Archive for January, 2015

Later today Chelsea will take on Manchester City in what will be, so far, the biggest match of the season. Currently Chelsea are 5 points clear of Man City, who are their closest rivals at the top of the English Premiership. If Chelsea can win at home today they will go 8 points clear, but if they lose the lead will be cut to only 2 points.

Chelsea go into the game after a shock defeat last weekend in the FA Cup at home to lowly Bradford City, a game they lost 4-2 making it their heaviest defeat at home under Jose Mourinho. A fortnight ago they thrashed Swansea City 5-0 away, and they have also had two mid-week games against Liverpool in the semifinals of the League Cup, drawing the away leg 1-1 and winning the home leg 1-0.

Manchester City go into the game playing their first match since their shock FA Cup defeat last weekend to Middlesborough 2-0 and their home defeat to Arsenal 2-0 the weekend before. So, on paper, Chelsea should be the more confident side with a better recent record. But, today’s game will probably mostly be about who can handle the pressure the better – with such importance riding on the game. In this respect I expect Chelsea to come out on top, as Mourinho is the master tactician and sides he coaches usually can handle the big occasions masterfully. But, we will know later today – kick off is at 17:30 GMT.


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As it is 46 years ago today that the Beatles last performed live in front of an audience in their famous “rooftop concert” on top of their Apple building in London, I thought I would reblog this – their rooftop performance of “Get Back”. Enjoy!


Just time for a VERY quick post today. A wonderful performance of Get Back, live on the rooftop of the Beatles’ Apple headquarters in Saville Row, London in January 1969.

The Beatles during their impromptu rooftop performance, in January 1969.

It doesn’t get much better than this!


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Very interesting update on the BICEP2 primordial gravitational waves story. The results of their collaboration with Planck will be officially released next week.

In the Dark

I think it’s time to break the worst-kept secret in cosmology, concerning the claimed detection of primordial gravitational waves by the BICEP2 collaboration that caused so much excitement last year; see this blog, passim. If you recall, the biggest uncertainty in this result derived from the fact that it was made at a single frequency, 150 GHz, so it was impossible to determine the spectrum of the signal. Since dust in our own galaxy emits polarized light in the far-infrared there was no direct evidence to refute the possibility that this is what BICEP2 had detected. The indirect arguments presented by the BICEP2 team (that there should be very little dust emission in the region of the sky they studied) were challenged, but the need for further measurements was clear.

Over the rest of last year, the BICEP2 team collaborated with the consortium working on the Planck satellite, which…

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At number 89 in BBC Radio 2’s 100 greatest guitar riffs is “C’mon Everybody” by Eddie Cochran. This song was released in October 1958 and got to number 6 in the Disunited Kingdom singles charts, and to number 35 in the US. Cochran sadly died in England in 1960 in a car crash at the age of only 21 whilst on tour; most of his songs were released after his death.

At number 89 in BBC Radio 2's 100 greatest guitar riffs is "C'mon Everybody" by Eddie Cochran.

At number 89 in BBC Radio 2’s 100 greatest guitar riffs is “C’mon Everybody” by Eddie Cochran.

Ah well, c’mon everybody and let’s get together tonight
I got some money in my jeans and I’m really gonna spend it right
Well I’ve been a-doin’ my homework all week long
And now the house is empty and the folks are gone
Ooo C’mon everybody

Ah well my baby’s number one but I’m gonna dance with three or four
And the house’ll be a-shakin’ from my bare feet slappin’ on the floor
Well, when you hear that music you can’t sit still
If your brother won’t rock then your sister will
Ooo C’mon everybody

Well we’ll really have a party but we gotta put a guard outside
If my folks come a-home I’m afraid they’re gonna have my hide
They’ll be no more movies for a week or two
No more runnin’ round with the usual crew
Who cares C’mon everybody

C’mon everybody
C’mon everybody

Here is a video of this song. Enjoy!

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NASA’s New Horizons space probe has been on its way to Pluto since its launch in January 2006, and NASA has recently announced that it has started its “approach phase”. As part of testing its instruments, and in order to make any final corrections before it flies past Pluto in July, the probe is already taking images even though it is still some 200 million km from Pluto (which is more than the distance from the Earth to the Sun).

Pluto, discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930, was listed as one of the nine planets in our Solar System. But, in 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) demoted it to the status of “dwarf planet”; a status it shares with a few other objects like Ceres (the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter) and Eris, which is in the Kuiper belt. In fact, it was the discovery of objects in the Kuiper belt in the 1990s which led to Pluto being demoted to a dwarf planet status, as it was realised that it just happened to be the largest of the known Kuiper belt objects, and the first to be discovered.

Although we have sent space probes to all the other “classical” planets, and in fact to some asteroids, this will be the first time a space probe has visited Pluto. Because of this, we hope to learn a lot more about Pluto as the probe flies past it. Because of the speed of the probe, and the relatively small mass of Pluto, the probe will not be able to go into orbit about Pluto, but instead will pass about 14,000 km from its surface (roughly the same as the diameter of the Earth). As it whizzes by the various instruments will make their measurements, and they will only get one chance at it.

NASA's New Horizons space  probe has been travelling towards a fly-by of Pluto since 2006.

NASA’s New Horizons space probe has been travelling towards a July 2015 fly-by of Pluto since January 2006.

It was discovered in 1978 that Pluto had a satellite, Charon, the discovery being made from ground-based telescope images of Pluto. Since then, four other satellites have been discovered; Nix and Hydra were discovered in 2006, Kerberos in 2011 and Styx in 2012. So, as things stand, we now know of five moons orbiting Pluto, although New Horizons may discover more. We also hope to learn more about Pluto and Charon’s surface features, their composition, and whether Charon has an atmosphere. I will write future blogs on this as NASA releases these results.

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At number 20 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 greatest songs of all time is “Let it Be” by The Beatles. This song is one of the great Paul McCartney songs, with a wonderfully plaintive piano and fantastic lyrics which are both personal and universal. Over the years, it has become one of the most recognised Beatles songs, and McCartney played it as his contribution to the London part of Live Aid in 1985.

At number 30 in Rolling Stone Magazine's '500 Greatest Songs of all Time' is "I Walk the Line" by Johnny Cash.

At number 20 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s ‘500 Greatest Songs of all Time’ is “Let it Be” by The Beatles.

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the broken-hearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted
There is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Yeah, there will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Ah, let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the night is cloudy
There is still a light that shines on me
Shine on until tomorrow, let it be
I wake up to the sound of music,
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, yeah, let it be
Oh, there will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

Here is a video of this beautiful song, taken from the “Let it Be” movie. Enjoy!

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Yesterday (Monday the 26th) I was on the BBC talking about Asteroid 2004 BL86, a fairly large asteroid which has just flown by us. It was at its closest to us at about 16:10 GMT/UT, and was expected to be just over 3 times further away than the Moon when at its closest. Thankfully it missed us, because such a large asteroid would cause wide-spread devastation were it to hit the Earth.

As the name of the asteroid implies, it was discovered in 2004 by a programme known as LINEAR, the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research, named after the Lincoln laboratory at MIT, who are one of the partners along with NASA and the US Air Force. 2004 BL86 is estimated to be between 400 metres and 1km in size, considerably larger than the asteroid which exploded above Chelyabinsk in southern Russia in February 2013. That asteroid has been estimated to have been about 17 metres in size, and injured about 1,000 people in a sparsely populated part of Russia when it exploded in the atmosphere. Just imagine the devastation a 400m+ asteroid would cause, with a mass over twenty times larger its energy would also be over twenty times more (assuming the same speed)!

An artist's impression of Asteroid 2004 BL86 passing the Earth.

An artist’s impression of Asteroid 2004 BL86 passing the Earth.

The orbital parameters of asteroid 2004 BL86 have been sufficiently well determined that we know that it will almost certainly never hit the Earth. The only way in which it could would be if its orbit were somehow significantly altered, but this is unlikely given its large size as it is much harder to change the direction of a large asteroid than a smaller one. It will not visit the Earth’s vicinity again for over 200 years, and in fact it is the largest known asteroid to come this close to us until asteroid 1999 AN10 passes us in 2027.

Most asteroids are found in the asteroid belt, which lies between the orbit of Mars and Jupiter. They are thought to be the small building blocks of the planets, but which were prevented from coalescing to form a planet because of Jupiter’s gravitational disruption.

The asteroid belt lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Further out is the Kuiper belt, the reservoir of short-period comets.

The asteroid belt lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Further out is the Kuiper belt, the reservoir of short-period comets.

However, there are other asteroids which are not in the main asteroid belt, and some of these have orbits which bring them close to Earth. Every now and again we get hit by one, but thankfully it is very very rare for Earth to be bit by a large asteroid. Although the statistics are very sparse, we think that something the size of the Chelyabinsk asteroid hits the Earth about once a century, and something the size of 2004 BL86 hitting the Earth would be much rarer, maybe once every few tens of thousands of years.

Where to see asteroid 2004 BL86

Unfortunately, this asteroid is not bright enough to be visible to the naked eye, but it is visible through a small telescope or large binoculars. It will be about 9th magnitude at its brightest, and the chart below, taken from Sky & Telescope magazine, shows its path through the sky against the background stars. Note: the times on this chart are Eastern Standard Time, so add 5 hours for GMT/UT. At the time of its closest approach to Earth it was in the constellation Hydra, and could be seen about mid-way between Jupiter and Sirius. Just before midnight GMT/UT on the 26th it passed into Cancer, and passed close to the Beehive Cluster at about 6am GMT/UT earlier this morning.

Where to find asteroid 2004 BL86 in the sky over the nights of the 26th and 27th of January.

Where to find asteroid 2004 BL86 in the sky over the nights of the 26th and 27th of January.

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Over the weekend Adam Jones announced that he was retiring from international rugby. Although not as widely known to casual rugby fans as some of the more glamorous players, Jones has been one of the most important players in the Welsh team since his international debut in 2003. At tight head prop, he did the hard graft in the front row which was the foundation stone of the Welsh scrum, and many pundits think he has been one of the best tight head props in the game in the last decade.

He is also one of only six post-war Welsh players to have won three Grand Slams, the others being J.P.R Williams, Gareth Edwards and Gerald Davies in the 1970s; and Gethin Jenkins and Ryan Jones in the 2005, 2008 and 2012 Grand Slams along with Adam. As I mentioned in my blog about Gatland’s announcement of the Welsh squad for the 2015 6 Nations, Adam’s omission was one of the main talking points. After also not having been included in the 2014 Autumn Tests squad, he has decided to bring to an end an international career which saw him get 95 caps for Wales, and five test appearances for the British and Irish Lions.

Adam Jones has retired from international rugby after winning 95 caps for Wales.

Adam Jones has retired from international rugby after winning 95 caps for Wales.

Having only ever played as a back, the details of what goes on in a scrum are largely a mystery to me, and even more so what goes on in the front row. But, it would seem that Adam has been struggling to adapt his scrummaging technique to the new laws which have been introduced last season, and it is possibly this combined with his age which have seen him fall out of favour with Warren Gatland. Whatever the reasons, Adam himself has expressed his disappointment at being left out of the 2015 6 Nations squad, and has made the difficult decision to quit the international game. I hope rugby fans from Wales and beyond will recognise what a wonderful servant he has been of Welsh rugby these last 12 years.

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At number 55 in BBC Radio 2’s list of the 100 best guitar riffs is “Walk this Way” by American rock group Aerosmith. This song was originally released in August 1975, getting as high as number 10 in the US singles charts. It was re-released in November of 1976, but actually didn’t come to my attention until it was covered by the rap group Run DMC in July 1986. The Run-DMC version became a World-wide hit, reaching number 4 in the US singles charts, and it got to number 8 in the Disunited Kingdom.

At number 95 in BBC Radio 2's list of the 100 best guitar riffs is "Walk this Way" by Aerosmith

At number 95 in BBC Radio 2’s list of the 100 best guitar riffs is “Walk this Way” by Aerosmith

In the Run-DMC version, Aerosmith’s lead singer Steven Tyler and lead guitarist Joe Perry also feature, making the song more of a cross-over between rock and rap. The video features Run DMC practicing and being disturbed by Tyler and Perry also practicing the other side of a wall. After some banging on the wall, Run-DMC decide to carry on with their practice of what turns out to be a rap version of “Walk this Way”. After rapping the first two verses, just as the chorus is about to begin, Tyler’s head bursts through the wall to sing the chorus. In short measure the two bands are performing the song together live in front of an ecstatic audience. It is a funny and memorable video, and was most probably a factor in the song’s huge chart success. Both versions feature the guitar riff by Joe Perry which has made this song so well-liked.

The Run DMC cover of , released in 1986, was a much bigger hit than the original version

The Run-DMC cover of <em"Walk this Way", released in 1986, was a much bigger hit than the original version

backstroke lover always hidin’ ‘neath the covers
till I talked to your daddy, he say
he said “you ain’t seen nothin’ till you’re down on a muffin
then you’re sure to be a-changin’ your ways”
I met a cheerleader, was a real young bleeder
oh, the times I could reminisce
’cause the best things of lovin’ with her sister and her cousin
only started with a little kiss
like this!

seesaw swingin’ with the boys in the school
and your feet flyin’ up in the air
singin’ “hey diddle diddle”
with your kitty in the middle of the swing
like you didn’t care
so I took a big chance at the high school dance
with a missy who was ready to play
wasn’t me she was foolin’
’cause she knew what she was doin’
and I knowed love was here to stay
when she told me to

walk this way [8x]
just gimme a kiss
like this!

schoolgirl sweetie with a classy kinda sassy
little skirt’s climbin’ way up the knee
there was three young ladies in the school gym locker
when I noticed they was lookin’ at me
I was a high school loser, never made it with a lady
till the boys told me somethin’ I missed
then my next door neighbor with a daughter had a favor
so I gave her just a little kiss
like this!

[repeat second verse, substitute this at the end]
when she told me how to walk this way, she told me to

walk this way [8x]
just gimme a kiss
like this!

This is a video of the original Aerosmith version.

Here is the video of the Run DMC / Aerosmith cover version.

Which is your favourite version of this song?

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On Tuesday Wales head coach Warren Gatland announced his squad for the upcoming 2015 6 Nations tournament. The tournament will start in just over two weeks’ time on the 6th of February with Wales taking on England at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium in a Friday evening match. Gatland announced a squad of 34 players, and one of the headlines is that New Zealand-born Gareth Anscombe has been named in the squad, having decided to pledge his allegiance to Wales through his Welsh mother. Anscombe moved to Wales last summer and has been playing for the Cardiff Blues this season. He is one of four uncapped players in the squad.

New Zealand-born Gareth Anscombe has been named in the 2015 6 Nations squad.

New Zealand-born Gareth Anscombe has been named in the 2015 6 Nations squad.

The other headlines from the squad announcement is which players have been left out. Fly half and “utility back” James Hook has once again been overlooked by Gatland, despite performing well for Gloucester this season. Veteran tight-head prop Adam Jones is also left out, despite their being injuries to Rhodri Jones and Nicky Smith, leading many to believe that Gatland would include the 95-times capped Jones.

The full squad is


Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Paul James (Bath), Rob Evans (Scarlets), Aaron Jarvis (Ospreys), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Scott Andrews (Cardiff Blues), Richard Hibbard (Gloucester), Kristian Dacey (Cardiff Blues), Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Jake Ball (Scarlets), Bradley Davies (Wasps), Luke Charteris (Racing Metro), Dan Lydiate (Ospreys), James King (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Taulupe Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).


Mike Phillips (Racing Metro), Rhys Webb (Ospreys), Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Gareth Anscombe (Cardiff Blues), Cory Allen (Cardiff Blues), Jamie Roberts (Racing Metro), Jonathan Davies (Clermont Auvergne), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Tyler Morgan (Newport Gwent Dragons), Hallam Amos (Newport Gwent Dragons), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), George North (Northampton Saints), Liam Williams (Scarlets), Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon).

The full schedule of games for Wales is

  • Friday the 5th of February – Wales v England – Kick-off 20:05
  • Sunday the 15th of February – Scotland v Wales – Kick-off 15:00
  • Saturday the 28th of February – France v Wales – Kick-off 18:00
  • Saturday the 14th of March – Wales v Ireland – Kick-off 14:30
  • Saturday the 21st of March – Italy v Wales – Kick-off 13:30

This will, of course, be the last 6 Nations before the 2015 Rugby World Cup. With Wales also being drawn in the same group as England, doing well in this 6 Nations will play an important role in giving the Welsh side confidence going into the World Cup. I will preview the Wales v England match once the team for that game is announced.

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