The Coolest Film in the World (Still a Better Love Story Than Twilight)

IBM is pretty cool. As part of their ongoing research into data storage based on single atoms, they’ve made the world’s tiniest film. It’s called ‘A Boy and his Atom’.

It uses a handful of carbon atoms (a figurative handful of carbon atoms, obviously). A few dozen individual atoms to create a little stop-motion tale about a boy with a big grin and an atom of his very own.

The IBM film-makers used a scanning tunnelling microscope to move the atoms around and create pictures. (An IBM scientist won the Nobel Prize for Physics for inventing the STM in 1986.) It took the team of scientist film-makers two weeks of 18-hour days. Take a couple of minutes and marvel at how frickin’ awesome science is.

It’s a simple story using phenomenally complex technology. And it’s still a better love story than Twilight.

Nerd love

This post is brought to you by a crushing sense of guilt. I haven’t blogged here for ages. AGES. I just haven’t made the time (note the honesty there: I could have had the time).

I’ll slip in the news that I have dropped out of my physics course. It was just too much to cope with at the moment. I don’t feel guilty; I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I’ll pick it up again when I’m in a position to do the course, and myself, justice.

Anyway: it’s Easter, and it’s April Fools’ Day, so here’s a little something from one nerd to lovers everywhere. If you’re going to propose, do it in style. Or memorably. Or nerdily.

How nerds propose: an academic paper.

Will you consent to an indefinite two-body interaction?

A weather-related ‘Did you know?’ post

Did you know that wintry weather is more likely in March than December in the UK? On average, snow falls on five days in December. In March, it falls on six days.

That makes no difference to my wish for this seemingly endless winter to begone, though. Honestly, it seems to have been going on forever. And I’m not being fooled: look at this picture. This is my back garden.

Don't be fooled. It may look lovely and sunny and warm in my back garden, but it's brass monkeys out there.

Doesn’t it look lovely and Spring-like?

I just went outside to put the washing out, and my fingers froze solid. I’m typing this with my (freaky monkey) toes.

So, anyway. My point was this: it’s not particularly unusual weather for March. It’s just really annoying.

This is not science. It’s tweed.

I am beginning an extremely non-scientific study into the use of tweed to denote Englishmen in American film and TV.

Every time I see an Englishman in tweed in an American production, it will find its way here. This was inspired partly by Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (who almost always wears tweed) and partly because we watched a truly dreadful film last night, and the lasting impression that we took from it was: Americans use tweed to denote an Englishman.

Anthony Stewart Head as Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Wearing tweed.

Rupert Giles. He’s wearing tweed in almost every photo on the internet. True fact.

The film we watched last night was dire. Red Lights, in case you’re wondering. It started as a formulaic jumpy paranormal film, then slid into something much more interesting (although I didn’t care about any of the shallow characters) and then committed suicide disappointingly at the end. Plus, there was a really obvious twist.

But I digress: it was clear, from this film and from other American productions, that Americans use tweed to identify Englishmen. I’ve had a quick search for the scene in question, but I can’t find it. It’s when all the reporters are clamouring around the scientists (I think). One of them is English. He’s wearing tweed.

Spotted any uses of tweed in American film and TV? Let me know. I’ll document them here. It’ll be thrilling.

Clinical trials and reports: a petition

Just a quickie today. Please go and sign this petition: All Trials Registered.

Around half of all clinical trials have not been published; some trials have not even been registered. If action is not taken urgently, information on what was done and what was found in trials could be lost forever, leading to bad treatment decisions, missed opportunities for good medicine, and trials being repeated unnecessarily.

This is one of Ben Goldacre‘s pet projects, and it’s crucial.  In his words: “Positive findings are around twice as likely to be published as negative findings. This is a cancer at the core of evidence-based medicine.”

Find out a little more about why this is so important here.

Whimsy with the Moon

The Moon. It inspires stories, songs, spirituality, whole religions, silliness and conspiracy theories. Not to mention being responsible for the tides and the very existence of life on Earth as we know it. Not a bad hall of fame for a large lump of cheese.

It’s also the home of the Clangers. They say it isn’t; they say it’s a planet that just resembles the Moon, but that is a cover-up. A cover-up, I tell you! Incidentally, have you ever taken a close look at the Clangers? Rather sweet and ditsy little creatures, central to the childhoods of people of my parents’ age?

Oh no. No no no. Look again.

The Clangers on the Moon, with other stuff going on. They're alarming massive

Look at them. They’re fucking massive.

Let’s look at the facts. You can clearly see the curvature of the Moon in the illustration above, which also shows the Clangers pointing at a large lump of rubbish. This tells me the following: the Clangers are fucking massive.

I was going to do a whole bunch of calculations based on the circumference of the Moon (10,921 km), its angle of curve in that picture, and the relative height of the Clangers to find out how tall that would make them, but frankly I can’t be arsed. Suffice it to say, they are clearly taller than a very tall building.

Would you really want to be anywhere near giant mice with voices like slide-whistles and a penchant for volcanic soup? I think not.

Anyway, the thing that sent me down this particular garden path was this picture from I Fucking Love Science. (I do.)

A series of photographs of people doing cool stuff with the Moon, to make it look like the Moon is within reach.

All the things you can do with the Moon (no Clangers involved).

How cool is that?

What can you do with the Moon?

A Robin Ince post on atheism and drinking

Vicky:

I do like Robin Ince. He’s funny, clever and generous of thought. This is a good post, and reflects my feelings on the matter. I also like how you can chart his drinking progress as the blog progresses – there is at least one paragraph that has wandered into a ditch!

Enjoy.

Originally posted on Robinince's Blog:

Take this as you will, that is the way of things. You have probably read this before, written by other people in a more pertinent and concise manner, but if you have a minute or two and nothing better to do…

 

About a month ago, someone asked if I felt i was a bit zealous with my atheism. I asked them for some evidence of my zealotry (yes, always a stickler for evidence, damn these scientists muttering in my mind) and they politely backed down as they realised that my zealotry was based on presumptions. 

This may be due to my Christmas shows, Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless people, which a few people seem to imagine is some rally where a gathering of excited atheists strip naked, smear themselves in the offal of dismembered papal emissaries and scream banshee-like as the high priest Richard Dawkins rears up on…

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