• Electoral woes and votes

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    Like everyone else in my bubble, I’ve been angrily obsessing about the outcome of the US Presidential election for the last two weeks. I’d like to say that I’ve been channelling that obsession into action, but so far I’ve mostly been reading and hoping (and being disappointed). And trying to parse all the “explanations” for…

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  • The Sick Rose

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    O Rose thou art sick. The invisible worm, That flies in the night In the howling storm: Has found out thy bed Of crimson joy: And his dark secret love Does thy life destroy. —William Blake, Songs of Experience

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  • Wussy (Best Band in America?)

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    It’s been a year since the last entry here. So I could blog about the end of Planck, the first observation of gravitational waves, fatherhood, or the horror (comedy?) of the US Presidential election. Instead, it’s going to be rock ’n’ roll, though I don’t know if that’s because it’s too important, or not important…

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  • Atheism, naturalism, and the way things ought to be

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    In an occasionally thoughtful but mostly silly attempted takedown of the so-called New Atheists (Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and such), philosopher John Gray writes that there is an irresolvable contradiction between viewing religion naturalistically — as a human adaptation to living in the world — and condemning it as a tissue of error and illusion. -John…

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  • Oscillators, Integrals, and Bugs

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    [Update: The bug seems fixed in the latest version, 10.0.2.] I am in my third year teaching a course in Quantum Mechanics, and we spend a lot of time working with a very simple system known as the harmonic oscillator — the physics of a pendulum, or a spring. In fact, the simple harmonic oscillator…

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  • Loncon 3

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    Briefly (but not brief enough for a single tweet): I’ll be speaking at Loncon 3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention, this weekend (doesn’t that website have a 90s retro feel?). At 1:30 on Saturday afternoon, I’ll be part of a panel trying to answer the question “What Is Science?” As Justice Potter Stewart once…

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  • More events: me and my friends

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    A quick heads-up on some recent and upcoming events: A couple of weeks ago, I delivered my long-delayed (if not actually long-awaited) inaugural lecture, “The Random Universe“. A video is currently available through Imperial College’s media library so you can hear me opine on how we learn about the history and evolution of the Universe…

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  • Spring & Summer Science

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    As the academic year winds to a close, scientists’ thoughts turn towards all of the warm-weather travel ahead (in order to avoid thinking about exam marking). Mostly, that means attending scientific conferences, like the upcoming IAU Symposium, Statistical Challenges in 21st Century Cosmology in Lisbon next month, and (for me and my collaborators) the usual…

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  • Gravitational Waves?

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    [Uh oh, this is sort of disastrously long, practically unedited, and a mixture of tutorial- and expert-level text. Good luck. Send corrections.] It’s been almost exactly a year since the release of the first Planck cosmology results (which I discussed in some depth at the time). On this auspicious anniversary, we in the cosmology community…

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  • Around Asia in search of a meal

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    I’m recently back from my mammoth trip through Asia (though in fact I’m up in Edinburgh as I write this, visiting as a fellow of the Higgs Centre For Theoretical Physics). I’ve already written a little about the middle week of my voyage, observing at the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, and I hope to get…

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