• Lord Kelvin and the age of the earth

    The story of how scientists revealed the age of the earth is a remarkable one; at the beginning of the nineteenth century many still believed that the earth had been around forever, but by the 1920s evidence from fields as diverse as geology and biology had been united, and the...


  • GCHQ Christmas Puzzle

    The director of everyone’s favourite morally dubious crytographic government agency, GCHQ, has released a little brain teaser along with his Christmas card this year. I assume this is a means of keeping you preoccupied for at least 5 minutes over the holiday season whilst they read through your emails. I’ve...


  • Orwell's support for the Rising

    I’m currently reading Rising ‘44, a book by Norman Davies which covers the terrible events in the polish capital of Warsaw in the penultimate year of World War II. It’s a brilliant book by one of my favourite authors, on a subject he evidently cares deeply about - he’s a...


  • Classifying Astronomical Data Using Tree Based Methods

    The following is a guide to using tree based methods in R, based on the corresponding chapter in ‘An Introduction to Statistical Learning’ but using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). The aim is to use the five colour bands provided by the SDSS extract, u (ultraviolet), g...


  • Avoiding tailored ads in the EU

    Found a great site today that everyone should know about - youronlinechoices.com. It gives you the power to tell companies that you don’t want to receive targeted advertising online. It’s a result of some obscure EU guidelines dating back to 2011 for “for businesses collecting and using online information for...


  • m3u to JSON

    I have tens of playlists from my pre-spotify days locked inside my old mediamonkey installation that I’d quite like to liberate (I have grand plans to publish them here some day), but they’re all in a horrible format called m3u. JSON is much prettier, so I wrote an R script...


  • Blog now sporting a new winter coat with tags

    Just finished updating the blog with a couple of new features. The main one is tags for posts, based on this guide by Christian Specht. Because Jekyll is a static site generator it can be difficult to generate dynamic pages such as tag pages on the fly. The solution I...


  • What can we learn from the history of physics publications?

    A paper published in Nature last week took a data driven approach to the history of physical science, setting itself the grand challenge of establishing how we define our subject. By looking at the publishing and citation history of physics papers (both within and outside explicit physics journals) they go...