Plus Blog

September 1, 2008
Monday, September 01, 2008

Chuck Gill caught the space bug as a child when watching Alan Shepherd launch into space. Since then he's worked as a US Air Force navigator, a satellite operator, and in the US intelligence service. These days he's busy reducing carbon emissions and preparing London for the 2012 Olympics. Plus went to see him to find out more about his career. This podcast accompanies the career interview from issue 48 of Plus.

Hear more...


posted by Plus @ 3:29 PM


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August 29, 2008
Friday, August 29, 2008

Switching on the LHC

The biggest physics experiment ever — the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) — is due to start on September the 10th. The LHC is a particle accelerator. It's a 27km underground tunnel located near Geneva at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN). Protons will be sent racing through the tunnel on collision course with each other, and scientists hope that the remains of these collisions will answer some of the biggest secrets of the Universe.

Watch this space for more information. Meanwhile, you can find out more in the Plus articles

posted by Plus @ 10:26 AM


At 2:14 PM, Blogger SteveT said...

And one of Plus's old employees (me) has the lucky privileges of working at CERN. Its a busy time here as you might imagine.

At 9:02 AM, Anonymous Marianne Freiberger said...

Hi Steve. That's exciting!!!! Get in touch with Plus at to catch up!

At 9:23 AM, Blogger westius said...

And here we are thinking that there are no better jobs than working with Plus!

Steve's blog is Steve at Cern.

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August 22, 2008
Friday, August 22, 2008

Want to be the new Carol Vorderman ?

The Channel 4 programme Countdown has started the search to find an arithmetician for the new series in 2009.

If you are a number-cruncher yourself, you could be just what they're looking for. Find out how to apply on their website. You don't have to be female and you don't have to have been on telly before, but you do need to have a way with numbers and lots of charisma. The closing date for applications is the 19th of September.

posted by Plus @ 11:03 AM


At 3:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"but you do need to have a way with numbers and lots of charisma"

Why, when Carol had neither?

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August 21, 2008
Thursday, August 21, 2008

Zipf's law arose out of an analysis of language by linguist George Kingsley Zipf, who theorised that given a large body of language (that is, a long book — or every word uttered by Plus employees during the day), the frequency of each word is close to inversely proportional to its rank in the frequency table. We thought we would test this out on Plus. What does this imply about how we use language and how it evolved?

Read more ...


posted by westius @ 3:54 PM


At 3:41 PM, Blogger Cassandra said...

Is it really a mystery? I have at least one idea off the top of my head.

Since one of the ways you can construct power law distributed networks (competitive scale networks) is through growth/decay rules (e.g. the next added link will have the highest probability of connecting to the node with the higher degree or existing connections) and thinking a little about how language evolves by adopting and abandoning words, it seems likely that words frequency could follow a power law because they are added to and removed from over time with a similar set of rules (at some level).

The only question is what exactly do such network nodes and their degrees map to?

Nodes seems map to words or perhaps the idea represented by the word or word-sound or word-ideas. If the nodes map to ideas then there is also a link to memes and various mind-external scale-free structures.

Nodal degree seems to related to usage of the word - either simply the frequency of usage or something deeper that results in that frequency.

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August 12, 2008
Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mathematics is often used to study evolution, whether that be the evolution of animal species, the evolution of viruses or the evolution of language. A recent study has taken this one step further by modelling the evolution of national cuisine, and it was found that even though there are wall-to-wall celebrity chefs on television these days trying to broaden our culinary horizons, our cultural cuisines are largely the same as they were almost 100 years ago.

Read more ...


posted by westius @ 2:15 PM


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August 7, 2008
Thursday, August 07, 2008

After every Olympics, there is speculation about which country performed best. Should we really be surprised when China, with its huge population, and the US, with its combination of high GDP and population, top the medal table? Can we take a look at the medal tables and see which countries did indeed perform better than expected?

Read more ...


posted by westius @ 10:29 AM


At 4:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about factoring the availability of drugs into the model?

At 11:13 PM, Anonymous Will said...

The model provided by the fancy pants bureau thingy is stupid.

it has A(Log[X])+B(Log[Y/X]), which is the same as A(Log[X])+B(Log[Y])-B(Log[X]), which is the same as (A-B)(Log[X])+B(Log[Y), and as A and B are just constants, A-B can be anything. say C. They've added in a completely unneccesary element.

At 1:19 PM, Anonymous Martin Collett said...

There's a simple comparison of the 2008 Beijing medals results scaled by GDP, population, etc at

At 1:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting post. This article in the Wall Street Journal has some good history on medal tables.

At 9:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

check out this widget that gives an interactive interface for analyzing medals per GDP, population, etc.

Apparently created by a new online data modelling tool - - which I have not had time to test tey.

At 8:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting read here:

Analysis of UK funding of sports and it's effect on medals

At 3:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Then why does India do so badly at the games?

At 10:35 AM, Blogger Mike said...

WELL statistics and dam statistics. The problem is your raw data is wrong and as with all statistics the way you look at is partial. Is there a relation between GDP and medals, should there be? Difficult to say, I would have thought it is about social structure and expectations as well. GB did well in various areas because there was an expectation, resources and talent coming together and it did badly in others because one or more of these was missing.

At 2:21 PM, Blogger westius said...

Mike, if our data is wrong, you should let us know in which areas it is and we can fix it. Some of the data points may have changed, but they were correct at the time of writing.

At 1:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, what are the predictions for 2012? What are the variables to consider?

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