Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Curious academic world

It is an absolute mystery to me why Oxford's Plant Sciences division has so many PhDs available whereas Physical Sciences don't have any. What's going on I say? What?

Here's the question of the day boys and girls: why are academics so fucking rude on email?

Thursday, 26 January 2012


An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Obama's socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.
The professor then said, "OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama's plan". All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A.... (substituting grades for dollars - something closer to home and more readily understood by all).

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little..

The second test average was a D! No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F. As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else. To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed. It could not be any simpler than that.

Remember, there IS a test coming up. The 2012 elections.

These are possibly the 5 best sentences you'll ever read and all applicable to this experiment:

1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.
2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.
3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!
5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

It is not just Oxford who have lost their glory

This is an interesting story I find on academic standards at Oxford, interesting I find because it resonates very well with what I have experienced during my time at a "top 5" or "G5" university in the UK. It is a depressing picture I will paint for you indeed, very depressing. To say that standards have dropped is a bloody understatement. Standards have not dropped they have quite frankly disappeared.

First of all, to not get a first these days, at least from my course, would place you amongst the failures in this world. That said it is by no means an easy course to get into: you need at least 40 IB points (out of a maximum possible 45) and at least A*A*A with the two A*s in Maths and Physics and the third A-level should preferably be in Further Maths. The graduate tutors struggle to find good people unfortunately. We started of as a group of 80 students. 20 have since disappeared. Some have changed course but most have failed, which means either retaking a year or leaving the university. Most opt for the former but it is out of their own purse.

The status of our coursework is not much better, some of us try to produce original work but are placed in a very depressed situation when one finds that a lot of people have simply copied from the previous years. Seemingly without anyone noticing. This is so common that it is standard now. They have plagiarism software but it is totally useless; you could probably get away with claiming all of MacBeth as your own. It would never notice. Some lab rapports might as well be taken from a standard template. Zero thinking involved, only copying.

Then we have exams. This is the truly most depressing area of them all. Now, the reader should note that your humble narrator is by no means on course for a first. He is a pretty feeble academic superstar, a goon amongst the aces if you will. A first is not his business, he is not that clever. However I do appreciate a good challenge for my brain and we get that sometimes but mostly not. You see the way we and most people revise for exams is not by learning and understanding the material, no, we revise by exclusively doing past papers. Yes, you can throw in a few tutorials as well if you want to mix things up. But first and foremost people do past papers to pass the current papers. This manifests itself in a very strange way, particularly when the examiner has attempted to actually examine us and refuses to be part of the degree making machine. When they truly examine us, when they truly make original questions, people fail. They fail because they cannot think outside the box, they fail because they have learned a model answer and they fail because they have not actually learned anything at all, only a method. A way of doing things, not how or why it works, only that it does. Because that, it in the end, is what goes on your transcript; a mark which says that you know how to do X in Y way. And if Z presents itself you best get another scientist 'cause this one don't know of a method to solve this slightly different problem.

There is nothing original with our degrees anymore at least, they are nothing but certificates with a lot of really fancy sounding names on them.

Oh and I should also mention a really funny quirk; when a majority has failed an exam they scale the marks. Instead of asking themselves why they failed, or if the students genuinely know anything in their respective subject, they scale the marks. An exegesis of the student's actual academic fortitude is ostracised.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Britain will buy French Rafales - guaranteed

This is how it starts, an 'official leak' has been instigated, showing that the Americans have some serious doubts about the F35. As they quite rightly should. That it has reached British media is a coincidence.

Reports on this security level are not just "leaked" as if it were another NOTW story. If it actually were that easy then the Russians and Iranians, the Chinese and god knows who else, would be all over it. In reality this sort of classified information barely gets out of the building in which it was compiled. Hence, this is not a 'leak story'.

We wont be able to buy the F35 simply because it will cost us too much, it is a hugely complex aircraft which might fly some day, but not on their budget nor timeline. It will fly but not under our flag.

As you might understand, this unfortunate situation lends itself to the rather politically embarrassing scenario where we have: two aircraft carriers, one which we have mothballed straight away because we cannot afford planes to fly from it and the other does not have any planes at all because they do not work. What is the quick solution? Navalised HAWKs possibly yes, but they have virtually no weaponry to speak of, pretty A/C though. We could buy Americans F18 Hornets, and loads of them for probably a reduced price. But no, we will buy French because, as you know, we are now in a strategic alliance with the French. This means that they will buy the second mothballed carrier and put their Rafales on them, and we will buy their Rafales to put on ours. A neat but very dishonest solution. As such it fits very nicely with the British political landscape, where there has not been an honest voice since the end of WW2.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

That's fair...

Annual salary of an MP: £65,738

Private, British Army, Level 1: £17,265

Thursday, 12 January 2012

To note

It is in the nature of institutions to seek to extend their power. Always.


£33bn to travel to Birmingham...

Who the fuck wants to go to Birmingham?

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Compare the Navies! (no this is not about the movie Avatar)


28,000 personnel
65 aircraft
5 Frigates
3 Corvettes
26 Submarines
24 Fast Attack Craft
98 Large Patrol craft
+100 light missile boat
16 Hovercraft


324,466 active duty personnel
284 ships
3,700+ aircraft
11 Aircraft carriers
9 Amphibious assault ships
8 Amphibious transport docks
12 Dock landing ships
22 Cruisers
60 Destroyers
27 Frigates
75 Submarines

Who would 'win'?