Mick Aston

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Mick Aston was prob­ably the best-known archae­olo­gist in the UK. I’d also go so far as to say that he was the most influ­en­tial archae­olo­gist of the last 25 years.

Mick Aston

Mick Aston (centre). Photo by Wessex Archaeology.

The reason is Time Team, an archae­olo­gical series on Channel 4. If Sky at Night is Astronomy then Time Team when Mick Aston was in it was archae­ology. Its suc­cess massively expan­ded the uptake of archae­ology by stu­dents. Mick Aston’s idea was respons­ible sup­port­ing an incal­cul­able num­ber of jobs in uni­ver­sity depart­ments. It’s easy to over­look was an aston­ish­ing idea Time Team was.

The tra­di­tional doc­u­ment­ary places the aca­demic speaker at the author­ity speak­ing Truth. A recent example is Rise of the Continents, where Mantle Plumes are presen­ted as unques­tioned fact as noted in the post at The Theatre of Reason. A com­mon grumble is that sci­ence is a pro­cess not a body of fact, so how do you show pro­cess? Mick Aston reckoned you could pro­duce a usable brief eval­u­ation of an archae­olo­gical site in three days and this became Time Team. A cam­era crew fol­lowed an archae­olo­gical team as they dug for three days.

Below I’ve embed­ded the epis­ode from Blaenavon, which I hope 4oDDocumentaries have made widely access­ible.* You could make a drink­ing game from the num­ber of times someone says they don’t know some­thing. To steal a line from Paul Bahn: it’s not about find­ing things, it’s about find­ing things out.

As a meas­ure of impact, I offer another series, Bonekickers. Bonekickers was an attempt by the Life on Mars team to pro­duce a drama around an archae­ology unit. It was laughed out of the sched­ules because Time Team had demon­strated to a large chunk of the UK pop­u­la­tion how archae­ology worked. To be fair Bonekickers was pretty awful in its own right, but it’s thanks to the impact of Time Team that it became truly ris­ible. Can you ima­gine that hap­pen­ing with any other aca­demic discipline?

Mick Aston’s influ­ence meant that he became a ste­reo­type of an archae­olo­gist in his own time. That could sound snide, but rather it’s a meas­ure of how loved by the pub­lic he was.

He also had the poten­tial to keep innov­at­ing. After leav­ing Time Team, he’d been work­ing with Timothy Taylor on Dig Village. In some ways he was in the twi­light of his career, but he still could have shone for many years like the even­ing star.

Photo Time Team in Salisbury by Wessex Archaeology. This image licensed under a Creative Commons by-nc-sa licence.

*I’m not optim­istic that it’s vis­ible bey­ond the UK. You can search for Time Team on YouTube, but embed­ding those videos isn’t sens­ible. Uploading a pro­gramme whole­sale, breach­ing the copy­right isn’t neg­ated by say­ing “No infringe­ment of copy­right is inten­ded”. These videos will be com­ing down sooner or later. My per­sonal favour­ite epis­ode is prob­ably Llygadwy / Celtic Spring, but that’s not so typ­ical of the series.

The Meaning of Liff at 30

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There’s a radio show online cel­eb­rat­ing 30 years of The Meaning of Liff a dic­tion­ary of words that don’t exist, but should. The words are all place names that have been press-ganged into doing some proper work in the English language. As a respons­ible per­son I’m not link­ing to this web­site that lists many of the defin­i­tions in the book: http://​folk​.uio​.no/​a​l​i​e​d​/​T​M​o​L​.​h​tml

Examples:
THROCKING (par­ti­cipial vb.)
The action of con­tinu­ally push­ing down the lever on a pop-up toaster in the hope that you will thereby get it to under­stand that you want it to toast something.

NAD (n.)
Measure defined as the dis­tance between a driver’s out­stretched fin­ger­tips and the ticket machine in an auto­matic car-park. 1 nad = 18.4 cm.

RIPON (vb.)
(Of lit­er­ary crit­ics.) To include all the best jokes from the book in the review to make it look as if the critic thought of them.

#Liff     #Books     #DouglasAdams     #Gplus  

The Meaning of Liff at 30
John Lloyd cel­eb­rates 30 years of The Meaning of Liff with Matt Lucas and Helen Fielding.

Going into space? If you can’t wear a blue shirt then make sure you have a red…

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Going into space? If you can’t wear a blue shirt then make sure you have a red one.

Significance magazine has ana­lysed the cas­u­al­ties in Star Trek:TOS. Everyone knows that wear­ing a red shirt on the USS Enterprise is like wear­ing a giant shoot me sign. But what every­one knows might be wrong.

Matthew Barsalou has ana­lysed the cas­u­al­it­ies and found blue is the safest col­our. He’s also found more red shirts died than any other col­our — but on the Enterprise there are more red shirts any­way. The situ­ation is made more com­plic­ated by secur­ity, engin­eer­ing and oper­a­tions all wear­ing red shirts even though they do very dif­fer­ent jobs.

If you’re a space cadet this is essen­tial reading.

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#startrek   #stat­ist­ics  

Keep your red­shirt on: a Bayesian explor­a­tion — Web Exclusive Article — Significance Magazine
Keep your red­shirt on: a Bayesian explor­a­tion. Author: Matthew Barsalou. The idea of red-shirted char­ac­ters being fre­quently killed in Star Trek: The Original Series has become a pop cul­ture cliché. B…

Senna versus Prost by Malcolm Folley

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This past sea­son of Formula One has been the best since 1993. The next sea­son, I think, will be the first where no one on the grid has driven against Senna. Depending on how you feel about Schumacher, it’s pos­sible Senna was the last great driver in Formula One. He wasn’t the most suc­cess­ful, but Senna raced in era when other drivers had access to poten­tially race-winning cars. His biggest rival, Prost, was in the same car for a couple of seasons.

It’s easy to fix­ate on one of the drivers, but the book cov­ers the devel­op­ment both of the. Prost’s tale starts with his first spell with McLaren of that rivalry from Prost’s arrival at McLaren in 1980. Folley doesn’t simply take Prost’s recol­lec­tions. He also draws on other people around at the time, such as Tony Jardine. Senna’s early career is covered with his time in Formula Ford in the UK. Martin Brundle gives an hon­est view of how it was like to race Senna at the time.

Jo Ramirez, who worked at McLaren dur­ing the Senna/Prost era is another source of mater­ial for their time in the team. Other drivers gave brief accounts to fill out the story. There are inter­views with Hill and Williams too. Senna’s time before his death at Williams was brief, but it was Williams who gave Senna his first F1 drive as a part of a test session.

Obviously the two title char­ac­ters dom­in­ate the book, but it is a taste of what Formula One was like in the 1980s. The extra back­ground adds more con­text to what was going on. For example, the clas­sic clip of Senna first com­ing to threaten Prost is from Monaco 1984 where an irres­ist­ible Senna in a poor car chased down Alain Prost in almost undrive­able con­di­tions. Prost’s hand wav­ing in the down­pour is eas­ily mis­taken for someone appeal­ing to be given the win (1984 Monaco Grand Prix — part 7). However it is clear from the book that Prost was deeply affected his acci­dent in prac­tice for the 1982 German Grand Prix where Didier Pironi came out of heavy rain­spray to smash into the back of Prost’s Renault. Pironi never raced in Formula One again. (Didier Pironi — Hockenheim ’82, crash and recov­ery)

1982 was a black year for Formula One. Along with Pironi’s career-ending acci­dent, Villeneuve and Paletti died in races. Paletti’s death would be the last at a Formula One race till the week­end in 1994 when Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna died. Prost was aware that F1 was a dan­ger­ous career. Ayrton Senna didn’t start in F1 till 1984. His faith was a worry for some other drivers, espe­cially in his later years, when some thought Senna  believed he had divine protection.

There is a prob­lem with any book like this. Prost is alive to give his side of the story. Senna is not. It’s hard to judge now if Senna really thought he was invul­ner­able. If you’re already a fan of one over the other I don’t think you’ll find any­thing here to change your mind. But the other drivers come well out of this. Derek Warwick in par­tic­u­lar could have been bit­ter after Senna effect­ively ended Warwick’s hopes of get­ting in a race-winning car.

The close of the book is inev­it­able, but even here Folley is able to add some­thing, like the pres­sure Senna felt from Schumacher. Everything Senna had thrown at Prost was now com­ing back at him from Schumacher. A sur­prise in the book is how is seems Senna appre­ci­ated what a rival he had lost after Prost’s retire­ment. It also emphas­ises the shadow left by claims over the Benetton team using trac­tion con­trol. Did Senna die chas­ing an illegal car? http://​www1​.skys​ports​.com/​f​o​r​m​u​l​a​-​1​/​n​e​w​s​/​1​2​4​3​3​/​7​3​6​2​4​0​1​/​V​e​r​s​t​a​p​p​e​n​-​S​c​h​u​e​y​-​s​-​c​a​r​-​d​i​f​f​e​r​ent–

With no Schumacher or Barrichello on the grid for 2013, this will be the first sea­son in a long while where none of the drivers will have known a death at Grand Prix week­end. The massive advances in safety are due in part to the death of Senna. No other event could have shocked the sport into improv­ing safety by so much.

#blog   #f1  

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My head has just exploded

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Rockabye Baby have a lul­laby ver­sion of Lullaby by The Cure. If you’ve not heard of Rockabye Baby they’re repack­aged ver­sions of hits slowed down to more som­no­lent pace.

Except for the ver­sions of Coldplay songs obviously.

If you haven’t heard any of them there’s plenty to choose from by search­ing YouTube for Rockabye Baby. My favour­ites include:
Queen Under Pressure Rockabye Baby! Under Pressure Queen
Smashing Pumpkins Today Rockabye Baby! — Lullaby Renditions of Smashing Pumpkins — Today
and Nirvana Smells Like Teen Spirit Rockabye Baby Lullaby Renditions of Nirvana — Smells Like Teens Spirit which will give babies night­mares to scar them for the rest of their lives.

Other bands covered include U2, Metallica, the Smiths and Guns ‘n’ Roses.

and I’m not jok­ing about Coldplay not being slowed down. Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of Coldplay — Clocks

#music  

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