Physics Textbook on Cosmology and Gravitation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/03/2018 - 10:20pm in

M.V. Berry, Principles of Cosmology and Gravitation (Bristol: Institute of Physics Publishing 1989).

Yesterday came the news of the death of the great British physicist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawking at the age of 76. Hawking had suffered for most of his adult life from motor neurone disease, since he was diagnosed with it in his early 20s. He was given only three years to live, but instead managed to live out a very full lifespan working on his theories of the origin of the universe and Black Holes. He was a great ambassador for science. His book, A Brief History of Time, was a bestseller when it appeared in 1980s, although he admitted that it was probably a book few finished. And he showed that it was still possible for a disabled person to do cutting edge research, provided they had the necessary technical and medical support. In his case, it was his wheelchair and the machine that allowed him to speak, first of all by keying in the words, then by twitching just a single muscle. Some of the praise seemed a bit too fulsome to me. Like when they started saying that he was the greatest scientist since Newton and Einstein. I don’t think he was. And Hawking on his own didn’t unlock the secrets of universe or Black Holes, as the Beeb’s presenters also claimed. As for his great sense of humour, well, it existed, as his appearance on shows like The Simpsons demonstrated, but my memory of it is marred by him turning up with the TV critic, Victor Lewis Smith, telling fart jokes and laughing on the 1990s series, Inside Victor Lewis Smith. But it really was inspiring to see how he was a great hero to the ‘A’ level students at a science fair yesterday, and how he had inspired them to become interested in science.

One of the complaints Richard Dawkins has made about popular science programmes is that they’re too ‘dumbed-down’. He points out that they have to have lots of explosions, and they mustn’t include equations, in case that scares people off. There’s a lot with which I don’t agree with Dawkins. I’m not an atheist, and have argued on this blog against him and the other militant atheists. But he is right here. Scientists writing the popular science books have said that they’ve been told by their publishers to leave equations out, because every equation in a book damages sales.

I think this is the wrong attitude to have. It’s why I’ve put up this piece about the above book by M.V. Berry. It’s an undergraduate physics textbook, which does contain the fundamental mathematical equations for this area of physics. Its contents include

1. Introduction

2. Cosmography
2.1 What the universe contains
2.2 The cosmic distance hierarchy and the determination of galactic densities
2.2.1 Parallax
2.2.2 Distance from velocity measurements
2.2.3 Distance from apparent luminosity
2.2.4 Weighing galaxies
2.3 The red shift and the expansion of the universe.

3. Physical base of general relativity
3.1 The need for relativistic ideas and a theory of gravitation.
3.2 Difficulties with Newtonian mechanics: gravity
3.3. Difficulties with Newtonian mechanics: inertial frames and absolute space.
3.4 Inadequacy of special relativity.
3.5 Mach’s principle, and gravitational waves.
3.6 Einstein’s principle of equivalence.

4 Curved spacetime and the physical mathematics of general relativity.
4.1 Particle Paths and the separation between events
4.2 Geodesics
4.3 Curved spaces
4.4 Curvature and gravitation.

5 General relativity near massive objects
5.1 Spacetime near an isolated mass.
5.2 Around the world with clocks.
5.3 Precession of the perihelion of Mercury
5.4 Deflection of light
5.5 Radar echoes from planets
5.6 Black Holes

6 Cosmic Kinematics
6.1 Spacetime for the smoothed-out universe
6.2 Red shifts and horizons
6.3 Apparent luminosity
6.4 Galactic densities and the darkness of the night sky.
6.5 Number counts

7 Cosmic dynamics
7.1 Gravitation and the cosmic fluid
7.2 Histories of model universes
7.3 The steady state theory
7.4 Cosmologies in which the strength of gravity varies

8 In the beginning
8.1 Cosmic black-body radiation.
8.2 Condensation of galaxies
8.3 Ylem.

Appendix A: Labelling astronomical objects
Appendix B: Theorema Egregium
Solutions to odd-numbered problems
Useful numbers.

there’s also a bibliography and index.

I’m not claiming to understand the equations. I struggled at both my ‘O’ level maths and physics, and what I know about science and astronomy I learned mostly through popular science books. But in the mid-1990s I wanted to see at least some of the equations scientists used in their explorations and modelling of the universe. One of the popular science books I was reading said at the time that this book was at the level that people with ‘A’ level maths could understand, and this didn’t seem quite so much a jump from my basic maths skills. So I ordered it. I’m afraid I can’t say that I’ve read it properly, despite the fact that I keep meaning to. Some of the equations are just too much for me, but I can follow the explanations in the text. I’m putting this notice of the book up here, in case there are any budding Stephen or Stephanie Hawkingses out there, who want to go a bit further than the pop-sci explanations, and see for themselves what the maths behind it all is like.

The Beeb also said in their eulogy for the great man, that Hawking hoped that the people reading his A Brief History of Time would come away with one point, even if they hadn’t finished it: that the universe is governed by rational law. Actually, this ideas isn’t unique to Hawking by a very, very long way. It actually comes from the Middle Ages, and is the assumption that makes science possible. Hawking was an agnostic, I believe, and many scientists are atheists. But this assumption that the universe is governed by rational laws ultimately comes from Christian theology. The founds of modern science in the Renaissance pointed to the passages in the Bible, in which God’s Wisdom creates the universes and establishes the boundaries and courses of natural phenomena, like the tides and stars. And the anarchist of science, Feuerabend, pointed out that the assumption that the laws of the universe all form a consistent whole come from Christian doctrine, quoting the 13th century theologian and philosopher, Thomas Aquinas: ‘We must believe that the laws of the universe are one, because God is one.’

Hawking has passed away, but it’s clear that he has inspired many more people to become interested in this rather arcane branch of the sciences. I hope this continues, despite the Tories’ attack on education and science and research for its own sake.

Trump Yet To Realise He No Longer Needs To Fire One Person A Week

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/03/2018 - 7:34am in


World, Comedy, Featured

donald trump the apprentice

US President and former host of The Apprentice Donald Trump is still under the impression he needs to fire one person a week until there is just one contestant remaining, sources say.

Insiders at the White House have confirmed that Mr Trump spends most of his week deliberating over a list of names before making the difficult decision of who to let go.

“We’ve tried to tell him that it’s not necessary. But he just says, ‘ Yes it is! It’s the whole point of the show!” one staffer confided.

“Getting rid of Rex Tillerson was one thing. But putting him in a room full of other staffers, with a bunch of cameras and shouting ‘You’re fired!’ was just weird. He even paused midway through his speech to go to an ad-break”.

Sources say Mr Trump – who has pitched the idea of a premium steak business – is hoping to be the last contestant remaining.

McDonald’s Launches New ‘Ethical Options’ Made From Free Range, Cruelty Free Emulsifiers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 13/03/2018 - 12:40pm in


Business, Comedy

mcdonalds emulsifiers

Fast food giant McDonald’s has joined the movement towards offering more ethical food options, vowing to use only free range emulsifiers and additives in its burgers and fries.

A spokesperson for the company said its 218 different colourings, additives, silicones and emulsifiers were now free to roam free within the lab before being humanly coaxed into a large plastic tub for transportation.

“We try to make the process as compassionate as possible,” he said, pointing out a group of microcrystalline cellulose relaxing on a laboratory bench. “Our dimethylpolysiloxanes and diacetyl tartaric acid esters have it pretty good here!”

He said the result was more ethical, tastier food options. “I think you’ll notice the difference. It’s good to sit down for a meal knowing your anti-foaming agents and distilled monoglycerides have been treated fairly and humanly”.

God Says He’ll Eliminate All Suffering For A Year If His Post Gets 1 Million Likes

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/03/2018 - 10:06am in


The Almighty Father has set his followers a fun new challenge, saying he’ll put an end to all grief, anguish and suffering for 12 months if his Facebook post gets a million likes.

Inspired by other similar campaigns – like the man who tried to attract 18 million re-tweets in order to win a life’s supply of chicken nuggets – God said it was all just a bit of fun.

“Massively bored right now, so let’s run a little experiment. If I get 1 million likes for this post I’ll stop all suffering for a year. Legit. Let’s get this baby trending!” the post read.

Many people in the comments section sought specific details about the promise, asking whether the deal extended to things like minor back pain, paper cuts and remembering awkward situations from your childhood. God replied saying it was all covered. “Even stubbed toes. Especially stubbed toes, lol!” he wrote.

God posted the update on Monday night. By Tuesday morning the post had over 200,000 likes.

Many commenters said they thought it was a scam, citing similar posts for free iPhones or cars. “This whole thing isn’t real guys” one comment read.

Gabriel Rockhill on the Myth of American Democracy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/03/2018 - 9:51pm in

A few months ago, the Franco-American philosopher Gabriel Rockhill published a very interesting piece in Counterpunch arguing that, contrary to how the country sees itself, America isn’t and has never been a democracy. He notes that the British imperialists, who founded the Thirteen Colonies, weren’t interested in spreading rights or democracy, and that the Founding Fathers were also anti-democratic. They were like most of the other Enlightenment thinkers in that they were keen to defend to property from the mass of the propertyless, whom they associated with misrule and the mob. He points out that at the time the suffrage only extended to men of property, and excluded the poor, women, First Nations and slaves. The notion that the country was a democracy first appeared with Andrew Jackson, who styled himself as a democrat purely as an electoral pose without doing anything to extend the franchise. He writes

Second, when the elite colonial ruling class decided to sever ties from their homeland and establish an independent state for themselves, they did not found it as a democracy. On the contrary, they were fervently and explicitly opposed to democracy, like the vast majority of European Enlightenment thinkers. They understood it to be a dangerous and chaotic form of uneducated mob rule. For the so-called “founding fathers,” the masses were not only incapable of ruling, but they were considered a threat to the hierarchical social structures purportedly necessary for good governance. In the words of John Adams, to take but one telling example, if the majority were given real power, they would redistribute wealth and dissolve the “subordination” so necessary for politics. When the eminent members of the landowning class met in 1787 to draw up a constitution, they regularly insisted in their debates on the need to establish a republic that kept at bay vile democracy, which was judged worse than “the filth of the common sewers” by the pro-Federalist editor William Cobbett. The new constitution provided for popular elections only in the House of Representatives, but in most states the right to vote was based on being a property owner, and women, the indigenous and slaves—meaning the overwhelming majority of the population—were simply excluded from the franchise. Senators were elected by state legislators, the President by electors chosen by the state legislators, and the Supreme Court was appointed by the President. It is in this context that Patrick Henry flatly proclaimed the most lucid of judgments: “it is not a democracy.” George Mason further clarified the situation by describing the newly independent country as “a despotic aristocracy.”

When the American republic slowly came to be relabeled as a “democracy,” there were no significant institutional modifications to justify the change in name. In other words, and this is the third point, the use of the term “democracy” to refer to an oligarchic republic simply meant that a different word was being used to describe the same basic phenomenon. This began around the time of “Indian killer” Andrew Jackson’s presidential campaign in the 1830s. Presenting himself as a ‘democrat,’ he put forth an image of himself as an average man of the people who was going to put a halt to the long reign of patricians from Virginia and Massachusetts. Slowly but surely, the term “democracy” came to be used as a public relations term to re-brand a plutocratic oligarchy as an electoral regime that serves the interest of the people or demos. Meanwhile, the American holocaust continued unabated, along with chattel slavery, colonial expansion and top-down class warfare.

He then goes to argue that America today is also not a democracy. It has elections, but in fact the American people aren’t governing themselves, but merely choosing which members of a plutocratic ruling class they want to govern them. And his last point is that the anti-democratic nature of American politics is shown very clearly in how often America has interfered in the elections of foreign nations – either through manipulation, or by invasion – when those countries haven’t elected the leaders America wants.

The article’s well worth reading, and is at

Douglas Adams made a similar point in his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. On one of the fictional worlds described by the Guide, there are two races. The planet’s society is stratified, so that one of the races is the ruling class, and the other their subordinates. But it is a democracy. Ever so often, elections are held, in which the subordinate race goes off to vote for whichever members of the dominant race they want in power. But the position of the dominant race and their right to rule is never questioned.

I don’t know whether this is one of the other Hitchhiker books, or if it was just in the radio series. But it’s a good satirical description of the way western class politics works. It’s probably more true now than it was in Adams’ time, as the Blairites and the Tories come from the same middle class, and promote the same free market, neoliberal policies, which the rest of us are expected to support uncritically. It’s time to break this class monopoly on power.

Radio 4 Programme on Douglas Adams, and New Series of Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/02/2018 - 5:35am in

This Saturday, 3rd March 2018, Radio 4 are broadcasting a programme on Douglas Adams and his ideas for the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, based on papers at Cambridge University. The programme’s part of their Archive Hour series, at 8.00 O’clock in the evening. The blurb for it on page 119 of the Radio Times reads

John Lloyd explores a collection of Douglas Adams’ private papers written as the latter’s ideas for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy took shape.

There’s a bit more about the programme on the previous page, 118, which runs

Don’t Panic! It’s the Douglas Adams Papers

As part of the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the first broadcast on Radio 4 of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy a new series begins on Radio 4 on Thursday. It includes unused material held at Cambridge University by author Douglas Adams, and Adams’ papers are the basis of his friend and collaborator John Lloyd’s tribute this evening. The tribute inevitably hinges on Adams’ famous inability to write. He “got stuck”. But the results of his anguish impressed such fans as Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking, both of whom appear. A priceless homage to a comedy genius.

And there’s a two-page feature on him on pages 114 & 115.

The new series of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is on Radio 4 at 6.30, on Thursday 8th March. The new series’ entitled The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Hexagonal Phase, and the listing for it in the Radio Times runs

Simon Jones returns as Arthur Dent in a new sci-fi comedy tale based on Dirk Maggs’ novel And Another Thing, with additional material by creator Douglas Adams. It sees Arthur and the rest in an adventure involving Viking Gods and Irish confidence tricksters-not to mention the first glimpse of the Eccentrica Gallumbits.

I don’t think I’ll be listening to it, as I went off Hitchhiker and Adams way back in the 1990s. I loved the first two books, but their quality steadily went down, and I’ve had no desire to read the Dirk Gently stories or anything else Adams’ wrote. And I also wasn’t impressed by the way Adams got very sniffy in an interview on the radio with Paxman, when Paxo told him he wrote science fiction, ‘but it was good’, and Adams denied that he did. Hitchhiker clearly is SF, but it seems Adams either didn’t respect the genre due to literary snobbishness, or simply didn’t want to be pigeonholed as an SF writer. I can also remember him on another radio programme back in the 1990s telling an audience of schoolchildren that he was a ‘wordsmith’. I’m sure that’s true, in the sense that Adams was genuinely concerned with making sure his work was exactly right, but it still sounds more than a little pretentious and conceited when the uses the term to describe himself.

The Name of Trump’s Short-Lived Travel Agency – Oh! The Irony!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 24/02/2018 - 4:42am in

Here’s a bit of fun for you all! I was watching the ITV quiz show, The Chaser, just now when this question came up. ‘What is the name of Donald Trump’s short-lived travel agency, which he launched in 2006?’ The three choices were ‘Fly Trump’, ‘Travel Trump’ or ‘Go Trump’.

Like me, the contestant chose ‘Fly Trump’. I rejected ‘Go Trump’, as it would have been too much of a joke considering how unpopular he is and how Americans across the political spectrum despise him and do want him gone.

But it turns out I was wrong!

Donald Trump’s travel agency was indeed called ‘Go Trump!’

Well, it’s been and gone, but people are still shouting it him from all over the world!

88% Of Relationships Begun by Colliding into Person Holding Stack of Files, Research Finds

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/02/2018 - 8:25am in



people bumping

A decades long study by the University of California has found that 88% of all relationships are begun by colliding unexpectedly into a person holding a large stack of files.

“While nearly all of us meet our partners as we distractedly bump into them and their important paperwork, only 30% of couples begin courting after sharing a deep gaze as they clean up on the floor,” head researcher Dr. Dave Marrow said. “The remaining 70% of relationships are formed following a long, bitter, and incredibly adorable distaste for one another.”

The study also found a diverse breakdown in the demographics of these couples, including: 33% bad guys with a heart of gold, 23% uptight career women that need to learn fun, 28% loveable slobs who refuse to grow up, and 16% who are perfect women with jerk boyfriends.

When asked about the remaining 12% of relationships, Dr. Marrow replied, “We still don’t have conclusive data on that. As best we can tell they’re formed after some type of quid pro quo, such as posing as a fake couple or beginning a friends with benefits situation that’s doomed from the start.”


By Christian Malarsie

Dick Coughlan on the Rise and Fall of Katie Hopkins

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/02/2018 - 6:30am in

This is a long piece posted on YouTube from Dick Coughlan’s ‘Left-Wing Propaganda’ podcast, where the comedian and vlogger against racism, sexism and anti-gay prejudice comments on Katie Hopkin’s final departure from mainstream British media.

Hopkins was the loser on British version of The Apprentice, who then went on to make a career out of being a right-wing, racist, corporate loudmouth. This is the woman who said she wanted helicopter gunships to shoot down the immigrants crossing the Med in boats, and who sneered at the father of the little boy, whose body was washed ashore in Turkey after one of them went down. She’s a prize, nasty piece of work. But one no longer welcome in British media. She lost her job with the Daily Mail the other day, and has now gone off to join Rebel Media. They’re another far right outfit with a nice line in racist, anti-immigrant politics. They’re Canadian, and if she moves to that country, it’ll be highly ironic, as she’ll be an immigrant. And way back in the 19th or early 20th century, the descendants of the original European settlers in Canada were campaigning against the influx of large numbers of new immigrants from Britain. But all this will be forgotten, as the new breed of extreme nationalists in Europe and America simply hate non-Whites.

Coughlan goes through the various newspapers and organisations that I have picked her up and then sacked her, or released her, because her views were just too toxic even for them. The Heil is simply the latest. She’s also been given the heave-ho by LBC and the Scum amongst others. He also talks about some of the monstrous comments she’s made, and her foot-in-mouth appearance on Philip Schofield’s show on ITV. This was in a piece about children’s names. Hopkins stated that she wouldn’t want her child going to school with children named after places, because it gave the messages that the parents were low-class and uneducated. Or words to that effect. Schofield then pointed out that she’d called her daughter India. To which Hopkins replied that ‘India is not a place.’ Really? That must surprised the nearly 1 1/4 billion people, who live there, as well as all the people of Indian descent over here!

As for being sacked from the Scum and the Heil, how right-wing do you have to be? The Heil is the newspaper, which ran the headline ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’ praising Mosley and the BUF to the skies, when they were goose-stepping around in the 1930s, and in whose pages the father of the current editor, Paul Dacre, ranted about how wonderful Adolf Hitler was. The Mail has been consistently anti-immigrant, with a vicious hatred of the unemployed, the poor and disabled people on benefit, as well as unmarried mothers and anybody else they think is a threat to Tory values.

As for the Scum, that paper’s notorious for its racism. Always has been. Way back in the first years of this century, Private Eye published a piece stating that the Scum had been judged guilty of racism on 19 occasions by the Press Complaints Commission, as was. It comes to something indeed when Hopkins is far too toxic even for them.

Anyway, she out of British media. At least for the time being.

Elon Musk Has A Big Cock

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/02/2018 - 7:35am in


Business, Comedy, Humor

elon musk car

American-based billionaire Elon Musk has a large penis, it has been confirmed.

Musk quelled any lingering doubts about his appendage size yesterday by firing his red sports car into orbit using a very large rocket.

After previously attempting to prove his credentials by doing hot laps up and down a restaurant-lined street, Mr Musk took the obvious next step of doing hot laps around the earth.

Onlookers were amazed at the sight of the sports car and the mere size of the rocket, exclaiming, ‘Wow, that guy must have a big cock’.


With Glenn Matheson