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Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime

Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime

Val McDermid


An easy-to-read and broad-ranging exploration of forensics. The fact that McDermid is a crime fiction author clearly makes a difference, as she writes with the ease of someone used to making these ideas accessible. The book ranges over all aspects of forensic science, perhaps being strongest on the physical aspects like fingerprinting and DNA profiling. What comes out most strongly is the need for an holistic approach to investigation, the ways in which all the different aspects of a case – physical, psychological, and circumstantial – need to be fitted together to form a consistent scientific and criminal narrative.

4/5. Finished 02 December 2015.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

The First Salute

The First Salute

Barbara W. Tuchman


A broad and fast-moving account of the endgame in the American War of Independence.

I'm an enormous fan of Tuchman, but this is far from being her best work. She still has the same eye for detail, same same telling turn of phrase, but the narrative is a little confused and the timeline hard to follow. She deals with some of the same issues in The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam, a much better book. I think the weakness in this book stems from her taking an explicitly American perspective ("our country", "our leaders") which is missing from her other work: while she remains as even-handed as ever, and is far from being an American jingoist, it strikes an awkward note.

Having said that, there is huge satisfaction is hearing about the naval side of the war, the decisive influence of sea power on victory, as well as the details of 18th century naval warfare and the various characters involved. I was unaware of the degree to which France – and especially the French navy – was involved directly in the war, to the extent of dramatically affecting and constraining possible British strategic moves. Tuchman describes their motivations with exquisite care, as well as those of the newly-independent Dutch, showing how American independence was only part of the larger game of European power politics.

4/5. Finished 31 October 2015.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

The History Of The Runestaff (Panther Books)

The History Of The Runestaff (Panther Books)

Michael Moorcock


"Justice is not the Law; it is not Order, as human beings normally speak of it; it is Justice -- Equilibrium, the Correction of the Balance."

This is one of the classic "swords and sorcery" series, a model for many that followed. Full of irony and wonderfully drawn scenes that a reader can visualise despite their fundamental and well-crafted alien-ness. I first read this work over twenty years ago, and my older self still loves it.

The story follows the adventures of Dorian Hawkmoon and companions as they fight the Dark Empire of Granbretan (nice touch, that) in a far post-apocalypic future. And defeat it, of course, though not before most of them die: this is fantasy fiction, after all. The plot is quite simple, in the sense that final victory is never seriously in question and momentary difficulties are quickly overcome. But that's to quibble, and to ignore Moorcock's skill as a fantasy writer, his ability to create a world that's fundamentally still human despite its strange features and magical powers.

5/5. Finished 10 October 2015.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

Atul Gawande


An exploration of end-of-life care – something that's of interest to us all, of course, but very seldom addressed properly. And that's Gawande's essential point: people leave decisions about their last days until their last days, and so have a far worse time of it than perhaps they need to.

There's much more to this book that this, though. Gawande explores the different approaches to assisted living and hospice care, the ways in which focusing on social rather than medical aspects can lead to far better outcomes, and shares his own family's experiences with the difficulties that gradual illness can bring. (This is perhaps the greatest contribution of the book, and shows an enormous openness of spirit to share something so personal.) He demolishes the utopian visions of multi-generational living that sometimes cloud the debate, showing that this brings its own tensions: different to those of our more individualistic society, but certainly no less divisive. If nothing else, he shows that there is an alternative to medicalising old age, and that this is something we should all work towards in our own self-interest.

4/5. Finished 27 September 2015.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

PhD data science studentships available at Trinity College Dublin

There are five PhD posts on offer to work with the ADAPT Centre.

Benefits: Payment of tax-free stipend for 4 years.

In addition, payment of academic fees; fully for EU students and partially for non-EU students.

General enquires concerning this post can be addressed to

Initial deadline is October 7th 2015, but with each position remaining open until filled. This and other positions listed under vacancies at:

Research Topic

Increasingly in data-driven enterprises, organisations are having to cope with a wide variety of information sources and standards, leading to a lack of interoperability and increasing data integration costs. Resulting labour-intensive data integration practices are brittle in the face of accelerating innovation in data-driven applications and growing demand for agile data analytics. At the same time organisations must react to increasing public and legislative focus on privacy and data protection. Empowering users to control the information that flows around them in a privacy-sensitive and personalised manner also offers many challenges.

These 5 PhD positions will advance the state of the art in linked data, semantic web and personalisation technologies to explore new approaches to data integration that are self-managing (towards autonomic), and in addition explore new ways to deliver personalised multimodal information (towards a digital companion).

These posts are part of the new ADAPT Centre ( ADAPT has received €50 Million research funding from Industry and Science Foundation Ireland to support 120 researchers across 4 universities in Dublin. The ADAPT Centre’s mission is to produce world class research that delivers disruptive innovations for the digital media and intelligent content industry. These PhD positions will be supervised by a member of the following ADAPT Centre academics; Professor Vincent Wade, Professor Declan O’Sullivan, Professor Dave Lewis, Professor Owen Conlan and Dr Rob Brennan.

ADAPT is Ireland’s global centre of excellence for digital content and media innovation. Led by TCD, it combines the expertise of researchers at four universities (Trinity College Dublin, Dublin City University, University College Dublin, and Dublin Institute of Technology) with that of its industry partners to produce ground-breaking digital content innovation.

ADAPT brings together more than 120 researchers who collectively have won more than €100m in funding and have a strong track record of transferring world-leading research and innovations to more than 140 companies. With EURO 50M in new research funding from Science Foundation Ireland and industry, ADAPT is seeking talented individuals to join its growing research team. Our research and technologies will continue to help businesses in all sectors and drive back the frontiers of future Web engagement.

Why join ADAPT @ TCD

  • Work on hard, relevant problems in an interdisciplinary and exciting research environment. The ADAPT Centre combines expertise of researchers at Trinity College Dublin, Dublin City University, University College Dublin and Dublin Institute of Technology. It brings together more than 120 researchers who have collectively won more than €100M in competitive research funding and have an international track record of bridging research and innovations to more than 140 companies. With €50M in new research funding from SFI and industry, ADAPT research and technologies will help businesses in all sectors to manage, personalise and deliver digital content more effectively.
  • Work in a University where excellence of research is valued. Trinity College Dublin is Ireland’s premier University and is ranked in 71st position in the top 100 world universities by the QS World University Rankings 2014.
  • Work in a centre focussed on advancing your career. Whether you want to take an academic, industrial, or entrepreneurial career path, ADAPT prides itself in the support and mentoring that enables all its Students and early-stage researchers to reach their full potential. This year alone its postdoc-to-PI programme has helped three postdocs transition to be Principal Investigators on their own H2020 projects, while four others have recently won funding with ADAPT support to realise the commercialisation of their research through spin outs and licensing.


The successful candidate will have an excellent academic record (first class or II.1 primary degree) in Computer Science or a related discipline. Experience in Knowledge Engineering is a distinct advantage. The successful candidate will be highly motivated, with strong written and oral communication skills and a demonstrated proficiency in software development, with strong design and programming skills. They must be eager to work in and learn from multi-disciplinary and multi-organisation teams. They should have English language certification if English is not their first language, the requirement being: IELTS: 7.0+, TOEFL iBT: 100+, TOEFL pBT: 600+, CEF: C1+, or equivalent.

Application Procedure

For further information and informal contact, please refer to the PhD topic details. Please apply via email to, referencing this advert, and including:

  • A targeted cover letter (600-1000 words) expressing your suitability for a position
  • A complete CV

There will be an interview process; a successful candidate will then be invited to apply via the TCD graduate studies admission system.