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Posted By Peter Bentley
Someone has just pointed me to a YouTube video called "The Undercover Scientist." The lyrics are surprisingly appropriate... If we ever make a TV show from The Undercover Scientist book, this would make excellent title music!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lz4SGk4bk5Q


 
Posted By Peter Bentley
I'm a collaborating Prof in KAIST, Korea so I go over there now and again. At the beginning of this month I was in Jeju, Korea giving a talk for some high school children. The organisers just sent me some photos. Although in this picture I look like I'm teaching karate, I was talking about evolutionary computation and showing some of the videos from my first book Evolutionary Design by Computers (and also gave them a Korean version of Digital Biology). The school specialised in science education, and you could tell. Not only did the kids cope with a talk in English, but they asked detailed technical questions on genetic algorithms. I've had less intelligent questions from fellow scientists in academic conferences! I'm afraid they put British school children to shame...


 
Posted By Peter Bentley
Life can be ironic sometimes. Having written The Undercover Scientist, Investigating Everyday Mishaps which includes a whole section on how hard disks fail, and how you should ensure they are always backed up... my hard disk failed and it wasn't backed up recently.

It did give me a chance to test the remedies I gave in the book first hand. In the book I reported the suggestions of others in this situation - lightly hitting with a hammer, cooling in freezer... but would any of these work for me? My disk had died so thoroughly it even prevented the computer from booting up when connected normally. Instead I removed it, created a fresh operating system install on a new disk, then linked the dead one to the computer via a USB interface. It took a tap with a screwdriver to unstick the heads and make it seek again. Using Data Rescue II software I was able to trawl the surface of the disk and see my data. But only sometimes - if the disk got too hot, it failed again. This was a problem because the software needed to try and access the disk continuously for many hours, which makes it hot. I had no fans, but if I put something frozen right next to it, then it became too cold and also failed again. Through trial and error, I discovered that putting the hard disk on a steel electrical socket installation box provided a good heat sink and air gap, then placing the box onto a slice of frozen pineapple (wrapped in clingfilm) provided the perfect natural cooling. Each slice lasted about 2 hours. Half a pineapple later and all my data was successfully retrieved.


 
Posted By Peter Bentley

It's only brief, but the Daily Mail was the first to cover the forthcoming Undercover Scientist in their book review section:


 
Posted By Peter Bentley
Here's a recent email exchange about the history of numbers, relating to the descriptions in The Book of Numbers

One month ago I finished reading your fascinating book "the Book of Numbers". From that moment on your question: Where are all the girls? keeps lingering through my mind. I wonder how many girls did react on this question.

I'm glad you enjoyed the book. So far you are the first to tell me about your reaction to that specific question. Let's hope a few more girls do become more interested in the subject!

You wrote about Euler, Pierre de Fermat and Descartes concerning amicable numbers.

I just happened to read the following text on the internet: Arabic mathematics : forgotten brilliance?

http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/HistTopics/Arabic_mathematics.html

…Continuing the story of amicable numbers, from which we have taken a diversion, it is worth noting that they play al large role in Arabic mathematics. Al-Farisi (born 1260) gave a new proof of Thabit ibn Qurra’s theorem, introducing important new ideas concerning factorisation and combinatorial methods. He also gave the pair of amicable numbers 17296, 18416 which have been attributed to Euler, but we know that these were known earlier than al-Farisi, perhaps even by Thabit ibn Qurra himself. Although outside our time range for Arabic mathematics in this article, it is worth noting that in the 17th century the Arabic mathematician Mohammed Baqir Yazdi gave the pair of amicable number 9,363,584 and 9,437,056 still many years before Euler’s contribution……

Perhaps it is of interest for you.

yes, when describing amicable numbers I wrote "(although some claim that they may also have been known before this)". I was referring to this text you found. There is some debate over the issue, but it is probably true that the Arabs had found many amicable numbers, which were then forgotten for several hundred years and rediscovered by the likes of Descartes and Euler. The University of St Andrews is an excellent source of information on this topic - I used their help when writing the Book of Numbers.