ravenMy son Jamie’s school asked yesterday if it would be OK for him to be assessed by means of a Raven test.

So I looked it up.  A Raven test turns out to be an IQ test, in which one is to identify progressively difficult shape sequences. Driven by curiosity, I started the test on line, and it turned out to be great fun.  It was really quite hard by the end. And then the kicker: they say , “Well done, you have completed the test. Now you will have to pay 19 Euros if you want to see the results”.

Well, by this time I had wasted half an hour of my time, and despite some suspicion that the whole thing might be a scam, I paid the 19 Euros.  This is what they sent back: Continue reading


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Harper has come to stay for a few days.

She looks happy.

DogsMrs Perdita Shrimpton Continue reading

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Fox Hunting – a Tale of Bilbys and Sturgeons

bilbyThere has been a fair bit of news about foxhunting recently, and never having been on a foxhunt in my life, it is not my specialist subject at all. But I do think that, to get the bottom of it, you really need to start with the bilbys.

Everybody eats a lot of chocolate at Easter. Except for me. Chocolate is contrary to my diet these days. Anyway, chocolate being a rather heavy, man-made sort of a thing, people like to balance the Easter message with something more natural, and small and cute and cuddly. In Europe, they use rabbits. Small rabbits. Bunnies, in other words. But here in Australia, rabbits are a huge pest, and get a very bad press. Anyway, Australians want their own small cute and cuddly animal as their Easter animal. Step up the bilby. It is small, cute and above all it is Australian.

Unhappily, animals like the Bilby are under some threat, and the threat includes the feral cat. According to the government here, there are some 20 million feral cats in Australia, and every day, it is estimated that they kill some 75 million bilbys and other cute Continue reading

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Mixed News for Birds

nibblesIt has been a mixed week for news of birds.

On the bad side, seagulls have attacked and killed a Yorkshire terrier, Roo, in its own garden in Cornwall. These particular gulls are a protected species, apparently, so they was no moving them off Roo’s owner’s roof, where they have set up home.

As against that we have seen the warming story of the duck Nibbles, who waits in the car for his master to get off the school bus at the end of the day.

Ducks are plainly winning Continue reading

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The Plucky Greeks

Sir HumphreyAs I have previously posted it is by no means obvious what the Greeks were really being asked to vote about in yesterday’s referendum. But whilst the meaning of the question is shrouded in mystery, the answer was a clear “no”.

The BBC says:

Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said that the Greeks made a “brave choice” in voting to reject the terms of an international bailout.

Sir Humphrey Appleby used to use the word “brave” as a synonym for “stupid”, and this may well be the position that is now facing Greece. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis are evidently banking on Continue reading

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Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts

So wrote Richard Feynman, who was one of the real heroes of the 20th century. He was absolutely right.

A reminder of this quote appears in Matt Ridley’s excellent article, The Climate Wars’ Damage to Science, which should be essential reading for anyone who still believes in the groupthink of catastrophic climate change.

Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep, British MuseumHappily, the attention of the world has moved on recently from imagined problems with the climate to real problems with the economy, and in particular Greece. Greece is a particularly interesting pointer as to what happens when the serious socialists get into the driving seat, and spend, spend, spend money that their countries simply do not have. I do not think that either Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras or Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis are stupid. Misguided, perhaps, but not stupid.  So it is an interesting question why they are putting up such an apparently stupid referendum question this coming weekend. It is thus Continue reading

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Coffee Wars – The Spanner of Death

spannerI always knew the coffee machine would fight back.

Its main weapon is the spanner of death. There is no way past it. It has to be removed before coffee is to be had.

Various techniques sometimes work (but usually do not). They include:

  •  Turn it off, wait, turn it on again, and try to trick it by ordering it to make a cup of coffee with ground coffee, even though you have put no ground coffee in the ground coffee gurgle hole. Ha!
  •  Turn it off, wait, turn it on again, and then exhaust it by ordering it to produce hot water or steam through the wandy thing. Take that!
  •  Whack it sharply on the top right hand side, preferably without any warning:

A dog, a coffee machine, a walnut tree Continue reading

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Known Unknowns

Adelaide hillsSo, I have sold the matrimonial home in Adelaide, with a leisurely settlement date, and it is time to find somewhere else to live.

Some things are knowns. I do not need to go to an office in town every day; most of my work can be done anywhere with a decent internet connection and telephone line, or involves getting on an aeroplane. I do not want to be shut in a small box in town. But neither do I want to go so far away that I never get to see the teenagers.

Can’t go west, that is all sea. Can’t go north, obviously. So it is the hills to the east or south. There are 2 good roads, the Freeway which goes to Mount Barker to the east, and the Expressway that goes to McLaren Vale in the south.

I have started looking, and there are some houses with lovely views. I think I would find a view cheering. Bizarrely, it seems that properties with 50 acres or so Continue reading

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Sweet impossibility

My last post might have sounded a bit down computers. I didn’t mean it that way. Computers are wonderful in maths, particularly in the area of iteration. It would be easy to get the real solution of the orange sweet problem (how many sweets were there in the bag?) by writing some code, but it can be more easily demonstrated using a spreadsheet. See sweets.

There must be at least six sweets in the bag, because Continue reading


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Sweet ignorance

The children in the UK have been moaning about an exam question, which was as follows:

There are n sweets in a bag. 6 of the sweets are orange. The rest of the sweets are yellow.

Hannah takes a random sweet from the bag. She eats the sweet.

Hannah then takes at random another sweet from the bag. She eats the sweet.

The probability that Hannah eats two orange sweets is 1/3.

Show that n² – n – 90 = 0.

equationsThe question isn’t hard. You just take the odds of the first sweet being orange, and then multiply that by the odds of the second sweet being orange, and that is 1 in 3. It is 3 lines of calculation.

But what I think might be quite hard is doing it if you don’t have a piece of paper, but merely a computer. I guess Continue reading

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