Archive | August 2014

The worst neurobollocks infographics on the web


Regardless what you think of infographics (and personally, I think they’re largely a pustulent, suppurating boil on the bloated arse of the internet) there are some good, useful ones out there. However, these are vastly outweighed by the thousands of utterly ghastly, misleading, poorly-referenced and pointless ones.

Because I’ve been on holiday for the last week, my levels of rage and misanthropy have dropped somewhat from their usual DEFCON-1-global-thermonuclear-war-the-only-winning-move-is-not-to-play levels, so I thought trying to find the absolute worst neuroscience-related infographics on the web might be a good way to top the vital bile reserves back up again. And oh boy, was I right. There are some doozies.

First up is this purple and blue monstrosity titled ’15 things you didn’t know about the brain.’ Here we learn (amongst other howlers) that the capacity of the brain is 4 terabytes, men process information on the left side while women use…

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The Diplodocus seen around the world

Such a wonderful sight when you enter the natural history museum.


1st cast in spot of honor The first cast of the Carnegie Diplodocus holds court at London’s Natural History Museum. Source

The story of Andrew Carnegie’s Diplodocus will surely be well known to most readers. As the legend goes, Carnegie the millionaire philanthropist saw a cartoon in the November 1898 New York Journal depicting a sauropod dinosaur peering into the window of a skyscraper. He immediately contacted the paleontology department at the newly established Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, and offered ample funding to find a sauropod skeleton for display. So began a frantic competition among the United States’ large urban museums to be the first to collect and mount a sauropod – the bigger the better.

The American Museum of Natural History was first across the finish line, unveiling their composite “Brontosaurus” in February of 1905. By that time, the Carnegie team had already found a sauropod skeleton of their own, a Diplodocus

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Flickr Astronomy: Comet Jacques


Flickr photo

The green nebulous object is a comet!

Flickr Astronomy: Eta Carinae


Wiki Link  Flickr photo

I spend quite a lot of time looking at fantastic photos of the night sky on Flickr on the bus to and from my school. I thought I should use my blog to share some of my favourite ones.

Thinktank Planetarium


Henry enjoyed his first visit to the the think tank planetarium.

Dual booting is fun!

Why not dual boot linux and windows? I’ve been doing this happily for years however my recent upgrade to Ubuntu 14.04  has meant a change to how the bootloader works, yes I was running a very old version of Ubuntu. I like stability. Anyway, I got annoyed that I had to build a simple pack from source as the repo didn’t exist so upgraded. I found that Grub2 was a bit different to edit and continuing the laziness I found an excellent tool to alter this. I want windows to boot my default as I’ll be using this more at school than home.

Anyway grub-customizer is the way to go:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:danielrichter2007/grub-customizer
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install grub-customizer


Shugborough estate


We had a lovely time at Shugborough estate. Though I have to say it wasn’t quite up to normal national trust standards. This was not helped by us having to pay an extra £7.50 on our normal NT membership. We were already aware of this but of course it makes a disjointed place feel even more like a let down. Don’t get me wrong we had a lovely time but I expect that was as much to do with our lunch and just being out in the countryside (especially whilst being sunny). Of course we could have just got into the house and gardens for free as NT members. That’s what we would do if we returned but that’s assuming we bother keeping our membership. Not sure we are getting great value out of it at the moment.

Turning my raspberry pi into a NAS

I’ve never had a network storage system at home. Now with all of our wireless devices it really makes sense, both for backup and to access media. With a samba share and an external USB drive I’ve been easily able to turn my raspberry pi (running retropie) into a wireless media centre too. Its great, I just have to use a samba music player on my phone or tablet and boom there is my music 🙂 I realised we weren’t listening to enough of our collection of music. So this will open a whole new world of our old music. Very much looking forward to this.

All I did for this was to edit the already configured raspberry pi settings for samba and added my own section to correctly load the samba share on my external drive. Edit: sudo nano /etc/samba/smb.conf

comment = music2
path = /media/usb0/Music
writeable = yes
guest ok = yes
create mask = 0644
directory mask = 0755
force user = pi
writeable= yes

You need to restart samba:  sudo /etc/init.d/samba restart

All worked nice and easily. Of course, this isn’t a proper NAS at the moment as it has no redundancy and I’ve not setup any rsync script to fetch/get data to backup. That’s the next task – once I’ve decided if I need to replace my old bulky external hard drive with a lower powered smaller one (I already have one but need a powered hub as the pi doesn’t give out enough to the USB ports).

If you want a more comprehensive guide that takes you all the way through to the drive mirroring look at

Raspberry Pi fun

— This post is mostly for me to show my Year 10 computer science students so might seem trivial or boring but hopefully not to any of them, if they ever read this bit —

So I got a raspberry pi at long last. After many years of being indecisive I decide that it would be ideal. I had originally intended to get it to play around with coding and to try out XBMC on it. If you’ve never tried XBMC its worth it. I decided in the end that my smart TV + TiVo box + Xbox was enough for my media needs.

In the end of decided what would be better to show off the power the raspberry pi than have it emulate tons of old consoles. Luckily some nice people have done all of the work there and even but a binary release together! Retropie is an excellent piece of software that I’ve very much loved using. That said installing version 1 from source was a mistake that I shouldn’t have been so nOOb to make. I guess, even the most hardened software developers sometimes copy the wrong repository link.

Retropie allows you, with the right ROMS, to emulate tons of  different consoles including my favourite childhood consoles (it uses emulationstation) – Atari 2600, SNES and Sega Master System. I was very pleased to find the first in there. Though I’m sure my wife wasn’t too pleased with me playing centipede quite loudly…

It is a very simply process to get this up and running and all the instructions can be found over on the retropie site. Alternatively you could look at using the instructions found on lifehacker. This is useful as it also gives direct instructions on how to setup a wired xbox controller.

Other useful things to setup include SSH. This can be enabled via the script. This is really useful. If you then type ifconfig you will get your IP address and via windows you can login using many tools. Good ones include PuTTY and WinSCP (a video guide to the later can be found here). This will then allow you to transfer over your ROMS and bobs your uncle you are good to play, this is what I started with:

Game playing on my raspberry pi :)

Radio galaxies and their magnetic fields out to z <= 3

We recently had a paper ” Radio galaxies and their magnetic fields out to z <= 3″ published. This is the result of a discussion from 2010 and has resulted in another probe of the excellent NVSS. You can read the paper on arxiv.

In the paper we present polarisation properties for two separate extragalactic source populations: passive quiescent galaxies and luminous quasar-like galaxies. We use data from the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer data to determine the host galaxy population of the polarised extragalactic radio sources. The quiescent galaxies have higher percentage polarisation, smaller radio linear size, while the quasar-like galaxies have smaller percentage polarisation, larger radio linear size at radio wavelengths. Our results confirm previous studies that found an inverse correlation between percentage polarisation and total flux density at 1.4GHz. We suggest that the population change between the polarised extragalactic radio sources is the origin of this inverse correlation and suggest a cosmic evolution of the space density of quiescent galaxies. Finally, we find that the extragalactic contributions to the rotation measures (RMs) of the nearby passive galaxies and the distant quasar-like galaxies are different. After accounting for the RM contributions by cosmological large-scale structure and intervening Mg\,{II} absorbers we show that the distribution of intrinsic RMs of the distant quasar-like sources is at most four times as wide as the RM distribution of the nearby quiescent galaxies, if the distribution of intrinsic RMs of the WISE-Star sources itself is at least several rad m−2 wide.