Ian Short


Abolish the REF and TEF

Writing in Times Higher Education, Dorothy Bishop makes a strong case for abolishing the REF and the TEF


I fully endorse this proposal. The REF consumes huge amounts of University resources to obtain what could be achieved more simply by other means. I have less experience with the TEF; Dorothy describes it as “far worse”.


International Rebellion

Extinction Rebellion’s International Rebellion begins today in London. Please support them! I will join them later in the week.

You can support them financially too. E and I have committed to £50 per month.

Extinction Rebellion

The future of the planet is bleak. The Earth and its environment are like a body suffering multiple organ failure, and the brain is pretending that it isn’t happening.

The only hope is for immediate, radical action. I urge you to back Extinction Rebellion. No other group offers a response appropriate to the circumstances. Extinction Rebellion needs your support – money and action.

E and I have just donated £500.


Swifts return

Swifts returned to Woburn Sands today, just two so far. One house martin flying around as well.

Wilding, by Isabella Tree

This is a wonderful, inspiring book of wilding at the Knepp Estate in West Sussex. The author and her husband own a few thousand of acres of land around Knepp Castle, which until twenty years ago was heavily farmed. In the early 2000s, however, they began giving up parts of the land to wildlife. Following the example of successful wilding projects in the Netherlands, they applied a policy of minimal intervention, introducing some select large herbivores and leaving them to it (subject to legal restraints and various other complications).

The results have been astounding.

Today the land is a haven for a huge variety of wildlife, plants and animals. A few highlights are purple emperor butterflies, turtle doves, nightingales, 13 bat species, and all 5 of the UK’s owl species. The story demonstrates the richness of life that we could have in this country if we stopped farming so intensively, cutting, burning, spraying with deadly chemicals, building on ancient woodland, removing scrub, and tidying the countryside.

Towards the end the author quotes the American conservationist Aldo Leopold, who wrote almost a century ago: ‘One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds.’ I encourage you to read this book, learn a little ecology, and help to bring life back to this sorely damaged country. And join Rewilding Britain!


UK-wide climate emergency

Caroline Lucas (MP for the Green Party) tabled a motion to the UK parliament on the 13 March to recognise that the world has a climate emergency. The motion proposes that the government introduces a new green deal to radically reduce the production of greenhouse gases. The motion is here –

UK-wide climate emergency.

It has been signed by politicians from across the political spectrum. You can

write to your MP

to encourage her or him to sign the motion. I wrote to Nadine Dorries; she has yet to sign up to it.

Red admiral

First butterfly of the year, by the River Ouzel. Apparently small tortoiseshell, brimstone, and painted lady are also out in places (they all hibernate).

Song thrushes are singing at the OU, which seems odd, early.

RSPB Minsmere

Over new year we visited RSPB Minsmere, one of the finest bird reserves in England. North and south of it are other outstanding reserves, owned by the National Trust, Natural England, and EDF Energy (Sizewell nuclear power plants are nearby). A highlight for me was a group of bearded tits, plucking at reed heads, in Tinker’s Marshes near Southwold. I can’t photograph birds, so here’s one from Wikipedia

Panurus biarmicus -Oare Marshes, Kent, England -male-8 (3)

Another highlight was a flock of Barnacle Geese, also on Tinker’s Marshes. I haven’t seen these birds before; they are more commonly found on the west of Scotland, exclusively in winter. During spring they fly off north somewhere, to Scandinavia I suppose.

We saw starling murmurations over Dunwich Forest. Apparently about 10, 000 starlings. And there was an avocet at Minsmere. (Lots of avocets at Minsmere in the spring and summer, but they head further south in Winter.) What else… marsh harriers aplenty, widgeon, teal, shovellers, and a marsh tit. Oh, and loads of curlews; I’ve never seen so many before.

M337 Complex analysis finished

In my pigeon-hole this morning were printed copies of the final three books of  the Open University module M337 Complex analysis. They look beautiful, and I am delighted. It has required a huge amount of effort over the past couple of years. I look forward to moving down a gear, and perhaps even doing some research.

Quotation of Paul Painlevé

For production of an Open University text, I have spent a long time researching the origin of a quotation of Paul Painlevé. I include the details here in case they are of use to others. Some of the information about the quotation that I can find elsewhere on-line is incomplete or incorrect.

The quotation is

entre deux vérités du domaine réel, le chemin le plus facile et le plus court passe bien souvent par le domaine complexe,

which translates as

between two truths of the real domain, the easiest and shortest path quite often passes through the complex domain.

This quotation is taken from a document written by Painlevé around 1900 that was distributed to various scientists to determine whether Painlevé should be admitted to l’Académie des Sciences, Paris. Much later, after Painlevé’s death, it was discovered by his son, and then republished as the following book.

Title: Analyse des travaux scientifiques jusqu’en 1900

Publisher: Librairie Scientifique et Technique Albert Blanchard

Publication year: 1967

Publication location: Paris

Page number of quotation: 2

Here’s a snip of the front of the text.

Here’s a snip of the quote itself.

Here are some words about the origin of the book.

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