Category Archives: Stuff that interests me

Pi Day 14th March (3.14) – Best video for non-mathematicians

Archimedes – What a guy!

I never understood Pi. I couldn’t make it work without knowing why Pi was 3.14 etc. No one ever wanted to tell me. Like so much of Math, You have to take numbers at face value and just accept – or believe that they are real and have a reason to be special.

When I began researching Archimedes for my little book about him, I finally understood where that number came from – how the radius relates to the circumference and therefor the area of a circle. Why had no one ever told me this? So much in math classes would have made sense.

Some of us are visual thinkers. We think in pictures and understand concepts visually. Mathematicians live in cities of glass and steel where all is pattern and puzzle. Pi does not belong to mathematics alone. Pi pervades art and philosophy too and so needs to be understood and appreciated in different ways.

Show the video above to non-mathematicians and watch them go – “Oh! right! That’s amazing… now it makes sense.”

S.T.E.M. is meaningless without art and culture.

Shoo Rayner – friend of Euclid and Archimedes

To celebrate Pi Day, buy a copy of my book, Archimedes, the Man who invented the Death Ray.

When and where do I get ideas? The answer is revealed!

Recently, I was asked “When and where do you find you get most of your inspiration and ideas for stories?”

That could have such a quick and simple answer like – teatime in the kitchen or shopping in Ikea – but it really isn’t as simple as that.

I mentioned before that I think ideas are living things, like viruses, they are looking to “get you” to make their idea come true. If you are not the right person, then they fly away to look for someone else – sometimes they even leave you feeling lost and empty – bereft – and sometimes jealous or angry when you see someone else have success with the same idea!

In this video I explain where and when I get ideas and what I do about them when they come knocking on the door!

Climate Change – What on Earth can I do?

I remebember – some 50 years ago! – being curled up in a ball on my bed, inconsolable, blubbing real tears for the panda bears that were soon going to become extinct.

Then, some 35 years ago, working on a college project to design a conservation poster, or something like that, reading the Red Book in the college library, being appalled at the extinction pressure put on local species I knew and loved.

I was fired up. I went round to the Friends of the Earth to offer my services. They stared at me blankly and politely shewed me the door. In retrospect – I may have seemed scarily hyper – I’ve learned to tone down that strength of enthusiasm over the years, but the moment was gone and I, like many people, shrugged my shoulders and thought, “Never mind, what can I possibly do as a single individual?

The World Wildlife Fund saved the Pandas and we all went Awww! when the little baby panda sneezed on YouTube and everything seemed to be okay. We had saved the world! We were free to go on trashing the world, guilt free. There was always someone around to small and take away the mess and dump it in a jungle somewhere far away.

I put the recycling out every week. I agonise over high-carbon decisions, but generally give in to the easy option. I waited four years to get my latest phone. The old one was getting very slow – due to built in obsolescence – I still use it as a second camera and ipod.

I love my phone. I was a very early adopter. I got the first iPhone when it came out. Almost everybody laughed as I got it out to look stuff up on google. “You’ll be doing this soon,” I told them. They laughed even louder.

Try and prize their phones out of their hands now! It was the same with twitter, facebook and instagram. “What’s the point?” asked all this people, who now spend all day swiping and twiddling their thumbs with new messages and pictures of their cats.

But I worry – not only about the rape of our personal data, or the way the internet destroys value in the offline world, or the way it makes everyone unaccountable for their actions. I also worry about the power it uses… and the human minds it consumes.

I recently made a video – How to draw Greta Thunberg – YouTube have now removed comments from my “made for kids” content but, before they did, 50 percent of the comments were beyond negative – they were slurs. My innocent, how to draw videos usually get 99-100% thumbs up likes – so far Greta has 70.2% – 33 likes to 14 dislikes – one subscriber even felt they had to unsubscribe.

That’s a lot of haters who, I presume, don’t care if the apocalypse is just around the corner. They’ve booked their seat at the restaurant at the end of the world and can’t wait for the firework show to begin.

What don’t they like? Do they not like hearing the truth? Or can’t they bear the guilt put on them by a kid? Or that a kid is smarter than them? Or don’t they like that she’s actually doing something – actually standing up for what she believes and is doing something about it – even if it means sailing across the Atlantic rather than flying – how brilliant was that? She got as much ridicule doing that as film stars do, when they fly to climate meetings – (they should be ridiculed!)

Do they just not like that she’s a bit different. Do they hate the very qualities that have made her such an inspiration to a whole generation? Maybe they work for coal and petrochemical interests, see the writing on the wall and are wondering what they can do?

So what can I do? What can I do to bring back the insects that I remember spending summer Sunday mornings scraping off the car headlights and windshield?

What can I do to bring those pesky starlings and twittering sparrows back to the feeding table. What can I do to bring back the trilling of the chaffinch, that seemed to just disappear a couple of years ago?

What can I do to stop the advance of robots calling me up to tell my they want to hack into my Amazon account if I give them my pin number.

What can I do about Amazon? It’s fabulous! I love it! Amazon panders to all our most base instincts. It knows more about us that we do ourselves. It reduces all profit from human ingenuity to the minimum, which it then aggregates and gives to one man to spend on his personal whims.

What can we do about Facebook and Google? We love them, don’t we? We love them as they exploit us and everything we love so they can, maybe unwittingly, destroy everything we hold dear.

What can I do?

Giving up the internet is pointless. It is the only way an individual can try and make their voice heard these days.

Moaning is pointless. No one listens to moaning.

Giving up anything, doesn’t sound too great – saving the planet should be positive sum gain.

There have to be positive things we, as individuals can do.

Leading by example. Not blocking bridges or winding up the very people whose minds and attitudes need to change.

There must be something?