Lisa Randall’s Higgs explanation

I posted a tweet some time ago on the subject of the Higgs particle and field, and it proved very popular, getting many retweets and favorites. For those that struggle with the Higgs endowment of mass, this @lirarandall footnote on page 11 of her book “Higgs Discovery” says it all.

Higgs field footnote

Higgs field footnote

The book the footnote is taken from is a slim little volume which explains, in simple but accurate language, from Harvard Physics Professor Lisa Randall, the meaning of the Higgs particle discovery in the light of the Higgs field. The footnote referenced neatly encapsulates that meaning!

Solar Eclipse in Cervinia

An early start today to see the eclipse and take some pictures with the aid of some polarises sunglasses! Click here to see the pictures.

To do this, take any two pairs of sunglasses, duct tape them together at 90 degrees to exclude nearly all light (each lens excludes light in on polarising direction, the two used this way exclude 99% of the light). I first did this 40 years or so ago on the Greek island, Rhodes, for the annular eclipse there. I had to sacrifice a cheap pair of polaroid sunglasses to do the trick, and filmed the whole thing with a Braun Nizo 8mm camera. i still have the film, but today, just pictures. I’ll turn them into a time lapse later.

Be very careful a) of your eyes and b) your camera CCD. The first is far more important!

Garmin VIRB example

I’m going to try out the Garmin VIRB for skiing this year, having had success with the Ion2 last year as a helmet camera.

The VIRB has several big advantages:

1) GPS for route tracking;
2) links to ANT+ devices for my bike;
3) a selectable ski setting so it can stop recording at the bottom of runs and on the way up on the lift, and start again at the start of the next ski run.

My son Tom will be trying out the entry level GoPro 4 – I don’t expect to see much difference in picture quality, but it’s good to have an example of the market leader’s product. Tom will get pictures skiing I won’t want to be trying!

Anyway, here is a sample of the VIRB from my bike last year, on the back road from Torrance to Milngavie.

Note the guy pulling out from Tesco’s who must have crossed a red light! I have his number, and a longer video with more detail, but on my blog I can’t upload too big a file. I kept reasonable resolution on this short clip for readability of the ride data

The mechanical noises are mainly the gear shifting as the camera was bolted to my handlebars, not my helmet, which of course is an option. It picks up less heavy breathing on the handlebars…

You’ll see it can display, user selectably, all kinds of dials and data, plus a little GPS map of the route – it can show much more detail of the mapping in the VIRB application on my Mac, but the in-picture data is fine for getting a sense of the cadence, heart rate, direction, speed, distance etc.

The UCI CIRC report

I had some respect left for the now retired David Millar, after his unusually frank and open statements following his drug ban, but here is his lame excuse for not testifying to the UCI’s CIRC drug commission, while finding the time to write a page long newspaper article in response to it for the Daily Telegraph. Chris Froome seems to have found time to testify, and Froome’s cycling commitments seem to be a little more demanding than Millar’s, even when Millar was active. What a self serving position to take! I’m afraid Millar is not on my reading list any more. I’ll just have to live with not being on his – as usual!

David Millar's CIRC response

David Millar’s CIRC response

While I’m on the topic, I’d say cycling is well rid of the previous hierarchy (pending honorary positions being removed) and well done to Brian Cookson on opening the can of worms, as he put it, while fully expecting worms to be found. Some of those worms must be turning very rapidly just now as they seek to explain away their actions during the years prior to the Cookson leadership. How refreshing that an international sports body chooses to publish a report on its activities, warts and all. Sepp Blatter please note. Hopefully he will go the way of McQuaid and Verbruggen, and the bitter truths of the award of the hosting of the forthcoming World Cups will emerge.

I see a lot of Tyler Hamilton’s “The Secret Race” in the coverage of the report; especially the parts about ineffectual testing protocols that virtually invite athletes to micro-dope overnight. The disappointment to me is the part about lower level youth and amateur drug taking which I saw in the late 50s/60s (little coloured uppers and downers allegedly) but hadn’t considered was still an issue. Trickle down effect I suppose, as with other sports and so-called role models.

On the matter of protocols, even in the case of the Astana team’s (eventually) self-admitted 5 doping instances and the history of their management, the new UCI leadership has to go through the same legal and commercial hoops to get anything done about it (pending review Cookson has demanded of Astana’s permission to race in 2015 in the light of the Italian(!) allegations). Those protocols, like the doping ones, will take some time to batter (Blatter?) into shape. There’s no way anyone can be as bad as McQuaid and Verbruggen, and to that extent I have hopes of Cookson making a difference. The CIRC report is a start, but has its limitations. I repeat my FIFA point in this way – Cookson’s intent is a lot clearer, judging by his actions, than Blatter’s. I’ll be realistic in my expectations, not cynical, if I can!

Cycling Weekly’s report seems be be “an appropriately nuanced” review of the UCI’s CIRC report! Therapeutic Use Exemptions and testing protocols (eg night-time tests) seem feasible targets for improvement. I thought the comment on “frame-motors” was interesting as it came from the interviewees. There has been rumour, speculation and some videos on this topic. Can it really be true?!

Strava and athlete training plans

After my ride yesterday with Gavin Blackburn, and looking at the Strava version of the parameters of that ride:


I noticed a suggestion in my Strava feed to “Mix Up Your Training” and improve segment performance through their training plans.

Clicking on the suggestion leads to this Strava blog page:


Following the further link in that page, I came to this more detailed page, and noticed that the plans seemed to be constructed in conjunction with Carmichael Training Systems.


I recalled the name Carmichael from all that I had read about Lance Armstrong and the various coverage – much by David Walsh in his books, but also in the general press – of the history of Armstrong’s performance, and the various allegations that emerged from team members, support staff and others close to Armstrong stating they has seen him taking drugs.

On Googling the name of the Carmichael company, I found this example of coverage about Chris Carmichael’s response to the Armstrong years, and the allegations of Armstrong’s drug- taking over those years.


Has anyone else any thoughts on being asked by Strava to link their training to resources provided by Carmichael Training Systems?

Popular science isn’t so scientific

There has recently been a lot of speculation and unsupported assertions about gravitational waves, cosmic inflation and multiverses (e.g. Then this book “Farewell to Reality” by Jim Baggott turned up! I guess I’ll read the book before commenting in detail, but this review seems interesting, and would suggest my cynicism about the presentation of science, and its resulting popularity, is shared by the author.

We have seen in the past year publications about faster-than-light neutrinos (from CERN to Gran Sasso) and perturbations in the cosmic microwave background (the BICEP2 experiment) being discredited. The scientists involved seem to have been too keen to enhance their reputations, resulting in quite the reverse. It gets science a bad name generally if the scientific method is poorly executed.

There is also a handful of TV and radio broadcasters who similarly seem more interested in becoming famous rather than explaining the uncertainties in the subject matter. Using twitter, with links to programmes and book publishers, these popularisers of science just seem to me to be self-promoters.

Baggott’s book would seem to be an attempt to bring us back to the reality of science, and reminds us that many aspects and potential behaviours of Black Holes, wormholes, multiverses, string theory and all the rest are just theories, without many falsifiable predictions, at least in the foreseeable future – and by that I think we are talking about a VERY long time.

See more about Baggott’s book at


Mallorcan suffering!

Once again Strava has failed to upload to FaceBook (although it should), and Tacx on the iPad won’t upload at all (it’s not designed to). So here are my screenshots of the second, very hilly half of the Tacx Mallorca Ironman course, from Pollensa, up the mountains and down the other side. Max 9% both up and down! 22km in 1 hr 1 min and 15 secs averages about 13.5mph. Another 600 calories spent – allows me a glass of wine this evening! I have to say the Tacx Genius with iPad (can use a laptop too) is a brilliant system to make turbo riding more interesting. Not completely realistic as I go at 50kph downhill round the hairpins…but the 10-15kph up the hills is totally realistic and very hard work! Look along the bottom of the picture for the instantaneous speed, power, cadence, heart rate, calories burnt, slope and all the averages so far.
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