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Newsletter 40: No more newsletters about libel reform

1. Back at the High Court – final update

2. The Magic of Computer Science

3. Nine Lessons DVD

4. Skeptics in the Pub

5. Kitchen Physics – invisibility in a bowl

6. Old Competition Winner

7. New Competition Puzzle

1. Back at the High Court – final update

My ongoing libel case goes to the Court of Appeal on Tuesday, when the meaning of my article will be decided by three of the most senior judges in the country. Whatever the outcome, the ruling could have a major impact on how English libel laws affect free speech in Britain and around the world.

I have written about the case at length in previous emails, so I will not summarise the story again. In fact, this will be the last time that I mention the libel case until the whole legal process has been completed. So, if you want to keep up to date with the case then please track events on twitter by following @slsingh or #libelreform

My final words on the subject are simply a plea to sign up to the petition for libel reform. English libel laws have a damaging impact on writers around the world, so we welcome signatories from all countries. My own writing has effectively been halted for almost two years because of the extortionate costs of libel and the painfully slow legal process. More generally, the libel laws can effecively crush criticism by bloggers, scientists, journalists, humans rights organizations and many others. Please sign up at www.libelreform.org/sign.
If you would like more information on why English libel laws are so oppressive, then please visit

http://www.libelreform.org/news/432-simon-singhs-weird-idea-that-might-just-work

And, if you have already signed the petition, then please encourage others to sign up. If you want to remind yourself of the reasons that might persuade your friends, family and colleagues to sign up to libel reform then please visit the link at the end of the previous paragraph.

2. The Magic of Computer Science

The Magic of Computer Science is one of the best mathematics education resources I have ever come across. If you are a teacher or you have some budding young mathematicians that you want to inspire then please download this free resource. To be honest, even if you don’t have children to teach, the download contains plenty of interesting ideas for grown ups too.

http://www.cs4fn.org/mathemagic/magicdownload.php
For mathematics teachers in the UK, here are three outreach projects that might interest you.

http://www.mathsinspiration.com/

http://www.mmp.maths.org/risk

http://www.mmp.maths.org/enigma

3. Nine Lessons DVD

If you missed the first “Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People” show in 2008, then the good news is that there is now a DVD of the show. I would highly recommend the DVD, which features Richard Dawkins, Stewart Lee, Josie Long, Simon Singh, Richard Herring, Gavin Osbourne, Isy Suttie, Ben Goldacre, Andrew Collins and many others.

http://www.gofasterstripe.com/cgi-bin/website.cgi?id=6888&page=videofull

4. Skeptics in the Pub

I have spoken at half a dozen Skeptics in the Pub events in the last few months, and on each occasion it has been a thought-provoking and entertaining evening – certainly for me, and hopefully for the audience too. Why not check out your local Skeptics in the Pub? There are venues around the world, including Cape Town, Sydney, Boston, Vienna and Leicester.

http://skeptic.org.uk/events/skeptics-in-the-pub

5. Kitchen Physics – invisibility in a bowl

Try this brilliant kitchen experiment, courtesy of the Naked Scientists.

http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/content/kitchenscience/exp/making-pyrex-invisible/

6. Old Competition Winner

In the last newsletter I wrote:

The lead singer of The Cure is Robert Smith?.

Is this statement true or false?

If false, who is this person?

If true, where was he born?
The vast majority of answers said “true” and sent me the birthplace of the lead singer of The Cure, but unfortunately they did not read the question! The initial statement was about “Robert Smith?”, i.e., the question mark is actually part of the name.

http://www.mathstat.uottawa.ca/~rsmith/

So the correct answer is “false”, he is a mathematician.

The only correct answers were from John Sheekey, Craig Barnthson, Eddie Mizzi, Tim Lovell, Barry Keeting, Rohit Jnagal and Rob Oldaker… and it was Rob from Somerset who was the prize winner and who received a copy of “The Hair of the Dog (and other scientific surprises)” by Karl Sabbagh.

8. New Puzzle Competition

When I was twelve years old, my physics teacher Mr Mynett played a trick on the class. He rolled a transparent rod (maybe made of glass, perhaps three centimetres in diameter) over two words. Each word spelt out a colour and was printed in that colour. The first word, YELLOW printed in yellow, was apparently flipped when seen through the rod, but the other word was not. Mr Mynett said that this was due to the difference in colours and the way various wavelengths are refracted.

In fact, it was nothing to do with refraction. The key point was that one of the colours was symmetrical along the horizontal axis. For example, imagine that the words had been baby creatures, such as CHICK and PUPPY. Both words would have been flipped, but it would have seemed that CHICK had not been flipped because it is symmetrical.
Annoyingly, I cannot remember the symmetrical colour. Can you think of it? There may be several symmetrical colours, so the prize will go to the longest colour. Let’s assume that it was written in CAPITALS and in this font.

Please send your answer to competition@simonsingh.net – put your answer in the subject header and your address in the body of the email. The closing date for entries is midday on Feb 23. The winner (picked out at random from the inbox) will receive a signed copy of “Afterglow of Creation” by Marcus Chown.

Cheerio and, remember, please sign up to www.libelreform.org/sign

Simon.