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Below are links to articles published on the web, by year from 2013-2019. (a brief description is included). For articles written prior to 2013, there is a link at the bottom of this page to the article archive (2002 - 2012). writing in Cambridge


Einstein - The happiest thought of my life

Published on December 7, 2018

Einstein’s ground-breaking insight in 1907 was that gravity is not a force at all, but is the same thing as acceleration, an idea he called the “principle of equivalence”.

Click here to read the full article

A story of science and music

Published on November 30, 2018

We tend to think of MIT as a centre of technology and innovation; I have now learnt that it is also a centre for the arts.

Click here to read the full article

Humans succeed in two key ventures

Published on November 27th, 2018

In 2017 we reached a quite historic point in time, the number of people on our planet connected to the Internet exceeded 50%. This year the number topped 4 Billion! These statistics are impressive, but what does all this really mean for us?

We sometimes worry about what the “immediacy” of modern communications can mean, but certainly in the case of the recent broadcast of the InSight mission to Mars over the Internet, we have been able to participate in something quite special, through our communications systems.

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How do I get the best from my Broadband?

Published on November 16th, 2018

A friend recently suggested that I might attempt to de-mystify how the UK’s Broadband service works, with the objective of helping people to get the best from their service. He also suggested that explaining in simple terms why plugging your modem into the socket closest to the external cable can make your Broadband speed better, would also be useful.

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Broadband speed, how much is enough?

Published on October 22nd, 2018

Our “thirst” for bandwidth and fast connectivity currently appears to be almost boundless, with our changing lifestyles and our need to be entertained at a time that suits us, this demand seems set to only increase. So what do we really need?

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Innovation: The spark that brings an organisation to life

Published on September 28th, 2018

Innovation (n.): (The use of) a new idea or method

One of the greatest sources of harm to an organisation is the myth that innovation is carried out by technical geniuses in some ivory tower. In fact, innovation can happen anywhere and everywhere. Anyone who thinks that they have a better, more efficient way of doing a task or process is innovating, but their organisation must acknowledge it as such and support them, which very often fails to happen.

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Gravity; not quite what we thought

Published on September 5th, 2018

A Special on Gravity

The article examines what we know about gravity and how that has changed in light of Einstein's special relativity. It also looks at some of the very latest tests of the theory and concludes with a simple experiment in maths - an apple falling in curved space.

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Not Easy, but also Not Optional

Published on July 13, 2018

Why do organisations fail to recognise the skills of their best people?

Over the years I have been privileged in meeting some truly outstanding people, but every one of them has experienced the same issue; frustration with their organisation not recognising or utilising their strengths and skills. What can we do about this?

This short article examines the issues and puts forward some ways in which we can improve how we manage our people.

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What is an Engineer?

Published on June 15, 2018

In my experience, really good engineers are often looked upon as having “special powers”, such as being able to see the solution to a problem when others can’t. However in reality they will have learned to keep an open mind and follow a logical set of mental processes supported by their knowledge and experience. They will also have learned to “listen” carefully to those around them, who will often know the solution to a problem, without ever realising it.

{This post was originally written for the Pembroke College, Cambridge, Social Network}.

Click here to read the full article

Note: a reading (audio file) of the article can be accessed here

The journey from Taylorism to Lean manufacturing

22nd May 2018

A manufacturing system often consists of the following processes; design, materials selection and processing, assembly, and quality control. Maximum productivity of a given manufacturing system can be obtained only through optimization of the entire system rather than through optimization of its components individually.
Moreover the “tweaking” of individual system components, by their owners/managers, often seems like a good idea, but unless the system is viewed as a whole, it will almost certainly reduce in efficiency when components are “optimized” by their owners/managers!

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gaia: our galaxy revealed

16th May 2018

Gaia is an ambitious mission to chart a three-dimensional map of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, in the process revealing the composition, formation and evolution of the Galaxy.
Within days of receiving the massive amounts of data being collected by gaia, astronomers are producing high resolution and fly through images of our galaxy, such as have never been seen before.

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Dawn of a new era of space exploration

19th April 2018

Just over fifty years ago the human race constructed a machine of awesome power. It was built to carry just three human beings on the greatest voyage the peoples of our small blue green planet had ever conceived, a mission to the moon.
But earlier this year, on February 6th, we saw the results of a “commercial launch”, from Cape Canaveral in Florida, with the spectacle of the Elon Musk venture, Falcon Heavy. Then only last week we read of a new venture to create a hybrid jet/rocket motor suitable for future space missions.
With the demonstration of a lower cost heavy lift launch vehicle, much of which is reusable and the creation of a hybrid jet/rocket engine able to take a space vehicle from launch to orbit in a single step, we may be seeing the essential elements of the next major space mission being realized.

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An amazing scientific legacy

7th April 2018

When I heard recently that we had lost one of our great minds, Stephen Hawking, I felt a little guilty. I had been given a copy of his book, A Brief History of Time, when it was published, but had only dipped into it. To this day it sits, largely unread, alongside Kip Thorne's book, Black Holes & Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy, on the bookshelf in my office.
It was this feeling that perhaps I had not given Stephen's work the engagement that I should have, that motivated me to visit the Centre for Mathematical Sciences at Cambridge a few days later, and to sit in the café close to his office, reading two of his key research papers.

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Look up at the stars and not down at your feet

26th March 2018

This year, in just a few months time we may be able to carry out some detailed measurements of a very large black hole, in our neighborhood!
At the centre of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, there is thought to be a supermassive black hole, known as “Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*)”. This black hole is approximately 26,000 light-years away from us.
The black hole is thought to have a mass of just over 4 Million times that of our Sun; this would give it an event horizon radius of approximately 11.8 Million km, or about 7.3 Million Miles.

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A time to rest, recover and reflect

23rd December 2017

We (Tanya Goldhaber and I) have come to understand, through chatting with our friends and colleagues, that rest and especially sleep while being essential, is still a misunderstood part of our lives. As hopefully everyone should all have a little more time to read over the next couple of weeks, we have written a piece on sleep and its relationship with our memories.

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Disruption to thinking alert!

22nd October 2017

Our concentration on an important computer based task can easily be destroyed by the "e-mail alert". The "ping" from our phone or the message box on our screen, either of these can distract us from our current task. And of course if we take a look at the new message we have been alerted to, we fool ourselves into thinking that we are "multi-tasking" and that taking this action is a very productive use of our time.

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UK Productivity - Management 101?

6th October 2017

Something many of us have been well aware of for a long time has suddenly become headline news this week, poor UK productivity results from poor management!

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Thought Experiments: A useful tool, or unnecessary distraction?

16th August 2017

In business, thought experiments, "what ifs" conducted in the mind, can provide clarity and direction, if carried out with an open mind.

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Please cite as: Patmore, J. J. (2017) Thought Experiments: A useful tool, or unnecessary distraction. University of Cambridge. doi: 10.13140/RG.2.2.30376.06407 .

Our mobile life: Finland

7th August 2017

It is while travelling in Finland that I seem to experience the full impact the Smartphone coupled with ubiquitous mobile Internet access. Whether waiting at Tikkurila station for the train from Helsinki or sitting on the Inter City express, everywhere people are using their Smartphones to communicate, access information, share media and listen to music.

It certainly appears that their phones have become more than mere communications devices and are now both extensions of themselves as well as archives of their lives.

Click here to read the full article

Innovation must be led from the very top

30th May 2017

In business, complacency will almost certainly lead to a slide into irrelevance. Innovation is the survival engine for almost every organisation.

Recent history has shown us that a successful innovation strategy can provide new products and services, new revenue streams, new partnerships and access to new markets. So while innovation is broadly recognised not just as a good idea but as a necessity, why is it our experience that far too many organisations fail to utilise it effectively?

Click here to read the full article

Please cite as: Patmore, J. J. and Goldhaber, T. (2017) Innovation must be led from the very top. University of Cambridge. doi: 10.13140/rg.2.2.19756.46729.

Remembering and Time Travel

23rd April 2017

The human mind can provide us with the amazing ability to travel back in time; our memories can certainly enhance our actions today and more than that they can help us to shape our direction in future times, we just need to keep an open mind.

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Gravity emerges from history

6th April 2017

Whether studying gravitational waves or the accretion disk around massive a black hole, we strive to create models that let us grasp space and time. Will gravity prove to be an emergent phenomenon and will we need to rewrite Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity, those are the big questions which must be answered.

However what is clear is that we are getting a lot closer to the truth, and with this truth gravity can emerge from history with its role both in the past and in the future of our universe understood.

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A Confluence of AI technologies

18th March 2017

There have been three key developments in technologies associated with AI , computer vision, common sense systems and consolidated learning systems, although they did not all happen at the same time, their combined existence together brings us to a unique point in time (a confluence of AI technologies). Is this the time when a major leap forward in Artificial Intelligence can take place?

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The wandering storyteller comes of age.

10th March 2017

We are experiencing a shift in the way video content is able to be produced and viewed in the home, with HD, UHD, 3D and 360. The technology to view all of these simply and easily through a single device in the home still has a little way to go, as has the ubiquity of high speed network access. But as technologies and tools develop we should be able to experience and interact with content in new ways which are both pleasing and unique.

NB: To view the 360-degree videos you will need a compatible browser, currently Google Chrome, Firefox or Opera.

Click here to read the full article

An entanglement of space and time.

18th February 2017

Are we any closer to a unified theory? I really don’t know, but certainly there are some really big questions being asked and they are both opening up new lines of thought and questioning existing assumptions, which must be good.
But what I find truly amazing is that Einstein knew there was more to do. He believed quantum mechanics was correct, but desperately wanted to find a way to "complete" quantum mechanics so it made sense, something I would support!

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Management, myth or marvel?

17th February 2017

When I chat to industry people about their businesses I am increasingly concerned about the constant failures they report. It does not seem to matter if it is in the UK, mainland Europe or the US; these failures in “management” do seem to be occurring almost everywhere.
Now perhaps I am viewing things too simplistically, but the failures these people report seem to be really basic.

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TV, I want to be entertained

29th January 2017

We are experiencing a revolution in content, consumer equipment and communications; when all of these come together successfully our viewing experience will no doubt be greatly enhanced. Hopefully the comment “nothing to watch” will be consigned to history and when we need to be “entertained” at the end of a long day, it will an easy task to find just the right content to loose ourselves in.

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Archiving the Net - a picture of us

Jan 19, 2017

In October 2016 the Internet Archive project, celebrated its 20th anniversary and the Wayback Machine, its access portal, the 15th anniversary of its launch (24th October 2001). The Wayback Machine now has around 300 billion, often now non-existent web pages, archived and it is still gathering around 200 million new web pages each week.

Our Internet with all its pages, good and bad, is a record of our civilisation and culture and as such is an important record of us.

Click here to read the full article


"Has the world just gotten too big for our brains?" - November 2016

Our species is defined by the size of our brains and our ability to communicate with one another. The way in which we share knowledge and information has determined how we have evolved. From the most efficient way for a group to gather food to the best models of trade and business, we have always shared our discoveries for “better ways” with our “tribe” in a way that allows all in the group to benefit.

The thing that has changed, over the last couple of generations, is how we store and access that knowledge and information. What really sets apart the 21st century from any previous one is our access to data and information, something that is hyper-fast, in comparison with the past.

"A Sense of Place" - August 2016

I have just returned from some time in Finland where communications are truly ubiquitous and even in the most remote of locations, such as the beautiful lakeside in Purmojärventie pictured above, fast mobile broadband is omnipresent. So I experienced quite a culture shock when attempting to access my email in a village just a few miles from the county town of Essex in the UK. Fast reliable mobile Internet access was just not available.

However against this backdrop it is interesting to see how the county council in partnership with some of their local communities, have deployed an innovative new technology and media solution, which provides these communities with both a invaluable resource and a simple and accessible way for anyone visiting the villages and towns involved in the project to explore the local history, the Listening Bench.

"Discovery - how it happens" - July 2016

What is it that allows us to discover new things, to see through the fog of uncertainty and to suddenly experience that mysterious clarity, which is the hallmark of completely new thought?
How are we able to carefully and rigorously follow a well-trodden logical and philosophical path while maintaining a mind truly open to new ideas and conclusions, two things that appear to form a fundamental dichotomy of thought.
Over the last five years I have had the enormous privilege of working with several people who have made discoveries, and just to be clear, these people experienced original thought and through this new thinking were able to discover things that had not been observed and written about before. Having seen this a number of times I thought I should try to capture something of the people, the processes and the environment.

"AI - humanity's greatest threat?" - March 2016

Humankind has discovered, developed and embraced many new sciences and technologies over the last 250 years. We have, in some cases, taken many decades to successfully master them, but in general these sciences and technologies have benefitted humankind. However Artificial Intelligence is different. Our scientists and engineers are setting out to create something akin to a human mind and once created allow it to learn, setting aside for a moment the philosophical questions, do we need to build some form of hard control?

"The power of Maths" - February 2016

Recently the press has been full of stories about maths. Everything from the poor performance of the UK in an OECD study, to the new hashtag “#Einsteinwasright” referring to the discovery of Gravitational Waves, predicted in 1916 by Albert Einstein in his theory of general relativity.

On Monday the Guardian asked, “Can you solve it? Are you smarter than a British 13-year-old?” referring to a maths test for 13 to 16 year olds and then on Tuesday, “Gravity waves exemplify the power of intelligent equations”. And this morning I heard on the radio that a London maths teacher had been rated as one of the world's top 10 – fantastic!

"History belongs to those who write it..." - February 2016

This morning I read the announcement about a new structure for British Telecom. With the acquisition of the mobile operator EE and the focus on fibre broadband and services such as BT TV, the company is changing.

It might appear that the company is just now moving into the “Quad-Play” of fibre delivered broadband, mobile phone services, on-demand TV and the traditional fixed line phone. However all it not what it seems.
During a twenty-year period between 1982 and 2002 the company led technology developments in many of these areas.


"Wonderful, Worrying or World Changing?" - October 2015

We are currently living in a world where not a day passes by without us being faced with headlines about both the positive and the negative things that seem to result from children and families accessing Web content.

This occurrence might not be as surprising when we consider that in just twenty years in the UK, we have gone from a few devotees regularly using the Internet to access the Web (invented 25 years ago) to almost everyone having access to this unlimited source of information via their mobile phones or computers.

"Allowing your people to be innovative" - August 2015

There is little doubt that in a world with a breakneck pace of change and ever-increasing demands for both novelty and convenience, an organisation’s ability to innovate quickly and consistently is often its key to success. Creativity and innovation, however, are by their very nature unstructured and unpredictable, and therefore fit poorly into most corporate structures. Consequently, especially in mature companies, there seems to be a gap between the excellence of their employees and the quality of their innovation.

"Mentor or Sponsor? A guide for mentors, sponsors and their protégé" - July 2015

Negotiating your way up through a large and complex organisation has always been difficult and generally some support has been needed to ensure success. But in today’s world of fast moving businesses and constantly changing goals, having the right support has become absolutely key to the successful advancement of a career.
Traditionally the business mentor has been the ‘guide to the maze’ for people looking to advance quickly through their organisations, but having a senior level champion or sponsor can enhance the process enormously. However, perhaps surprisingly, the way these roles differ and can work together is generally not well understood. These are two very different roles, as I will explain in this short article.

"Messages from Space: 50 years of the communications revolution" - March 2015

In space, men from earth stepped out into a vacuum for the first time, initially for 12 minutes (Alexey Leonov, Russia, March 18th) and then for 21 minutes (Edward H. White II, US, June 3rd - pictured). On the ground, the UK unveiled its tallest and most radical new building (The Post Office Tower, October 8th), designed to significantly enhance the nation’s communications power.

The year was 1965 and although these two milestones seemed entirely different, they were both revolutionary and consequently significantly raised the bar for innovation.

"Stretch or Stress: Setting hard targets in an organisation" - February 2015

The task of ensuring that stretch goals are actually attainable, if difficult, is by its very nature something that creates the very real danger of setting a goal that is actually impossible and therefore something that demotivates rather than inspires.

"Things a university can do for business" - January 2015

Understanding how to work efficiently with a university partner can be quite challenging for firms, however by concentrating on just three things really productive relationships can be created.


"I dream things that never were; and I say, Why not?" - December 2014

Our dream was to revolutionise both manufacturing and the way we live our lives by making carbon nanomaterials available at high volumes and high quality.

"Ingenious business ideas need encouragement from the top" - (BT Innovation pages - September 2014)

Thinking time, recognition, empowerment and qualified risk taking are all essential in any successful innovative environment, but creating that environment is the real challenge. Pre-existing cultures may need to change, reward systems may need to be reviewed, and even the way in which management approaches this may require a re-think.

"A Window for Change: Making systemic changes in organisations that are successful" - July 2014

How can a large organisation make significant changes that will equip it for the future, when the perception of its people is that it is successful? I argue in this article that identifying a ‘widow for change’ is the answer.

"Hiring and empowering exceptional people" - March 2014

We should all attempt to hire exceptional people, shouldn't we? The question might seem at the outset to be nonsensical, you might think that it is obvious that we should hire exceptional people. But hang on a moment is your organisation really ready for a truly exceptional person, one who is able, given the right support, to transform an organisation in a very short time.

"The Future of Work: The working environment as an ecosystem" - February 2014

As we finally climb out of the recent financial crisis many knowledge intensive organisations, as they plan for the future, are considering how their people can be more effective. There is much debate about 'the future of work' and talk of 'new work spaces' and 'innovative environments' and there are some great examples of how these can be effective but also mistakes have been made in the recent past in the name of work place productivity and we should ensure we learn from these.

"Knowledge Nuggets, Chunking and Twitter" - February 2014

Last week I spoke at an event in London, "Engaged Social Science: Impacts and Use of Research in the UK". The event had been organised by the London School of Economics (LSE) and SAGE. The other speakers and I had been asked to provide our Twitter Handles and the audience had been provided with Wi-Fi access, the impact of which I was soon to discover.

"Why is the study of social science so critical to our future?" - January 2014

This is a question which has come up a number of times over the past few weeks , firstly at a meeting at the London School of Economics, then with a colleague at Goldman Sachs and more recently at a meeting with a Cambridge Experimental Psychologist, in the Department of Engineering. Conversations with these people caused me to think about my own work with social scientists over the last decade. Had the interactions been critical to my thinking?
The answer is yes, a resounding yes, but why?


"Managing Innovation and Creativity" - November 2013

As the IMF, the Bank of England and the UK Government report that "the economy is turning a corner", we are yet again challenged to make the best use of our innovation and creativity to support these early signs of recovery.

"Philosophy and Politics" - June 2013

I was asked recently whether it would be possible to encourage Politicians and those in the UK Civil Service to utilise scientific method in their policy making processes? I reflected on a video I had discovered on YouTube where Bertrand Russell was interviewed in 1959 on a BBC programme, Face to Face. At the end of the interview he is asked; suppose this film were to be looked at by our decedents, like a dead sea scroll, what do you think it would be worth telling future generations about what you have learned?

"The big hard drive in the sky" - April 2013

What does "cloud" mean to people who will be the next generation to enter our businesses?

"Are we the product of our own technologies?" - March 2013

Every 3-5 years there is a change in how people use technology and new services. It is driven by both social change and the accessibility of new devices and new services. We saw this when the iPhone first appeared and of course Facebook has driven tremendous change. These things can only drive change if they fulfil a human need, even if that need is not articulated and is latent.

"Technology and a brighter future for our world" - January 2013

In 2007 while leading BT’s research in universities I wrote the article ‘Living in a world of exponential change’ and in 2010 a review, ‘Still living in this world of exponential change’, in both I reflected on how technology was changing how we connect with one another and how we communicate. Two years on from the second article I have moved to the University of Cambridge but continue to observe how communication technologies are changing how we connect and share information.

"Search, Social Graphs and Simplicity" - January 2013

As the Internet and Web have become integral to our lives so has the ability to search these. Without tools that allow us to find things easily our lives would be quite different and our use of on-line information and services would be far less. So when a new type of search appears we should take notice.

For an archive of articles, prior to 2013, please click here or to access a list of articles written for BT click here

Design by Jeff - 10/12/2018