Hobby Blogging


I’m not a lawyer, or an American. I’m just a Brit with an interest in the US Supreme Court. There’s a good chance my analysis of this case is miles off, the reason I’m blogging about this at all is that I feel that most other amateur blogs on the subject are painting an incorrect picture of the situation and the result. To try and minimise both my own possible incorrect analysis and any misrepresentation of the facts of the case I will be quoting and linking to the texts that were at issue in the case as well as the written opinion of the justices (something I’ve not really seen any other blogs do).


The Case

Recently the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued an opinion in a case called Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores. The issue of the case was whether the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could force religious employers to provide contraceptives that they considered abortive and against their religion. The employers felt that that this would violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The businesses in the case took issue with four of the 20 contraceptives that the ACA required them to provide as they “may have the effect of preventing an already fertilized egg from developing any further by inhibiting its attachment to the uterus” (syllabus page 2) which would be a problem as “the owners of the businesses have religious objections to abortion, and according to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients” (page 2).

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Posted by on July 8, 2014 in Blog


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Kerbal Efficiency

As you may know from reading my previous post I’ve recently got back into Kerbal Space Program due to the release of a career mode. In this mode you have to preform science experiments to unlock new parts for your craft. There are two ways of returning the results to your space centre, you can either transmit them from you ship which incurs losses, or you can land and manually recover the ship and all available science data on it. There has been a lot of talk between me and my friends about which way is best. I initially though that landing at home and doing a manual recovery would obviously gives the most data, but it can be inconvenient if you’re doing sample analysis on a far away planet. There is also the added complication that repeat experiments give diminishing science returns.

Luckily through reading around on the forums and doing a bit of maths I have come to the surprising discovery that if you do enough science it doesn’t matter how you get it home.

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Posted by on October 22, 2013 in Blog


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Kerbal Space Program

We choose to do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.


Kerbal Space Program is a brilliant spaceship builder created by the guys at Squad. It was initially released to the public in 2011 and it was brought to my attention not long after that by a couple of friends. Although the game isn’t even out of alpha yet it has been steadily receiving updates and has been what I would consider a pretty compete game for quite a while. Up until this most recent 0.22 update it has only existed as a sandbox game; you have a huge array of possible parts and you just put them together however you want and see if your creation will fly/make orbit/land on the Mun depending on how ambitious you are. As well as rockets you can also build satellites, construct space stations in orbit and try your hand at space-planes.

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Posted by on October 19, 2013 in Games, Review


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Say Goodbye to the BBC

I recently posed a question on Twitter:

This sparked a series of back and forth tweets between myself, @johncoxon and @robhague discussing various ways the current system might change. John promptly gathered up his thoughts in a blog post, and I thought I would do the same. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on August 28, 2013 in Blog


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Don’ta 2


After about 2 years of beta testing Dota 2 has finally been released to the masses. For those that don’t know Dota 2 is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) [1] with a long and complex history that I won’t go into here [2]. The beta testing phase of the game wasn’t as closed as other games, with passes seemingly being handed out left, right and centre however I didn’t bother with trying to play it during beta. Now that it’s been given a full release I decided to give it a go and see what all the fuss was about.

Gameplay consists of two teams of 5 trying to destroy each others bases. The map contains 3 avenues of attack called lanes that are defended by turrets and NPC units for each team. Each player picks a powerful hero unit to control from a list of 46, and the aim is to break through the enemy defences with your NPC helpers finally reaching the opposing team’s base. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on August 5, 2013 in Games, Review


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When is a Wave not a Wave?

When it’s a perpetuated misunderstanding.

I’ve recently read (and watched on YouTube) Richard Feynman’s lectures on Quantum Electrodynamics (QED), the theory that accurately describes the physics of electrons, light and the interactions between them (including the effects of special relativity). It represents one of the most accurate physical theories we have to date, having been tested to incredibly high precision against the results of experiment. Though the lectures were given in 1979 they shed light on an issue that has been presented as a problem throughout all of my scientific education: the issue of wave particle duality.

The gist of the problem behind the wave particle duality is that electrons and photons can behave as particles or waves depending on how an experiment is performed. When they hit a detector they appear as single point particles; however when they come through the apparatus they can show wave-like behaviour such as interference, reflection, diffraction etc. that is apparently impossible to explain with particles. This causes an issue with the idea of what a photon (or electron for that matter) actually is at the fundamental level. It is only after listening to, and reading, Feynman’s lectures that I find that there is no problem of a wave particle duality, electrons and photons are definitely particles and in no way waves, and it is only through misrepresentation that this “problem” exists. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on May 9, 2013 in Blog


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The Death of Games Workshop

A lot of my friends play the tabletop version of Warhammer 40K, and while I’ve played a lot of the computer games associated with the franchise they’ve never been able to convince me to take up the physical version. For me the computer games have always been more entertaining, possibly because all the random nature of the game is being done behind the scenes and quite frankly the fights look a lot better. Having said that I do like the idea of building and painting a 40K army but the thing that has stopped me doing that so far is price. The models seem too expensive for what they are, and so for now I’ve stuck to the digital versions. This could all change however with 3D printers, and if it does I don’t think Games Workshop will like the outcome [1].


3D printers are devices that allow you to take a model that you’ve designed on a PC, or scanned from a real object, and then build it up layer by layer from plastic. These models can be anything from spoon holders to 1/4 inch lead screw nut adapters, and maybe even full 40K armies. Now at the moment the physical models produced can look very amateur, either due to the printing process itself or because the initial CAD model wasn’t particularly good, however I think both of these will be solved if the technology improves and becomes cheaper. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on March 11, 2013 in Blog


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All Female X-men

All Female X-Men

In April a new X-Men comic will be released that features an all female cast. This has been claimed by some to be a step in the right direction with regards to the way women are portrayed in comics. Having this all female team is meant to be progressive and show that the superheroes are not just for boys. I don’t think this is the case, both in terms of it being a step in the right direction and that the comic genre is somehow lacking enough in terms of strong female presences to warrant a team of nothing but women.

I can think of two ways you could arrive at a team of only women. You can ether set out from the start with that in mind or it can arise naturally during the construction process. For me there is a world of difference between setting out to make a team of only A and setting out to make a team that ends up being made of only A.

Without reading the issue I can’t say which camp this falls into, but it seems like the former case, and people are certainly talking about it as if that were the situation. What I’ve found that I don’t agree with is that some people are talking about it being constructed purposefully to be female only as if that were a good thing. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on February 4, 2013 in Blog, Comics


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Why The Universe Isn’t Soup

My friend Pete Hague recently answered a question on his blog regarding whether you can touch dark matter. He gave a good, basic explanation using coulomb’s law and then directed people towards me for a fuller solution. So here it is.

As Pete quite rightly explained, the coulomb repulsion of electrons stops atoms from getting too close to each other thus giving the feeling of solidness to objects, but before you even consider bringing atoms together you run into a problem bringing their constituents together.


If you want to build hydrogen you need a proton and an electron. The negative electron orbits the positive proton and you have an atom. The problem is that everyday experience tells us that the positive-negative attraction would just pull them together until they were touching, leaving no stable structure to the universe. But the experience we have turn out to be just a large scale effect, and at the quantum level things work differently.

In the quantum mechanics of atoms the energies that the bound electrons can have can only take certain values in an analogous way to the strings in a piano only being able to play certain notes. Theses energies in a basic atom are given roughly by

E_{n} = \frac{-Z^{2}e^{4}m_{e}}{32\pi^{2}\epsilon_{0}^{2}\hbar^{2}n^{2}} = -13.6\frac{Z^{2}}{n^{2}} \text{ eV},

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Posted by on January 8, 2013 in Blog


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2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 8,800 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 15 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Posted by on December 31, 2012 in Blog