Big Bang on Tour

1. More Big Bang
2. Enigma Project
3. Egg Shell Secrecy
4. Stanley Hey Memoir
5. Mind Games
6. Competition Winner
7. Puzzle Competition

1. More Big Bang

The new book (Big Bang) has now been published and all the reviews (except
one!) have been very complimentary. Snippets from all the reviews (except
one!) can be found at the website.

And I am having lots of fun talking about the Big Bang, having constructed a
talk that links the Teletubbies, Led Zeppelin and spherical bastards to
cosmology. I will be giving several talks in the UK in November and
December, and the dates are on the website.

(Tonight I will be in Durham, but talking about risk rather than cosmology.)

2. Enigma Project

The Enigma Project is now up and running again, having been adopted by the
Millennium Maths Project. If you would like to see a real Enigma cipher
machine or have a code breaking workshop in your school then please visit
their website:

3. Egg Shell Secrecy

If you have read ‘The Code Book’ then you will know that I described a
method for hiding a message inside a hard-boiled egg. You write on the shell
using an ink made of alum in vinegar, which permeates the shell but leaves
its mark on the hardened albumen inside. It is an example of steganography.

However, a few people have written to me to say that they could not make the
technique work. I think I now know what went wrong. According to Christopher
Wasshuber in Magic magazine (May 2001) the problem is that alum today means
something different from alum in the past: “Alum is aluminium sulfate, but
the recipe requires ferrous ammonium sulfate.. The iron in the alum is
carried through the shell by vinegar, which is just strong enough to
penetrate the eggshell. The white of the egg contains sulfur and oxygen,
which combines with the iron to form iron oxide, which is black.” Apologies
for the confusion.

4. Stanley Hey Memoir

If people have read Big Bang or if you have an interest in radio astronomy
then you might know of the incredible Stanley Hey, one of the unsung heroes
of British science. Thanks to Nigel Henbest, I now have several copies of a
memoir written by Stanley Hey and am looking for good homes for them. If you
have a special interest in radio astronomy and would like to receive a free
copy, then please email your address to and I will
send you one. I have only a few copies, so I would like to stress that they
are intended for specialists, historians, librarians, etc.

5. Mind Games

Mind Games (a TV puzzle show) is back on BBC4 on Monday nights. I am no
longer hosting Mind Games, as the series clashed with other commitments, so
the brilliant Marcus Du Sautoy is now tormenting viewers with a variety of

6. Competition Winner

Last month I asked: “Victor and Juliet go on holiday – where do they go?”

Victor and Juliet are to be found in the phonetic alphabet, so they probably
went somewhere also in the phonetic alphabet, such as India, Lima or Quebec
(and they probably stayed in a Hotel). There were lots of correct entries,
but the winner of Francis Spufford’s “Backroom Boys” is Suzanne MacLeod.

7. Puzzle Competition

Why do mathematicians get Christmas (Dec 25) confused with Halloween (Oct

Email the answer and your address to and one of the
correct entries
will win a copy of “Music of Primes” by Marcus Du Sautoy.