2014 in numbers

Over the past year I have walked approximately 4.15 million steps, covering 2 600 km, and I cycled a further 2 750 km. In between, I have taken over 6 000 photos and I’m not sure how many hours of video. It is quite interesting to look back on the year past with some data, although I don’t have much from previous years to compare it to.
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Mapping the developing world

As part of the OpenStreetMap project, there is a humanitarian aspect, producing maps of the less developed parts of the world. These can be used for both disaster recovery, as was demonstrated after the Haiti earthquake, but also for preparedness in areas of flood or disease risk.

Maps are knowledge. They are required to coordinate (often scarce) resources in the event of a disaster or epidemic. And OSM is making these freely available to everyone everywhere, in the same way that Wikipedia is democratising knowledge.

Over the past few years, I have contributed to a number of the tasks organised by the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), mapping various areas of Africa and Indonesia.
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2014 in photos

Rather than put together another list of top photos from the year, I though I’d do something a bit different, and remember some of the interesting trips and events by the photos I took.

I saw in the New Year in Edinburgh, although avoiding the street party. I went up to Calton Hill with my flatmate Ali and some friends, before returning to a rather good night at the Tollbooth Tavern.

2014 Fireworks

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Favourite photos of 2013

I recently realised when thinking about my favourite photos from the past year that I had not even put together a selection from the previous year. So to remedy that, below is my top three, with the rest of them on Flickr. Partly I suspect this was because photography was somewhat overshadowed by my return to academia, but hopefully now that I have a little more time I will get back into taking and sharing photos.

Brig o'Doon

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20mph limits in towns

As someone who walks and cycles a lot, I support plans for more widespread implementation of 20mph zones in our towns and cities. These should primarily be a place for people, and not dominated by motor vehicles. Illustration of reduction in survival rate for pedestrians/cyclists hit by motor vehicles at increasing speed

Pedal on Parliament recently put together a piece to mark World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, which I volunteered a graphic to illustrate. I am delighted to say this was widely re-shared on social media, but that is not the point of this post.

These depressing statistics illustrate that there is an increasing likelihood of serious injury or death for pedestrians and cyclists who are unfortunate enough to be hit by fast moving vehicles. In addition to (hopefully rare) crashes, it is also rather unpleasant to have vehicles constantly speeding past you when on a bike, on foot, and presumably when in a wheelchair.

Do we really need so many cars, vans, and lorries thundering through town centres? Especially when these are then parked (either legally or illegally) on narrow roads blocking access for bikes, pedestrians, wheelchairs, pushchairs, etc.

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Research tools

Whilst I have not been at this research malarkey very long, several people have made suggestions for useful software, in addition to my own past experience. I have put some notes/links below on various tools that should help towards the process of research. Hopefully this might be of interest to others, and feel free to add your suggestions below.

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Long nights and bright days

One thing about the long dark winter nights that we get in higher latitudes, is that they rally make you appreciate the bright sunny days. Most of the past few weekends have had periods of brilliant sunshine (even if it was cold) in which I have been out on my bike.

Panorama looking south over the Gore Water, towards Borthwick and Middleton

Panorama looking south over the Gore Water, towards Borthwick and Middleton

There is something almost magical when you are speeding along on your bicycle without too much effort, especially on a bright sunny day. And that enjoyment is definitely increased when you don’t have to worry about motor vehicles speeding past or crashing into you. We are lucky to have quite a few great off-road cycle tracks around Edinburgh, mainly along old railway lines. The problem is, to connect them up, you often end up on pretty horrible fast roads, which are unpleasant to cycle on at the best of times, and downright scary at the worst.

Best not to dwell on that for now, and enjoy the sunshine while it lasts.


Taught component over, now onto the research

Nearly six months ago, I finished the taught component of my EngD, and moved on to the research phase. My project is looking at physical scale modelling of offshore renewable energy devices in the new FloWave facility at the University of Edinburgh. This is claimed to be the world’s most advanced ocean simulator, a 25m diameter circular wave tank that can also create currents to simulate the tides, and can produce waves and current in any direction.

FloWave

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First semester finished

I have just completed the first semester of my course. The course organisers were not joking when they described the taught section of the course as “intensive”. So far we have covered six modules, in each going from knowing comparatively little, to writing reports and presenting on the subject for 10-15 minutes just two weeks later!
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