Big Bang

1. Big Bang – new book!
2. Royal Institution and other talks
3. Cipher Challenge
4. Boothby Graffoe
5. Levitron
6. Puzzle Competition
7. Competition Winners
8. Free Korean Code Books
9. Worst Science Pun of the Month Award

1. Big Bang – new book!

It is has been several months since my last newsletter, because I have been busy writing “Big Bang”, which is published in the UK this month and everywhere else starting in January. As well as explaining the history of the Big Bang theory of the universe, the book also tries to explain how new ideas emerge in science (i.e., the paradigm shift). The publisher’s blurb says:

“Albert Einstein once said: ‘The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.’ Simon Singh believes geniuses like Einstein are not the only people able to grasp the physics that governs the universe. We all can. As well as explaining what the Big Bang theory actually is, the book will address why cosmologists believe that it is an accurate description of the origin of the universe. It will also tell the story of the scientists who fought against the establishment idea of an eternal and unchanging universe. Simon Singh, renowned for making difficult ideas much less difficult than they first seem, is the perfect guide for this journey. Everybody has heard of the Big Bang theory. But how many of us can actually claim to understand it? With characteristic clarity and a narrative peppered with anecdotes and personal histories of those who have struggled to understand creation, Simon Singh has written the story of the most important theory ever.”

The book is not available at my website, but it is should now be on sale at bookshops (both real and virtual) and at your local library.

2. Royal Institution and other talks

I will be talking about the Big Bang at the Royal Institution (020-7409 2992) in London on October 14. In fact, I will be giving talks all over the UK in the coming months and there are details of a dozen planned lectures at:

https://www.simonsingh.net/Simon_Lectures.html

There will be more UK talks in November and December, and next year I will be visiting America, Australia, India, South Africa and New Zealand. There will be more details in future newsletters. In the meantime, I can confirm that I will be speaking at the New York Museum of Natural History on January 18 and at the Smithsonian in Washington DC on January 19.

3. Cipher Challenge

I usually offer a cryptogram competition in my newsletters, but I will now be offering more general puzzles. However, if you are still keen to crack some codes, then you could enter the Cipher Challenge competition for schools run by Southampton University: www.cipher.maths.soton.ac.uk/

4. Boothby Graffoe

I missed out on seeing my favourite comedian at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, but fortunately I stumbled across this website with a video clip of him singing his song about the Poor Umbrella Head Boy. http://www.eva-uk.com/boothbygraffoe/images/video/umbheadboy.mov

If you cannot get his video to work, then here are some of his words of wisdom: “Cigarettes are very like weasels – perfectly harmless unless you put one in your mouth and try to set fire to it.”

5. Levitron

If you saw my BBC 4 puzzle series “Mind Games”, then you might have seen a mysterious levitating object. Several people have asked me where they can obtain one. I obtained mine at:

http://www.levitron.com/

Warning: it does take a bit of persistence to make it work, but once you have cracked it then the effect is quite bizarre. A video at the website shows exactly what it does.

6. Puzzle Competition

Instead of a cryptogram, I am going to offer more general puzzles in future. And I thought I would start with a really nasty one. I think I heard it on Chris Maslanka’s (www.puzzlemaster.co.uk/) Puzzle Panel, and the question is simple: “Victor and Juliet go on holiday – where do they go?” Clue 1 – there are several possible answers. Clue 2 – while on holiday, they stayed in a hotel. Email the answer to puzzle@simonsingh.net and one of the correct entries will win a copy of Francis Spufford’s “Backroom Boys”, a collection of tales about engineering, invention and innovation.

7. Competition Winners

Thanks to the dozen or so Calvin and Hobbes fans who told me when the phrase Horrendous Space Kablooie was invented – 1992. The winner out of the virtual hat was Shahar Betzalel from Tel Aviv, who receives a copy of The Universe at Midnight by Ken Croswell.

And the answer to the Crypto Quiz was QUIZ – it is the missing word in the sequence (BANKS, GLYPH, CWM, FJORD, VEXT, ????) because it consists of the only unused letters from the alphabet. The winner was Anne Ennis from Cambridgeshire, and there were so many correct entries that 3 runners-up will receive a copy of The Code Book on CD-Rom – Manish Nayak from Hong Kong, Hans Hofstetter from Germany and Neil Binnie from Northamptonshire.

8. Free Korean Code Books

I have four editions of “The Code Book” in Korean. If you would like a copy and if you live in the UK, then just email me (Korean@simonsingh.net) your postal address and I will put a copy in the post to the first four requests.

9.Worst Science Pun of the Month Award

Two brothers bought a cattle ranch and named it Focus. When their father asked why they chose that name, they replied: “It’s the place where the sons raise meat.”

Attributed to Prof. W. B. Pietenpol, Physics Department, University of Colorado.

Cheerio,

Simon.

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