Posts by Geoff Willmott

  • Speaker: Science and Democracy,

    Thanks Nicola, couple of things.

    How universal is the application of the RSNZ Code at the moment? It's not compulsory to be a RSNZ member, is it a requirement for all funding sources? For scientists embedded in industry?

    Industry funded/led projects (increasingly encouraged by govt) generate the most direct contradictions which have to be 'juggled'. Eg the act of protecting intellectual property (in whatever form) inherently involves some lack of openness.

    It's worth recognising the Code of Ethics has grey areas (e.g. what's 'possible' in 6.1(1)), and won't always provide hard and fast answers.

    Fundamentally agree that it's a cultural issue for scientists and the challenge is to maintain and propagate high standards of integrity. If real estate agents (let alone doctors, lawyers, engineers) have their own self-regulating body in NZ, then perhaps scientists could do the same?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 15 posts Report

  • Hard News: The Big Bang,

    That thing's at the top of its arc after ~2s, so capable of going at least 40m if launched at 45 degrees ... starting probably 25m from players and crowd. Impact speed 20 m/s or 72 kph, no wind.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 15 posts Report

  • Hard News: On Science,

    Bearing in mind I joined the DSIR and have been a scientist in a CRI throughout their existence, I respectfully disagree ...

    Fair points here Bart, relative to the setting up of CRIs. I guess my point was that CRIs (for whatever reason) have grown to have a value for society above and beyond the usual raw science outputs.

    As for IRL's 'golden boy' status, the key stat being bandied around by Shaun Coffey this year has been IRL's workforce relative to other CRIs ... something like 300 out of 3000 ... then you look at the current importance of the high-tech manufacturing sector in Sir PC's export earnings graphs (i.e. not even considering potential impact) and the disparity is ridiculous. The Powering Innovation report proposes doubling the size of IRL over the next few years, it's a reasonable area to focus.

    I don't think physical scientists in NZ could ever be accused of having preferred status. e.g. "Physics, Chemistry and Biochemistry" represents just one of the Marsden panels (albeit there are other bits and pieces for engineering, nanotech, mathematics)

    Having said all that, I'm sure (well, we all hope) that the lessons of the early noughties at IRL have been learned.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 15 posts Report

  • Hard News: On Science,

    CRIs. It's worth drawing specific attention to the 'Powering Innovation' report which appears to inform a large part of National's policy. This is aimed at doubling the size of IRL ($200m increase in funding), growing its presence in Auckland and Christchurch, and focussing towards applied rather than fundamental work. One can be cynical about these directions, and whether the money will actually come through (given what happened with the new Marsden money), but it would be churlish not to recognise this as a good thing and challenge Labour to match it or do better in their upcoming policy detail.

    - this money would support regrowth of science in Chch, which is obviously A Good Thing.
    - On the HR front, it is good that the proposed changes encourage jobs in science/engineering, and mobility between CRIs, universities and companies, BUT there are still gaping holes in this strategy regarding training of scientists and engineers (including that PostDoc issue) and providing the kind of job security that might make a science job more attractive than real estate speculation
    - the focus on business engagement is good politically and could make some real impact, but it will be no good if it is to the detriment of fundamental science.
    - it is particularly encouraging that this report focusses on the high-value manufacturing area, where opportunities for international growth in niche areas are arguably much greater than in primary industry (cf Sir Paul Callaghan)

    Bart's comments:

    On CRIs - by "worked fairly well" Labour means, resulted in science funding being channelled into administration and business management that has produced no increased science outputs of any kind and (as far as I can see) a reduction in science publication. The CRIs have done no better than the DSIR and MAF did before them at a significant increase in cost.

    The points re: increased admin and decreasing hard science outputs may well be valid. However the point of the CRI exercise supercedes these, and requires contibution or engagement with society. CRIs now do this in a manner that is surely far superior than what was happening in the 1990s. The general public will be aware of what GNS now provides, for example.

    I'd happily see the CRIs scraped entirely as an experiment that didn't turn out to be as good as we hoped. Sadly too many administrators now depend on their continued existence so we just have to make the best of them.

    By which you (and JacksonP) must mean the CRI model rather than what makes up the CRIs themselves. Yeah there are political and administrative arguments and inefficiencies but you make it sound like there is no good, important science involved. How do you propose to do it better? This report looks like it is at least trying to answer that question.

    Agreed on Bart's (and others) point regarding over-emphasis on competitive funding, and the absurdity of the funding process. Of course.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 15 posts Report

  • Field Theory: Four Years Ago, in reply to Marcus Turner,

    Marcus - I think the easiest way to learn tackle/ruck is to think in terms of the chronological order things happen.

    If a 'tackle' happens (=ball carrier brought to ground by an opponent), then:
    1. Any opponent who brought that player to ground must release that player and/or roll off him. Infringements occur when an opponent wants to slow the play down, or when they think they have complied but haven't
    2. The ball-carrier must release or immediately play the ball (place it or pass it, not get up again unless he is 'not held' by an opponent) Infringements typically occur when an opponent is doing everything right, tugging on the ball, and the tackled player is 'holding on'. c.f. Heinrich Brossouw
    3. Everyone arriving has to do so from the direction of their own goal line, i.e., not in the side [Exception: any 'tackler', who brought the ball-carrier to ground AND went to ground themselves, can come from any direction] Infringements typically occur when a team is going backwards quickly and a player takes a short-cut
    4. Everyone arriving is supposed to support their own weight on their feet. Infringements are very frequent because there is often a fine dividing line or you can't help falling over, and generally the lower your body position, the better you do in the contest
    5. Once a 'ruck' is formed (= at least one player from each team on their feet in contact over the ball on the ground), players are not allowed to use their hands, and anyone not involved has to get back behind the offside line.

    Once a 'maul' forms (= ball carrier + at least one player from each side in contact on their feet), there are 4 likely reasons to blow the whistle
    - intentional collapse of the maul = penalty
    - players joining the maul from the side instead of the back = penalty (see 3 above), or similarly, players standing in front of the offside line (like 5 above)
    - obstruction. This occurs when the ball-carrier's team break away from the maul with a non-ball-carrier in front ... usually ruled accidental (= scrum) and known as 'truck and trailer'
    - ball not emerging. If the ball is locked up, not coming out and the maul isn't going anywhere, then the team who didn't take it in gets the feed to a scrum. This also applies to mauls which have collapsed unintentionally.

    When the whistle is blown, it can most often be explained by the offences above, although you will see plenty of times these things aren't blown up because the offence wasn't material to the contest.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 15 posts Report

  • Field Theory: Hospital Pass, in reply to BenWilson,

    Ben: Y. Yoshida for the World XV at Athletic Park 1992

    @Jean Hughes - your 'last moments of a game' scenario is probably just as likely (more?) to happen in any given match in Wellington in October.

    I have been wondering whether the local committee and the IRB agreed to move the Chch games. A reasonably likely scenario is that NZ thought it could be done, but the IRB vetoed it on the basis of their (as we know, stringent) standards for match venues.

    I don't buy the argument that we should be moving matches because some English fans are put out - in fact if these games had been able to ahead, the experience for those present would have been something special.
    I do buy the argument that time and money are better spent on e.g. sewers in the first instance.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 15 posts Report

  • Public Address Word of the Year 2009,


    I like #allwhites

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 15 posts Report

  • Field Theory: Entropy,

    What's clear to see is entropy. That is, the uniform becomes more complex over time, with seemingly no way to reverse the complexity.

    Hmmm ... think it's more like evolution than entropy. The uniforms get more complex (and therefore less entropic) with time. They are mutating and evolving, some changes will be more favoured and persist to future designs, others will not etc etc. The All Black jersey is like a tuatara.

    OTOH you could argue that the ordered system is inexorably degenerating to chaos (therefore more entropy) as per the 2nd law.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 15 posts Report

  • Field Theory: It's really a dick-move,

    Don't want to be a curmudgeon like Tom, it's certainly NZ soccer's time in the spotlight and we should be positive about that


    The Caketin sells out for the 7s every year and on average one All Blacks match (the trinations one) as well. They get 3 or 4 games of 20,000+ for super 14 (I think the 2007? Hurricanes semi was a sellout) and A-league averages approx. 6000.

    It will be interesting to see what kind of crowd they pull for the soccer - if it is actually a sellout. I would predict 'not quite' - maybe 30,000 - and certainly not the need for that extra seating they can put in.

    They will probably have to let people into both halves of the stadium :)

    So Hadyn, I reckon the biggest event since:
    - in context, internationally: the Indian cricket tour 2009 or the Lions tour 2006
    - in attendance, demand, NZ public attention: the last 3N test

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 15 posts Report

  • Hard News: Quantum Faster,

    John Key: "speeds which are quantum faster" for "quantum":

    6. sudden and significant: a quantum increase in productivity.

    The noun 'quantum' initially referred to a discrete amount of something. The implication of something small comes from the fact that matter or energy is packaged in discrete quantities, albeit on very small scales. Hence "quantum physics" (a branch of physics) and the meaning of the noun which refers to Planck's constant.

    I think Key's meaning was perfectly correct, although not so sure about the sentence structure.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 15 posts Report

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