Free festive family talk on robots at QMUL [108 bus goes nearby]

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On Friday 8 December from 5.30pm to 6.30pm there’s a free talk all about robots (aimed at secondary schools and families) at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), sponsored by the IET.

“Are robots really going to take over the world? Will robots be able to replace humans? What does it mean to be human? Take a journey through the weird and wonderful world of robotics. You will discover the challenges and possibilities facing today’s engineers and scientists with the quest of creating the man’s new best friend (or will they be our enemies?) “

QMUL’s campus is in Stepney Green, on Mile End Road, which is about four miles from Blackheath so fairly accessible to people in SE3 etc. The 108 bus goes almost all the way and turns onto Mile End Road up by Bow Church (DLR).

TICKETS (free) at Eventbrite.


  • Doors open & registration: 5.00pm
  • Lecture start: 5.30pm prompt
  • Lecture finish: 6.30pm
  • Reception: 6.30pm-7.30pm

Download a free flyer IET_QMUL_Xmas-lecture_2017-1

TRAVEL from Blackheath
Ideally get off the 108 just before it turns (right) into Mile End Rd – as you want to be on the same side of the road to pick up the 25 or 205 bus (or ~15-20min walk) and head left along Mile End Road to the big white Queen’s Building where the event takes place (technically in the People’s Palace to its left).

You can even shave off a few minutes of your journey by getting the 422 to Tunnel Avenue, then picking up the 108 and continuing through the Blackwall Tunnel – this cuts out North Greenwich tube station.

Other quick routes are any train to Cannon Street then a District Line train to Upminster or Barking that stops at Stepney Green. Exit the station, turn left, carry on up Mile End Road crossing Globe Road and you’ll be at the Queen’s Building in less than 10 minutes.

Professor Kaspar Althoefer
Professor Kaspar Althoefer is a roboticist with a keen interest in soft and stiffness- controllable robots. He likes to apply his octopus-inspired creations to areas such as keyhole surgery and human-robot interaction for the factory of the future. On occasions, he has collaborated with artists, designers and architects on soft robot installations.

Dr Ildar Farkhatdinov
Dr Ildar Farkhatdinov is a Lecturer in Robotics at the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). He is interested to study how human senses and movements and how this can be used to improve interaction between humans and robots. This research is important to develop robots for medical, service and eld applications.

He currently studies sense of balance in humans and how bio-inspired balance control methods can be applied to robots for walking assistance.

Dr Lorenzo Jamone
Lorenzo Jamone is a Lecturer in Robotics at the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) at
QMUL. He was born and he studied in Italy, completing a PhD in humanoid technologies before moving rst to Japan and then to Portugal to acquire additional
international experience as a researcher in robotics. Lorenzo joined QMUL in 2016, where he is one of the founding members of ARQ (Advanced Robotics at Queen Mary), he also collaborates with the Cognitive Science group and with the Centre for Intelligent Sensing.

Lorenzo’s research combines robotics, sensing and cognitive science, with a twofold objective: creating more intelligent robots that can co-exist and co-operate with people, and obtaining a better understanding of how the human body and brain works (for more info: Lorenzo is also passionate about science ction stories and lms, especially when robots are involved.




Mycenae House’s PARKSfest 2017

I popped into Mycenae House after a visit to Blackheath’s M&S for yesterday’s ParksFest and failed to take any photographs as my phone was charging at home, oops. Fortunately other people brought their cameras and tweeted some stuff (below). Looks like it was a really enjoyable day. I was surprised to discover how large the Mycenae Gardens are and amazed to see a large redwood tree, among some other pretty interesting trees. I signed up to become a ‘friend of’ the gardens and was given a leaflet on the gardens history.

Mycenae House (built in 1776) Gardens were created by someone whose name – Angerstein – I had heard of only in the context of freight trains shuttling between Angerstein Wharf and Bardon Hill quarry in Leicester. He filled the garden with some trees that have been there for over 200 years (a lovely old plane tree is still there) and after his death his collection of paintings also kicked off the National Gallery. Angerstein actually lived in ‘Woodlands’ (now a Steiner School) next door to Mycenae House.

The friends of the Garden had a couple of good tree quizzes – it turns out I’m better at recognising a species from its leaf than from a picture of the tree.

A few years ago I saw Shaun of the Dead in the gardens thanks to Pop Up Screens, it was fab though I got bitten by midges 😉 I don’t think they’re doing any screenings at Mycenae House but they do have films in Greenwich Peninsula in August (also Lee / Hither Green which is nearby).

Mycenae House (What’s On) –
Friends of Mycenae Gardens –
Westcombe (Park) Society –
Blackheath Society –
Charlton Society –

I enjoyed the bunting seen in the tweet above.

Watch out for the cute beetles in Blackheath

A few years ago, while walking across Blackheath, I thought someone had started throwing popcorn at me. It turned out to be Summer Chafer (similar to cockchafer beetles but a bit smaller) in flight. These sleep underground and then in the late afternoon / twilight pop out of the ground and buzz around the tops of trees to meet other beetles, make friends, mate, lay eggs, that sort of thing. There are a variety of cockchafer beetles, and other beetles known as ‘June bugs’ (or in some places ‘May bugs’).

I’m pretty sure the ones we get in Blackheath are the summer cockchafers (they go by the name Amphimallon solstitiale (I’ve also seen it spelled solstitiale but this is apparently incorrect terminology)) which look like little mint humbugs and persistently ‘attack’ you if they think you might be a tree. They’re actually utterly harmless but the Daily Mail has singled them out as something to be frightened of1.

Here’s a pic of one from 30 June 2010, sitting on my hat (original Twitpic), three segments (four stitched lines) is about an inch. In flight they remind me of the Golden Snitch in the Harry Potter books/films.

amphimallon chafer.png

Below you can just make out the blurry image of the beetle in flight above the tree.


And here a beetle obligingly landed on a bit of the same tree.


Here’s me talking (sorry for the windy recording, taken while on the heath), exactly 7 years ago today on 30 June 2010, about my growing fascination for the small beetles.


Yesterday, while walking across the heath I spotted lots of birds (I think they’re either swifts or swallows, I’m not knowledgeable about birds) which are a very good marker at this time of year for the beetles being out and about swarming the trees. The birds were up by Hare and Billet pond so I headed over there and sure enough, it was full of beetles. The pictures above (except the one on the hat) and below were taken there on 29 June 2017.


(Above) Hare and Billet pond at dusk. Isn’t it lovely. The only birds visible in this picture are a duck and his / her duckling on the water. Just out of view of this picture, on the grass to the right is a moorhen (probably).

The video below is a not entirely successful attempt at videoing the birds, in slow motion, to see if I can work out what they are.

Update 30 June – I popped back there this evening and there were loads on the walk over from the heath, persistently buzzing and divebombing me. When I arrived at the pond one of the larger trees was surrounded, a very health crop of Summer Chafers this year, hooray. The tweet right at the top was taken after one landed on my bag while I was trying to take a photo of another one that had ‘attacked’ me. I had to swat them away with a bit of card haha.

1. see [warning: Daily Mail link. Click cautiously as the Mail is surely far more terrifying than beetles] “The chubby insects terrorising Britain’s backyards: The plague of fat, flying beetles found in your garden (and your home)

Lewisham Shopping Centre’s pop-up maritime museum

Note it’s CLOSED on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays

This was a delightful thing to discover as I was leaving Lewisham Shopping Centre yesterday. Some genius (it turns out to be @museumsailor and colleagues) at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich has come up with the brilliant idea to have a pop-up maritime museum in a vacant shop lot among the regular high street shops. I liked it a lot. It’s near what I think of as the main entrance to the Centre, near the Clock Tower (if you’re looking at the entrance TK Maxx is on the left hand side), apparently it’s been there since February.

There was a glass cabinet with decorated (shark’s teeth, feathers) Tahitian neckwear used to show off one’s higher status, and some stiff fabric made of woven grasses for the less exalted community-members. Also a Polynesian navigational aid with shells representing islands, and sticks representing the layout, directions and prevailing winds etc. Having no sense of direction I’d need a “You are here” shell or bead that would follow me around as I travelled among the Polynesian islands.

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Glass cabinet (picture above) with some wax stuff that I didn’t investigate (on upper shelf) and (on lower shelf) there’s the fancy neck decoration roughly in the middle of the shelf (the thing with the rows of black feathers with white shark teeth) and on the right (with the white parcel label on top) there’s a woven fabric. I think most of the items on display were modern recreations rather than originals as we were encouraged to handle them.

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Close-up (above) of a recreation of a Polynesian nav-aid which sailors would use to navigate the seas around their islands. I’m trying to imagine the smartphone version.

There was also a sextant, I didn’t get a chance to play with it, maybe next time. I don’t know how it works beyond you point it at stuff and use a book of astronomical stuff to work out where you are, in relation to the angle you’re at to various planets or stars. When I went on a cruise a couple of years ago I wanted to take one with me but thought better of it when I saw the book of tables I’d have to understand before I set off.

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Here’s a handy video (below) showing how to use a home-made one. I’ve watched it so now I do know how a sextant works!

I felt the wonderful Tall Ships Festival in Greenwich and Woolwich needed more science talks about navigation (and lots of other topics), and I’d probably enjoy an evening class in that.

Shortly before the festival I wrote this post (on my main blog) about what I might put in an Imaginary Maritime Science Festival that might take place at the same time as the next Tall Ships festival.

The pop-up museum is open until 9 July 2017 and runs from Thur-Sun (Thur-Sat: 10-5, Sun: 11-4pm).


They’re looking for volunteers to help, and are having a recruitment session on 24 May (Wednesday) at 11am. Contact for more info.

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There’s something interesting going on at the Queen’s House in Greenwich, to do with the use of plants. Checking the QH website, or searching the title (‘Unearthing season at Queen’s House’) on Google didn’t bring up anything though. Since found it, but too late.

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Below are messages created from lollipop sticks, I’m not sure what the round things with feathers are.

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Visitors were also invited to suggest what explorers to Lewisham would take back with them. Lewisham has a very big fruit and veg market… this suggestion featured a few times.

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Camberwell Free Film Festival – on now

Camberwell is a 14 minute train ride from Blackheath to Denmark Hill station, plus a 10 min walk into the main shopping bit of Camberwell, so pretty much half an hour door to door.Dulwich is a tiny little bit further away though.

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Camberwell Free Film Festival – 31 March to 10 April 2016

7 April (Thursday)
A girl walks home alone at night – 9pm, Jazz Live at the Crypt, Camberwell Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 23.28.05

8 April (Friday)
Another Sunday and Sweet FA + Fraktus – 7.45pm, Dulwich Hamlet Football Club

9 April (Saturday)
Paddington – 1pm, Sceaux Gardens Tenants and Residents Association – Camberwell
Changing face of Camberwell + Pool of London – 2pm, William Booth College – Camberwell
Bugsy Malone – 7.30pm, Longfield Hall – Camberwell

10 April (Sunday)
Suffragette – 2pm, William Booth College – Camberwell
Tangerine – 8pm, The Flying Dutchman – Camberwell


Getting there
It’s the Victoria train and it runs every half an hour, last one returning is 00:21 and if you miss it the N89 runs through Camberwell ‘village’ or the 185 and 484 buses go past Denmark Hill on their way to Lewisham.
[Find next train from Blackheath to Denmark Hill]
[Find next train from Denmark Hill to Blackheath]


Blackheath Village Day – horses, history, and terpsichore

On Friday I spotted a sign in a newsagent for a school jumble sale event, then noticed it was for July 2015. This has had me wondering about the fate of old A3/ A4/ A5 flyers advertising such events. Does anyone collect them for future archives, and displays about tombolas and booksales of the yesteryear-yet-to-be?

Recently I’ve been noticing some lovely signs around Blackheath again for the extravaganza to celebrate Blackheath Village Day and I spent much of yesterday wandering around the village enjoying the entertainment.

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First up was the spectacular wind which did this to the grass…

…and then we had the lovely Woolwich ponies parading around near Clarendon Hotel. These are the horses and riders of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery which is based in Woolwich and which has over 100 horses with coats of a beautiful chestnut brown (of varying shades).

Horses from Woolwich parading through Blackheath is a fairly regular sight in fact and happens two or three times a week (around 9am) with a rider on one horse in the middle with another horse on either side, plus a couple of main riders fore and aft handling just the one horse; about 33 horses in total go whizzing past. I’ve never seen them gallop but they can canter along at a good pace, pooing as they go.

Rock Choir were belting out some tunes as I walked down into the village, including one which I’d only ever thought of as music from an M&S advert – they were very good and had an enthusiastic crowd dancing along.

My ponderings about historic flyers were rewarded by a visit to the Bakehouse behind the Age Exchange which had an exhibition on the history of entertainment in Blackheath with copies of adverts for events in the 1800s and early 1900s, including reviews of some of them. I thought this review, from 1840, was a bit harsh…

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I hadn’t realised George Grossmith had entertained on local soil – he and his brother Weedon wrote the excellent The Diary of a Nobodyso it was nice to see his name appear a couple of times, one of a couple of names I immediately recognised (the other was William Webster).

The last time I was in the Bakehouse was years ago for a lunchtime film screening but I don’t think they do those anymore. Mind you there are film screenings on Wednesday evenings in Mycenae House (Blackheath Standard area).

The lantern-making workshop sounded fun but it was for children so I thought better of turning up – I’m now on the search for lantern-making workshops for grown ups though 😉

Then I came across Swing Patrol doing some dancing in the bitterly cold and blowy afternoon, they were fantastic and taught the crowd some Charleston steps too. They have a new course starting in Greenwich in January.

I didn’t stay around for the lantern procession or switch-on of the lights, but the Blackheath Christmas lights are apparently now ON.



Bunting, boats and bodging – #TallShips festival at Greenwich, September 2014

The Tall Ships Festival at Greenwich, North Greenwich and Woolwich is ending tomorrow but it has kept me entertained for the last few days while sailing home to Greenwich and Woolwich. I spent Sunday afternoon (7 September 2014) with some friends and their kids in Greenwich and we had a lovely day.

See the full gallery at Maritime Merriment on Flickr. They’re creative commons licensed so help yourself but please credit to Jodiepedia.
Skeins of dyed wool and some bunting
Lovely ships, some in sail, some not. Just to the left of the red-hulled ship is one of the Thames Clippers ferries heading towards Greenwich Pier.
Pole lathe turning aka bodging

Greenwich Regatta
Different angle on the lathe
Painted tent-top. Made me think of mediaeval knights and jousting though they didn’t have that at the festival. I’m guessing boats and horses don’t mix, for a variety of reasons.
Childe Roland to the dark tower came… (link isn’t to the Robert Browning poem but the fairy tale I knew from reading Rosemary Manning’s Green Smoke as a child, with a dragon who’d probably have liked the tent top above).
This impressed me. Someone has had the brilliant idea of setting up a walled pool of water and two large fans to give it a bit of wind. It was permanently surrounded by excited kids (we only saw one fall in) launching these little seemingly-unsinkable boats. The walls were flexible so people were pulling and pushing on them to create waves. It was fantastic!
We also popped in to the beautiful Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College. It’s full of tables (it’s a working dining hall) on which sit lots of these lovely candlesticks.