“You wouldn’t illegally download a house…” Wait, What?

This is a house that has been 3D printed by the WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Co. in China.
They had a spare 24 hours, and with it they built a total of 10 houses. Or rather, printed them.
The company print the separate pieces in a factory, using a concrete aggregate formed from recycled construction materials and industrial waste. They then bring the panels to the construction site, and slot them together; like a really heavy Lego.
The houses cost less than £3000 to construct. They are environmentally friendly. They are cost-effective. They are evidence that we are in the future.

What Felix Baumgartner REALLY saw from the edge of space.

What Felix Baumgartner REALLY saw from the edge of space.

I’ll start with an apology- this blog has been everything but daily, really. I guess the university application season started and other things took over. But since that has sort of died down (until exam season at least) I thought it would be good to get things going again.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson tweeted this observation of Felix Baumgartner’s ‘edge of space’ jump that inspired me to write something about it.
In the first picture above, you can see the images that have been televised and otherwise publicised since the BASE jumper performed his ballsy feat. Just before his jump, he spoke to his microphone, “I wish you could see what I see.”
At first, I thought, ‘silly Felix, we can see what you see, through the magic of television’; but in reality, we saw an obscured view of what Felix really saw.
Here’s the science: wide angle camera lenses cause curvature in horizontal lines in the images the camera records. If these horizontal lines are above the vertical midpoint of the lens, there is a ‘downwards’ curve. Conversely, of the horizontal lines are below the midpoint, they curve ‘upwards’.
In the images we saw, the Earth’s horizon was above the midpoint, and hence you can see the ‘downwards’ curve.
A kind gentleman of the internet ‘did a photoshop’ on the image Tyson tweeted, and provided for us the second photograph in the image above.
This image shows what Felix Baumgartner REALLY saw. He saw a horizontal horizon. In reality, Felix wasn’t THAT far above the Earth’s surface.
If scaled down to the size of a desktop globe, Felix was only about 1mm above the surface. not very high at all.
So that’s surprising, and a little humbling, really.
I wonder how high you’d have to be to actually see the blue marble AS a marble? I don’t know if that’s something that can be worked out theoretically, or would have to be done experimentally.

In other news, it’s just hitting me how significant Felix Baumgartner’s jump was. Like, that was a long fall, and he was going so fast. And he landed on his feet. I guarantee he hasn’t paid for a single drink since.

Dale Chapman

How Long is the Coastline of Britain?


“Beautiful, damn hard, increasingly useful. That’s fractals.” Benoit Mandlebrot

The idea of fractals began when Benoit Mandlebrot asked, “How long is the coastline of Britain?” It sounds simple enough, measuring things has never been the top complaint of young students, but think about the physical process of measuring. If you drove around the coasts of England taking the distance you travelled to be your length your answer would be smaller than if you measured every cm of the coast with a ruler. You can keep increasing your accuracy till your measuring each stone, each grain of sand, each atom… 

Mandlebrot simplified this issue using fractals. Fractals are infinitely complex self-similar patterns.  The self-similarity means that if you zoom into the shape you will see the same complex pattern. By applying the idea of fractals to natural objects like a coastline that would show a similar pattern at different magnifications Mandlebrot achieved much more accurate approximations.

Fractals have many uses from understanding and modelling landscapes and clouds to creating and storing incredible computer graphics.

Finally, it is very important to not forget the main success of fractal geometry. The pictures look so pretty!!! 

Natasha Javed

The beauty of game theory, pt. 1: An introduction to Prisoner’s Dilemma




Game theory is a mathematical discipline that is almost unheard of in the British a level curriculum, especially in non-private colleges. It is also a discipline that is immensely important in a number of different fields, such as economics and political science. “So why, Cameron-” I hear you saying, “-is it shunned so by our teaching staff? For decision maths is a module available for any student taking Further Pure AS to take!”. Well, guys, i hate to break it to you, but decision maths is incredibly dense. It’s also difficult to teach, which might go some way to explaining it’s lack of inclusion in the majority of people’s further maths AS level.
However, as indicated by the title, I do find a certain beauty in certain aspects of this certainly entrancing subject. Prisoner’s dilemma is one of those aspects. Part one, in fact.
And thus we begin our…

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Were Brutalist Campus Buildings Designed to Suppress Student Protests?

The paradox of interesting numbers

In mathematics, all numbers belong to sets. This set might be Real numbers, Imaginary numbers, or Rational numbers, and so on and so forth.

The set of Natural numbers (ℕ) is the set of numbers used for counting. For example, “This is my 49th blog post”. 49 is a natural number because I have counted all the way from 1 to 49. There is a slight argument as to where the set of natural numbers starts, though. Some argue it starts from 1, because you can’t count the absence of anything, nothing. The modern description of natural numbers starts from 0, though, so as to include every non-negative integer. 

One day, a man somewhere must have pondered upon a number being uninteresting. So let’s look at the natural numbers, starting from 1, the traditional way

is the first natural number

is the only even prime number

3 is the first odd prime number

4 is the first multiple of 2, other than itself

6 is the first perfect number

is the first natural number that cannot be expressed as the sum of three square numbers

is a fibonacci number

produces interesting multiples (12345679 * 9 = 111111111)

10 is the base number of the decimal system

11 is the first multiple digit number that is a palindrome

12 is the highest number that is only one syllable long


And so on and so forth. Every number has at least one fascinating quality. Numbers are incredible.

The paradox goes that apparently has nothing interesting about it, is 12407

We have to count through 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 all the way to 12407 before we find a number that has no apparent interesting feature about it.

But that’s interesting.

The number 12407, because it is not interesting, is interesting in itself. 

So, if 12,407 is interesting because it isn’t interesting, what’s the next uninteresting number?

It doesn’t matter what that number is, because the fact that it is the second lowest uninteresting number makes it interesting.

And this carries on, and on, and on.

This paradox should be kept in mind, to remind us that every number is special, and exciting, and beautiful.



Dale Chapman

The science of corking



My brother is a chef. He’s been a chef for a good ten years now, and he has imparted a fair amount of wisdom unto me in that time. He introduced me to the basics, such as why we add salt to food, and that sort of thing. Things I just didn’t really get until then. Sometimes, he’d tell me about something actually really interesting. Corking is one of those things.

Apparently, wine can go off. The thing is, there’s this whole idea of wine getting better with age. And very often, this is the case. Fine wines can be intentionally aged to add subtle changes to the flavour of the wine, and usually removes some of the harshness. However, given enough time, any wine will go off. Except, in the wine world, this is called corking. 

When those not wholly involved with the culinary industry hear the word corking, it brings up images of bits of cork floating about in the wine. This isn’t the case. Corking, or cork taint, is caused by the above compound, 2,4,6,-trichloroanisole, or TCA. So here’s what typically happens:

A group of chemicals called chlorophenols are absorbed by cork trees through pesticides and wood preservatives, which automatically suggests that the rate of corking in wines has increased largely in recent times, when spraying plants with chemicals has become commonplace. When chlorophenols react with natural airborne fungi in the air, they form chlorinated anisole derivates, or TCA.

It is the presence of TCA that taints the wine, and we say that a wine ailed by TCA is corked. The nuisance of all of this is that you can only tell if a wine is corked after is has been produced, bottled, aged, and opened. After all of that has been done, it just seems like a great waste of good grapes.



Dale Chapman