Khan Academy

Filed under: — Bravus @ 6:51 am

As I think I’ve mentioned here before, I’m studying some maths over the summer – Calculus and Linear Algebra 2 (MATH2000). I’m enjoying it, and I’m pretty confident that I can succeed in this course.

There are two things that could make me fail. One is if I don’t simply put in the hours of practice required. It’s been my besetting sin in maths classes all my life: I completely understand what the teacher or lecturer explains in class, but then fail to put in the practice so can’t remember it when I get to the exam.

The other is the fact that I’m coming to it pretty ‘cold’. Most of my fellow students are in the midst of studying maths or science degrees, and have been immersed in this stuff recently. I’ve done most of the prerequisite stuff, but some of it was almost 30 years ago, so I need some revision.

That’s why I’m very grateful that Matt pointed me in the direction of Khan Academy. It’s a non-profit organisation that produces a heap of YouTube videos explaining maths, science and other concepts, from the very simple to the very complex. The explanations are very clear and detailed, and there’s an absolute heap of them. I’m using them to revise integration at the moment, but they’ll also be helpful for differential equations.

So, for all your maths revision needs, I can’t recommend Khan Academy highly enough.


Final Movember Pic

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:19 pm

It’s all coming off tomorrow. I have ideas for a final video presentation – will see how that goes.


Keeping Our Sense of Humour

Filed under: — Bravus @ 6:57 pm

Good sense and a well thought out argument in this article from The Spectator about the Twitter Joke Trial: That Joke Isn’t Funny Any More

An important subtext is that humour plays in the realm of ambiguity. It is the antithesis of simplistic literalism. As much as anything, the attacks on humour are a direct result of the dumbing down of our society.

Paul Chambers’ joke isn’t all that funny or clever. But if we don’t defend the right to play with language, we cede language to the spin-doctors and the literalists. And we’ve already done more than enough since the turn of the century to prove George Orwell’s prophetic gifts.



Filed under: — Bravus @ 5:19 pm

Kenneth Davidson at The Age hits the nail on the head so hard he buries half the hammer head: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/real-problem-with-schools-is-the-gap-between-rich-and-poor-20101121-182hd.html

Damn it, this crap is why we voted Howard out, over 3 years ago… and we’re getting even more of it!

End of Week 3

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:23 am

Into the home stretch now! This is the morning of November 22, so in 10 days from now it’ll all be gone!

Almost $350 raised so far for research into prostate cancer and depression. It’d be awesome to hit $500 by the end of the month – hint, hint. http://au.movember.com/mospace/518546/


Ah Well…

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:57 am

So, the results I’ve been waiting for for about 6 months – the outcome of my application for a Future Fellowship – came out today. And I didn’t get one.

Can’t deny it’s disappointing – it would have been an exciting next 4 years of research and a great career-booster. But these things happen.

My colleague Amanda Keddie did get one though, so huge congrats to Amanda, and I look forward to working with her over the next few years.

Guess now I need to put a bit more thought into the ‘where to from here?’ stuff: but at least having collapsed the waveforms and having some certainty makes it a lot easier to do that.


Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:46 am

So, yesterday the Apple home page said “Tomorrow is just another day. That you will never forget.”1

The announcement was meant to be in relation to iTunes, and something that might have justified the hype would be making it a lot easier to move music around between devices. I have an iPhone and an iPod that I use on two Macs and 2-3 Windows machines, and it’s a huge pain trying to manage what music lives where.

But no, the announcement is the availability of the Beatles music on iTunes. What?! Maybe that’s memorable for baby-boomers for whom the Beatles actually mean something, but I’ve already forgotten it!

Lame, Steve Jobs, just lame…

  1. …or words to that effect. I’m working from memory.


Quantifiably Legendary

Filed under: — Bravus @ 6:09 pm

(this post is devoted to unseemly bragging, so if that sickens you please feel free to skip it)

The university has just released a new index of research performance that is meant to combine all the various research things academics do and give that a single number. I’m opposed to such things in principle, and realise they tend to be flawed numbers. And yet… 😉

My own score is just under twice the average score for all academics at all levels in all fields across the university. Our Faculty slightly out performs the university as a whole, but I still rank more than 1.8 times the Faculty average.

Our School of Education is the top such school in the country, and significantly outperforms even the Faculty, but my score is still 1.2 times the School average.

In relation to Senior Lecturers (Lecturer C – my rank) across the university, my score is 2.55 times that average across the university.

It’s just a number, but perhaps those who see me slothing around at home and loitering in the corners of the web might believe I do find time to be productive somehow…

Biocentrism: We Are The Creator! (or, um, not…)

Filed under: — Bravus @ 5:54 pm

It’s lots of places around the web at the moment, since he’s got a book out, but here’s a short article from the Huffington Post by Robert Lanza on his notion of ‘biocentrism’.


It’s a little stronger than even the strong anthropic principle in that it seems to use quantum physics to claim that it’s us as humans who observe the universe and cause the wave functions of possible histories to collapse all the way back to the Big Bang. In a sense, that makes us the creators of the universe.

I suspected immediately that it was a matter of hand wiggles and the usual shamanistic abuse of quantum theory to make extravagant claims, and wasn’t reassured on that point by the participation of Deepak Chopra in the enterprise.

And sure enough, here’s an elegant takedown from India. It’s longish and gets fairly deep into the science, but the first bit will reassure you that we’re not quite as important as we think we are:


And I dunno about you, but I do actually find that reassuring…

Movember Awesomeness

Filed under: — Bravus @ 11:49 am

I know I’ve been spamming all my friends with this anyway, but this blog is less ephemeral than Facebook and Forum posts (and *much* less so than Twitter), so I thought I’d immortalise the process here.


Armageddon Sick Of This (sorry)

Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:01 pm

Good review/interview on Salon of a new book talking about threats to human life on earth:


My own best guess is that it won’t be anything as sexy as Skynet robots, nanobot grey goo or whatever. My top candidates for doing it to ourselves are the (still enormous though not much thought about) nuclear arsenal or just good old pollution and overpopulation. A distant third is a runaway bioweapon. But the universe has lots of other possible nasty tricks up its sleeve… and yet here life is, billions of years on.


It’s baffling to me

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:35 am

A similar battle in Victoria to the one in NSW that I’ve talked about here before, over religious education and alternatives in primary schools:


The unwillingness of the ALP to stand up to the churches for the dream of free and secular education for every Australian baffles and angers me.

By the way, despite recent revisionist attempts, ‘secular’ does not mean ‘anti-religious’, it means ‘non-religious’. In Australia we have no problem with children being taught Christianity or any other religion of their parents’ choice in schools, unlike the situation in the US. But it has always been a matter of choice, and it’s coming out recently that it’s been a false choice in many situations – attend Religious Education classes taught by an unqualified volunteer from your local church, or sit twiddling your thumbs.

The fact that the churches fight the teaching of a secular ethics course as an alternative is abominable, and the fact that the relevant governments fold to their pressure even more so.


Second Best? I beg to differ

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:25 am

Recent UN report puts only Norway ahead of Australia in terms of quality of life on measures such as education, income, life expectancy and so on:


Taking climate into account as well, though, I feel like I live in the best country in the world, and in one of the best cities in that country (Perth has some advantages and disadvantages compared with Brisbane).

We’re very blessed, and shouldn’t allow the niggles of the day to make us forget that.


I hate the smell of bull… dust in the morning

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:02 am

…and so does Ross Gittins of The Age. Here’s a really nice article using the actual evidence to look at a spurious claim, with some digression into bulldust detection more generally: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/food-figures-overcooked-20101102-17cez.html