At primary school you were taught that there are three primary colours: red, yellow and blue, and that you can mix these to make all other colours. This is not true. Or rather, it is only a rough approximation to the truth. My recent article, published in the Journal of Perceptual Imaging, digs into the history of colour wheels and colour mixing to find that the truth is more complex and more interesting. The idea that there are three primary paint colours was discovered in the seventeenth century. Different artists used different shades, which were roughly reddish, yellowish and bluish. This theory was consolidated in the 1950sRead More →

Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life Tate Britain 26 June to 20 October 2013 10:00-18:00 daily “It’s grim up north” has become a joke phrase in Britain, parodied in the pages of Private Eye and used in comic sketches for years. The Lowry exhibition at Tate Britain demonstrates that it truly was grim in the industrialised north in the first half of the 20th century. Lowry shows us grimy buildings alongside desolate wastelands. His stick people crowd round a dead body on the ground or watch as the fever van takes away another sick child or attend one more funeral. This is not aRead More →

Today is presentation day on the MPhil in Advanced Computer Science. Fifty Masters students have twelve minutes each to explain their Masters project. They will be assessed on style, comprehensibility, and content. That is, two-thirds of the assessment is on the quality of the presentation and only one-third on the academic content. This bias is because the presentation is assessed as part of my Research Skills course: we want to know how well they have acquired the skill of presenting. As the module convener, I teach them how to present and I moderate the assessment. The buck stops with me. Last night, by contrast I playedRead More →

Computer geeks like things to be black or white, right or wrong. Ethical issues can thus confuse them when there are shades of grey. For example, take plagiarism. When writing an academic paper, it is clearly right to write everything from scratch; it is clearly wrong to copy large chunks of the paper straight from someone else’s paper. But things get fuzzy between these extremes: Is it OK to copy parts of a previous paper that you wrote? Is it OK to paraphrase someone else’s paragraph? The answer is that it depends on the particular circumstances. Unfortunately, some computer geeks become tiresomely legalistic at thisRead More →

My academic department is running a research poster competition today as part of the department’s 75th anniversary celebrations. All attendees are being asked to judge the posters and to pick the best ones. There is a saying that you cannot judge a book by its cover. That is, you should not judge the content of a book by what you see on the cover. A research poster, however, is essentially all cover. Everything is immediately visible to the reader. So, how do you judge a poster? And what makes a good research poster? I tackle this question in my Research Skills course. Three things seemRead More →

The UK government evaluates university research every six years. For the 2014 assessment, there is a new feature to the Research Excellence Framework (REF): each university has to provide a number of Impact Case Studies. An Impact Case Study demonstrates how some piece of university research, done in the last twenty years, has had impact in the last five years. Impact could be on industry, the economy, society, public policy, or the environment. The one thing that does not count as impact is inspiring and influencing our colleagues in other universities. These Impact Case Studies sounded straightforward when I first heard of them, eighteen months ago.Read More →