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2019: Year in Review

2019: Year in Review

2019 was a bit of a crazy year on all fronts. A lot of things happened that weren’t predicted and where I ended up at the end was, in many areas, very different from where I started. Personal We had a lot of ups and downs with the health of our youngest (daughter, 1). Around Easter we found out definitively that her health problems would be likely to be ongoing for years, not months, and throughout we had a large…

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What If? A Brexit Fantasy

What If? A Brexit Fantasy

This post is a fiction, a fantasy. The subject of this post was chosen by the winner of my pre-election sweepstake. It is intended to be plausible (though see the afterword), rather than probable, and a light-hearted exploration of how history could, in a very different world, have turned out differently. In particular, none of the positions, statements or actions taken by real-life politicians referred to in this piece should be taken as the actual positions, statements or actions they…

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Christmas Quiz XIV: Winner, Honour Roll and Answers

Christmas Quiz XIV: Winner, Honour Roll and Answers

The answers are now out for Christmas Quiz XIV, Sequences. Download the answers here. This year Alex Morris, Alex Craven and friends triumphs again, this time with a sole victory – and five and a half points clear of their nearest rivals! The full Honour Roll is below: =1st: 87 Alex Morris, Alex Craven and Friends 2nd: 81.5 Soozy Smith and Family 3rd: 79.5 Julia, Owen, Nick and Iain 4th: 75 Richard & Co 5th: 73 Pellereaux 6th 72.5 Team…

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The definitive Star Wars film ranking

The definitive Star Wars film ranking

At last, as someone once said, this blog is finally tackling a subject of real importance. I know that many of you will be checking here today to get the Christmas Quiz answers, but as I won’t finish marking and get these uploaded until this evening, here’s something to keep people going in the meantime. If this doesn’t spark as much heated debate as the typical Brexit/election/World Book Day post I will be sorely disappointed in my readership! 1. The…

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Christmas Quiz results out on Monday

Christmas Quiz results out on Monday

The answers and results to Christmas Quiz XIV will be out on Monday evening. Anyone who wishes to submit answers should do so by 11.59pm UK time on Sunday evening. Now, this next part comes with the caveat that I’ve only seen a small subset of people’s answers. But from what I have seen, it appears to have been a more difficult year this year, with most people/teams getting 10-20 points less than they did last year. If this holds…

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Guestblog: The problem with the Labour Party (by Stephen Burgess)

Guestblog: The problem with the Labour Party (by Stephen Burgess)

Stephen Burgess is an academic scientist. Politically speaking, he self-identifies as left-of-centre, although he typically feels to the right-of-centre amongst other academics. He grew up with a pathological hatred of the Tories, but to this day isn’t fully sure where that came from. The views expressed in this post are those of the author alone. I am a scientist. When you are writing a scientific paper, you make your main point at the beginning, and then you provide evidence to…

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Stuck for Christmas presents?

Stuck for Christmas presents?

A few books written by me and friends of mine that might serve to fill those last minute ideas. For science buffs, Cosmos, the Infographic Book of Space, by astronomers Chris North and Stuart Lowe provides brilliant visualisations that will make you think about the universe in different ways. For historians, try Jacqueline Reiter’s The Late Lord, a biography of the Earl of Chatham (a relative of Pitt). If you’re buying for children, Cluck Cluck Duck by Jean Blakey is…

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Age and wealth effects

Age and wealth effects

When thinking about how voting patterns differ with age, people distinguish between three types of effect: Age effects: The effect is a factor of the person’s age. For example, maybe young people are more likely to vote for a party promising lower tuition fees and old people for a party promising higher pensions. With an age effect, as people get older, their voting patterns will change. Cohort effects: The effect relates to a specific cohort of people (e.g. those born…

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Christmas Quiz Errata

Christmas Quiz Errata

With thanks to eagle-eyed quizzers, errors have been spotted in five of the questions. A full list of errata is on the page where the quiz was first posted. I will continue to update this if others are discovered. With just over 20 days to go, happy solving!

Human fallibility and robust institutions

Human fallibility and robust institutions

Note: I began writing this post before the election; I finished it after. I’ve indicated where the break is. It’s amazing that a system of a billion weasels trying to hose each other, i.e. capitalism, works as well as it does. Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert. Many human institutions are not optimised for perfection. They’re optimised for robustness. Capitalism is a case in point. Certainly, a huge amount of human endeavour is wasted in an arms-race of advertising, or in…

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