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A collection of posts related to all things geeky geek: Animation, Art, Books, Events, Exhibition, Sci-fi, Film, Manga, usw…Take a look and enjoy

Now Reading: Dune

It is one (or actually several) of those books you have always heard something about, but actually never read it...

Now Reading: Dune by Frank Herbert.

I think it is high time I change that. It will take some time, and I hope it is worth it.

Kull wahad!

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Now Reading: Dark Data

Now Reading: Dark Data by David Hand

I first came across a mention of this book in the Summer 2020 number of Imperial, the magazine for the Imperial College Community in a feature note about the book.

It sounded like an interesting read and I had a look for the Princeton University Press book and to my surprise I found an version in Italian published by Rizzoli a few months earlier... I wonder how that worked out. It was cheaper and I was tempted to give it a go in Italian with the name Il tradimento dei numeri (i.e. “The betrayal of the numbers”...). I wonder what hidden story is behind all this...

In the end I decided to go for the English version... Let’s see how it goes.

David Hand is emeritus professor of mathematics at Imperial College London, a former president of the Royal Statistical Society, and a Fellow of the British Academy.

There is a website dedicated to the book: https://darkdata.website

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Now Reading: Foundation

Now reading: Asimov’s Foundation. Actually it is a re-reading...

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Now Reading: Getting Things Done

Now reading: Getting Things Done by David Allen

Let’s see how many things I am already doing “right”... :)

OK... still going through this. I am finding hard to get through it... not because it is difficult or the actions are hard per se. However, the book was written for paper-based offices and physical files including Filofaxes, diaries and things that back in the day were useful (and I bet for some still are).

In my case, I find that the physical paper trail is no longer suitable (or desirable). I should check if there is an updated version for the 21st century! :)

Having said that, the tips and ideas are good, you may just have to adapt them for you and perhaps the lack of PA!!! Lol

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Now Reading: The life changing magic of not giving a f**k

Now reading: The life-changing magic of not giving a f**k by Sarah Knight

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Happy Starwars Day

May the 4th be with you!

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Now Reading: Frankissstein

Now reading: Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson.

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Now Reading: Bad Blood

Now Reading Bad Blood by John Carreyrou.

I had read about the story when the news was breaking, and it was interesting then. The book has been in my reading pile for a while and with my recent watching “The inventor: Out for blood in Silicon Valley” I had to bump it up the list. Here we go!

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David Copperfield

via Instagram https://ift.tt/2NSPdYd
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Now Reading: The Dark Side of the Mind

Now reading: The Dark Side of the Mind by Kerry Daynes. “True stories from my life as a forensic psychologist”

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Now Reading: Call Me By Your Name

Now Reading: Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

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"Advanced Data Science And Analytics" is finished!

It has been a few months of writing, testing, re-writing and starting again, and I am pleased to say that the first complete draft of "Advanced Data Science and Analytics with Python" is ready. Last chapter is done and starting revisions now. Yay!

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Now Reading: Machines Like Me

Now Reading: Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan.

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Now Reading: Deep Medicine

Now reading: Deep Medicine by Eric Topol.

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Now Reading: Dracula

Now reading: Dracula by Bram Stoker

One of those books you think you know, but surprisingly never read. I am enjoying it far more than I thought.

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Now Reading: She has her mother’s laugh

Now reading: "She has her mother's laugh: the powers, perversions and potential of heredity" by David Grann.

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Data Science and Analytics with Python - Social Network Analysis

Using the time wisely during the Bank Holiday weekend. As my dad would say, "resting while making bricks"... Currently reviewing/editing/correcting Chapter 3 of "Advanced Data Science and Analytics with Python". Yes, that is volume 2 of "Data Science and Analytics with Python".


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Life of Brian

Great to have been able to watch Monty Python's Life of Brian's we-welease and during Easter. I has aged well!

And remember: "He's not the Messiah! He's a very naughty boy!!"

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Catching up with some reading - drug discovery and synthetic life

Catching up with some reading. Very timely, PhysicsWorld is covering some new developments in high-spec mass spectroscopy and drug discovery. While The Economist's front cover is about synthetic biology. Yay!

Soupy twist!

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Social Network Analysis and Star Wars

On my way back to London and making the most of the time in the train to work on my Data Science and Analytics Vol 2 book. Working with #StarWars data to explain Social Network Analysis #datascience #geek

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Happy Pi Day 2019

Happy Pi Day 2019

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Now Reading: Brainstorm

Now reading: Brainstorm by Suzanne O'Sullivan. Detective stories from the world of neurology.

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Now reading: Spectacles

Now reading "Spectacles", a memoir by Sue Perkins.

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Now Reading: Patient H. M.

Now reading "Patient H. M." by Luke Dittrich. An interesting account of the early attempts to understand the human brain and the development of neuroscience, intertwined with personal accounts, unexpected revelations and surprising facts. As the subtitle of the book says: "A story of memory, madness and family secrets"

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Now Reading: This is Going to Hurt

Now reading: This is going to hurt, by Adam Kay

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Now Reading: Solar Bones

Now Reading: Solar Bones by Mike McCormack

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Now reviewing: Hyperspace

Now reviewing: Hyperspace by Michio Kaku.

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Now Reading: Human Errors

Now reading: "Human Errors" by Nathan H Lents.

A surprising, entertaining and enlightening book about the features/bugs with which evolution have left the human anatomy, physiology and genome. Highly recommended!


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Now Reading: Annihilation


Now reading: Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer. Very different from the Netflix version...

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Star Wars Day - May the 4th 2018

Star Wars Day - May the 4th 2018


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Now Reading: Everything is Obvious*

Now reading: Everything is Obvious* by Duncan Watts. An account of how common sense is not that common, and how it fails us more often than "common sense" would indicate.

*once you know the answer

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Celebrating π day at the office

Celebrating π day at the office thanks to the nice people of people.io


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Now Reading: “To be a machine”

Now reading: "To be a machine" by Mark O'Connell - Adventures among cyborgs, utopians, hackers and the futurists solving the modest problem of death.

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Beer; and the Mpemba Effect

No, sadly this is not a post about observing the Mpemba effect on beer. Instead is about me reading about new studies about the Mpemba effect - i.e. the effect that hot water freezes faster than lukewarm or cool water - while enjoying a cold beer.

Cal me a geek!

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Now Reading: Awkward

Now reading: Awkward bu Ty Tashiro

Really good read!


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Now reading: Sapiens by Y Noah

Now reading: Sapiens by Y Noah

--Dr J Rogel-Salazar

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"Data Science and Analytics with Python" is published

Very pleased to see that finally the publication of my "Data Science and Analytics with Python" book has arrived.

You can get your copy here:

Furthermore you can see my Author profile here.

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Final version of "Data Science and Analytics with Python" approved

It has been a long road, one filled with unicorns and Jackalopes, decision trees and random forests, variance and bias, cats and dogs, and targets and features.

Well over a year ago, the idea of writing another book seemed like a farfetched proposition. Writing the book came about from the work that I have been doing in the area as well as from discussions with my colleagues and students, including also practitioners and beneficiaries of data science and analytics.

It is my sincere hope that the book is useful to those coming afresh to this new field as well as to those more seasoned data scientists.

This afternoon I had the pleasure of approving the final version of the book that will be sent to the printers in the next few days.

Once the book is available you can get a copy directly with CRC Press or from Amazon.



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Data Science and Analytics with Python - Cover

Well, I am very pleased to show you the cover that will be used for "Data Science and Analytics with Python" book. Not long to publication day!

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TIE Pilot Helmet

Very pleased with the new TIE Pilot Helmet.

Will be a great complement for the AT-AT!

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Bessel series for a constant

Fourier series express functions as a sum of sines and cosines of different frequencies. Bessel series are analogous, expressing functions as a sum of Bessel functions of different orders.

Fourier series arise naturally when working in rectangular coordinates. Bessel series arise naturally when working in polar coordinates.

The Fourier series for a constant is trivial. You can think of a constant as a cosine with frequency zero.

The Bessel series for a constant is not as simple, but more interesting. Here we have:

$latex 1=J_0(x)+2J_2(x)+2J_4(x)+2J_g(x)\cdots$

Since $latex J_{-n} = (-1)^n J_n(x)$ we can write the series above as the following infinite series:

$latex 1 = \sum_{n=-\infty}^{\infty} J_{2n}(x)$

Cool, right?


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“Fashion, faith and fantasy” Review - Available now

My review of Penrose’s “Fashion, faith and fantasy” is available here.










Related Post: here


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Data Science and Analytics with Python - Proofread Manuscript

I have now received comments and corrections for the proofreading of my “Data Science and Analytics with Python” book.

Two weeks and counting to return corrections and comments back to the editor and project manager.


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A new house for the Design Museum in London

If you had the opportunity to walk near Holland Park, you probably are familiar with the location where the Commonwealth Institute used to be: a Grade II listed building dating back to the 1960s. The building was designed by Robert Matthew/Sir Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall and Partners, architects, and engineered by AJ & JD Harris, of Harris & Sutherland.

The building is the new house for the Design Museum. The museum was founded in 1989, originally located by the River Thames near Tower Bridge in London, and recently relocated to Kensington opening its doors on November 24th, 2016. The museum covers product, industrial, graphic, fashion and architectural design. The new location also houses the Swarovski Foundation Centre for Learning, 202-seat Bakala Auditorium and a dedicated gallery to display its permanent collection, accessible free of charge.

I recently visited the museum and had the opportunity to attend the Beazley Designs of the Year exhibition currently being shown. The exhibition showcases designs produced over the previous twelve months worldwide.The entries are nominated by a number of internationally respected design experts a, falling into the seven categories of Architecture, Transport, Graphics, Interactive, Product, Furniture and Fashion. Since 2015 there have been six categories: architecture, fashion, graphics, digital, product and transport. Beazley Insurance came on board as exhibition sponsor in 2016.

I was very pleased to see at least two entries from Mexico. One of them is the work of the mexican Alejandro Magallanes for the Almadía publishing house, a small but innovative publisher based in Oaxaca, Mexico. I highly recommend reading the post in Yorokobu entitled "Las portadas exquisitas de Alejandro Magallanes".

Name: Almadía book covers design
Designers: Alejandro Magallanes
Paragraph description:
The front covers for the Almadia book series was conceived when Magallanes looked into the archives and origins of the Almadia publishing house. Creating a bold design, the covers add an element of craftsmanship whilst providing an object that the reader would like to behold.

The other entry from Mexico was Yakampot, a fashion brand that aims to become an international name while embracing the cultural heritage of the country's womenswear.

Also notable are the entries from Jonathan Barnbrook for the design of David Bowie's last album "Blackstar", as well as the Space Cup that enables astronauts to drink from a cup rather than a straw, developed on the International Space Station. The cup was a result of addressing the microgravity effects faced by fluids while at zero-gravity. The project "Capillary Effects of Drinking in the Microgravity Environment" (Capillary Beverage) studied the process of drinking from specially designed Space Cups that use fluid dynamics to mimic the effect of gravity.

Designers: Jonathan Barnbrook
One line description:
The album cover uses the Unicode Blackstar symbol creating a simplicity to the design allowing the music to be the focus and the creation of an identity that is easy to identify and share.
Paragraph description:
The album cover uses the Unicode Blackstar symbol creating a simplicity to the design allowing the music to be the focus and the creation of an identity that is easy to identify and share. Designed using open source elements, the artwork for the album became open sourced itself following Bowie’s death enabling fans to engage, interact and use it.

Name: Space Cup
Mark Weislogel: Innovator (IRPI LLC/Portland State University)
Andrew Wollman: Designer (IRPI LLC)
John Graf: Co-Investigator (NASA Johnson Space Center)
Donald Pettit: NASA Astronaut Innovator (NASA Johnson Space Center) Ryan Jenson: Sponsor (IRPI LLC)
One line description:
Using capillary forces to replace the role of gravity, the Space Cup enables astronauts to drink from a cup rather than a straw and was developed on the International Space Station.
Paragraph description:
The Space Cup was designed and developed using scientific results of experiments conducted aboard the International Space Station. The cup is designed to exploit passive capillary forces to replace the role of gravity in an earth-like drinking experience, but in the low-gravity environment of space. Sealed drink bags are normally sipped through a straw to avoid spilling in space. The Space Cup however uses surface tension, fluid wetting properties, and a unique shape to drive the liquid toward the astronaut’s mouth while drinking.

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The Winton Gallery opens at the Science Museum

During the recent Christmas and New Year break I had the opportunity to visit the Science Museum (yes, again...). This time to see the newly opened Winton Gallery that housed the Mathematics exhibit in the museum. Not only is the exhibit about a subject matter close to my heart, but also the gallery was designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. I must admit, that the first I heard of this was in a recent visit to the IMAX at the Science Museum to see Rogue One... Anyway, I took some pictures that you can see in the photo gallery here, and I am also re-posting an entry that appeared in the London Mathematical Society newsletter Number 465 for January 2017.

Mathematics: The Winton Gallery opens at the Science Museum, London

On 8 December 2016 the Science Museum opened a pioneering new gallery that explores how mathematicians, their tools and ideas have helped shape the modern world over the last 400 years. Mathematics: The Winton Gallery places mathematics at the heart of all our lives, bringing  the subject to life through remarkable stories, artefacts and design.

More than 100 treasures from the Science Museum’s world-class science, technology, engineering and mathematics collections help tell powerful stories about how mathematical practice has shaped and been shaped by some of our most fundamental human concerns – including money, trade, travel, war, life and death.

From a beautiful 17th-century Islamic astrolabe that used ancient mathematical techniques to map the night sky to an early example of the famous Enigma machine, designed to resist even the most advanced mathematical techniques for codebreaking, each historical object has an important story to tell about how mathematics has shaped our world. Archive photography and lm helps capture these stories and digital exhibits alongside key objects introduce the wide range of people who made, used or were affected by each mathematical device.

Dramatically positioned at the centre of the gallery is the Handley Page ‘Gugnunc’ aircraft, built in 1929 for a competition to construct a safe aircraft. Ground-breaking aerodynamic research influenced the wing design of this experimental aircraft, helping transform public opinion about the safety of ying and securing the future of the aviation industry. This aeroplane highlights perfectly the central theme of the gallery about how mathematical practice is driven by, and in uences, real-world concerns and activities.

Mathematics also defines Zaha Hadid Architects’ design for the gallery. Inspired by the Handley Page aircraft, the gallery is laid out using principles of mathematics and physics. These principles also inform the three-dimensional curved surfaces representing the patterns of air ow that would have streamed around this aircraft.

Patrik Schumacher, Partner at Zaha Hadid Architects, recently noted that mathematics was part of Zaha Hadid’s life from a young age and was always the foundation of her architecture, describing the new mathematics gallery as ‘an important part of Zaha’s legacy in London’. Gallery curator David Rooney, who was respon- sible for the Science Museum’s recent award- winning Codebreaker: Alan Turing’s Life and Legacy exhibition, explained that the gallery tells ‘a rich cultural story of human endeavor that has helped transform the world’.

The mathematics gallery was made possible through an unprecedented donation from long-standing supporters of science, David and Claudia Harding. Additional support was also provided by Principal Sponsor Samsung, Major Sponsor MathWorks and a number of individual donors.

A lavishly illustrated new book, Mathematics: How It Shaped Our World, written by David Rooney and published by Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers, accompanies the new display. It expands the stories covered in the gallery and contains an absorbing series of newly commissioned essays by prominent historians and mathematicians including June Barrow-Green, Jim Bennett, Patricia Fara, Dame Celia Hoyles and Helen Wilson, with an afterword from Dame Zaha Hadid with Patrick Schumacher.

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Artificial Intelligence, Revealed

A few weeks ago I was invited by General Assembly to give a short intro to Data Science to a group of interested (and interesting) students. They all had different backgrounds, but they all shared an interest for technology and related subjects.

While I was explaining some of the differences between supervised and unsupervised machine learning, I used my example of an alien life trying to cluster (and eventually classify) cats and dogs. If you are interested to know more about this, you will probably have to wait for the publication of my "Data Science and Analytics with Python" book.. I digress...

So, Ed Shipley - one of the admissions managers at GA London - asked me and the students if we had seen the videos that Facebook had produced to explain machine learning... He was reminded of them as they use an example about a machine distinguishing between dogs and cars... (see what they did there?...). If you haven't seen the videos, here you go:

Intro to AI

Machine Learning

Convolutional Neural Nets

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Now Reviewing: Fashion, Faith and Fantasy by R Penrose

I am currently reviewing "Fashion, Faith and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe" by Roger Penrose for the Contemporary Physics Journal.

Penrose Fashion Faith Fantasy

I could not help smile after going through the acknowledgements and see the names of some friends and collaborators there.


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Now Reading: Trekonomics

As a self-confessed Star Wars fan, it is sometimes hard to admit the brilliance of Star Trek. I must admit that the Trekkie in me has, of recent, been more active.

So it was a great surprise to hear about this book by Manu Saadia: "Trekonomics". It's started reading it a couple of days ago and I am pleased to have started.

When we think of Star Trek we fixate on the gadgets and our-there tech. It is not unusual to get newspaper headlines telling us how engineers and scientists have managed to bring to like this or that "Star Trek device". Nonetheless, the thing that should be more obvious is the one that hides in plain sight: How does the Star Trek universe answers the Keynesian "economic question" of allocating scarce resources, particularly under the premise of benefiting all and deprive no one?

Want to know more? Take a look at this book.



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First steps into the Internet of Things - Meetup 25th August

Hello guys,

I am joining forces with Bob Yelland (IBM) again to organise a joint meetup. I say again as we organised a joint session a few months back between the Big Data Developers in London and the Data+Visual meet up. I even gave a talk on that one, about "Data Visualisation: The good, the bad and the ugly" Unlike the previous one, we are actually physically joining the attendees rather than having parallel sessions.

The event is now live and it will take place on the 25th of August. Shall I see you there?

On the Skills Matter site:  https://skillsmatter.com/meetups/8259-datapalooza-nights-meetup#overview

and the MeetUp site: https://www.meetup.com/Big-Data-Developers-in-London/events/232919166/


Datapalooza IoT

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Now Reading: Algorithms to Live By

Now reading: Algorithms to Live By

A pretty good read about  how computer algorithms can be applied to our everyday lives, helping to solve common decision-making problems and more.



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Installing Spark 1.6.1 on a Mac with Scala 2.11

I have recently gone through the process of installing Spark in my mac for testing and development purposes. I also wanted to make sure I could use the installation not only with Scala, but also with PySpark through a Jupyter notebook.

If you are interested in doing the same, here are the steps I followed. First of all, here are the packages you will need:

  • Python 2.7 or higher
  • Java SE Development Kit
  • Scala and Scala Build Tool
  • Spark 1.6.1 (at the time of writing)
  • Jupyter Notebook


You can chose the best python distribution that suits your needs. I find Anaconda to be fine for my purposes. You can obtain a graphical installer from https://www.continuum.io/downloads. I am using Python 2.7 at the time of writing.

Java SE Development Kit

You will need to download Oracle Java SE Development Kit 7 or 8 at Oracle JDK downloads page. In my case, at the time of writing I am using 1.7.0_80. You can check the version you have by opening a terminal and typing

java -version

You also have to make sure that the appropriate environment variable is set up. In your


  add the following lines:

export JAVA_HOME=$(/usr/libexec/java_home)

Scala and Scala Build Tool

In this case, I found it much easier to use Homebrew to install and manage the Scala language. I f you have never used Homebrew, I recommend that you take a look. To install it you have to type the following in your terminal:

ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install)"

Once you have Hombrew you can install Scala and the Scala Build Tool as follows:

> brew install scala
> brew install bst

You may want to create appropriate environments in your 



export SCALA_HOME=/usr/local/bin/scala

Spark 1.6.1

Obtain Spark from https://spark.apache.org/downloads.html

Note that for building Spark with Scala 2.11 you will need to download the Spark source code and build it appropriately.


Once you have downloaded the tgz file, unzip it into an appropriate location (your home directory for example) and navigate to the unzipped folder (for example



To build Spark with Scala 2.11 you need to type the following commands:

> ./dev/change-version-to-2.11.sh
> build/sbt clean assembly

This may take a while, so sit tight! When finished, you can check that everything is working by launching either the Scala shell:

> ./bin/spark-shell

or the Python shell:

> ./bin/pyspark

Once again there are some environment variables that are recommended:

export SPARK_PATH=~/spark-1.6.1
export PYSPARK_DRIVER_PYTHON="jupyter" 
alias sparknb='$SPARK_PATH/bin/pyspark --master local[2]'

The last line is an alias that will enable us to launch a Jupyter notebook with PySpark. Totally optional!

Jupyter Notebook

If all is working well you are ready to go. Source your


  and  launch a Jupyter notebook:

> sparknb

Et voilà!

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Strata+Hadoop World - London 2016

I had the opportunity to attend the Strata+Hadoop World conference in London last week on the 2nd and 3rd of June. It was held in the ExCeL Centre in East London. Given the size of the venue, I had the expectation that it was going to be a massive event... Don't take me wrong, it was indeed big, but I thought it was going to be even bigger. Colleagues that have attended other editions in San Jose did also remark that this one was on the smaller side of things.

In any case, I had the opportunity to talk to a lot of very interesting and engaging people, and heard about the work that large and small companies in the scene are doing. I had the chance to present a demo on the use of Spark in Bluemix and I think it went really well.

Who knows, I may even come to the next one...

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I quite like this version of my name including the square root of pi

I recently got a newsletter from the ODI. Nothing unusual there, except for the fact that my name was spelled wrongly. It is clear that their mail merge does not know how to handle accented characters, but I must admit that I quite like this version of my name... I mean it includes the square root of $latex \pi$! How cool is that‽

I shall start using that version!


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Women in State Legislature

This week, for the Makeover Monday we have some data from a visualisation created by the National Conference on State Legislatures. According to the NCSL:

Approximately 1,809 women serve in the 50 state legislatures at the beginning of the 2016 legislative session. Women make up 24.5 percent of all state legislators nationwide.

Here is my entry:

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It is that time again: geeky reading fest 

It is that time again: geeky reading!


Not only that by "Mathematics Today" has finally published the book review I wrote!


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Visiting Hursley House and The IBM Galileo Centre

Today I was in Hursely and I had the opportunity of spending the day at Hursely House and the IBM Galileo Centre. Very nice grounds and a very inspiring place. Judge for yourselves!

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Data Analytics Python

First full draft of "Data Science and Analytics with Python"

It has been nearly 12 months in development almost to the day, and I am very please to tell you that the first full draft of my new book entitled "Data Science and Analytics with Python" is ready.

Data Analytics Python

The book is aimed at data enthusiasts and professionals with some knowledge of programming principles as well as developers and business people interested in learning more about data science and analytics The proposed table of contents is as follows:

  1. The Trials and Tribulations of a Data Scientist
  2. Firsts Slithers with Python
  3. The Machine that Goes “Ping”: Machine Learning and Pattern Recognition
  4. The Relationship Conundrum: Regression
  5. Jackalopes and Hares, Unicorns and Horses: Clustering and Classification
  6. Decisions, Decisions: Hierarchical Clustering, Decision Trees and Ensemble Techniques
  7. Dimensionality Reduction and Support Vector Machines

At the moment the book contains 53 figures and 18 tables, plus plenty of bits and pieces of code ready to be tried.

The next step is to start the re-reading, re-draftings and revisions in preparation for the final version and submission to my publisher CRC Press later in the year. I will keep you posted as how things go.

Keep in touch!


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Leonardo da Vinci - The Mechanics of Genius

For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.

Leonardo da Vinci

The Science Museum in London is currently showing "Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Genius", giving us a chance to investigate both the facts and the misconceptions that surround Leonardo.

  • 39 historical models of Leonardo’s inventions including flying machines, diving equipment and weapons
  • Large-scale reproductions of Leonardo’s famous drawings and sketches
  • 13 Interactive games and 10 multimedia installations
  • Modern examples of bio-inspired robotics, aviation and materials technology



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Now reading: Least Squares Data Fitting 

Now reading "Least Squares Fata Fitting with Applications" by Hansen et al.  I will be writing a brief review for the IMA. Keep an eye for that coming up.


Data Fitting
Data Fitting
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My geek reading has arrived

My geek reading has arrived and I am very pleased.

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Google's and Gerty's logos are quite similar

I have recently updated my applications and hit confused when trying to launche my book reader Gerty and instead of opening the book(s) I'm currently reading, I found staring at Googles's search bar...

I am sure that is something neither of them would like, but hey... Just pointing it out. The similarity is superficial, but enough to get confused when looking at small icons in a screen. Check it out:

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Now reading: 'The Martian'

Now reading: 'The Martian'
Gripping story!

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Where is the Human Torch‽

I guess the Human Torch wanted to escape the bad reviews of the Fantastic Four film... oh well.


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Cloudera Breakfast Briefing and Tofu Scientists

Last Thursday I attended a Cloudera Breakfast Briefing where Sean Owen was speaking about Spark and the examples were related to building decision trees and random forests. It was a good session in general.

Sean started his talk with an example using the Iris dataset using R, in particular the "party" library. He then moved on to talk about Spark and MLlib.


For the rest of the talk he used the "Covertype" data set that contains 581,012 data points describing trees using 54 features (elevation, slope, soil tye, etc,) predicting forest cover type (spruce, aspen, etc.). A very apt dataset for the construction of random forests, right? I was very pleased to see a new (for me) dataset being used!

Sean want over some bits and pieces about using Spark, highlighting the compactness of the code. He also turned his attention to the tuning of hyper-parameters and its importance.

There are different ways to approach this, but it is always about finding a balance, a trade-off. For a tree we can play with the depth of the tree, the maximum number of bins (i.e. the number of different decision rules to be tried), the amount of impurity (Gini or Entropy measures).

If we don't know the right values for the hyperparameters, we can try several ones.  Particularly if you have enough room on your cluster.


  • Building a random forest: let various trees see only a subset of the data, then combine. Another approach is to let the trees see a subset of the features. The latter is a nice idea as this may be a more reasonable approach for large clusters, where communication among nodes is kept to a minimum -> good for Spark or Hadoop.


Sean finished with some suggestions of things one can try:

  • Try SVM and LogisticRegression in MLlib
  • Real-time scoring with Spark Streaming
  • Use random decision forests for regression

Nonetheless, the best bit of this all was that after asking a couple of questions I managed to get my hands in a "Tofu Scientist" T-Shirt! Result!

Tofu Scientist 1

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Ballet Folklórico de México in London

What do I think when I hear the name "Ballet Folklórico de México"? Well, I think of colourful clothes, big smiles, joyful music and great "zapateado". I also think of Sunday TV and weirdly enough, school. I do remember the end-of-year festivals at school, when señorita Caballero would choreograph some traditional dances for us.


BalletFolklorico_DancerI was thus very pleased to see in the Guardian Weekend, that Ballet Folklórico was coming to London, and that it would be the first time in 20 years that they would be in the British Isles. I had never seen them live, so it was a great opportunity to do so, and boy was I pleased to have done so!

They had their show at the London Coliseum, the home of the English National Opera, and it was a great venue to hear some well-known songs. I was expecting great dancers, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear live music from start to finish.


The programme was divided into 9 distinct parts, going from Mariachis to pre-hispanic dances and indeed a lot of zapateado:

  • Los Matachines: as many cultural expressions in Mexico, La Danza de los Matachines (also known as "Moros y Cristianos") is a clear mix of European and pre-hispanic influences. It is a popular dance in religious festivals in the North of the Country. The interpretation presented in London was simply superb.


  • Guerrero-Guerrero: The name of one of the Mexican independence heroes; one of the states in the country is named after him and perhaps best known for places such as Acapulco. The company presented three parts here Solo de Mariquita, Las Amarillas and El Gusto.
  • Mexican Revolution: There is no November 20th parade in Mexico without the mention of Adelita and Las Soldaderas. This makes reference to the brave women who joined the fight during the Mexican Revolution in 1910. I really liked the reference to the railways as an important means of transport for los revolucionarios. BalletFolklorico_Adelita
  • Charrería: Sometimes dubbed the "Mexican National Sport", Charrerías incorporate equestrian competitions and demonstrations, specific costumes and horse/cattle trappings, music, and food. I was truly amazed by the lasso skill of the main Charro who never stopped dancing.
  • Fiesta en Tlacotalpan: Tlacotalpan is a town inthe state of Veracruz. It has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and the Ballet Folklóriko celebrated the traditional 2nd February Candelaria party with a Carnival. It was great to see real mojigangas on the stage. Even La Bamba made an appearance!
  • Los Quetzales: A quetzal is a magnificent bird with beautiful plumage. And with just a few movements, I felt transported to Puebla de los Ángeles. Great headwear and lots of colour!BalletFolklorico_Quetzales
  • Danzón and Jarana: Once again the mixing of cultures in Mexico brings a fantastic result and in this case Europe, Africa and the Caribbean give us dances such as Danzón and Jarana, from Veracruz to Yucatán.BalletFolklorico_Jarana
  • Danza del Venado: And from the South of the country, to the Sonora Dessert in the North. La Danza del Venado (or dance of the deer) is a visceral performance representing the hunt of a the deer by the Yaquis. Truly magical performance!
  • Jalisco: If Mexico is known for anything in particular, it would definitely have to be for teh recognisable sombreros, and Mariachi music from Jalisco. How did I enjoy the Jarabe Tapatío, La Negra and Viva México.

What a great way to finish a fantastic performance. People could not be stopped from joining in from their seats. I am truly glad that I had a chance to join la fiesta while El Ballet Folklórico de México came to visit London. I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did!


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Happy Star Wars Day!

With it being May 4th, I would like to wish you all a happy Star Wars day!

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Shelf Life - The Tiniest Fossils

Really thrilled to continue seeing the American Museum of Natural History series Shelf Life. I blogged about this series earlier on in the year and they have kept to their word with interesting and unique instalments.

In Episode 6 we get to hear about micropaleontology, the study of fossil specimens that are so tiny you cannot see them with the naked eye. The scientist and researchers tell us about foramnifera, unicellular organisms belonging to the kingdom Protista and which go back to about 65 million years. In spite of being unicellular, they make shells! And this is indeed what makes it possible for them to become fossilised.

Interestingly enough these fossils allow us to used them as ways to tell something about ancient climate data. As Roberto Moncada pointed out to me:

According to our expert in the piece, basically every representational graph you’ve ever seen of climate/temperatures from the Earth’s past is derived from analyzing these tiny little creatures.

The Tiniest Fossils are indeed among the most important for climate research!

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The physical book! Essential MATLAB and Octave

It has been a long wait, but finally today I got my hands on the physical version of my book. So pleased.

It is available from the publishers

Also in Amazon:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/1482234637/ref=redir_mdp_mobile/280-5584446-9196231Essential Matlab and Octave Book


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Essential MATLAB and Octave included in the Mathworks site

I am very pleased to see that the Mathworks has now added my book "Essential MATLAB and Octave" to their MathWorks Book Program Member Support Web site. They have now made available a page for the book and it can be reached here.

The book is available directly from the publishers, CRC, and also at Amazon.



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Black holes, gravity and film - Depicting gravitational lensing in Interstellar

Listening to the Science Magazine podcast I found out that the black hole depiction (or its effects rather) as shown in the latest film by Christopher Nolan, Interstellar, used the expertise of physicists to create the visualisations. Furthermore, the researchers used the work for the film to write an academic paper!

There are a number of things that are not as sound in the film, for instance the contrast of the efforts to free the ship from the embrace of the Earth's gravitational field, and the whizzing out from a tidal-wave-ridden planet by simply floating away... But, that is not why I wrote this post.... it was to highlight the black hole depiction... so back to the subject. In order to better depict the black hole, the film used the expertise of theoretical astro-physicist Kip Thorne, the Feynman Professor of theoretical Physics at Caltech.

Thorne Diagram

In order to produce the effect of the black hole Thorne, worked together with Double Negative in implementing the equations that would render the visual effect. However, no rendering software was able to do the rendering as they are based on the fact that outside black holes, light rays travel in a straight line. In order to show the gravitational lensing around the black hole a new renderer had to be created. The result were images that took over 100 hours to be  created. The images obtained provided Thorne with unexpected results as they showed that the light that is emitted from the accretion disk around the  black hole would have its light distorted by gravity in such a wat that a halo would apere above and below but also in front of it too. So we just have to wait for the papers to be out and read more about this. In the meantime if you are interested in finding our more about research into black holes take a look at this page.



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Visualized.io London

Yesterday I had the chance to attend the first Visualized.io conference in London. It was a fully packed day with lots of interesting speakers and fun people. The variety of the talks was quite good and most of the presentations were very well prepared. I was surprised at the bad use of video in a couple of the talk in the morning session, but apart from that it was all very good.

I ended up winning a print and it is not decorating one of the walls at home. You can see a picture at the end of the gallery below. The conference tool place at Protein in the heart of Hipsterland (aka Shoreditch) and it was a well attended event.

I particularly enjoyed the talk by David McCandless who turned out to be the mystery guest. Similarly, the presentation by Pascal Raabe about memories was very good and inspiring. Another good presentation was the "smelly" talk given by Kate McLean.

Andy Kirk gave a view about the Design of Time and you can see the slides here.

If you are interested in seeing what twitter was saying before, during and after the conference, check this page.

Finally, the conference was at Eventfire archived here, and I am surprised to see that I was the top contributor according to them! :D

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Essential MATLAB and Octave - Marketing


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Learn Two Popular Programming Languages from One Volume

Essential MATLAB® and Octave
Essential MATLAB® and Octave
Jesús Rogel-Salazar, University of Hertfordshire, UK“This is an excellent book for anyone approaching MATLAB or Octave for the first time. ... an easy read that will provide the necessary tools to begin working with MATLAB or Octave in a short period of time ... .”
—Professor SabinoChávez-Cerda,INAOE,México, OSA FellowBuy Now

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Essential MATLAB® and Octave is a superb introductory textbook for those interested in learning how to solve scientific, engineering, and mathematical problems using two of the most popular mathematical programming tools available. The book assumes almost no prior experience with programming or scientific programming, and carefully takes the reader step by step through the use of the two languages for solving increasingly complex problems. ...”
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"Essential MATLAB and Octave" is now available

I am so pleased to announce that my book "Essential MATLAB and Octave" is finally available. It has already been published in the US and you can take a look at the CRC Press.

In the UK it will be out around the 4th of December so keep an eye on the Amazon page.

Essential Matlab Octave Rogel-Salazar

I also want to share with you an endorsement from Prof Sabino Chávez-Cerda from INAOE:

This is an excellent book for anyone approaching Matlab or Octave for the first time. The pleasant language used throughout the book creates the sensation of having the author by your side. If you have the intention of self-learning the basics Matlab from where you can start doing big technical or scientific projects this is the book that will help you to get your goals.

This is friendly a hands on practical self-study guide to Matlab and Octave for the beginner. With words of advice and caution. This is not what could be considered formally a reference book, for that purpose one have the help within any of both programs, but this is a book that will take teach how to walk to be able to run on your own. An interesting feature are the examples used to explain the use of functions and operations. They appear to be simple but it is years of experience that show the opposite, they can be the building blocks of more complex programmes.

The author presents without complicated language in the first three chapters the necessary commands to start solving simple mathematical problems. In science an engineering results are usually displayed graphically in different kind of plots. One of the aspects that I want to highlight regarding this book is that, compared to other similar texts on Octave and Matlab, the author introduces at an early stage how to produce line and surface plots with Matlab and Octave. It is very attractive to students to be able to quickly produce plots with scientific journal quality. Having this tool is like having a springboard that is complemented with the commands coming in the next chapter.

Chapter 5 presents programming structures common to high level programming languages explaining the particularities for Matlab and Octave. Finally in Chapter 6 the author presents examples form different disciplines exposed in a very and straight forward way that once they are reproduced by the reader, he or she will have the confidence on working problems of their own disciplines being these easy or with a certain level of complexity.

The side help are great as they can also work as virtual bookmarks when required to comeback to the explanation of a Matlab or Octave command. It has been shown in psychology experiments that this kind of features in a paper book are kept in memory and that can be retrieved more easily when needed.

There are a very few books devoted to the learning of Octave, although this might be because its high compatibility with Matlab or lack of knowledge of its existence. The main difference between these two is that Matlab is a commercial software and Octave is an open source software. On the technical side between Matlab and Octave there are a few commands that are different but this book helps you highlighting the most useful ones. Introducing Octave, is a plus for this book in developing countries where access to software with prices above one thousand dollars are simply beyond of considering even for universities.

I have found this obstacle in Mexican and Brazilian Universities where I was invited to teach a course on Computational Physics, the universities did not own Matlab and did not have the resources to buy it. I am a Matlab user but knowing of Octave I suggested to get it and install it, they were so happy as they had two things at once the course and a software that could be used for future generations.

The book is just the right size at above the two hundred pages that are enlarged by the friendly format that otherwise would be below the two hundred pages line. The density and the writing style of the text makes it easy to read and grab the information intended to be learned. It has references to recent literature and also provides information about relevant websites.

In conclusion, the book Essential Matlab and Octave, a Beginners handbook is an easy read that will provide the necessary tools to begin working with Matlab or Octave in a short period of time, that with some dedication it can be of no more than two weeks.

Prof. Sabino Chávez-Cerda
INAOE, México, OSA Fellow

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Essential MATLAB and Octave - Closer to publication date

The publication date of "Essential MATLAB and Octave" is getting closer and closer. I would like to use this as an opportunity to share yet another endorsement, this time from Dr Hiram Luna-Munguia from the Department of Neurology at the University of Michigan:

This well-written book is a must-have for those people starting to solve numerical problems in Matlab or Octave. Since the beginning the reader will appreciate that the book´s major goal is to describe the essential aspects of both software without discrediting or highlighting the use of any of them. Page by page you will find clear explanations describing the way you should communicate with each software. The set of homework problems given at the end of each chapter makes the book even more dynamic.

Students and experts will warmly welcome Essential Matlab and Octave: A Beginner's Handbook into their libraries. I highly recommend it as an excellent reference tool.

Essential Matlab Octave Rogel-Salazar


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Essential Matlab and Octave - Publication Date

I have received very good news from CRC Press in regards to the publication of my book "Essential Matlab and Octave": The publication date for the book in the US is November 13th, and the UK following after one or two week.

Also, the endorsements for the book are very good and I thought of sharing one from Dr Shashank Virmani from the Brunel University, UK:

"Essential Matlab and Octave" is a superb introductory textbook for those interested in learning how to solve scientific, engineering, and mathematical problems using two of the most popular mathematical programming tools available --- Matlab and Octave.

The book assumes almost no prior experience with programming or scientific programming, and carefully takes the reader step-by-step through the use the of the two languages for solving increasingly complex problems. It begins with elementary tasks such as the evaluation of simple functions, takes the reader through the basics of plotting figures and programming syntax, leading up to a chapter of more sophisticated examples of problems to suit a diverse range of tastes, including linear algebra applications, the solution of differential equations in physics and biology, signal processing, and problems in mathematical finance.

Dr. Rogel-Salazar has put a huge amount of effort into making the book accessibly and user-friendly in a way that makes it suitable even for the most novice of programmers. The layout of the book is used very effectively with boxes that give clear and concise example programmes and the use of side notes to point out where differences can occur between Matlab and Octave, and to provide references and additional information.

Just the right balance of content is chosen for a beginner to quickly reach a stage where they can begin to write useful programmes of their own. Enough detail is included to point out the power and major stumbling blocks, without overburdening the reader with too much detail on the more subtle aspects that they can only come to appreciate after further experience of programming. This helps the textbook fill a useful gap in the market, and make it an excellent companion to introductory courses on scientific computation in degree programmes, as well as an accessible but concise guide to anyone learning how to use such tools by themselves”


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Now Reviewing: Fractional Calculus by R Herrmann

Now Reviewing: Fractional Calculus by R Herrmann

Fractional Calculus

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Essential Matlab and Octave - Endorsement

With the up-coming publishing of my book Essential Matlab and Octave, it is great to star receiving endorsements from practitioners and lecturers that have had a chance to review the book. Here I have the pleasure of sharing one:

Essential Matlab Octave Rogel-Salazar


From: Dr Alan McCall, University of Hertfordshire.

The text provides a clear and easy paced introduction to Matlab and Octave. The presentation is example led and contains plenty of useful applications drawn from mathematics, physics and engineering. This beginner’s handbook will suit a broad scientific readership.

Key features:

  • The in-parallel coverage of Matlab and Octave.
  • All key software features are covered in a concise and careful manner.
  • Includes many of the common scientific computing tasks for which the software can be used.
  • Contains a wide range of applications from linear algebra, portfolio analysis, differential equations, signal processing, wave motion and quantum mechanics.
  • Provides lots of useful practical tips not found in other texts.
  • The numerous in text examples and end of chapter exercises encourage learning by doing.
  • A suitable text for a short course or a useful reference for self-study.
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Matlab and Octave book: Update

I am super excited as I have just received what seem to be the final corrections from the CRC Press copyeditors in regards to my book "Essential MATLAB and Octave". The total corrections amounts to one (1) comma! Not bad!

You can have a look at the CRC Press for the book here.

In Amazon, you can find the book here.

Essential Maltab Octave Rogel-Salazar

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Science is a creative process

I read this article in Newsweek and had to share it with you. Go and read it! Here is a brief extract:

I wanted to get things in perspective: If law students had to spend five or six years in school, think up a novel law and get i t passed. then their training would resemble that of a biology Ph.D. If a med student had to invent and test a new treatment for patients - and prove it successful - before being awarded an M.D., ditto. If my students remember nothing else, I'd be happy if they leave with the idea that, just like art or music, science is a creative process.

Biology PhD




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Now Reading: Alan Turing - The Enigma

Now Reading: Alan Turing - The Enigma by Andrew Hodges

Very good read

Alan Turing


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ICM2014 ― opening ceremony

ICM2014 — opening ceremony
// Gowers's Weblog

I’d forgotten just how full the first day of an ICM is. First, you need to turn up early for the opening ceremony, so you end up sitting around for an hour and half or so before it even starts. Then there’s the ceremony itself, which lasts a couple of hours. Then in the afternoon you have talks about the four Fields Medallists and the Nevanlinna Prize winner, with virtually no breaks. Then after a massive ten minutes, the Nevanlinna Prize winner talks about his (in this case) own work, about which you have just heard, but in a bit more detail. That took us to 5:45pm. And just to round things off, Jim Simons is giving a public lecture at 8pm, which I suppose I could skip but I think I’m not going to. (The result is that most of this post will be written after it, but right at this very moment it is not yet 8pm.)

I didn’t manage to maintain my ignorance of the fourth Fields medallist, because I was sitting only a few rows behind the medallists, and when Martin Hairer turned up wearing a suit, there was no longer any room for doubt. However, there was a small element of surprise in the way that the medals were announced. Ingrid Daubechies (president of the IMU) told us that they had made short videos about each medallist, and also about the Nevanlinna Prize winner, who was Subhash Khot. So for each winner in turn, she told us that a video was about to start. An animation of a Fields medal then rotated on the large screens at the front of the hall, and when it settled down one could see the name of the next winner. The beginning of each video was drowned out by the resulting applause (and also a cheer for Bhargava and an even louder one for Mirzakhani), but they were pretty good. At the end of each video, the winner went up on stage, to more applause, and sat down. Then when the five videos were over, the medals were presented, to each winner in turn, by the president of Korea.

Here they are, getting their medals/prize. It wasn’t easy to get good photos with a cheap camera on maximum zoom, but they give some idea.

ICM2014 ― opening ceremony














After those prizes were announced, we had the announcements of the Gauss prize and the Chern medal. The former is for mathematical work that has had a strong impact outside mathematics, and the latter is for lifetime achievement. The Gauss medal went to Stanley Osher and the Chern medal to Phillip Griffiths.

If you haven’t already seen it, the IMU page about the winners has links to very good short (but not too short) summaries of their work. I’m quite glad about that because I think it means I can get away with writing less about them myself. I also recommend this Google Plus post by John Baez about the work of Mirzakhani.

I have one remark to make about the Fields medals, which is that I think that this time round there were an unusually large number of people who could easily have got medals, including other women. (This last point is important — one should think of Mirzakhani’s medal as the new normal rather than as some freak event.) I have two words to say about them: Mikhail Gromov. To spell it out, he is an extreme, but by no means unique, example of a mathematician who did not get a Fields medal but whose reputation would be pretty much unaltered if he had. In the end it’s the theorems that count, and there have been some wonderful theorems proved by people who just missed out this year.

Other aspects of the ceremony were much as one would expect, but there was rather less time devoted to long and repetitive speeches about the host country than I have been used to at other ICMs, which was welcome.

That is not to say that interesting facts about the host country were entirely ignored. The final speech of the ceremony was given by Martin Groetschel, who told us several interesting things, one of which was the number of mathematics papers published in international journals by Koreans in 1981. He asked us to guess, so I’m giving you the opportunity to guess before reading on.

Now Korea is 11th in the world for the number of mathematical publications. Of course, one can question what this really means, but it certainly means something when you hear that the answer to the question above is 3. So in just one generation a serious mathematical tradition has been created from almost nothing.

He also told us the names of the people on various committees. Here they are, except that I couldn’t quite copy all of them down fast enough.

The Fields Medal committee consisted of Daubechies, Ambrosio, Eisenbud, Fukaya, Ghys, Dick Gross, Kirwan, Kollar, Kontsevich, Struwe, Zeitouni and Günter Ziegler.

The program committee consisted of Carlos Kenig (chair), Bolthausen, Alice Chang, de Melo, Esnault, me, Kannan, Jong Hae Keum, Le Bris, Lubotsky, Nesetril and Okounkov.

The ICM executive committee (if that’s the right phrase) for the next four years will be Shigefumi Mori (president), Helge Holden (secretary), Alicia Dickenstein (VP), Vaughan Jones (VP), Dick Gross, Hyungju Park, Christiane Rousseau, Vasudevan Srinivas, John Toland and Wendelin Werner.

He also told us about various initiatives of the IMU, one of which sounded interesting (by which I don’t mean that the others didn’t). It’s called the adopt-a-graduate-student initiative. The idea is that the IMU will support researchers in developed countries who want to provide some kind of mentorship for graduate students in less developed countries working in a similar area who might otherwise not find it easy to receive appropriate guidance. Or something like that.

Ingrid Daubechies also told us about two other initiatives connected with the developing world. One was that the winner of the Chern Medal gets to nominate a good cause to receive a large amount of money. Stupidly I seem not to have written it down, but it may have been $250,000. Anyhow, that order of magnitude. Phillip Griffiths chose the African Mathematics Millennium Science Initiative, or AMMSI. The other was that the five winners of the Breakthrough Prizes in mathematics, Donaldson, Kontsevich, Lurie, Tao and Taylor, have each given $100,000 towards a $500,000 fund for helping graduate students from the developing world. I don’t know exactly what form the help will take, but the phrase “breakout graduate fellowships” was involved.

When I get time, I’ll try to write something about the Laudationes, but right now I need to sleep. I have to confess that during Jim Simons’s talk, my jet lag caught up with me in a major way and I simply couldn’t keep awake. So I don’t really have much to say about it, except that there was an amusing Q&A session where several people asked long rambling “questions” that left Jim Simons himself amusingly nonplussed. His repeated requests for short pithy questions were ignored.

Just before I finish, I’ve remembered an amusing thing that happened during the early part of the ceremony, when some traditional dancing was taking place (or at least I assume it was traditional). At one point some men in masks appeared, who looked like this.

Masked dancers

Masked dancers

Just while we’re at it, here are some more dancers.

Dancers of various kinds

Dancers of various kinds

Anyhow, when the men in masks came on stage, there were screams of terror from Mirzakhani’s daughter, who looked about two and a half, and delightful, and she (the daughter) took a long time to be calmed down. I think my six-year-old son might have felt the same way — he had to leave a pantomime version of Hansel and Gretel, to which he had been taken as a birthday treat when he was five, almost the instant it started, and still has those tendencies.

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Stochastic Calculus and Differential Equations for Physics and Finance

Review of Stochastic Calculus and Differential Equations for Physics and Finance, by Joseph L. McCauley

Download a free copy of the review here.

Stochastic Calculus

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One more year in Pictures - Project 365

This is the 2013-2014 instalment of the Project 365. I can't believe it has been three years of this already. I hope you enjoy!

Here is a link and you can find a video below:

Project 365 - 2013/2014

[shashin type="album" id="2" size="small" crop="n" columns="max" caption="y" order="date" position="center"]

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Enable NTFS read and write in your Mac

CES 2013 - OWC Mac mini external storage - min...
CES 2013 - OWC Mac mini external storage - miniStack Max (Photo credit: the JoshMeister)

I was confronted with an old issue, that had not been an issue for a while: writing to an external hard drive that was formatted with Windows (NTFS) from my mac. I used to have NTFS-3G (together with MacFUSE) installed and that used to be fine. However, I guess something when a bit eerie with Mavericks as I was not able to get my old solution to work.

So, here is what I did (you will need superuser powers, so be prepared to type your password):

Open a Terminal (Terminal.app) and create a file called stab in the /etc folder. For instance you can type:

$ sudo nano /etc/fstab

You can now enter some information in your newly created file telling MacOS information about your device. If your external drive is called mydevice enter the following:

LABEL=mydevice none ntfs rw,auto,nobrowse

Use tabs between the fields listed above. Save your file and you are now ready to plug your device.

There is a small caveat: Once you do this, your hard drive is not going to appear in your Desktop. But do not disappear, you can still use the terminal to access the drives mounted by going to /Volumes folder as follows:

$ sudo ln -s /Volumes ~/Desktop/Volumes

et voilà!

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WWDC programme

Yay, it looks like the programme for WWDC has been released.




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40th anniversary of the famous Rubik's cube

Ribik's Cube

To celebrate the puzzle’s 40th anniversary, today’s Google Doodle is a fully-functional Rubik’s Cube! If you had a cube for every possible arrangement of the 54 colored squares, and you laid them end-to-end, those 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 cubes would extend 261 light years.

But no single Rubik’s cube can be configured to all of those Rubik’s universes.

If the traditional cube isn’t challenging enough for you, you can head over to the Chrome Cube Lab and try your digital hand at some other cubic puzzles.

The folks at Numberphile took an in-depth look at the math behind a Rubik’s Cube in a series of videos on YouTube.

Here is a video of the doodle Rubik's cube being solved:


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Happy birthday Agnesi!

Maria Gaetana Agnesi is credited to be the first western woman to gain a reputation as s mathematician. The mathematical curve that bears her name, the witch of Agnesi, appeared in her book Instituzioni analitiche ad uso della gioventù italiana. The curve is also known as cubique d'Agnesi or agnésienne. The “witch” denomination comes from a mistranslation (typical...) of the term “averisera” used by Agnesi in her book and transformed into “avversiera” (wife of the devil). Google celebrated Agnesi’s 296th birthday with a doodle of this curve.




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What is this?


Does any if you tweeps know what this is? It is hanging at a conference room...


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Happy birthday Dorothy Hodgkin

Very glad to see that today's Google Doodle is dedicated to the 104th birthday anniversary of Dorothy Hodgkin, known for the development of protein crystallography and establishing the structures of vitamin B12 and penicillin. X-ray crystallography is a method that can help determine the three-dimensional structures of biomolecules. She was awarded the nobel prize in Chemistry in 1964.

dorothy hodgkin


Dorothy Hodgkin



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Now reading: The Second Machine Age

Now reading: The Second Machine Age by E Brynjolfsson and A McAfee

The Second Machine Age


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Changing date/time in Ubuntu virtualbox

I was a bit puzzled by the fact I could not easily change the date/time in an instance of a virtualbox as used by the High Performance Scientific Computing Coursera course run by Dr. Randall J. LeVeque via Coursera.

I tried using the simple date command but I kept on being told that

date: cannot set date: Operation not permitted

I tried updating the Ubuntu distro, but no luck. Eventually I found a solution using a symlink to localtime:

$ cd /etc
$ mv localtime localtime_original
$ ln -s /usr/share/zoneinfo/Europe/London ./localtime

You will have to use the correct zone for your location. Et voilà!

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Science is beautiful exhibition

When I first heard about the plans that the British Library had about an exhibitions called Science is Beautiful I got very excited. I did even make an entry in my diary about the date that it was planned to be opened. Closer to the time I even encourage Twitter followers and colleagues to go to the exhibition.

lorence Nightingale's "rose diagram", showing the Causes of Mortality in the Army in the East, 1858. Photograph: /British Library
lorence Nightingale's "rose diagram", showing the Causes of Mortality in the Army in the East, 1858. Photograph: /British Library

The exhibition promised to explore how "our understanding of ourselves and our planet has evolved alongside our ability to represent, graph and map the mass data of the time." So I finally made some time and made it to the British Library today... the exhibition was indeed there with some nice looking maps and graphics, but I could not help feeling utterly disappointed. I was very surprised they even call this an exhibition, the very few images, documents and interactive displays were very few and not very immersive. Probably my favourite part was looking at "The Pedigree of Man" and the "Nightingale's Rose" together with an interactive show. Nonetheless, I felt that the British Library could have done a much better job given the wealth of documents they surely have at hand. Besides, the technology used to support the exhibits was not that great... for example the touch screens were not very responsive and did not add much to the presentation.

Sadly I cannot really longer recommend visiting the stands, and I feel that you are better off looking a the images that the Guardian has put together in their DataBlog, and complement with the video that Nature has made available. You can also read the review that Rebekah Higgitt wrote for the Guardian.


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Sorted for some geeky reading

Very pleased with the post that arrived today. It looks like I am sorted for my healthy dose of geeky reading.



20140201 geekreading

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Web Application Development with R using Shiny - Review

I have been invited to write a review of a book I got as a prize for answering a question posed by Chris Beeley during the lasted LondonR meeting. As a form of of disclosure I would like to add that I have been offered a free title from Packt (the publisher of the book) for providing the review.

First, let me start by saying that I started using R about a year ago and I am very pleased I did manage to climb the learning curve. Most of the work I have been doing with R involves the manipulation and analysis of data and only very recently heard of Shiny. Shiny is an R package that "makes it incredibly easy to build interactive web applications with R." I would like to think of it as a GUI development for R code. As explained by the book, you can install Shiny directly from the R console, but I find RStudio much better as a development environment.

The book starts with a brief introduction to R, perhaps too brief, and I would recommend consulting a book on R for more information. Nonetheless, the basics are covered for the purposes of the book. The main point of the book is covered with the development of an application to query results from the Google Analytics API. This is a good way to familiarise yourself with the use of the package but I could not help feeling that more information was needed as the examples are all rather light. The chapter dealing with custom HTML provides a number of tools and tips that could be used to generate your own applications but then again things seem a bit to rushed.

Overall, I think the book provides a concise way to get started with shiny, but bear in mind that you may need either a decent knowledge of R, HTML, CSS, JS or a couple of good sources (books, blogs, friends) to make full use of Shiny.

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Now Reading: Shady Characters

Actually, I started reading this some time ago. I even had a chance to interact with the author and get mentioned in some posts!



Shady Characters

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Essential MATLAB and Octave

As probably some of you know, I am currently writing a book about MATLAB and Octave focussed at new comers to both programming and the MATLAB/Octave environments. The book is tentatively entitled "Essential MATLAB and Octave" and I am getting closer and closer to getting the text finished. The next step is preparing exercises and finalising things. My publisher, CRC Press, has been great and I hope the book does well.

I'm aiming to finish things by May and in principle the book will be available from Novemeber or so. The whole process does take a while but I am really looking forward to seeing the finished thing out there.

So, what triggered this post? Well, I have seen the appearance of a site with the book announced. I am not sure if these are usual practices but in any case it is a good thing, don't you think?




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Harvesting magnetic fields...

A few days ago I got a message from my mate Jorge Soto... always great to hear from him, particularly with New Year wishes and even better with an interesting question:

Jorge Soto

The question is related to the conversion of magnetic energy into electrical one and whether the process can be achieved in places such as the Van Allen radiation belt.

So, lets us take this by parts: First the magnetic to electric energy conversion. Well, according to the first law of thermodynamics energy cannot be "created or destroyed", but we can indeed convert it from one from to another one. It turns out that we can use some kinetic energy to move, say, a magnet. In turn this kinetic energy can be converted to electrical energy thanks to the properties of electromagnetism, in particular to the so-called Faraday's law. Faraday discovered that, when moving a permanent magnet into and out of a coil of wire, an electrical current was induced in the wire while the magnet was in motion.

Now, to the Van Allen radiation belt: the belt is part of the Earth's magnetosphere. Ok, ok... The magnetosphere is the part of space near a celestial object in which charged particles are controlled by the magnetic field generated by the object itself. So the Van Allen belts extend from an altitude of about 1,000 to 60,000 kilometers above the surface in which region radiation levels vary. In order to convert magnetic energy to electrical, as mentioned above, we requiere the magnetic field to be in movement or vary. It is generally accepted that in that context, the Earth is effectively a permanent magnet and thus to generate electric power from that, you have to move electric conductors (wires) thought the  field in the right direction and with the right orientation of the conductor. Not an easy task...

However, one can perhaps take advantage of the variations of the magnetic field. In Nature 439, 799-801 (16 February 2006) it has been reported that

"... Earth's magnetic field is weak: it varies from about 25 microtesla (muT) at the Equator to 75 muT at the poles, with geomagnetic field lines inclined, in Europe and North America, at an angle of about 60° to the (horizontal) surface. The field is not constant: currents in the ionosphere and disturbances from Earth's interior produce slow daily variations in the field with amplitudes of some 25 nanotesla (nT), and superimposed on these are further oscillations with periods of a few seconds and amplitudes of about 1 nT."

Using the very crude approximation that there are variations of 1nT per second, and take a circular area of with radius of 1 metre we would end up with a voltage of $latex pi times 10^{-9}$ Volts or approximately 3.1415 nano volts. Or in other terms we would get about 3 one-billionth's of a volt per square meter of flux... probably not a lot of usable energy and thus maybe not that cost effective.

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¡gnaborretni? - Reblog from Shady Characters

Very pleased to see that the question/comment I sent to Keith Houston, the author of the excellent Shady Characters book.

Here is the entry in his blog (the original is here):

Miscellany № 42: ¡gnaborretni?



A interrobang writ in wine? (Photo courtesy of Alasdair Gillon.)

Happy new year! Are you ready for a hair of the dog? Earlier this month, Dr Jesús Rogel-Salazar, a physicist with interests in quantum mechanics, ultra cold matter, nonlinear optics, computational physics — and punctuation, as it turns out — got in touch on Twitter to ask:

Any idea if inverted interrobangs are/were in use, or are still people using the ¡combination?/¿combination!

Dr Rogel-Salazar didn’t say so explicitly, but I understood his question to refer to the use of punctuation in Spanish, where questions and exclamations are book-ended by normal and rotated marks, like ¿this? and ¡this!

The interrobang, of course, is this mark, ‘‽’, the single-character union of ‘?’ and ‘!’ invented by Martin K. Speckter back in 1962. Since then, however, “interrobang” has also passed into (relatively) common usage to refer to the use of both marks at the end of a sentence, thus: ‘?!’ or ‘!?’.

Now there is technically an inverted interrobang intended for use in Spanish and culturally-related languages such as Catalan and Galician. (Assuming that your browser can display it, it looks like this: ‘⸘’.) As far as I know, the “gnaborretni”, as it is called, is a purely theoretical mark; while the interrobang occasionally surfaces in public (notably in an opinion of the Court of Appeals), I don’t recall ever having come across a gnaborretni. I passed Dr Rogel-Salazar’s query on to Alasdair Gillon, a friend of mine who lives and works in Spain, to see if he could shed some light on it. Here is his reply:

I have never seen the ¿combination! Not anywhere. I may have seen ¡¿this?! once or twice.

Actually, especially in social networking, the upside down marks are disappearing altogether, and people are just going with the rest of the world. You never see it in WhatsApp, SMS or Facebook messages, etc.

I have definitely never seen the inverted interrobang. In fact, I would say I’ve never seen an upright one in Spain, except perhaps for this advert for wine [top right], which caught my eye in Barcelona recently and made me think of you. What else could it be?

What else indeed?

So, have any Shady Characters readers come across the gnaborretni, in either its pure (⸘) or debased forms (¡¿)? Is Spanish losing the pleasing rotational symmetry of its questions and exclamations?

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Grace Hopper Doodle



Once again Google puts out a doodle worth mentioning. This time they celebrate the 107th birthday anniversary of computer scientist Grace Hopper.
In case you do not know who Hopper is, well, let me smile say that she is the amazon woman behind COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language), which is still very much used today.

Grace Hopper was born in  New York in 1906  and studied Mathematics and Physics (of course) at Vassar College where she graduated in 1928. She then obtained a master's degree at Yale in 1930 and a PhD in 1934.

Hopper joined the US Navy reserve during World War two and she was assigned to the Bureau of Ordinance Computation Project at Harvard University where she was only the third person to program the Harvard Mark I computer. She continued to work at Harvard until 1949 when she joined the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation as a senior programmer.

She helped to develop the UNIVAC I, which was the second commercial computer produced in the US. In the 1950s Hopper created the first ever compiler, known as the A compiler and the first version was called the A-O.

Hopper continued to serve in the navy until 1986 when she was the oldest commissioned officer on active duty in the United States Navy.

She died in Arlington, Virginia in 1992 at the age of 85.

Grace Hopper behind my keyboard
Grace Hopper behind my keyboard (Photo credit: Alexandre Dulaunoy)


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LondonR - Shiny

I had the chance to attend the latest LondonR meeting last week. It was a good interesting gathering and I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was well attended by a variety of like-minded people.

The meeting had talks by

  • Andy South - Making beautiful world maps with country-referenced data using rworldmap and other R packages
  • Malcolm Sherrington - Algorithmic Trading with R
  • Chris Beeley - Shiny happy web interfaces - Shiny, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Shiny Server working together

I am also very pleased that I managed to be on time to answer the question that Chris Beeley put on the day to win a digital copy of his book Web application development with R using Shiny. The book is available form Packt Publishing, Thanks to Chris Beeley and Packt for the book.


web app

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Reading GeekFest

Reading GeekFest - PhysicsWorld and Mathematics Today



Reading Geek

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Dr Who - 50th Anniversary Doodle

It seems there are a number of things to commemorate around this time. Not only the 10 years of England winning the rugby world cup but also 50 years of Dr Who.

I watched the first ever four episodes last night thanks to the great BBC 4 (even newspapers writing about that).

And now Google celebrating the 50 years with a Google Doodle game! All with TARDIS sound effects and music! Brilliant!





Dr Who Dr Who Dr Who

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Now Reading: Flatland by E Abbot Abbott

Now reading Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbott Abbott was published in 1884. Edwin Abbott Abbott used the pseudonymous "A Square" to talk about a two-dimensional world, pointing out observations on the social hierarchy of Victorian culture. However, the book's more enduring contribution is its examination of mathematical dimensions.




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Electromagnetism redefined?

I have finally had some time to catch up with the brand new Observer Tech Monthly magazine, a very welcomed addition to the fine Guardian and Observer newspapers. So, there I was, reading about Paul Mason and his tech, and how the body clock works. So, after a turn of the page I find an article by Alok Jha explaining Maxwell's Equations and how they electrified the world. All great, except... except... well... except the equations they framed (as expected written with chalk on a blackboard) are incorrect. OK, at least one of them is incorrect , but that it enough to redefine the entire electromagnetic theory.

Observer Maxwell Equations

They have started by showing the equations for the case of a region with no charges ($latex \rho = 0$) and no currents ($latex J = 0$), such as in a vacuum. The correct set of Maxwell's equations reduce in that case to:

  • $latex \nabla \cdot {\bf E}=0$
  • $latex \nabla\cdot {\bf B}=0$
  • $latex \nabla\times {\bf E}=-\frac{\partial {\bf B}}{\partial t}$
  • $latex \nabla\times {\bf B}=\frac{1}{c^2}\frac{\partial {\bf E}}{\partial t}$

I have used the notation $latex {\bf B}$ for the magnetic field... In any case, note the last two equations I wrote above. Can you see the difference between them and the ones depicted in the newspaper article? I wonder what sort of electromagnetic phenomena could be observed by the redefined equations in the Observer... who knows perhaps that is the way electromagnetic fields behave in another Universe, but not on this one.


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I was not expecting this, but it seems that Amazon has decided to make available the MP3 version of an old  purchase I made. It is Solar by Moenia, one of my favourite bands.



Solar Moenia

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Now Reading… The Invisible Man

Now Reading… The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells



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Neuromancer – Japanese words…

This is a reblog/translation of a post by Héctor García...

During the 80s in the United States, Japan was started to be seen as the inevitable first economic power of the world. It went from being considered as the source of cheap imitation gadgets during the 60s and 70s to the country at the forefront of high quality technology. The neon lights and the small alleyways of Japan became the images used to depict the future in a number of science fiction films and books.





A case in point is Neuromancer by William Gibson, a novel published in 1984 (the same year that Blade Runner came out) and whose atmosphere is based in a distopian Japan where technology has taken control over society.


neuromancer-matrixReading Neuromancer can be rather dense and there is a large number of "invented" words; not too dissimilar to other scifi works. For instance, the word "cyberspace" was first introduced by William Gibson in his novel entitled "Burning Chrome". The word is also used in Neuromancer and it has actually become a common word used by all of us. Cyberspace, as a word, is rather easy to understand but as you keep reading the book on you end up finding paragraphs such as this one, full of words with Japanese origin:

“He stepped out of the way to let a dark-suited sarariman, by spotting the Mitsubishi-Genentech logo tattoed across the back of the man’s right hand … The sarariman had been Japanese, but the Ninsei crowd was a gaijin crowd."

If you are not familiar with the meaning of these words, you actually can miss some of the nuances and details, mainly in the first few chapters. Here I have put together a vocabulary of Japanese words that appear in the novel.

Chiba City/ Ninsei: Chiba is a prefecture and city to the East of Tokyo where Narita airport is located and there are a pair of Disneyland parks. Case, the main character in the novel, lives in Chiba City and at the beginning of the book he hangs around "Night City" which is a zone between Chiba and Tokyo where there are criminals and drogadicts. Ninsei is the name of the high street in Night City. According to Gibson's imagination, in the future, Chiba is full of arcades and artificial limb markets such as Alita, as well as hospitals specialised in neurosurgery.

“The Japanese had already forgotten more neurosurgery than the Chinese had ever known. The black clinics of Chiba were the cutting edge, whole bodies of technique supplanted monthly”

Chatsubo (茶壷): is the name of Case's local. Chatsubo 茶壷 in Japanese is the name of the clay pots used to keep matcha tea leaves before they get ground.

neuromancer chatsubo

“The Chatsubo was a bar for professional expatriates; you could drink there for a week and never hear two words in Japanese.”

Zaibatsu: is a group of large Japanese corporations usually under the control of the members of a single family. The term "zaibatsu" was widely used before World War Two. After the war, with the efforts to reconstruct the economy from scratch, "keiretsu" started appearing; they worked in a similar way to "zaibatsu" but they were not centralised or controlled by a single family. William Gibson uses the term "zaibatsu" in order to express the power of a large "monopoly" under the control of Japanese transnationals in the future he imagines.

Kirin: a well-know Japanese beer brand.


“Ratz was tending bar, his prosthetic arm jerking monotonously as he filled a tray of glasses with draft Kirin.”

Fuji electric Company: is a Japanese company founded in 1923 as a spin-off of the Furukawa zaibatsu.

“Tokyo for the glare of the television sky, not even the towering hologram logo of the Fuji Electric Company, and the Tokyo Bay”

Shinjuku: one of the best known areas in Tokyo. It has a secondary roll in Neuromancer.


“He punched a Tokyo number in Shinjuku. A woman answered, something in Japanese.

Ono-Sendai: in the book this is a Japanese corporation that manufactures cyberdecks. In Japanese "Ono" means ax and "Sendai" is the name of a prefecture in Japan.

Pachinko パチンコ: is a kind of popular playing machine in Japan

Yakitori 焼き鳥: chicken skewers


“He bought yakitori on skewers and two tall waxy cartons of beer. Glancing up at the holograms,.. “

Sarariman サラリーマン: businessman or woman employed by a corporation.


“The Finn, in a new Shinjuku suit, sarariman black, was waiting sourly”

Mitsubishi-Genentech: William Gibson imagines a futre where the multinational Mitsubishi has been absorbed by the American Genetech.

Gaijin 外人: Japanese word that means "foreigner", literaly it can be translated as "external person".

Yakuza ヤクザ: is the largest criminal organisation in Japan, similar to the mafia.

`You’re Yak, aren’t you, Lupus? Gaijin soldierman for the Yakuza.’

Bosozoku 暴走族: Japanese urban tribe associated with motorbikes.

Shuriken 手裏剣: sharp metal stars used by ninjas in Japan. Case, the main character, is fascinated by shrunken.

Case pulled the shirt over his head. He saw the shuriken on the bed, lifeless metal, his star.

Manriki o Kusari-fundo 鎖分銅: a metal chain used in feudal Japan as a combat weapon.

Street Samurai 侍: Samurai were medieval Japanese soldiers who usually worked for a "daimyo" (feudal lord). Those samurai that were left without a daimyo became "ronin". William Gibson uses the term "Street Samurai" to refer to mercenary criminals with "improved bodies".

Ninja 忍者: Ninja were medieval Japanese mercenaries specialised on spying, sabotage and murder.


“The ninja produced a credit chip and keyed Smith that amount out of a numbered Swiss account.”

Hosaka: a Japanse surname. In the book it is used to refer to a well-know computer manufacturer.

`Your boss wiped the bank on that other Hosaka, and damn near took ours with it. But your pal Wintermute put me on to something.

JAL: Japan Air Lines, it is one of the Japanese carriers. In the book the main characters travel from Paris to Freeside in a JAL shuttle.

Koto 琴: a Japanese string musical instrument.


“He listened to the piped koto music and waited.”

Sanpaku 三白 literally means "three" 三 "white" 白. It is used to describe eyes positioned in such a way that the iris does not touch the bottom eyelid, showing how the sclera is all connected.


`Sure.’ A millimeter of white showed beneath each of her pupils. Sanpaku. `You watch your back, man.’

Origami 折り紙: it literally means "folding paper" (折り- fold; 紙 - paper). The famous Japanese paper cranes made with origami are considered a symbol associated with peace in antinuclear campaigns in Japan. Is that a coincidence with Blade Runner?


“Case stooped and picked it up. An origami crane.”

“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

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Now Reading: Pontypool by T Burgess

I originally heard about this book by seeing the 2008 film of the same name. The script was adapted by Burgess himself and I expect the book to be somewhat different. Nonetheless I hope that the combination of zombies, language, tension, suspense, bleak Canadian landscape are still there. And of course a bit of Franglais to save the day...

Sydney Briar is alive...


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Now Reading: The Nose

Now reading 'The Nose' by Nikolai Gogol.

The Nose



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Interfaces and Colloids - Book cover

I never found myself so interested in interfaces and colloids before. Great marketing!

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Happy 306th birthday Euler!

In celebration of the Euler's birthday, Google has created a doodle today. The doodle includes:

  • The formula for the Euler characteristic, $latex V-E+F = 2 $, which relates the number of vertices, edges and faces of a spherical polyhedron and it shows some of these polyhedra.
  • It would not be a celebration of Euler without the identity that bears his name: $latex exp[i pi]=-1$, it is probably one of my most favourite identities! The doodle includes a geometrical interpretation of the formula too.
  • The second "o" in the doodle is a 3D representation of a sphere and it is animated!! This makes reference to Euler angles to describe the orientation of a rigid body.
  • Finally, they also make reference to the ‘Seven bridges of Königsberg‘ problem. With this problem, Euler effectively pioneered the area of mathematics known as graph theory.

Enjoy, and happy birthday Euler!

Euler doodle
Euler doodle


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Now reading: Dark Pools

Now reading "Dark Pools: : The rise of A.I. trading machines and the looming threat to Wall Street " by Scott Patterson.



dark pools

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Turing’s Universal Machine is voted the best British innovation

Turing’s Universal Machine is voted the best British innovation

The theoretical “Universal Machine” proposed by Turing in the 1930s has been voted the greatest British innovation from the past 100 years in an online poll run as part of National Science & Engineering Week.

The model that Turing developed provided the mathematical foundation that modern computing is based on.

There were more than 50,000 votes cast, and the Universal Machine won with 18 per cent of votes, narrowly beating the British Motor Corporation’s Mini with 17 per cent.

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Now Reading: Pricing the Future

Now reading "Pricing the Future" - Finance, Physics and too 300-year journey to the Black-Scholed Equation by George G. Szpiro.

Pricing the Future



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Now reading: Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Now reading: Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Pretty good read.

Thinking Fast and Slow

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The most secret of messages... cracked!!

A model of the GCHQ headquarters in Cheltenham
A model of the GCHQ headquarters in Cheltenham (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


In a past post I mentioned the serendipitous discovery of an encrypted message attached to the leg of a pigeon. The message, from WWII, had eluded the experts at GCHQ and the contents of the message were therefore not known. Well, it seems that a Canadian citizen has managed to do the impossible and cracked the code. His name is Gord Young, and he has been quoted saying that it took him 17 minutes to decipher the code. How did he do it? Well, it seems that he was able to do it with the help of a code book inherited.


So what is the content of the most secret of messages? Mr Young says the note uses a simple World War I code to detail German troop positions in Normandy. Here are the alleged contents of the message:


  •  AOAKN - Artillery Observer At "K" Sector, Normandy
  •  HVPKD - Have Panzers Know Directions
  • FNFJW - Final Note [confirming] Found Jerry's Whereabouts
  • DJHFP - Determined Jerry's Headquarters Front Posts
  • CMPNW - Counter Measures [against] Panzers Not Working
  • PABLIZ - Panzer Attack - Blitz
  • KLDTS - Know [where] Local Dispatch Station
  • 27 / 1526 / 6 - June 27th, 1526 hours


Is this what the message say? Well, GCHQ is surely interested in talking to Mr Young about his work... What do you think?


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Large Hadron Collider - Sci-advent - Day 5



The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator. It was built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). It has become a prominent facility due to the work that is being carried there to prove or disprove the existence of the Higgs boson and of the large family of new particles predicted by supersymmetric theories.

The LHC was built in collaboration with over 10,000 scientists and engineers from over 100 countries, as well as hundreds of universities and laboratories. It lies in a tunnel 27 kilometres in circumference, as deep as 175 metres (574 ft) beneath the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva, Switzerland.


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The Babbage Difference Engine - Sci-Advent - Day 3



In 1849, British inventor Charles Babbage completed designs for a difference engine, a very early mechanical computer. Due to cost and complexity the machine was never built in his lifetime and for 150 years nobody knew if the machine would have worked. In 2002, a Babbage Difference Engine based on the original plans was completed—and it actually works. The hand-cranked device has 8,000 parts, weighs 5 tons, and is 11 feet long. Two such machines now exist, one at the Science Museum in London and another at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. To get a sense of the incredible intricacy of the Babbage Difference Engine, take a look at these interactive high resolution images of the Computer History Museum machine. The images, created by xRez Studio, are each composites of up to 1,350 individual photos. The studio also shot this short video of the machine in operation.


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Skylon - Sci-advent - Day 2


skylonThe image shows the flow of hot air passing through the piping in a cooler for a new engine that is able to lower the temperature of the air lower than -140C in just 1/100th of a second.

The cooler is part of a new type of spaceplane engine demonstrated bye Reaction Engines Ltd (REL), Oxfordshire. The company ran a series of tests on key elements of its Sabre propulsion system under the independent eye of the European Space Agency (Esa).

REL's idea is for an 84m-long vehicle called Skylon that would do the job of a big rocket but operate like an airliner, taking off and landing at a conventional runway. The vehicle would burn a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen but in the low atmosphere the oxygen would be taken from the air, in the same way that a jet engine breathes air.

Taking its oxygen from the air in the initial flight phase would mean Skylon could fly lighter from the outset with a higher thrust-to-weight ratio, enabling it to make a single leap to orbit, rather than using and dumping propellant stages on the ascent - as is the case with current expendable rockets. A key element is the engine's ability to manage the hot air entering its intakes at a high speed. These gases have to be cooled prior to being compressed and burnt with the onboard hydrogen.

REL's solution is a module containing arrays of extremely fine piping that can extract the heat and plunge the inrushing air to about -140C in just 1/100th of a second. Ordinarily, the moisture in the air would be expected to freeze out rapidly, covering the piping in a blanket of frost and dislocating their operation.

It is the innovative helium cooling loop with its pre-cooler heat-exchanger that REL has been validating on an experimental rig.

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Rocknest - Sci-advent - Day 1


In the tradition of Advent Calendars, I will be posting some science related entries from today up until Dec 24th... So, here's the first entry:


Panoramic View From 'Rocknest' Position of Curiosity Mars Rover
This panorama is a mosaic of images taken by the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on the NASA Mars rover Curiosity while the rover was working at a site called "Rocknest" in October and November 2012.

The center of the scene, looking eastward from Rocknest, includes the Point Lake area. After the component images for this scene were taken, Curiosity drove 83 feet (25.3 meters) on Nov. 18 from Rocknest to Point Lake. From Point Lake, the Mastcam is taking images for another detailed panoramic view of the area further east to help researchers identify candidate targets for the rover's first drilling into a rock.

The image has been white-balanced to show what the rocks and soils in it would look like if they were on Earth. The raw-color version, shows what the scene looks like on Mars to the camera.

Image Credit: NASAx/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

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The Harwell Dekatron is alive... alive!

If you happen to have a chance to visit Bletchley Park do not miss the opportunity to visit the National Museum of Computing where you will be able to see a large collection of computers of all sizes and ages. A recent addition is the Harwell Dekatron / WITCH which came back to like on November 20th, 2012.

The Harwell Dekatron or WITCH is the World's oldest original working digital computer dating from 1951. WITCH is an acronym that stands for Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computing from Harwell. The computer aquired this name when, in 1957,  it was offered in a competition to an educational establishment. The competition was won by the Wolverhampton and Staffordshire College of Technology.

The machine uses "dekatrons" for its volatile memory (think of is as RAM) and it works on a decimal system, as opposed to the binary. The dekatrons are visible and thus one can literally see the state of the memory when the machine is operating. This sounds great when trying to explain how a computer works!

More information can be obtained here

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The most secret of messages...

Franco-British carrier pigeon which makes long...
Franco-British carrier pigeon which makes long distance flights (Photo credit: National Library of Scotland)

David Martin, a retired British civil servant was cleaning the chimney of his house in Bletchingley (Surrey), 35 miles south of London, when he found the remains of a pigeon. But this was not any pigeon: it was a carrier pigeon, and its leg still had attached to it a red metallic container with an encrypted message inside. Experts from the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have recently given up and recognised that it is almost impossible to find out the content of that message.

They know it is a message of World War II, that the addressee was X02, code name of the Bomber Command and believe that the pigeon could have started its flight around the time of the Normandy landings. They also know that it was heading to Bletchley Park, the communications centre during the war, some 100 km north of London.

They also know other things. They know that the sender's signature, Searjeant W Stot, suggests that it was a message from the RAF. The spelling of the word "Serjeant" is crucial as the RAF used letter "j" instead of "g".

However, they have failed to know the meaning of the message. They have no idea of the way to decipher the meaning of the 24 blocks of five letters each, and which to the eyes of the layman and the expert alike are nothing more than an alphabet soup of seemingly meaningless strings of letters: Take a lok at the first line of the message: AOAKN HVPKD FNFJW YIDDC.

These types of code were used in operations such that the messages could only be read by the people who sent them and the rightful recipients.

GCHQ have said that there are two possibilities. If the code was based on a codebook designed specifically for a single operation or mission, "it is unlikely" that someday it can be deciphered. If it was used only once and the encryption is truly random, and the key was just kept by the person who sent the message and the person who would receive it, then it quite likely that the message is indecipherable.

The code is impenetrable to the current government experts and it has been suggested that the only way to gain some insight is a collaboration with experts active at the time the message was sent, i.e. the people who were at Bletchley Park during the war and are now around 90 years old.

The British Army trained 250,000 carrier pigeons to be used in their secret communications during the war. They were particularly useful during the Normandy landings because Churchill had imposed a blockade of radio communications to increase safety and avoid providing clues to the Germans. The pigeons could fly at speeds greater than 125 kilometres per hour and cover distances of over 1,500 kilometres.

Percy, as this particular pigeon has been named, was probably disoriented and lost due to bad weather or simply exhausted after crossing the English channel. Carrier pigeon enthusiasts have proposed that the government posthumously grant Percy the Dickin Medal, the highest award given to animals for their courage.

Can you help crack the code?

The pigeon message is as follows:



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Microsoft Office 2010 - issue with opening files as "Read-Only"

Office 2010 logo

This happened to me the other day when trying to open an older(-ish) Excel file created with Office 2003 in the new 2010 version of the software: I double clicked on the file and a message appeared telling me that the file will be opened in read-only mode and that whenever it becomes free then I will be able to edit it. The strange thing is that no one else had the file opened.If you have the same issue with your files, read on.

There seems to be a new feature in the 2010 edition of MS Office called Protected View created to "enhance protection against mail attachments, files originated from the internet and located in unsafe locations". This sounds great, but the problem is that Protected View will remove support for legacy document formats, and causes these documents to be opened in read-only mode. A solution posted my Microsoft is:

  1. Run the Office 2010 application with the problem. Notice that this procedure has to be done individually with each of the applications in MS Office suite (great!).
  2. Click on the Office button on the upper left-hand corner and select "Options"
  3. In the "Options" dialogue box, select "Trust Center" (on the left)
  4. Click on "Trust Center Settings" (on the right)
  5. Select "Protected View"
  6. Disable any of all the protected view options by unticking the check boxes.
  7. Click OK when done.

Another alternative is to re-save your legacy document. In order to do that do the following:

  1. Open the problematic legacy document
  2. Click File and select Save As
  3. In the dialogue box, on the lower left-hand corner there is a drop-down menu called "Tools", select "General Options"
  4.  Make sure that the "Read-Only recommended" check box is unticked.
  5. Save the file and hope for the best...

I hope this is useful to you.

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This country likes what science gives it, but doesn't like the questions science raises - Frankenweenie

Earlier this week I had the great opportunity of attending the Opening Gala of the London Film Festival at the IMAX in London. The film that had the honour of opening the 2012 edition was "Frankenweenie", an excellent stop-motion animation by Tim Burton. As expected the themes in the film had that strange gloomy optimistic horror geeky feeling. The story is that of a teenager whose love for his dog transcends death.

Certainly the story is one of friendship combined with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The teenager, Victor Frankenstein is a solitary but creative kind of guy who is interested in stop-motion films (self-referential? perhaps...) and is interested in science. When his dog Sparky dies in an accident, Victor gets the idea of bringing Sparky back to life after seeing a demonstration in class involving a frog and electricity (you know the one...).

rp_frankenweenie-mr-rzykruski1.jpgI thought the film was very good but what really made it for me, apart from the multiple reference to classic horror films, was the presence of the vampiresque science teacher, Mr Rzykruski. He certainly is a striking teacher and although severe-looking, a great inspiration for the kids interested in the science fair. After the experiments to bring back the dead go wrong, the parents decide to hold a meeting to expel the teacher. In his defence, the heavily accented teacher tells the parents that they react like that because they are ignorant and stupid, but that their children can still be instructed.

In a great sequence afterwards, Mr Rzykruski remarks that "Science is neither good nor bad, but it can be used for both". We are indeed in a time where scientific advancements make a lot of people uneasy and the film reminds us, via Mr Rzykruski that those pursuing the scientific endeavour to be patient and respectful. One line that is still with me is the one delievered as Victor approaches Mr Rzykruski to say good-bye: "This country likes what science gives it, but doesn't like the questions science raises". A very timely remark.

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The Shuttle Enterprise

While visiting the city that never sleeps I finally had the chance to visit the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York. The main attraction for me was the prospect of seeing and being close to the Enterprise shuttle, and having a look at the Concorde.

The museum is quite big and there are plenty of things to see. The shuttle pavilion is at the very end of the aircraft carrier Enterprise and the whole visit was very exciting. The shuttle is housed in a temporary venue and I look forward to seeing the actual permanent building when it is finished. I was surprised to know the story behind the name of this shuttle itself. It seemed to be a bit of a coincidence to share its name with the famous Star Trek spaceship.

The original name was supposed to be Constitution, in honour of the USA's bicentennial. But more than 400,000 trekkies had something else in mind. The petitioned US President Gerald Ford to change the name to Enterprise after the starship captained by James T Kirk. The pavilion shows a picture taken on September 17th 1976 on the day of the shuttle Enterprise roll-out ceremony with some of the Star Trek cast members along with its creator Gene Roddenberry.

Enterprise 3 Enterprise 2 Enterprise 1

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Oh look, I'm on display at @Tate in #TheTanks

Oh look, I'm on display at @Tate in #TheTanks

Quantum Tunnel at the Tate
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Now Reading: Las Trampas de la Fe

Y como diría el mismo Octavio Paz, aunque actualizando: un mexicano del siglo XXI lee la obra de una monja de la Nueva España del siglo XVII. Podemos comenzar.

Gracias a mi hermana por tan agradable presente.

Las Trampas de la Fe

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The Higgs Boson Explained...with a Cartoon

Here you go! Enjoy!



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It seems Apple took down the iOS version of Chrome rather quickly. Tantrum?

I heard via Cult of Mac that the iOS version of Chrome was available in the AppStore. My friend downloaded it successfully and kept on going about how quickly it was. And indeed it was.
After dinner I tried to download it too, but I found that whenever I tried to I kept on getting a "The item you tried to buy is no longer available".
Did Apple just threw the toys out of the pram? Have you been able to download the app?

Here is the article from Cult of Mac:
Chrome for iOS

No chrome 2 No chrome 1










UPDATE: 29th June, 2012
It looks like this was a glitch with the app store... I managed to download it just now.

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Setting up Posterous in Tweetbot for iPad

Posterous Logo
Posterous Logo (Photo credit: SWikipedia)

UPDATE: Sadly this post is now obsolete with the shutting down of Posterous...


I have recently started using Tweetbot as a Twitter client and I must say that I am quite pleased with the way it handles things like mentions, RTs and particularly the display of media such as photos and video. It seems to be quite easy to use and setup multiple accounts. However, there was something that I didn't quite like... I tend to use Posterous to upload pictures and other media. I prefer this to services such as Twitpic or Moby, and as such I was expecting Tweetbot to handle Posterous as easily as these other services. Although in their site Tweetbot mention that they support Posterous, once in the application it was nowhere to be seen. If like me you want to use Posterous, do not despair, it is just a matter of configuring the "Custom" service. Here is what you need to do:

  1. In Tweetbot, open the Settings (at the bottom of the navigation bar on the left hand side).
  2. Under account settings, tap your username and tap in either the "Image Upload" to "Video Upload" (changing one will make the service available in the other).
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the menu and select "Custom"
  4. You will be asked to enter an API endpoint, enter one to the two following options:
  • https://posterous.com/api2/upload.xml
  • https://posterous.com/api2/upload.json

And you are ready to go! Please note that this assumes that you already have a Posterous account and that it knows about your Twitter identity. If it doesn't, Posterous will create a new account for you. For more info about the API, visit this page.

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Now reading: El Laberinto de la Soledad - Octavio Paz

Now reading: El Laberinto de la Soledad - Octavio PazLaberinto de la Soledad Octavio Paz

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Sorted and really chuffed! Managed to get the latest of @MoeniaMX @JSOTOM



Sorted and really chuffed! Managed to get the latest of @MoeniaMX @JSOTOM

Moenia FM

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Happy Star Wars day... May the 4th be with you

Happy Star Wars day... May the 4th be with you

Star Wars Day May 4th
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And now enjoying some Brazilian rhythms at Café Bohème.

And now enjoying some Brazilian rhythms at Café Bohéme.

Cafe Boheme
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... Emotional...

Prometheus, the Alien prequel from Ridley Scott is one of those films that I am really looking forward to watching. They have just released this video withMichael Fassbender, who plays the android David in the film. The video is an ad for Weyland Corporation introducing the latest generation of their robots.


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Arrving at the Welcome Collection for the 'Brains' exhibition

Arrving at the Welcome Collection for the 'Brains' exhibition

Brains Welcome Collection
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Uploading videos to Vimeo

Now that you have created your videos with either your PC or your Mac, you are ready to share them with the world. I find Vimeo very easy to use and quite flexible in terms of content, size of files and things of that sort. In this video I show you try quickly how to create an account and how to upload your masterpiece.

As usual, let me know what you think.


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