Mister Justin – With Daylight Still To Spare

Mister Justin is – as far as I can tell – a bloke in London. He’s releasing an album of acoustic guitar-driven tunes called With Daylight Still To Spare, and I think it’s pretty cool.

The songs are based in six-string folk sounds. A couple of the album tracks are instrumentals, and Justin’s skill with a guitar is pretty evident: little riffs pop in and out, here and there. Some of the songs remind me of Roy Harper’s Stormcock. There’s an underlying peacefulness, even in the darker songs.

There’s a cover of old poem and sometime-folk tune “So We’ll Go No More A Roving”. The tune is high and mournful, and the guitar playing stays simple, which is what a song like that needs. “We Had Our Time In The Sun” is really good: a minor-key lament, full of strummed bitterness, and a female vocal counterpoint that makes the song bigger and sadder.

A couple of tracks are perhaps a bit too laid back. “My Only Crime Is I Take My Time” begins to veer a little too close to naff territory with its lyrics, and horns and strings.

But With Daylight…mostly avoids the twee “guy with a guitar” cliché by introducing occasional non-folk elements. There are fuzzy bass sounds, an Indian groove, and some shouting on “Memory Fade Out, Burn Out”. “Metal Song” may still be acoustic, and it contains a fiddle, but it’s fun, with tongue-in-cheek headbanger riffs acted out. “You Tell Me I’m Lucky To Have You” is an Irish drinking song with hilarious nonsense sounds.

This is interesting music, fun music, and creative music, well-played.

You can check out the entire album right here.


Stop homeopathy funding

In December I blogged that a UK parliamentary health committee was looking into whether the National Health Service there should continue to fund homeopathy.

Today that committee gave its report. And – thank god – they said that there is no evidence that homeopathy has anything other than a placebo effect, that manufacturers must no longer be able to make medical claims for homeopathic products, and that the NHS should stop all funding of homeopathy.

Reason prevails.

Now, will the UK government accept the recommendations?

Online archive of UK science launches

From the BBC, word that

The British Library has begun a project to create a vast, online oral history and archive of British science.

The three-year project will see 200 British scientists interviewed and their recollections recorded for the audio library.

An advisory board will help the project pick key technological innovators and scientists for the archive.

The interviews will be put online to form a permanent record of the way British science has been practiced.

Thanks to the Aussie, who now appears to be my UK science ‘n’ music hookup.

A week of non-stop jazz across the UK: the NeverEndingSong

Restaurant chain Pizza Express have always supported jazz music; it makes a gentle and comforting background to their just-classy-enough middle-of-the-road market position.

Now they’re setting some musicians out on the road to play a jazz riff around the clock for seven days. They’ll tour the UK, picking up improvisers along the way.

An incredibly talented group of jazz musicians will perform a specially created piece of music non-stop, 24 hours a day for seven days as they tour the length and breadth of Britain.

With this being jazz, the ‘song’ will continually evolve as it’s shaped by collaborations with local talent from the cities and regions it passes through: London, Brighton, Cardiff, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Edinburgh.

I know I’ve listened to some jazz that made it feel like it’d been going on forever. But I heard the start of the NeverEndingSong this morning on Radio 4 and it sounded pleasant enough, with lots of space for variation and additions.

ESA establishes first UK research centre

From the Guardian:

The European Space Agency has opened its first research centre in the UK in a move designed to bring more British scientists and engineers into contact with the space industry. The agency has earmarked £1.3m for the facility’s first year of operation.

Work at the centre, which is based in a former computing lab built in the 1960s at Harwell science park in Oxfordshire, will focus on climate change science and robotic missions. Other plans include a “planetary protection facility” that will develop procedures to ensure missions to other planets do not contaminate them with terrestrial chemicals or bugs.

The centre will also operate as a storage facility for moon rock, meteorites and other material brought back from space that needs to be kept under clean-room conditions to protect it from the environment.

Public consultation of GCSE science curriculum

The UK government has just launched a public consultation on plans to reshape the GCSE science curriculum in this country.

That sounds like a good thing. But science teacher, filmmaker, and Guardian blogger Alom Shaha thinks that just now – as the school term is closing and students, parents, and teachers take off for summer holidays – is a very poor time to do it. He also thinks that the form of the consultation doesn’t lend itself to easy contribution: you have to read several different PDFs and then complete several lengthy forms.

So Shaha’s created another website, which he hopes will be an easier forum for educators and those who care about science eduction. He has secured promises that that input will be considered in the consultation as well.

If you care about changing science education in the UK you should check out both pages and contribute in whatever way is best for you.

UK science research funding leaning towards economic returns

A good Guardian article here that wonders whether scientific research funding is now required to justify its economic returns.

Last month the UK research councils, which provide 90% of the funding for acad­em­ic research, introduced a requirement for those seeking grants: they must describe the economic impact of the work – the “demonstrable contribution” research can make to society and the economy – they want to conduct.

This is wrong. I’m worried that science proponents may have shot themselves in the foot, though. We’ve been trumpeting science and technology as key to getting out of this economic downturn. But that doesn’t mean that every – or even any – future application of basic research is predictable before it even happens. We don’t know in advance which blue-skies ideas will pay off. Only investing in those where we think we do know is extremely risky.

Here’s the article’s conclusion. The comments that follow it, many from science researchers, are good reading too.

The economic impact summaries they now write ensure that all researchers will be aware that the business of universities is business. As the white paper points out, universities are already “providing incentives (for example promotion assessment)” to persuade researchers to engage with business. If your research doesn’t make someone money, you’re not likely to get very far.

Even judged by its own objectives, this policy makes no sense. The long-term health of the knowledge economy depends on blue skies research that answers only to itself: when scientists are free to pursue their passions they are more likely to make those serendipitous discoveries whose impacts on society and the economy are both vast and impossible to predict. Forced to collaborate with industry, they are more likely to pursue applications of existing knowledge than to seek to extend the frontiers of the known world.