I've been trying to keep up with my weird fiction reading while I've been working on my physics textbook, though it's been pretty hard to read a major work considering I spend most of my evenings doing research for the text. Under these circumstances, a collection of short stories was the ideal solution, and I recently received Wordworth's collection of the works of W.F. Harvey, entitled The Beast with Five Fingers, after its most well-known story:
It took a curious amount of time for me to receive my copy. Although it was listed as available on Amazon for nearly a year, the order was continually delayed and I only got the book a couple of months ago. Hopefully whatever issue they were having has been straightened out now.
The book blurb refers to Harvey as "an unjustly neglected author of supernatural tales", which is technically true, but a little misleading: though he did write a significant number of supernatural stories, the bulk of his work is better described as mystery/murder stories. I found his work reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe and Roald Dahl; though he does not quite achieve the darkness and creepiness of those masters, there are a number of great stories and genuinely unsettling moments (as I was reading Harvey, I kept referring to him in my mind as "Roald Dahl-lite").
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- Making cold atoms look like electrons. First up, Chad at Uncertain Principles describes how ultra-cold atoms and a lattice of optical traps can be used to make a virtual 'solid' in which the atoms play the role of electrons in ordinary matter.
- Black holes, Brownian motion. Brownian motion is the phenomenon by which particles floating in a hot liquid 'jitter' about due to the impact of the liquid atoms. Brian at Upon Reflection discusses how supermassive black holes undergo a similar process, and how the understanding of this process 'shines light' on the black holes themselves.
- Could Kepler find something closer to home? Finally, Niall at we are all in the gutter discusses a possible alternative use for the Kepler telescope. Designed to look for earth-sized planets around other stars, it may be possible to use it to locate some of the distant hidden objects in our own solar system!
Check back next Monday for more miscellaneous highlights!
Even as busy as I am, I can't resist taking a moment to wish happy birthday to one of the coolest actors out there, in my humble opinion: Bill Nighy!
Nighy has been acting since the late 1970s, though he really caught my attention around the turn of the century, when he took on a number of great and unique roles: obnoxious aging rock star Billy Mack in Love Actually, Shaun's barely-alive stepfather in Shaun of the Dead, Slartibartfast in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, squidly Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, and the smug Chief Inspector in Hot Fuzz.
Nighy is one of those actors who really livens up any movie he's in, even making otherwise annoying films enjoyable, such as Dead Man's Chest and the very silly Underworld.
I see via IMDB that he'll have a role as Rufus Scrimgeour in the two final Harry Potter films, and is a perfect choice for a role in that series!
For me, though, I think I love his turn as Billy Mack the most. Even if you're not a fan of romantic comedies, Love Actually is worth watching just for the fun Nighy has as a rock star past his prime and willing to say and do anything to regain the spotlight!
Happy birthday to Bill Nighy!
There's an old Calvin & Hobbes cartoon where Calvin is trying to get enough cereal boxtops to mail-order a prize, namely a propeller beanie. Being the impatient sort, he pretty much decides to eat enough cereal in one sitting to order the beanie. The end of the strip has him commenting, "2 1/2 boxes to go. Man, I'm earning this."
That's how I've been feeling about my book lately. Pretty much every day I've been churning out a complete section on a specialized topic, which usually involves first burning a lot of brainpower to remind myself of the details of said topic. One day, I was writing on vector spherical harmonics, the next on Zernike polynomials. Currently I'm pushing my way through the method of steepest descents. There's relatively little left to be written, but everything that remains are more advanced topics. I'm still hoping to get through the first draft by the end of the month, though -- if I can keep up my motivation, I should be able to do it.
In other news, my h-index reached 15 today. Considering it reached 14 only a few months back, my publications have been getting cited pretty well. I am well-aware that the h-index is a very crude and somewhat artificial measure of scientific relevance, but it is still nice to see it go up. The number of citations/year for me has been quite satisfying as well; from the Web of Science,
In other good news, I received unofficial word that my tenure has been approved. Of course, I should emphasize the "unofficial" part, but it looks like things are on track, barring some unexpected disaster in the next month.
Even with everything moving along, though, I feel rather melancholy today, and could use some cheering up. Anybody out there have any good news they'd like to share?
There’s 8 days left until the deadline for The Giant’s Shoulders #18! It will be held at Just a mon, and entries can be submitted through blogcarnival.com or directly to the host blog, as usual!
- Galaxy Zoo 2. One of the most fascinating and exciting consequences of the internet is the advent of large "citizen scientist" collaborations. Alexander at The Astronomist discusses Galaxy Zoo, one of the most successful of these, the now active Galaxy Zoo 2 and other scientific "zoos".
- Benford's Mathemagical Law. Benford's law is one of those fascinating results of mathematics that could be said to be, "well-known to those who know it well." It describes how even seemingly random sets of data can show very counterintuitive structure. Daniel at Ingenious Monkey discusses Benford's law and its origins.
- Crayons Indicate Children’s Lack of Rainforest Biodiversity Perception. Children are our future, and the future of ecological conservation movements, but how well do they understand the importance of different species in rainforest ecosystems? Scott at JournOwl describes a great way to find out -- with crayon drawings!
Check back next Monday for more miscellaneous highlights!
Another book by the awesome Richard Marsh has been released by Valancourt! You can purchase A Spoiler of Men (1905) through Amazon. I'm a big fan of Marsh's work, and have read a lot of things reprinted by Valancourt -- The Beetle, The Joss, Curios, and Philip Bennion's Death -- as well as a lot that can only be read so far on Google books -- The Goddess: A Demon, The Magnetic Girl, A Metamorphosis. I've enjoyed every one of his books so far, and from the blurb of A Spoiler of Men, I'm guessing that I'm going to like it too:
First published in 1905, A Spoiler of Men is, as Johan Höglund writes in his introduction, a roller coaster ride that blends horror, crime, and humour, and will keep readers guessing until its surprising conclusion. It is also, Höglund argues, quite possibly the first occurrence of zombies in English fiction. This new edition, the first since the 1920s, features the unabridged text of the first edition, a new introduction and notes, and a reproduction of the cover of the Victorian "shilling shocker" edition.
I've ordered my copy... I'll review it soon!