Sunday, July 24, 2011

More university fee stuff

Here's a very helpful article from Money Saving Expert about how the new student loan setup will work.

In related news, Open University have just announced a major increase in fees. At the moment, you get "points" for completing OU modules - a typical course is worth 60 points, and 120 points constitutes an undergraduate year. At the moment, a 60 point course costs around £700. This will increase in September 2012 to £2500. It will be possible to obtain student loans towards the cost of tuition.

In effect, OU is moving further in the direction of being a mainstream university: it will no longer be realistic for most people to dabble in OU studies; they'll have to decide whether or not to commit to them in a more formal way. It will be one of the most versatile and best value ways of getting a degree, but this is a big cultural change.

Transitional arrangements will exist for people who are already studying. If you want to take advantage of fees based on the current structure for courses starting after 1 September 2012, you must have completed a module which began between 1 September 2010 and 31 August 2011 or be studying a module that starts between 1 September 2011 and 31 August 2012.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

"One in a million is not a fluke ..."

An interesting article on the BBC. It says that a five-sigma level of certainty is the accepted level in particle physics to claim a "discovery". Sigma here is standard deviation:
The number of sigmas (or standard deviations) is a measure of how unlikely it is that an experimental result is simply down to chance rather than a real effect.
To tag "five sigma" as certainty means that a one in a million occurrence is counted as not happening just by chance.

It would be interesting to see how that relates to the Universal Probability Bound (see where else I have discussed this here) or, for that matter, Behe'sEdge of Evolution(if at all).

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Harry Potter 7b

A few random thoughts - hopefully without too many spoilers ....

Watching the film really did feel like the end of an era. Harry Potter, films and books, has been part of my life for a decade, and whilst Pottermore will doubtless offer interesting and enjoyable material, the narrative circle is now complete. Along the way, I've been introduced passim to Joseph Campbell, Jungian archetypes and radical feminism, so my intellectual life is richer. Whilst Grint, Watson and Radcliffe may not be the greatest actors in the world, they have come to strongly shape the characters; the repertoire of British actors who have played supporting roles in the series have been excellent; and the achievement that is represented by holding the eight films together without destroying anybody's lives is substantial!

In many ways, I thought the film actually worked better than the book. There were certain things that were quite hard to follow in the book, which were made clearer in the film. Whether having read the book was required to follow the film, I'm not sure. There were also some deviations from the narrative sequence in the book. For example, some key sequences - the final showdown, and the death of the snake, amongst others - were presented in a way which made better narrative sense. These also made for better cinema. The increasing connection between Harry and Voldemort as the film went on was also brought out very well.

The fact that this film is largely action-driven for me highlights how character-driven is part 1. There was no shortage of action in it, but Harry, Ron and Hermione were allowed to develop through the film. Perhaps as a consequence, with the exception of the exposition at the start of film 2, it felt like a bit of a rush - one got the feeling that anything not directly related to the action was a kind of quick "Oh, we ought to show this about that character here ...."

The remaining Harry Potter event will be the release of the DVD, I guess. My daughter is already talking about a back-to-back showing. I'm not sure that I could cope with 20 hours, but I'd certainly like to watch the whole of "Deathly Hallows" in one go.