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My Least Favorite Trope (and this post will include spoilers for The Lego Movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Matrix, Western Civilization, and—cod help me—Bulletproof Monk*.) is the thing where there’s an awesome, smart, wonderful, powerful female character who by all rights ought to be the Chosen One and the hero of the movie, who is tasked with taking care of some generally ineffectual male character who is, for reasons of wish fulfillment, actually the person the film focuses on. She mentors him, she teaches him, and she inevitably becomes his girlfriend… and he gets the job she wanted: he gets to be the Chosen One even though she’s obviously far more qualified. And all he has to do to get it and deserve it is Man Up and Take Responsibility.

And that’s it. Every god-damned time. The mere fact of naming the films above and naming the trope gives away the entire plot and character arc of every single movie.

Elizabeth Bear - My Least Favorite Trope (via feministquotes)



omg ok well while i was home from university this weekend i stumbled across an old photo album and found pictures from a job I did when I was in like 5th or 6th grade and I remember the shoot being pretty long, like 4 or 5 days, and just being in love with the girl who played my sister. All i really remember was that it was her first acting gig and she was from Kentucky but I DIDNT REALIZE UNTIL NOW THAT IT WAS JENNIFER LAWRENCE OH MY GOD I KNEW HER BEFORE SHE WAS FAMOUS WORSHIP ME PEOPLE WORSHIP ME

if you’re going to reblog a picture of jennifer lawrence at this time, let it be this one. Look, she’s reading harry potter, and 12 year old me is looking at her like the sun shines out of her ass.


The fear that 1.5 million British children will reach the age of 11 unable to “read well” by 2025 has prompted the launch of a new literacy campaign

JK Rowling and Michael Morpurgo and many others are backing the Read On. Get On campaign, aimed at radically improving reading standards. 

One report says England is one of the most unequal countries for children’s reading levels, second in the EU only to Romania. Research has found that poor reading could cost the UK £32bn in growth by 2025. Full story here »


Archimedes and the quadrature of the parabola

Archimedes of Syracuse (c. 287–212 BC) was a Greek mathematician, scientist and engineer. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest mathematicians of all time.

One of Archimedes’ works was called The Quadrature of the Parabola. This proved various results about parabolas, and explained how to find the area of a parabolic segment, which is a finite region enclosed by a parabola and a line. This is easy to do nowadays using the well-known theory of integral calculus, but this was not developed until the 17th century, about 1900 years after the time of Archimedes.

Integral calculus calculates areas by approximating the area to be measured by a union of geometric shapes whose exact areas are known, and then applying a limiting process. Archimedes’ technique was very similar to this. The key to his idea was to inscribe into the parabolic segment a triangle with the same base and height. In other words, the triangle had the original line segment as its base, and touched the curved part of the parabola at the point where the tangent line to the parabola was parallel to the line segment. Archimedes proved that if the triangle has area T, then the area A of the parabolic segment was given by 4T/3.

Archimedes described a method of filling up the rest of the parabolic segment by exhaustion, using smaller and smaller triangles. The graphic shows two lighter blue triangles, four yellow triangles, eight (barely visible) red triangles, and so on. There are twice as many triangles of each successive colour as there were of the previous colour. Archimedes proved that the area of a triangle of each successive colour is 1/8 of the area of the previous type of triangle, although this is not an obvious result. For example, each light blue triangle has an area of T/8.

These observations reduce the problem of finding the area A to evaluating the sum at the bottom of the picture, which is a geometric series. Nowadays, there is a well-known formula that applies in this situation, but Archimedes summed the series using a clever ad hoc geometric argument instead.

Archimedes made some other very significant discoveries using integration-like methods. He proved that the area of a circle of radius r is equal to πr^2, and he also discovered the formulae for the surface area and volume of a sphere, and for the volume and area of a cone. Archimedes is also known for inventing the Claw of Archimedes and the Archimedes heat ray, both of which were weapons to defend the city of Syracuse. The claw was a kind of mobile grappling hook that could lift enemy ships out of the water, and modern experiments suggest that this would have been a workable device. The heat ray was a system of mirrors to focus reflected sunlight on to enemy ships, thus setting them on fire. Modern attempts to reproduce the heat ray have concluded that it would not have worked quickly enough in typical weather conditions to be able to burn enemy ships.

Relevant links
Wikipedia on Archimedes:

Wikipedia on The Quadrature of the Parabola (including the graphic here):

Picture of Archimedes from

I stole the joke in the picture from Dan McQuillan on Twitter.

Here’s another good joke about Newton and Leibniz developing calculus in the 17th century, which someone in my department has on their office door:

#mathematics   #sciencesunday

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