Lol! Abbott and Costello know the real mathematics the rest of us never learned in school.

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Sydney people are really serious about their coffee (and chocolate.) Earlier today, I went to check out the annual Aroma Festival at The Rocks. I was expecting it to be a small affair. Boy, was I wrong! There were lots of people there as you can see from the photo below (click on the photo for the higher resolution version.)

The Rocks Aroma Festival

There were over 40 booths. These included numerous coffee roasters and chocolatiers plus small samples of teas of the world and a spice bazaar. The festival included a number of stages spread throughout The Rocks with live music entertaining the crowds. There was also a huge exhibit of espresso machines; the coffee machines on display ranged from those costing a couple of hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. One of them caught my eye because I had not seen such an espresso machine before. You can see it in the photo below. It is the Otto stovetop espresso machine. Very cool!

Otto espresso machine

The Sydney Aroma Festival is worth a visit. If you happen to be in town next July, don’t forget to add it to your schedule. You won’t regret it!

PS: Did I mention that it was a brilliant day to be outside today? It is apparently the middle of the winter here but it feels more like summer!

Sydney Opera House

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One more celebrity appearance for Honda’s humanoid robot known as the most advanced of its kind on Earth.

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I’ve lived in Sydney for a generous 9 days now. I can’t say that Sydney is not a beautiful city because it truly is. It is also a bit expensive but I guess high quality of living comes at a high price. However, I have to admit that for the last few days, the weather has been just terrible.

First, I left Vancouver in the middle of a snowstorm; yes, it was snowing hard on April 18th which was a first for the 10 years I lived there. At any rate, after a long delay at the Vancouver airport due to the unexpected weather and after flying for 15 hours straight, we arrived in Sydney on April 20th.

The weather in Sydney has also been a bit of a disappointment from day one to today. It was raining when my plane touched down in Sydney and it continued to rain for my first 5 days here. Apparently, this was the wettest month of April for Sydney in over 70 years! The weather decided to take a break for the Anzac long weekend and it was really beautiful, warm and sunny; I earned my first sunburn for 2008 last weekend. It didn’t last though. Last night, Sydney experienced the coldest night in 25 years and everyone expects a repeat of the low temperature tonight. By the way, a cold night here means a low of just 8.6 degrees which in most parts of Canada is considered warm weather. Anyways, when you live in a building with no heating and little insulation, it feels really cold at night. It is even worse when you have to take a shower in the morning (you should try it some time.)

The good news are that the weather will soon improve and temperatures will return to seasonal normals. Moreover, the place where I am staying right now is temporary and now I know to look for an apartment with heating so that I won’t have to deal with this in the future. But the point I was trying to make with this post is that bad weather seems to follow me. Not that it has stopped me from enjoying my time here. Even though I have spent every day exploring the city, there is still much to see. I’ll post some photos from around Sydney over the next few days. In the meantime, here is a nice photo of the famous Sydney Opera House.

Sydney Opera House

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William Shatner could sell anything but it was easy to sell the Commodore Vic-20 since “unlike games it had a real keyboard.” The wonder computer of the 80s was the Vic-20; captain Kirk told me so.

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I truly enjoyed this TED talk on Mathemagics. From the description,

In a lively show, “mathemagician” Arthur Benjamin races a team of calculators to figure out 3-digit squares in his head, performs a massive mental calculation, and guesses a few birth days. How does he do it? He’ll be happy to tell you.

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The issue discussed in a New Scientist article about a group of physicists who can’t publish their journal papers because they want to retain the right to also publish derivatives of their work on Wikipedia or other online forums is one faced by many scientists in all disciplines today. It reminds of how the library asked me to make sure that I had the right to use the work I had previously published in my PhD thesis. According to the article,

The physicists were upset after the American Physical Society withdrew its offer to publish two studies in Physical Review Letters because the authors had asked for a rights agreement compatible with Wikipedia. The APS asks scientists to transfer their copyright to the society before they can publish in an APS journal. This prevents scientists contributing illustrations or other “derivative works” of their papers to many websites without explicit permission.

This will continue to be a problem until all scientific journals update their policies to account for the new methods of distributing information digitally and especially online.

Read “Physicists slam publishers over Wikipedia ban.

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Israeli startup Modu unveiled information today about their new modular cell phone that is smaller than an iPod Nano. Neat! Check it out in the video below.

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Yujin’s household robot iRobi can do 70% of your daily chores; but it won’t do the dishes or walk your dog. It seems that all the boring chores you want a robot to do for you fall in the 30% that iRobi can’t do. And all that for the very affordable price of $5000+.

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Thomas Edison in his efforts to show that his direct current was safer than alternating current electrocuted a number of animals. In the process, he also demonstrated the dangers of AC on Coney Island’s Luna Park Zoo elephant Topsy. The experiment took place in 1903 and you can read the story on Wired here. Edison made film of this and the YouTube video below shows the unfortunate Topsy getting zapped by 6600 Volts of alternating current.

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