My first Geocache find

Standard

I star­ted with Geocaching at the week­end. It’s some­thing like hide ‘n’ seek for people with a GPS or smartphone.

So how does it work in prac­tice? I looked for geocaches near me, and one that caught my eye was Welcome to the Withybeds. I’ve joined Radnorshire Wildlife Trust, but I hadn’t been to Withybeds yet. I made it the first cache on my list of things to find, and found it pretty much where I expected.

The river Lugg at the Withybeds.

The river Lugg at the Withybeds.

The Withybeds reserve is small but pleas­ant, on the north side of Presteigne. I’m not sure how much longer it would have taken me to find the time to visit, if it hadn’t been for the geocache.
Continue read­ing

I’m giving up writing at Medium

Standard

I’ve been ser­i­ously think­ing about mov­ing to Ghost or Medium for writ­ing. Ghost uses Markdown, which I like is handy for when I write in StackEdit​.io. Medium has a very simple inter­face. It’s not cus­tom­is­able, but the flip side of that is that you don’t waste time try­ing to cus­tom­ise it.

I gave Medium a go with two short stor­ies I’d writ­ten. I was going to post some ser­i­ous and researched sci­ence art­icles, but I chose to put up the short stor­ies as I’d not be bothered if got no views. Here are the res­ults.
Continue read­ing

How did being buried for 36 hours become three days?

Standard

Something that puzzled me about the resur­rec­tion was how a period of thirty-six hours or so became three days. There are other things too, but the period from death to Easter morn­ing isn’t even forty-eight hours. Where does three days come from? Couldn’t ancient people count?

It turns out they could, but they coun­ted differently.

Possibly praying that he doesn't have to sort out the numerical problems.

Possibly pray­ing that he doesn’t have to sort out the numer­ical problems.

In ancient Greece and Rome they used inclus­ive count­ing. This is where you count the first and last things in a series. For example, how often are the Olympics held? We would say every four years. The Greeks would have said every five years, and they called it a pen­teric fest­ival. Here’s how you get five years for the Olympics.

Year one: Hold the Olympics.
Year two: The Isthmian and Nemean Games.
Year three: The Delphic Games.
Year four: The Isthmian and Nemean Games (again).
Year five: The Olympic Games.

The Romans also used this sys­tem of inclus­ive num­ber­ing for their cal­en­dar. Jerusalem at the time was in the Roman Empire.

Counting of the days where you start and fin­ish is what gives three days. Jesus has to die before sun­set on the Friday. The reason for this is at sun­set a new day starts in the Jewish cal­en­dar. This second day car­ries on to sun­set on what we could call Saturday. At sun­set the third day starts. Now Jesus can rise any time he likes and he’ll have risen on the third day.

With care­ful tim­ing he could have kept it down to just over twenty-four hours.

Whether or not it happened is another dis­cus­sion, but inclus­ive count­ing shows why the ancients were happy to say ‘on the third day’, even though they knew it was well under two full days.

Edit: Bill Thayer has more fest­ivals with inclus­ive count­ing.

5 Years On — Chemotherapy Works

Standard

I wrote someone out of my will today.

It was five years ago I had chemo­ther­apy for can­cer. It should have been six, but I held off get­ting a dia­gnosis because I was in the last year of my PhD and help­ing out with eld­erly rel­at­ives. I wasn’t strictly in denial about hav­ing can­cer, but the tim­ing was bad. Relatives died which caused more prob­lems. When another close rel­at­ive was hos­pit­al­ised it was obvi­ous there wasn’t going to be a con­veni­ent time.

I was dia­gnosed on a Monday after­noon and oper­ated on the fol­low­ing day. It wasn’t that bad a situ­ation, someone else had can­celled their oper­a­tion due to snow. I was offered either their spot, or else wait a few weeks for the oper­a­tion. Hanging around with the tumour inside me seemed like a really bad idea, so in I went. The follow-up was a brief course of chemotherapy.

There’s been a lot writ­ten about how bad chemo­ther­apy is, but I had no prob­lem. Here’s a selfie from five years ago while I’m hav­ing chemotherapy.

chemo selfie

I pottered around the house and had no trouble at all. I didn’t have any prob­lem, though one day I did fancy some Jaffa Cakes and there were none in the house. So I went out to the shops to get some. This is a map of how far away the shop was.

Map via Google Maps.

Map via Google Maps

I was tired well before the first corner. Continue read­ing

A New #WordPress plugin for #SCIENCE!

Standard

…and other research too.

I have a work­ing first release of a plu­gin to link to research in a ScienceSeeker friendly way in a WordPress blog. It will only work with self-hosted WordPress installs, it will not work on WordPress​.com blogs.

The way it works is you enter the ID(s) of the thing(s) you want to include then, when you save the draft, the web­site pro­duces a format­ted cita­tion that it will auto­mat­ic­ally append to the con­tent of your post. It will also add a META tag to the head of the page. This will give a way to tell sites like alt​met​ric​.com what paper(s) your blog post is about.

Editing in WordPress

Editing Screen. Click to embiggen.

Citation output

The out­put. Click to largify.


It’s primar­ily built to work with DOIs, because that’s what we use most at AoB Blog. You can type in a DOI as 10.1093/aob/mct168 or http://​dx​.doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​9​3​/​a​o​b​/​m​c​t​168 and when the site saves it will get bulked out to the longer ver­sion. You can enter more than one entry, so stick­ing 10.1093/aob/mcp121, 10.1093/aob/mcs287, 10.1093/aob/mcq238 should work too.

Once the ref­er­ence is parsed, it appears as a cita­tion. When you have this cita­tion, you can edit it in this box. You might need to do that if the pars­ing breaks. It’s pos­sible some DOIs will give inform­a­tion in a dif­fer­ent way to most. Currently the plu­gin works with stand­ard DOIs and figshare’s DOIs. It’s very pos­sible there are some other sites that have their own stand­ards so, if you find one, let me know.

To clear the ref­er­ences and cita­tions on a post, delete all the ref­er­ences and save. The plu­gin will wipe the cita­tion box.

You can add arXiv ref­er­ences. I’ve set it so you copy and paste a URL from arXiv to the box to give http://​arxiv​.org/​a​b​s​/​1​3​0​6​.​5​148. If there’s demand it should be pos­sible to send any nine char­ac­ter ref­er­ence with a dot in the middle to the arXiv mod­ule. I’ve spot­ted a bug in the arXiv mod­ule put­ting together the screen shotes (look at the author name). I think I’ve fixed this.

It’s not so good for the Social Sciences and Humanities. Here mono­graphs are still import­ant research out­puts, which means ISBNs. These are more of a prob­lem. You enter them as a straight run of ten or thir­teen char­ac­ters. The only place I’ve found giv­ing inform­a­tion from ISBNs in a friendly format is Google Books. But from here I can only get Title, Authors and Publisher. I can­not get Publisher Location from the data.

For DOIs and arXiv papers it’s obvi­ous to link through to the paper. Books tend not to have a recog­nis­able home page. I’ve linked through to Google Books because that’s where the data comes from. But it’s pos­sible that LibraryThing or the Amazons would be bet­ter places to link to.

This sys­tem doesn’t handle book chapters yet, unless they have a DOI. Lying in bed I thought it could be handled as Chapter Authors::Chapter Title::Page Start::Page End::ISBN and any­thing with a double colon gets passed to a book chapter mod­ule for format­ting. I’m not sure if this is use­ful, or if it’s get­ting to stage where typ­ing the ref­er­ence in is more effort than it’s worth.

At the moment the link is on the iden­ti­fier, because that’s the way Research Blogging and ScienceSeeker work. Alan Cann has sug­ges­ted mak­ing the whole ref­er­ence click­able. I’m not sure if this is a good idea or not. It’s a big­ger click­able tar­get, and CSS styl­ing makes the present­a­tion a mat­ter for whoever’s site it is.

The plu­gin doesn’t work for Research Blogging yet. Research Blogging needs ref­er­ences asso­ci­ated with a sub­ject. The first way I’d writ­ten this meant that sub­jects would have to be hard­wired in. Now I think it should be pos­sible to tweak the plu­gin to add Research Blogging top­ics on a post-by-post basis, but not (yet) on a citation-by-citation basis. This would work for most people cit­ing just one paper in Research Blogging posts, but some people cite mul­tiple papers in one post. The way I’m think­ing would label all cita­tions in one post as being the same topic.

Finally, like me, it doesn’t fail grace­fully. I’ve spent quite a while get­ting the damn thing to work. Deliberately break­ing it, so I can make it fail nicely, hasn’t enthused me yet.

You can down­load it from my Dropbox at https://​www​.drop​box​.com/​s​/​k​b​0​w​0​2​j​r​3​4​a​g​r​2​v​/​r​e​s​e​a​r​c​h​l​i​n​k​s​.​zip. You install it by going to your plu­gin menu and upload­ing the zip file. You make sure you upload it to your test site, because this is still beta soft­ware. I think this will be com­pat­ible with the final ver­sion, but I’m not will­ing to guar­an­tee. If you have installed the pre­vi­ous ver­sion, this ver­sion is utterly incom­pat­ible and using the two at the same time will break access to your blog in a very emphatic way. This is why I test on a desktop server.

I’ll be test­ing this shortly, in par­tic­u­lar the way it handles COinS. There may be a simple and eleg­ant way of adding COinS to ref­er­ences, but I don’t know what it is.