What I’m up to


Today I’m read­ing a forth­com­ing paper on eco­sys­tems in Pitcher plants. It’s odd see­ing as you’d expect Pitchers to evolve to be hos­tile to sec­tions of the eco­sys­tem but fun. I’ll be blog­ging about it on AoB Blog, where I’ve also been blog­ging about Astrobotany.

The big time sink in the New Year will be look­ing at writ­ing a new WordPress theme. This is inten­ded for AoB Blog, now I have a bet­ter idea of what con­tent is going on the web­log. It’ll also be the quick(?) way of tak­ing advant­age of some of the new WordPress 3.1 fea­tures. The thing is I don’t want to wreck the AoB Blog site while I tweak it, so I’ll be look­ing at put­ting a test ver­sion up here with 99% of the func­tions. If it works then I’ll look at releas­ing it once the AoB site is working.

Advent 24 — The Consolation of Peace and Quiet


It’s day 24. Traditionally this is a double win­dow, so you get two videos.

First up is a clip for people who are not hav­ing a good Christmas. At the worst times, where can you find hope as an athe­ist? One answer is from the Christian philo­sopher Boethius who wrote the Consolation of Philosophy. Written by a man await­ing exe­cu­tion it includes the idea that History is a wheel and that life is in con­stant change. The clip below is from the film 24 Hour Party People where Boethius and his wheel make a couple of appearances.

24 Hour Party People — Boethius and his Wheel.

Finally here’s the last song from Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People from last year. If I’d real­ised someone had uploaded the whole thing then I prob­ably wouldn’t have bothered with the advent cal­en­dar. But it’s a good song to fin­ish with.

Barry Cryer and Ronnie Golden — Peace and Quiet.

Wherever you are have a great hol­i­day season.

Advent 23 — Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot


Carl Sagan hasn’t had much of an influ­ence on me. I’ve read and enjoyed Demon Haunted World, but I’ve never seen his tele­vi­sion series. Science inspir­a­tion for me as a child was Magnus Pyke, David Attenborough and Tomorrow’s World (before the BBC relaunched it to death). It’s my loss obvi­ously as Carl Sagan was clearly a gif­ted writer, and Pale Blue Dot is as mov­ing as any poetry you’ll find.

Carl Sagan — Pale Blue Dot.

Advent 22 — Robin Ince on the top five dead scientists


The idea for the col­lec­tion of videos as an advent cal­en­dar was inspired by Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People put together by Robin Ince. He’s one of the best comedi­ans that draws inspir­a­tion from sci­ence because he joy­fully uses it as a tool for high­light­ing absurdity as opposed to a self-consciously worthy way. I highly recom­mend his Radio4 series (with Brian Cox) The Infinite Monkey Cage avail­able as a pod­cast.

Robin Ince on the top five dead scientists.

Advent 20 — Possibly Not Safe For Work, unless you work somewhere where orgasms are expected


Strangely I haven’t added any­thing by Mary Roach to my Amazon wish list. I’ve no idea why because she’s an excel­lent writer and speaker. My best guess is that I first saw her stuff dur­ing an intense work period when read­ing for fun simply wasn’t an option. Below she shows that fun and sci­ence should go together.

Mary Roach: 10 things you didn’t know about orgasm

Advent 19 — Falling in love with a parrot


Douglas Adams fell in love with the Kakapo, and it’s one of the creatures he talks about in this video from earlier in the advent cal­en­dar. If you haven’t watched that yet, you should. It’s long but well worth it. If you have seen it, this is what a kakapo looks like.

Last Chance to See — Shagged by a rare parrot.