Royal Societies Inspiring Scientists

The Royal Society put together some student resources on Inspiring British scientists with minority ethnic heritage. My Supervisor Harry Bhadeshia is twice as inspiring as the rest, as you can see from the Royal Societies Tweet:

Royal Soc Inspiring Scientists

Royal Soc Inspiring Scientists

Link to resources

Sustainable Energy: Without David MacKay?

RIP in peace Sir David MacKay, the excellent physicist and engineer died today. David blogged about his experience of cancer and you can read his last post (and appendixes) on his blog.

Blogs by David MacKay

Blogs / News about life of David MacKay

Tweets about David Mackay

David MacKay, information theory of wooden blocks

David MacKay, information theory of wooden blocks

Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air!

Columbium and Niobium Phase Diagram

Peter J. Lee at the University of Florida had made great progress in the field of Niobium – Columbium interactions, and made a phase diagram available. Although Columbium and Niobium share similar physical
and chemical properties, Niobium has recently been preferred by academic researchers and industry throughout much of the world, but in the USA industry has traditionally preferred to use Columbium.

This study of the Cb-Nb phase diagram indicates that the two metals can be combined to produce a
comparable alloy. The properties of the Cb-Nb alloy are independent of composition and therefore the most economic combination of Nb and Cb may be used depending on price and availability leading to cost savings.

These results can be found in the never article “The Columbium-Niobium Phase Diagram” not published in the Journal of Irrefutable Results V1.0, N1, April 1st, 1991 and 2006.

CbNb phase diagram.

CbNb phase diagram.

Exxon Climate Change Denial

The guardian is carrying a story about Exxon emails that reportedly reveal that people in the company knew about the effects of anthropomorphic global warming in 1981, and funded groups denying the existence of climate change to the total of 31 million dollars over 30 years.

The evidence is that the large fraction (70%) of CO2 in an Indonesian oilfield was a factor in not developing the field. Development of the oilfield would have made it the largest single contributor to release of CO2 into the atmosphere.

According to Wikipedia Svante Arrhenius proposed the existence of the greenhouse effect to explain the existence of ice ages, and in 1896 he was the first scientist to attempt to calculate how changes in the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could alter the surface temperature through the greenhouse effect. The magnitude of the effect of CO2 in absorbing radiation was disputed by by Knut Ångström who made experimental measurements of the absorption.

According to Wikipedia past ice ages can be explained by changes in the earths orbit (orbital forcing), with atmospheric CO2 having an amplifying effect. The next ice age is predicted to occur in 50,000 years with out intervention, but it has been reported that this may be delayed for 500,000 years by predicted CO2 emissions.

Some references (it’s a blog)

Svante Arrhenius, 1901a, Ueber die Wärmeabsorption durch Kohlensäure, Annalen der Physik, Vol 4, 1901, pages 690–705.
Svante Arrhenius, 1901b, Über Die Wärmeabsorption Durch Kohlensäure Und Ihren Einfluss Auf Die Temperatur Der Erdoberfläche. Abstract of the proceedings of the Royal Academy of Science, 58, 25–58.

Hays, J. D.; Imbrie, John; Shackleton, N. J. (1976). “Variations in the Earth’s Orbit: Pacemaker of the Ice Ages”. Science 194 (4270): 1121–1132. doi:10.1126/science.194.4270.1121. PMID 17790893.

Hays, James D. (1996). Schneider, Stephen H., ed. Encyclopedia of Weather and Climate. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 507–508. ISBN 0-19-509485-9.

A Bainite Blog Story

Recently ‘HKDHB.’ visited Japan and met with Teruhisa Okumara, a man who plays a vital role in the founding of this blog –that’s because he is the original author of another blog which was called bainite. It all started in one of the famous Cambridge tea breaks…

HKDHB happy at the success of his website was advising us that his quality content if what brings visitors to his website (seriously check out the phase transformations website if you are looking for information about metals). A the time blogs were quite a new phenomenon and the problem was how search engines were going to reduce the ‘blog noise’. Because blogs are heavily cross-linked and regularly updated there was a concern that it might be hard to find [other] quality content on the internet. Anyway Teruhisa mentioned this and said he would start a blog called “bainite” which would then become the topped ranked page when anyone searched for “bainite”. What happened next is a matter of some debate. He created the blog on a Japanese blogging site, and it did indeed become the top ranked page when searching for bainite when searching for Japanese language pages. Happy he had proved his point he then removed the page. Some people dispute this counts as being the number one in search engines…

Anyway the seed of having a bainite blog had been planted and later I created this blog to practice my writing and see if it was possible to claim the top result for the bainite search term.

Meanwhile, back to HKDBH and Teruhisa, Teruhisa made a song for bainite while he was in Cambridge, on a recent visit HKDBH asked him to sing the song again.

Bainite… it’s special… because it’s not Pearlite (or Martensite).

Lectures on Bainite – 2007

A blast from 2007 for Harry Bhadeshia fans. These lectures can be found on youtube. Slides can be found here

Prof. Bhadeshia’s new book will be available soon, you can find details here:

Occam’s Razor and Newton’s Flaming Laser Sword

It’s well established that in science we can use Occam’s Razor to decide which is the most likely explanation, that between competing hypotheses that one that requires the lowest number of assumptions should be preferred.

Newton’s flaming laser sword is a philosophical razor coined by Mike Alder in an essay entitled “Newton’s Flaming Laser Sword, Or: Why Mathematicians and Scientists don’t like Philosophy but do it anyway” . To summarise the position that “what cannot be settled by experiment is not worth debating”. It was published in Philosophy Now in May/June 2004. The razor is humorously named after Isaac Newton, as it is inspired by Newtonian thought, Mike characterised this sword as being “much sharper and more dangerous than Occam’s Razor”.

Newton's Flaming Laser Sword

Newton’s Flaming Laser Sword

Newton’s flaming laser sword sounds very useful. It slices, it dices… it might be suggested that such a sword could cut away too much, and prevent one from taking a position on politics or religion. That’s not really true, it would prevent one ever being able to make religious explanations or do other special pleading and claim it was science. In the field of politics it may leave one asking for evidence to support particular political judgements. I don’t think those are bad outcomes. Mike Adler suggests that the flaming sword is a useful tool against Platonic philosophers, who may ask one to engage in an older type of game, than the one usually played by modern science and mathematics.

Anyway, this leaves the question, has anyone every seen Occam’s razor or Newton’s Flaming laser sword? I think we need to mount an investigation as to were these useful historical artefacts have been left.

Download a Flaming Laser Sword from the internet archive (PDF)

I think Newton would be a good suggestion for the next Cambridge scientist movie, although some have already been made such as “Isaac Newton the last magician” (2013) and the 2010 movie “The Invention of Calculus”