Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Anti-Speed Camera Device

Last week a colleague and I headed up to Windermere in the English Lake District to do some fieldwork for a paper we're busily scribbling away at. Despite it being March and the weather being a touch questionable, it was, none-the-less, extremely beautiful:

Anyway, during the long (6 hour) drive we (as generally happens during long drives on British roads these days) touched upon the subject of speed cameras, bane of the motorist. Now, before I begin, let me just be clear, I'm not a raving loony (well, depends on who you ask I suppose) who wants to go tearing round the countryside at 100 miles an hour. It does, however, nark me when we go through miles of road works with 50 mph average speed cameras and see not a single soul working on them.

We mumbled away about how easy it would be to make an anti-speed camera device, in the end coming to a quite surprising solution. Our thought process was basically this:

Speed cameras work using the Doppler Effect; by looking at the apparent frequency shift of a known pulse after it has been reflected off the moving vehicle (see below). In order to prevent said speed camera from catching you, you require some way of scrambling or cancelling this reflected signal. The optimal way of doing this is to emit a phase inverted (upside down) version of this reflected signal. Now, the signal being reflected back to the speed camera is itself the phase inverted version of the original signal emitted by the speed camera as a result of the reflection process.So, the easiest way of making yourself an anti-speed camera device is to steal a speed camera and mount it (discretely, of course) on your car...

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

The Happyness Scale

Haven't posted anything in a while, so thought it was about time I pulled on my blogging mittens and got typing again. As an easy intro I thought I'd post the little figure below, which kinda developed out of a discussion we were having the other day when I was accused of being a tea-centric being. Have to admit, they're probably correct...

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

When I heard this book was being released in the US my envy knew no bounds. It was all I could do to restrain myself from spending a small fortune importing a copy. And I didn't even have a work-related jolly I could use as an excuse to visit the US and purchase my very own. Subsequently, as is the way of things when you have mind as small as mine, the undoubted delights of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies got pushed further back in my cerebrum, being overtaken by newer, shinier exciting things.

So, imagine my delight when tearing open my birthday presents a few weeks ago I was confronted by a zombified Georgian Lady. Lets face it, any book that starts with the immortal line 'It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains', is gonna rock! Let me tell you, this book does not disappoint!

This modern adaption of Jane Austen's classic by Seth Grahame-Smith remains startlingly faithful to the original text. Grahame-Smith elegantly twists the storyline in a marvel of storytelling. The characters, from the headstrong Elizabeth to the arrogant Mr Darcy or the prattling Mrs Bennett, are exactly as Austen originally wrote them, it just so happens the world in which they inhabit is also populated by the 'sorry stricken' who potter round hunting for more brains and generally causing all kinds of mischief. The way zombies, ninja's, and all manner of other things you'd never expect to see in a Jane Austen novel, are worked into the text is done so with incredible dexterity. For example:

"His misfortunes!" repeated Darcy contemptuously; "Yes, his misfortunes have been great indeed." With this, he swept her feet from beneath her and sprang to his own. Elizabeth was too quick to allow him the advantage, for she was soon upright and swinging the poker at him with renewed vigor.

This book has jumped straight into my must read list. The idea of throwing zombies at a Jane Austen novel is brilliant in it's own right, but when it is done in such a careful and thorough manner the end result is a wonder to behold. Everyone, and I mean everyone, should read this.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Lions Loose in Yorkshire

The other day I came across a brilliant reader's letter in the paper Look Local, published weekly near Sheffield. The said letter quoted an article from 1891 describing the events that occurred when a traveling circus of wild and wonderful beasts had a few problems with the lion's wagon.

Here is the letter transcribed in full:




“The quiet valley in which the hamlet of Wharncliffe Side is situated, was yesterday the scene of a series of exciting incidents. The collection of animals known as Day’s Menagerie was at the Holmfirth Feast during the early part of the week; and on Thursday [May 14th 1891] it set out for the Sheffield Fair. In consequence of a slight mishap on the road, however, they only reached Deepcar, where they remained until early yesterday, when they resumed their journey. Soon after six o’clock in the morning the fourteen vans containing the animals, and a number of camels following on foot, entered Wharncliffe Side. As they were passing down the road there the thread upon the bolts fastening one of the axle arms to the van containing the lions, gave way, and after oscillating for a few seconds, the van rolled over on its side with a loud crash. Fortunately no persons were walking by the side of the van at the time or they would certainly have been crushed to death.

Wallace, Hannibal, and Tyrant, three large lions, which were the occupants of the van, naturally became much alarmed, and one of them tore away the grating, which when the van is in the proper position is on the top. Now that the van had fallen the grating was at the side, and the lion, after removing it, put his head out and made the surrounding hills echo with his roar. The other lions joined in the cry, and were answered by the howls and yells of the bears, tigers, wolves and other animals in the remaining vans. Mr John Daniel Day, one of the proprietors, at once gave the lion a stroke with the butt end of a whip stock, and having by this means prevailed upon him to withdraw his head, he promptly nailed a board over the opening.

It was not long before the inhabitants of the neighbouring houses, and especially the children, gathered round the van, and Police-sergeant Hobson proceeded to the place to render assistance. A number of horses attached to milk carts were passing at the time, and the former, partly in consequence of the roaring of the animals, but chiefly at the sight of the camels, became very restive.

Mrs Wragg of Brightholmelee, was proceeding to Sheffield in her milk cart, when the horse bolted, and she jumped out; and while Sergeant Hobson and a number of other men went to secure the horse, Mr Joseph Wood, whose father bears the same name and keeps a farm at Onesacre, was leading his horse past the place, it broke away upon seeing the camels, and rushed through the crowd, knocking down three girls. It then leaped over a wall into a field, when one of the shafts and most of the harness broke; the cart remaining in the road. The horse was cut but not permanently harmed.

One of the girls was not hurt, but the other two received rather severe injuries. One of the injured children is Clara Micklethwaite, ten years of age, daughter of Benjamin Micklethwaite, a rasp cutter, who lives at Wharncliffe Side. When the horse sprang into the field she was wedged between the cart and the wall. She was rendered insensible, but recovered consciousness upon being taken home. The name of the other girl is Alice Hawley. She is eleven years of age and is the daughter of Arthur Hawley, who lives at Wharncliffe Side and is employed at the paper mill there. She was knocked down by the horse, but fortunately the wheels of the cart did not pass over her.

Both girls were attended by an assistant of Mr. Browning, surgeon, Oughtibridge, who found them suffering from bruises, but neither of them had sustained broken bones. Micklethwaite also suffers from internal injuries, but it is not expected that they will terminate fatally. About four years ago Hawley was an inmate of the Infirmary in consequence of her having received a very severe kick in the face from a horse.

Another horse which took fright at the camels was that of Mr [John?] Walker, of Eaton House, near Brightholmelee, but no accident resulted. After some difficulty Mr Wood’s horse was caught, and by borrowing another cart he was able to complete his journey. Meanwhile the services of Mr. Thomas Walker, the village blacksmith had been obtained for the purpose of mending the defective bolts, and he accomplished his task with such promptitude that the menagerie was soon able to proceed, and the Sheffield Fair Ground was reached without further mishap”.

I love the idea of a circus of wild beasts traveling round Yorkshire from one country fair to the next. To us, today, the thought of seeing lions and tigers in the flesh (well, fur I suppose) might not seem particularly exciting. But, to people in the late 19th Century, who didn't have the constant exposure to such things that TV and the internet grants us, this would have been an incredible sight. It is easy to see why the local fair became such a central part of rural life.

Furry Little Friend...

Rather random (and short) post this one, but was so pleased with the end result I just had to.

For months now, my parents have been telling me about this little field mouse that comes and eats bird seed from a feeder near their back door every morning. So, this morning, having an hour or so to kill, I camped out with my camera...

Isn't he/she just adorable!