Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Wednesday, 16 August 2023

Making your event easy to use (film festival screenings in particular)

Pic credit: Dean Leggett

I help run a free film festival in Greenwich (specifically the Charlton and Woolwich Free Film Festival) and every year when preparing the listings I try and keep the following things in mind. My aim is to make it easy for people to know what to expect at our screenings and either reduce or at least draw attention to any barriers.

1. Subtitles / captions

If a film screening can be subtitled then that helps to include people who are d/Deaf or who have a degree of hearing loss or audio processing difficulties. Those difficulties can also be exacerbated by the acoustics of the venue. 

Even people with good or perfectly adequate hearing (me!) can pick up extra stuff they'd not even realised they'd missed. For me it helps solidify how place or character names are spelled which generally helps me remember and know what's going on. 

Subtitles do exclude people who find them a visual distraction though. They also tend to appear on-screen just before the character speaks them, so can ruin the joke or flow a bit. 

It's fine to have no subtitles but the most important thing is to state whether a film will have them or not. Just let people know.

Also if you are subtitling a film that gives you access to another advertising venue:

In my own listings I've used the "Regional Indicator Symbol Letter S" to denote subtitled events πŸ‡Έ

2. ♿️ Wheelchair accessibility: venue and loos

A venue may be wheelchair accessible but if the screening room is upstairs and there's no lift... not so much. If possible visit the venue yourself and see but if you are able-bodied you may miss some subtle things that seem fine but which might be a barrier or annoyance to someone using a wheelchair. A good website to check a venue's accessibility is - with information gathered by people who've visited a site and know what to look out for.

For a film screening many people can manage the couple of hours duration without needing a loo, but others will need to know the loo situation, particularly if coming from work or elsewhere. It's a helpful kindness to say in your advertising blurb if there is only a standard loo or if it's accessible. Emojis are a quick shorthand but do also write it out for users of screenreaders.

♿️ 🚽 ❌
♿️ 🚽 ✅

3. Different exits?

This one is my pet peeve and I've been to two events which caused me a bit of stress on leaving as I'd not been aware before the screening that we'd all be leaving a park by a different gate from the ones we'd come in by. 

Open air park screenings are fantastic but parks often close during the screening and everyone is shuttled through a single exit. This can be a bit of an unpleasant surprise. Sometimes there's a financial cost too, e.g. I can walk into the top of Greenwich Park and walk home from the same gate, but if we're all leaving by Cutty Sark at the bottom that's a bus ride home or a longer walk up a steep hill. Fine, but helpful to be able to plan for this (particularly, I would assume, for people using wheelchairs). 

Also for me personally, having no sense of direction I prefer to know exactly where I'm heading for on leaving and can't necessarily guarantee a good signal to get that info from the CityMapper app!


4. What3Words location markers

These are super helpful for outdoor events where people might need to know the location of any preferred (nearest, or where the ticket-checkers are) entrance, the exit and the actual screening area if a walk is involved. Adding a link to the Google Maps map is also very helpful as people can zoom in and see what the nearest bus stops are, plus other transport options or nearest car park.

This one will give you a nice view of the row of cherry trees in April: stay.path.wizard

Tuesday, 8 August 2023

Imaginary GCSE Magic

I remember the first time I saw my colleague Paul do magic at a work event I was at. It was great fun anyway but he also linked some of the science of the tricks to the science behind the work that we were doing (medical device safety) and honestly my mind was just ever so slightly blown by that. 

He and our colleague Peter McOwan (who died in 2019) at QMUL used magic to talk about computing and maths topics as well as human-computer interaction, particularly in schools talks. One example is that a trick has a set of steps to be followed (a bit like a computer algorithm) and also a method of getting the audience to 'look over there' (a bit like the user experience). 

Paul's just published a book (co-written with Peter with additional material added after Peter's death) called Conjuring with Computation which is for sale, but almost all of Paul and Peter's magic-themed output via CS4FN (Computer Science For Fun) is completely free, and brilliant. 

There are lots of fascinating overlaps between magic and computational thinking, and lots of discussion about teaching computational thinking in schools. It has wide applicability (a way of approaching and solving tasks that can be useful beyond programming). 

This thought now keeps popping into my head: should magic be taught in schools? And if so what would the curriculum be...

I'm neither a teacher nor a magician but in line with my series of "Imaginary" posts here's what I have let my mind come up with while on longer bus journeys...

Magic Circle - 15th Century manuscript via Wikipedia


✨ Imaginary GCSE Magic

Firstly it would be super interdisciplinary, linking to other different curricula including history, maths, chemistry and so on. See how we've sneaked computing into various other subjects in our 'Computing and...' interdisciplinary computational thinking page. Also I came up with an interdisciplinary game (Combining Careers) where you pick two topics and try and come up with a job that incorporates both - I think this was inspired by hearing about a Cow Historian on the TV programme Coast and learning about a Hairdressing Archaeologist who works out how complex hairdos of yore were actually put together.

Presentation skills πŸ–₯
A bit of showmanship is quite handy when doing magic tricks, learning how to work with and respond to an audience, that sort of thing. Obviously a magician pretty much also has to lie to their audience so I might not want to take that too far with a classroom - but the audience know they're being led a merry dance at least.

The importance of practice
You can't just learn a trick and then do it, it needs repeated application and effort - a useful thing to learn.

Critical thinking skills, spotting pseudoscience
I remember reading or hearing James Randi say that the faces of 'psychics' would blench somewhat when they knew he was in the audience. The strategies of cold-reading and hot-reading can be (mis)used to give the impression of supernatural knowledge, or used to debunk nonsense. General 'logical thinking' skills, always useful.

You could really go to town on the history of magic (both as a form of entertainment as well as a deliberate deception). The history of women accused of witchcraft and how they were treated too

Botany and chemistry etc ⚗️
I think the Harry Potter-ish aspects of Herbology and Potions can definitely be included here. I like to think that either the text books or lab notebooks can be made to look a bit steampunk too, with lots of lovely drawings and doodles in the margins. Anyway the chemistry syllabus in its entirety is magic, converting one thing to another and emitting colourful light
🎨  and heat πŸ”₯and useful products. Practicals would definitely include re-creating 'mauveine' from highly dangerous chemicals and making explosions πŸ§¨ from metals in water etc. 

Poisonous and hallucinatory plant products would get an airing - I suspect my GCSE wouldn't pass health and safety checks. Plants are also inherently magical, turning light and carbon dioxide into glucose and oxygen.

Also the history of folk beliefs and superstitions, and plant-based cures for various ailments.

Obvious things like 'how are we fooled?' and how to avoid getting duped (incredibly widely applicable!). I might also bring in things like sound design in TV/film/theatre and film scores and how they can augment what an audience is feeling

I don't really know much about quantum stuff but it sounds pretty magical, possibly that can be incorporated!

Drama / acting
I think it's pretty magical that a person on stage can say some words and affect the emotional state of the audience, even without fancy set design.

Film / CGI
Literally creating something from nothing through the medium of pixels. Miraculous.

The nature of believing something which may or may not be true.

Maths and magic
This is already pretty well mapped out (we have some books on Maths and magic^^) but thing like trigonometry, Fibonacci weirdness, solving problems, mathematical curiosities. Also Islamic and Celtic art and patterns follow maths structures and the result is pretty magical but I may be stretching the meaning somewhat :)

A nice mix of physics, maths, acoustics and emotion. It's basically alchemy.

What would you have in your Imaginary GCSE Magic course?


Sunday, 23 July 2023

Maps of where you can see real gas lamps (lit with gas!) in London

London has lots of lamps that are lit by gas! Here is where you can spot them.

Pic credit: me.
Three types of gas lamps commonly seen in London. On the left is a Windsor style lamp outside the National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square which is lit with a gas flame. The middle and right pictures both show mantle-style lamps, middle is a Grosvenor lantern on New Row in Covent Garden, rightmost picture is an upright Rochester outside Theatre Royal Drury Lane but taken on Catherine Street (outside The Garden at The Lane restaurant). Westminster lampspotters' guide: PDF


1a. London's gas lamps - focused area maps

These precise maps of specific areas of Westminster (where gas lamps were under threat, though 174 are to be retained and not converted to LEDs) are from The London Gasketeers and London Lamplighters.

Pic credit: The London Gasketeers and London Lamplighters' maps showing the precise positions of London's lamps that are lit with gas. More examples below.

• Carlton House Terrace:
• Covent Garden: or
• Horse Guards and surrounding areas:
• Green Park:
• The Mall

Instagram, for photos of individual lamps
The London Gasketeers | London_Lamplighters | WSuggLighting


(Tweet above includes a short video)


1b. London's gas lamps - walks, photos etc

Guided walk
Old Westminster by Gaslight from - every Monday 

Gas lights in London - a pictorial walk from the Petroleum Philatelic Society International, including local items of historical interest and some photographs of stamps depicting same.

Hidden in plain sight: London's gas lighting from Look Up London.

Exploring London's last gas lamps from London X London. Note that the photo accompanying info about the patent sewer gas lamp is of the one further up the road outside the Coal Hole pub. If you were in the photo just turn 180˚, walk down the stairs and head towards the river, the Webb sewer gas destructor lamp is on your right.

London X London have also created a Google Map (the sewer lamp is marked in the right spot):

2. London's gas lamps - Google Maps map of wider London

There are 1,500 gas lamps in London and I'm adding some of them to this zoomable map. Currently there are about 50 there, plus 30 or so that I've not confirmed as gas-lit or which may have been converted to LED. All pic credits me / Google.

Google Maps map of gas lamps in London. Blue are lit with gas, orange = not sure etc.

Map as above but zoomed in, showing purple (the one in St James' Park decorated for royal events) and green flame (the sewer gas destructor lamp on Carting Lane) lamp markers.

Zoomed in: the blue map marker at Lazenby Court (near
Garrick Street) has been selected, an info panel appears on the left.

You can zoom in and click on any of the flames to find out more about that lamp (legend and info at the end).


3. Interactive map of London's gas lamps (historic)

British Gas used to have this map (link no longer works) on its website according to this Londonist article

Here's an archived copy of the 'Ye Olde Lamplighters Map of London' from Buckingham Palace to Covent Garden. The link at the top right saying 'Download PDF' no longer works which means the PDF doesn't seem to have been saved on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. The filename is Lamplighters_Map.pdf in case you have a copy and want to let me know about it :)

4. Background to the Google Maps map

In October last year I discovered, to my amazement, that we have several (~1,500) actual real-life gas lamps in London. I found out about it when 275 of the ones in Westminster were under threat of being converted to LED lighting and there was a campaign to prevent this (Westminster City Council has agreed to retain 174 gas lamps).

I wanted to go and have a look at them. As someone very new to gas lamps I wasn't sure how obvious it was going to be which were definitely gas lit and which were replicas (its generally fairly obvious though if the lamp's been converted to bright LEDs and the gas-handling mechanism is completely absent). Have a look at Westminster's 'photos of lanterns' PDF to see what I mean. Page 1 shows three kinds of lanterns lit by gas, page 2 shows same kinds but converted to gas-effect LEDs.

Also there are lots of lamp posts in London and there are some streets that have a gas lamp on them but also has non-gas lamps, so information at the level of a street isn't much help - I needed more precision. 

There are over 80 lamps listed on the Google Map (I created it with lots of input from helpful people on Twitter who suggested additions or corrections) of which over 50 are marked in a blue flame to indicate that I'm reasonably confident they're lit with gas. Red flame ones are those that have been converted to LED and orange ones I've not been able to determine. If you visit the map and click on any of the flames you'll find some information about them.

For some of the flame map markers I've found photos of the gas lamp on Flickr and, where the licence permits, I've added those in (with credit). I've also "driven" up and down streets (with a mouse!) via Google Streetview then zoomed in to see if a lamp has its gas mechanism in place. An incredibly useful resource has been the Instagram pages of The London Gasketeers, Sugg Lighting (who have been creating and repairing lanterns since 1837) and the London Lamplighters (the people who maintain London's gas lighting), all linked above. 


5. Copy of the (quite long!) text that's on my Google Maps map

There's a lot of text there and it involves a bit of scrolling to see it when on the map. Here it is all at a glance (and also more searchable via Google, which the map isn't).

The map's short link is
You have my permission to use this map in any legal way :) I don't know how to make the map CC0 (public domain) but note that any linked images (e.g. on Flickr will have their own licences).

Click on any flame on the map for more localised info.

πŸ”΅ πŸ”₯ Blue flame = lit by gas
πŸ’” Red flame = not lit by gas
🀒 Green flame = Carting Lane sewer gas destructor lamp, off Strand btwn Savoy and Thames
🍊Orange flame = gas status unsure
πŸ’œ Purple flame = lamp that was redecorated for the Queen's Jubilee then for the King's Coronation.

Links below - for desktop computer users: right click, open in new browser tab.

More precise maps of specific areas of London are available from The London Gasketeers on their website (includes Carlton House Terrace) and their Instagram page (@TheLondonGasketeers, specifically
• Covent Garden:
• Horse Guards and surrounding areas:
• Green Park:

See also @London_Lamplighters ( on Instagram, the "Service and Repair engineers maintaining London’s Historic gas lamps" for additional photos and locations.

London gas lamp trails: and (though the PDF it links to has disappeared)

The lamps in Westminster WERE under threat (see,  @LondonGasketeer (Twitter) and @thelondongasketeers/ (Instagram), also Facebook, thelondongasketeers for more info) and Most (but not all) have had a reprieve and efforts are ongoing to get some unlisted lamps listed to give their heritage some protection, see and for more.

I thought I'd go and see some gas lamps in Westminster borough with a pal while that's still possible so have made a map to help us track them down. This is where some of London's lamps are that are still lit by gas. Much of the data is taken from the internet so treat with caution. I've expanded beyond Westminster (those outside that borough don't seem to be under immediate threat).

Westminster City Council's review CLOSED on SUNDAY 20 NOV 2022

Old map (archived) from British Gas

Pics of the 3 main different kinds in Westminster (Rochester, Windsor & Grosvenor) (opens as PDF).

upright Rochester -, see also the similar Littleton

Pembroke -


Search terms: where are the gas lamps in London? where can I see London's gas lamps, map of London's gas lanterns, are there gas lamps in London?

Tuesday, 20 June 2023

Science festival packing list - string, scissors etc and other practicalities

Tape: brown packing tape, sellotape, masking tape, Pens: marker pens, biro pens, colouring in pens, Pencils: colouring in pencils, pencil sharpener, Tethering: string, glue (Pritt stick), blue tack, cable ties, Cutting: kid-safe scissors for activities, scissors for adults, scalpel or other thing to cut open boxes of material, Decorations: laminated sheets, logos, QR codes, bunting, painted stone weights, plastic table cloths, Other useful items: small plastic boxes to put pens / pencils in, plain paper, hole puncher, comments book + pen, evaluation forms (if used), stickers, post-it notes, Health & Safety: baby wipes, antibac spray, plasters, note location of medical tent once on-site, black bin bag for waste, green bin bag for recyclables, Packing: return address labels, pen to address, tape + scissors.

Festival of Communities 2023 - marquee at the ready

I did a stall at an event on 10th June. The event itself wasn't actually a science festival (much wider remit, across all departments of QMUL and with stalls from local Tower Hamlets organisations too) so I did struggle a bit with the title of this post! 

Trapping the packing list info (summary above, detail below) will certainly be useful for me the next time I do this, and I thought it may be useful for others. 

During the preparation phase of this particular event I've made, as I always do, extensive use of WorkFlowy the excellent free list-wrangling tool that I've used for at least a decade. You can write a to do list as bullet points, then click a button to mark-as-complete any of your list items. You can also move tasks within the bullet point list (up and down, or indented). It's fab. You can view my WorkFlowy event-packing list.

Anyway, here's the annotated list with explanation.

Tape (masking, sellotape and packing tape)
Masking: We produce 20 page A4 magazines which come in cardboard boxes which double up as transport for everything I do. A bit of packing tape strengthens the joins and closes them so that tape is essential - I keep one in a box and one in my bag.

Sellotape: Some of our activities involve folding paper and taping it together so sellotape for that (also need scissors that will cut sellotape and kid-friendly paper-cutting scissors don't). Definitely keep adult-friendly scissors in your bag too.

Masking tape: just useful to have around. Sometimes you can hold something in place or stick it to the wall of the marquee tent (where other tape is not allowed).

Pens (marker, colouring in)
Marker pens: useful for re-addressing boxes if you can't find the labels you so carefully placed at the top of one of them...

Biros: if you have any evaluation forms that you want adults to fill in they'll find these types of pens a bit easier than colouring in pens.

Colouring in pens: for colouring in various activities. Downside of pens is loss of lids and mess.

Coloured pencils: often preferable to pens but less vibrancy in coloured in items.

Pencil sharpener: several of these usually on the go. 

Festival of Communities 2023 - coloured pencils and some stickers

Tethering (string, glue (Pritt stick), blue tack, cable ties)
100% promise you that you'll be glad you packed these. Cable ties are great for pinning up laminated QR codes. We use glue sticks for some of our paper-based activities. 

Kid-safe scissors: useful for cutting paper not much else

Adult scissors: useful for cutting sellotape, but keep away from activity table and stow in bag.

Scalpel: ideal for opening boxes of material without damaging. Keep very much away from children. Know where your plasters are before making your first cut.

Festival of Communities 2023 - the post box

You probably want to make your stall look nice and inviting. A few years ago I made some bunting with our project's logo on it, printed the bunts out on A4 paper then laminated them. Hole punch and connect with a bit of string. We also have stones painted with our logo on (stones and paint from Hobbycraft) - these are for holding things down when the wind gets up. Plus bits of paper saying what we do that adults can take away. For drive-by visitors we have QR codes that take people to our website - you can create a link and get a QR code from that, or you can use QRstuff to get one. 

Other useful items
Because we have so many pens and pencils I got some cheapo collapsible plastic boxes to put them in from a pound shop (they usually cost about £5 each), plain paper is always useful as is a hole puncher (for affixing bunting via holes for string, or laminates with cable ties etc). We always have a comments book plus pen - visitors use the front, stallholders can add notes at the back for future improvements. We don't always use evaluation forms on stalls but I'm adding it in so I don't forget. If you've got kids doing an activity they might like a sticker that says "I did this activity". I make all of ours using Ryman's labels and mailmerge, with the design done in a combination of Inkscape (free) and PowerPoint (not free). Post-it notes are always handy.

Festival of Communities 2023 - coloured stickers

Health & Safety
Obviously you need to do a risk assessment before the event anyway but it's also a good idea to pack some plasters (paper cuts!) and antibacterial wipes / spray etc. To keep your stall tidy I recommend a black bin liner for waste and a green one for recyclable stuff which you can then decant into the official bins (or take home!). Once on site make sure you know where the medical tent is so that you can tell others on the stall and point any injured members of the public towards.

Packing to go home again
At the end of the event anything to be returned needs to be boxed up and addressed. I usually print large address labels and stick these on the tops of boxes. But if you can't find them (it happens!) then some of that plain paper, the marker pens, your scissors and tape will help. You'll need the packing tape to secure the boxes and scissors to cut it.

Tuesday, 13 June 2023

The 'sextortion' bitcoin email scam is back

Found this in the Spam mailbox on one of my email accounts today. It's a load of tosh copied and pasted and sent out in the hope that someone will bite. I see the address has already been reported, and it looks like some people have sent money. I've forwarded it to Action Fraud and have added my report to those already on ChainAbuse / Bitcoin Abuse.

If you get one of these do not give them money. They are talking nonsense.

Screenshots at the end.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - 

From ""


I'm a hacker and have successfully managed to hack your operating system.
Currently I have gained full access to your account.

I've been watching you for a few months now ╭ α‘Ž ╮

The fact is that your computer has been infected with malware through an adult site that you visited.
If you are not familiar with this, I will explain.
Trojan virus gives me full access and control over a computer or other device.
This means that I can see everything on your screen, turn on the camera and microphone, but you do not know about it.
I also have access to all your contacts and all your correspondence.

You may be wondering why your antivirus cannot detect my malicious software.
The malware I used is driver-based, I update its signatures every 4 hours.
Hence your antivirus is unable to detect its presence.

I made a video showing how you satisfy yourself in the left half of the screen,
and the right half shows the video you were watching at the time.

With one mouse click, I can send this video to all your emails and contacts on your social networks.
I can also make public all your e-mail correspondence and chat history on the messengers that you use.

I believe you would definitely want to avoid this from happening.
Here is what you need to do - transfer the Bitcoin equivalent of $500 to my Bitcoin account
(that is rather a simple process, which you can check out online in case if you don't know how to do that).

Below is my bitcoin account information:

Once the required amount is transferred to my account, I will proceed with deleting all those videos and disappear from your life once and for all.
Kindly ensure you complete the abovementioned transfer within 52 hours (more than 2 days).
I will receive a notification right after you open this email, hence the countdown will start.

Trust me, I am very careful, calculative and never make mistakes.
If I discover that you shared this message with others, I will straight away proceed with making your private videos public.

Have a nice day! 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - 
1. Image above shows google search results from entering the bitcoin wallet into the search bar.
2. Image above shows two reports already made by other people about this address

3. Image above is a screenshot of the email sent to one of my Gmail addresses, as it appears in the spam folder.