released earlier this month.

The roadmap is here in its full glory.

However, we shouldn’t in fact worry about this. Because it’s not a technological obstacle standing in our way. It’s an economic one:

According to the latest International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS), a joint report from chip giants including Intel and Samsung, by 2021 transistors will shrink to a point at which it is no longer economically viable to make them smaller.

No longer economically viable isn’t quite right. No longer economically necessary is better.

Which brings us to a fundamental point about economics – it’s important.

There’re two different ways to put this although both lead to much the same conclusion. The first is that there are always trade offs, there are always opportunity costs. This means that there are costs and benefits to doing absolutely anything at all. And we only want to do things where the benefits are greater than the costs. This is a much, much, wider point than just shall we bother to keep stuffing more transistors onto a chip? It colours the economic approach to absolutely everything.

It is often noted these days that jet travel is no faster than it was 40, 50 years ago. Entirely true but look what happened when we built Concorde which doubled that speed. Lovely thing to fly upon but no one really wanted to pay the price – the costs were greater than the benefits. Similarly there are those who shout that we must do absolutely anything to stop climate change immediately and totally. No, we shouldn’t, we should do as much to stop climate change as we can where the costs are lower than the benefits our actions bring. Or even that we should go and rebuild all the infrastructure – no, we should rebuild only that portion where the benefits are greater than the costs of rebuilding.

Another way of saying much the same thing is that we need to optimise not perfect. The perfect is the enemy of the good is one common phrase encapsulating this. We could borrow the engineers’ lament – fast, good, cheap, pick any two of three. All are saying much the same thing, we cannot have everything. Thus we should satisfact, not seek the perfect. The “good enough” really is the good enough and we can now turn our efforts to trying to solve of sate some other human desire or want.

That is, the economics of these things are important. There’re vast numbers of things that we can do technically which we don’t in fact do simply because they’re not worth doing. The costs of doing them are higher than the benefits of doing so despite the fact that we can do them. This is true of climate change, recycling, infrastructure and, yes, putting transistors onto chips.

Moore’s Law isn’t coming to an end because it has to be this way but because it’s no longer worth bothering about it.

Indie comic review: Baggywrinkles

Jul. 26th, 2016 02:56 pm
[syndicated profile] gadgette_feed

Posted by Ashley Neitz

If you read our recent guide to getting started with comics, this might be a good place to begin – a cute, fun but educational comic about pirates and maritime life. Created by the talented and prolific Lucy Bellwood, Baggywrinkles is available online, on Comixology, and soon in book form too. Here’s our Baggywrinkles review. […]

The post Indie comic review: Baggywrinkles appeared first on Gadgette.

[syndicated profile] el_reg_odds_feed

Posted by Paul Kunert

Smithsonian on lookout for boozy history buff

Had enough of tech? Sporting a big or any kind of unlikely looking beard or interestingly dyed hair? El Reg has found the perfect new job where you’ll get paid handsomely to espouse the wonders of trendy beer.…

[syndicated profile] gadgette_feed

Posted by Holly Brockwell, Editor

“We knocked off Flappy Bird but you play as a flying teacup trying to stay in the EU for as long as possible,” may be the best game pitch we’ve ever received. And it sums up Brexit Bird pretty well. Developed by a group of artists at the museum-based incubator NewInc, Brexit Bird surprisingly comes […]

The post Thought Flappy Bird was frustrating? Wait ’til you try Brexit Bird appeared first on Gadgette.

miss_s_b: (Sci-fi: McCoy)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
Ghostbusters

1, It's not perfect. People who are more important to listen to on racism than me have some issues with Patty as a character; I can see those issues, and think that they could have been solved better (& could be solved in sequels). I do think, though, that Patty was not treated anywhere NEAR as badly as Winston was in the original.

2, I actually liked the gross-out jokes; in a film starring four guys those wouldn't even be commented on.

3, Holtzmann getting to do the slow-mo BadAss Action Hero shooty bit actually made me fill up. How many times do women get to DO that? And it was SO perfect, and there were no Male Gaze "this girl's doing it for you boys" tits'n'arse close-ups while she did it; she got to be the power fantasy that's usually reserved for men, but for ladies. I can only think of two other characters in recent years who have done that: Furiosa and River Song. There are countless, COUNTLESS male versions of this.

4, I loved that the film took all the pre-release criticism it recieved, and incorporated it into the film, every time with a big finger in the face of dudebro sexist arseholes everywhere. From characters reading internet comments to Slimer and Lady Slimer getting a Thelma and Louise moment, each bit was pitched beautifully.

5, Like Andrew says, it was fabulous to have a movie about a group of people where none of them are on the arsehole-with-a-heart journey that Bill Murray always plays. In fact, none of the four leads are arseholes, and none of them is a sexy lamp either. They're PEOPLE. Yep, it is 2016 and the fact that a film with four female leads doesn't make any of them into a total cliche is worth commenting on (note: while elements of Patty's character can be argued to be cliched, she's bookish and a history nerd; those things do not fit the stereotype).

Genuinely, while it's not perfect, I think this is the best film I have seen in ages. It's fun, it's funny, it's got a heart the size of New York, and you should all go see it.

See this film if:
  • You're alive.

Don't see this film if:
  • You're a sexist dudebro, or a gamergater, or otherwise an example of a person who has no humanity.

Scores: Acting: 9/10, Script: 9/10; Technical 10/10, Feels 10/10. Overall 9.5/10

If you liked this you should watch: it again. I did. And I very, VERY rarely see a film more than once in the cinema on initial release.



Star Trek Beyond

1, I liked that the script gave all the characters something to do, and that none of them felt incompetently handled, or incompetent at their jobs, both of which accusations could occasionally be levelled at Original Trek. Also, Scotty actually using Scottish words (I nearly typed "sounding like a Scotsman" then, but Pegg's accent is... variable) was grand.

2, I loved how they handled the death of Leonard Nimoy. The fact that the one thing Spock Prime brought with him from the alternate universe was a publicity shot for The Undiscovered Country photo of himself with all his friends, that he must have carried everywhere with him... that was just adorable.

3, I loved Jayla, and hope she will appear in future films. Given that they have said they are not going to recast Chekhov, and that she is now in Starfleet Academy, this could be an organic way of helping the gender balance a bit - they still need to bring back Chapel and Rand as well, mind.

4, Spock calling McCoy "Leonard", and his heartfeltness when he thinks he's going to die. Just... Oh the feels. Karl Urban continues to excel as McCoy, and Zach Quinto's Spock is pretty effing awesome too. I loved McCoy in all his crotchety grumpy glory, and he got to be the wise old bird a lot here, which is a role he fits well.

5, Idris Elba is his usual stunning self both in and out of his face-obscuring make-up.

6, I was one of the many people in the cinema clapping with sheer delight at the Beastie Boys saving the day. And yes, it was a bit of a cheesy thing referring back to the first Abrams film like that, and calling it "classical music", but I don't care. And choreographing the explosions to the music was beautiful, and totally fits with the excuse the plot uses for the music being there.

See this film if:
  • You're a fan of original Trek or Voyager or both, and you want to see Trek on screen actually be what it has always been in your head.
  • You want to see what Spock and McCoy are like together without Kirk as a buffer zone (adorable!).
  • You like the idea of Chekhov's gun being the Beastie Boys.

Don't see this film if:
  • You don't like things going kaboom lots.
  • You like your scifi incredibly cerebral.
  • You can't handle Simon Pegg's "Scots" accent.

Scores: Acting: 8/10 (but 10/10 for Karl Urban), Script: 9/10; Technical 10/10, Feels 10/10. Overall 9/10

If you liked this you should watch: Star Trek II & III & IV as a set, or VI
[syndicated profile] badastronomy_feed

Posted by Phil Plait

Crystals are pretty. They’re also pretty interesting. They’re found in nature in stunning variety, including all kinds of bizarre shapes. I find a lot of these shapes pleasing aesthetically due to their symmetry. Some are box-shaped, some hexagonal … but they’re all fascinating.

Crystals get this symmetry because of the way atoms interact. They’re like puzzle pieces, connecting only in certain ways. For example, carbon atoms can bond to each other to form sheets that are a single atom thick, but contain zillions of carbon atoms interconnected as hexagons. We call this graphene. But they can also connect to form tetrahedrons, four-faced triangular pyramids. The property of that crystal is very different, so we give it a different name: diamond.

Over the years crystallographers have found that there are four kinds of symmetries natural crystals can have: twofold, threefold, fourfold, and sixfold. These are all based on taking a shape and rotating it 360°. For example, take an equilateral triangle. If you spin it 360° it looks the same. But it also looks the same if you spin it 120° and 240°. So after spinning it all the way around, you get the same pattern three times: a threefold symmetry.

A regular hexagon has six sides, and looks the same after you spin it 60°, 120°, 180°, 240°, 300°, and finally 360°. So it has sixfold symmetry.

Now, you could theoretically have a fivefold symmetry, for an object that goes through multiples of 72° rotations (after five of those you’re back to 360°). But that’s never found in nature. The other symmetries are very strong, and crystals find themselves displaying those instead.

… until recently. In the 1980s scientists were able to create a fivefold crystal in the lab, which they called a quasicrystal. It’s tough to do, but it can be done. Still, the big question remained: Can that be found in nature?

The answer we now know is: Yes! Scientists found two such crystals in nature, and they came from the same source: a meteorite that fell in far eastern Russia called the Khatyrka meteorite.

Meteorites generally come from asteroids. Collisions break them up into smaller pieces, and sometimes these fall to Earth. Khatyrka has an unusual composition, and when examined microscopically indeed shows signs that it had undergone collisions while it was still part of its parent asteroid body. The scientists wondered if they could replicate this. They created a series of disks made of the same minerals found in the meteorite and stacked them like coins, making something like a hockey puck. They then used a large gas gun to blast it with a projectile moving at about one kilometer per second, which is a typical (or perhaps somewhat slower) collision speed for asteroids in space.

When they examined the result, they found a quasicrystal with fivefold symmetry, which is now named icosahedrite. The chemical formula for it is Al63Cu24Fe13: 63 atoms of aluminum, 24 of copper, and 13 of iron. No wonder it’s so hard to find it in nature!

It’s not entirely clear in detail how it formed, though sudden compression, heating, and then cooling play a role. On Earth those conditions are very rare, but they’re more common in asteroids. The weird composition of the meteorite plays some part too, having the right combination of minerals to start with such that in the end the quasicrystal is created.

At this you may be wondering, so what? I have a few whats for you. One is that nature is more clever than we are. These crystals were once thought impossible, but here they are. They’re rare, but not impossible. Just very unlikely and need very special conditions to form.

Second, this gives scientists more insight into the literal structure of nature. Perhaps quasicrystals will never have a practical application, but even if they don’t they still help us understand how the world is put together.

And third, this hints at new branches in the science of crystallography. What other crystals exist, what other strange compounds? What uses will these have? Maybe none, at least not in our ability to exploit them for technological advances, say (the way silicon was used to make computer chips as an example). But again, the more we understand the rules governing the Universe, the better we understand it, and that is a goal unto itself.

And hey, if we can figure out how to make transporters or warp drives or light sabers, then all the better. But in the meantime, just gaining knowledge is pretty cool, too.

P.S. I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for a little while, but tonight I’m giving a talk about science outreach to members of the American Crystallographic Association at their meeting in Denver, so I thought the time was right.

[syndicated profile] uk_polling_report_feed

Posted by Anthony Wells

New party leaders normally enjoy a honeymoon in the polls. It’s noticeable for leaders taking over in opposition, on the relatively rare occassion that the party leadership changes hands in government the honeymoon is often remarkable. In the last fifty years there have been three previous occasions when the premiership changed hands between-elections:

  • Wilson-Callaghan, 1976. When Harold Wilson announced his resignation in the middle of March the polls were showing a Conservative lead of between two and five points. The polls immediately following Wilson’s resignation and during Callaghan’s first month in office showed Labour leads of between one and seven points, before returning to a steady Tory lead in May.
  • Thatcher-Major, 1990. Margaret Thatcher was famously removed by the Tory party in November 1990. In the month before the leadership election Labour had an average poll lead of thirteen points. In the month immediately following her resignation and replacement by John Major the Conservatives had an average lead of five points, peaking at 11 points. Over the next few months the polls settled down to an average Tory lead of four points or so.
  • Blair-Brown, 2007. The Blair-Brown handover was a more drawn out affair: Blair announced his resignation at the start of May 2007, when the Conservatives had a poll lead of around six points, and actually handed over to Gordon Brown at the end of June. Through July and August Brown enjoyed an average Labour lead of around five points, peaking in double-digit leads during the Labour conference at the end of September… and their rapid collapse afterwards. The Conservatives were ahead again by October, and remained so for the rest of the Parliament.

Every mid-term change of Prime Minister has been accompanied by a significant boost in polling figures – in the three historical cases, they’ve gone from trailing the opposition to a clear polling lead. The boosts have tended to be comparatively short though – Callaghan and Major only enjoyed a month or so before settling down into a new equilibrium, Brown enjoyed a honeymoon that lasted several months, but that was probably because he was seem to have responded well to the Glasgow Airport attack and Summer floods. There’s no clear pattern as to where the polls settle after the honeymoon: I suppose it depends very much on the leader. Once the honeymoons had passed the change in leader didn’t make that much difference in 1976 and 2007 (in both cases Labour’s position absolutely tanked a few months down the line… but for different reasons), in 1990 though there was a long lasting improvement in Tory support.

So to the current polling position. Today’s ICM poll has topline figures of CON 43%(+4), LAB 27%(-2), LDEM 8%(-1), UKIP 13(-1) (tabs are here). It follows on from an ICM poll last week showing the Conservatives ten points ahead, a YouGov poll giving the Conservtives an eleven point lead and an Opinium poll giving them a more modest six point lead. All four polls had Labour around or just below 30% and the Conservatives nearer 40%, UKIP down a little from the levels of support they’d been showing before the referendum.

Viewed together it certainly looks like the sort of boost a new Prime Minister normally receives, which is a good reason not to read too much into it. New Prime Ministers receive good poll ratings because they haven’t had to annoy too many people yet – the public can project their hopes onto them and convince themselves they really will be different, really will deliver this, that or the other. Before long, however, the shine will come off and they’ll have to start making compromises and disappointing people. This is one good reason for Theresa May not to plan for an early election (and the mistake Gordon Brown made in not shutting down such considerations) – the current polls look wonderful for her, but on past timescales they won’t necessarily be so rosy in a couple of months time. It’s also a crumb of comfort for Labour… though quite a small crumb.

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Mat Bowles

October 2015

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I'm the Chair of the Brighouse branch of the Liberal Democrats & the membership secretary for Calderdale Lib Dems and run the web campaign for the local candidates. I have a job, a stepdaughter and a life.

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