Friday, 27 April 2007

Rip, rip, woodchip

When The Shadow described saying no to the "poor, hapless critters" holding out Sydney's free newpaper mX, I had the idea that they were more pushy than their London equivalents. Now it has been revealed that thelondonpaper distributors don't need to be pushy, as they just dump the excess papers in gutters or bins, bumping up circulation figures.

Video footage of papers being dumped was shown on tv news the other night (also on YouTube), having been released by Associated Newspapers, the publishers of thelondonpaper's rivals, the Metro and London Lite. News International, thelondonpaper's publisher's parent company*, retaliated with pictures of London Lite being abandoned, seriously bringing into question the use of flooding the capital with 900,000 free afternoon papers each day.

It is an utter waste of paper, even if in one case the dumper deposited his unread rags in a recycling bin. The freesheets' certified circulation figures, based on the number of paper's distributed, and quite important to them, as they draw in the advertising revenue. So thelondonpaper's relatively recent increase of 100,000 in print run size probably has benefited them if not any readers or the environment.

I have to wonder at the logic behind using these sort of circulation figures, though. I don't commute, but in my experience when traveling on the tube or bus there are often free papers lying around, waiting to be picked up. I would think each paper is read more than once. There definitely isn't a need for more copies.

*Murdoch's News International is also the parent company of the publishers of The Times, in which the reasonably fair article I linked to appeared in. Not what you'd expect from some Murdoch papers. Then again, it was funny to see the issue discussed next to an ad for

Friday, 20 April 2007

Symmetry: more algebra

Those of you who were baffled by the waffle when I last mentioned maths in the media may be pleased to hear that there was a much simpler introduction to the area of group theory on the radio this morning. The In Our Time program focussed on symmetry, with Melvyn Bragg takling to the usual mathematical suspects (Ian Stewart and Marcus du Sautoy) and a theoretical physicist.

They managed to relate symmetry to everything from quadratic equations, squares and triangles to isocahedra, quintic equations and duels over love and politics; from cavemen recognising animals to the monster group; and from the nerves of balance in our ears to simple relativity and the dream of a theory of everything.

A couple of times, Bragg asked the physicist to explain a mathematical concept, or asked one of the mathematicians about applications to physics, which seemed slightly odd. I wonder whether he thought the non-specialist would do a better job of speaking in terms the audience would understand.

10 points for the name(s) of this symmetrical bridge.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

A trip to Cambridge

"It's gonna be so boring," said Mohan, waiting at the bus stop, "all
that time on the coach. I'm just gonna get mangled." He got out his
thermos and took a swig.

An hour and a half later, we alighted at Cambridge. "I didn't think it
would be so short," said Mohan, "I didn't have time to fall asleep."
We walked to the market square and sat down to have lunch. Mohan
managed about a quarter of his and then started complaining that his
thermos was empty.

"Are you sure you don't want to give a talk?" he asked Dörte, "You can
give mine. I'm too mangled." Dörte might have been happy giving a
talk, but not that one. She asked, "Did you really have whiskey in
that thermos?"

"Just milk, you know. Milk." Right. "It was only half full, anyway."
We headed off past Senate House, down Trinity Lane, across the river
and past the library. Behind us, Mohan piped up, "How far is this,
guys? We've been walking for hours. Aren't there any pubs out here?"

After no more than twenty minutes, we reached the modern complex that
is the Centre for Mathematical Sciences. By the end of the day, after
talks with distinctive Irish, Estuary, and Scottish accents, a
surprisingly sober Malaysian gave a decent talk after all, although he
did stop to ask us if he was making any sense.

We enjoyed another couple of days in Cambridge, with more talks,
more than enough food, duck watching, and artistic works visible just
about every time we turned our heads. Then we headed home again,
although the coach was so late that Mohan's thermos was empty before
we got on, despite his trip to fill it up while we were sightseeing.

Ten points for the best suggestion for what this particular work of art might be intended to represent. Another ten available for naming the Cambridge college whose entrance it sits outside.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Royal soap

When I wake up in the morning, I don't expect the first thing I hear on the radio news to be the fact that a 24 year old and his girlfriend have split up. Not even on a quiet Saturday when most of the rest of the news is about a horse race. Not even when the 24 year old is Prince William of Wales. Now, a couple of days later, the "news" is still all over the newspapers.

Of course, the Sydney Morning Herald has not quite followed suit, dressing up its stories as reporting on the media reaction itself. This is normal practice for the SMH, where gossip does not seem to be directly reported, but there are plenty of articles about what the British tabloids or Aussie mags are saying.

Not only does most of the coverage seem to be pure speculation, but I don't understand why we are supposed to be so interested in the story. I would have thought that the daily dose of Neighbours would be enough soap opera for the Brits, but they seem to want more. I've had enough, even without watching Neighbour, although watching the social life of ducks last week was quite intriguing.

Friday, 6 April 2007


Yesterday, I seemed to keep coming across people who looked like someone else. So many in a short time, that I wondered whether my minds was playing tricks on me.

At cricket training, there was a young guy bowling quite well who looked just like a subcontinental version of a brother of mine. The resemblance was possibly backed up in my mind by the fact that his bowling style was uncannily like my brothers, only better.

Arriving home, I ran into a guy with a very Elvis-like hairdo walking going into the shop below us. I can't say he looked exactly like Elvis, but he appear to be closer in age to what Elvis would be now than many impersonators.

Finally, I had a glimpse of Get a grip on tv, and quickly came to the conclusion that Ben Elton looks like Andrew Denton. Finding those links, I found out that Denton interviewed Elton on Enough Rope last year, and the first few lines of that exchange are enough to reassure me that it's not all in my mind!