Friday, 2 December 2016

More new isotopes

I posted not so very long ago about the announcement of the discovery of a hitherto unobserved isotope of lead.  The same laboratory has now had the announcement published about the observation of two further new isotopes; 240Es (Einsteinium, element number 99) and 236Bk (Berkelium, element number 97)

Congratulations to the team, drawn from the home institution of the laboratory, Jyväskylä University, as well as from collaborating institutions around the world.

If you want to read the research paper, it is published as an open access paper (i.e. anyone can read it without a subscription to the journal) here.  The publication date of the journal issue in which the paper features is in 2017, strangely.  


Thursday, 24 November 2016

The IBA prize for applied nuclear science

I noticed today in the electronic newsletter from the European Physical Society that the call for nominations for the IBA prize is mentioned there.  The prize is sponsored by the IBA company, whose business is in proton therapy, and it is awarded to one or several individuals for outstanding contributions to applied nuclear science including nuclear methods in medicine.  If any readers of this blog know of anyone that is deserving of the prize, please follow the link above to find the nomination form.  The deadline for nomination is 15th Jan 2017.

You can see a list of previous prizewinners here, and a picture of the last winner, Prof. Salehpour, accompanying this blog post.

Friday, 18 November 2016

"Do while" annoyances

Since I'm teaching a computing class this morning, here is a purely computer programming related post.  One of the students was having a problem with his code, using a do-while construct in the Fortran language.  This runs a block of code while a certain condition is true.  Here is a full example program which you can compile with e.g. the free gcc compiler:

PROGRAM dowhile

  IMPLICIT NONE
  INTEGER :: i, j

  i=1
  j=2
  DO WHILE (i<5)
     i=10
     j=20
  END DO
  WRITE(6,*) i, j

END PROGRAM dowhile


Now, the DO WHILE construct says that we run the code between the DO and END DO statements until the variable i is less than 5.  One may wonder, then, in the example, what value of j will be printed after exiting the loop.  If you know the rule that Fortran works by, then you know that the check of the condition i<5 takes place only each time the loop starts, and not continuously, so the line j=20 gets executed even though i<5 is no longer true at that point.  It is perhaps a little counter-intuitive, and can certainly lead to mistakes.  For that reason, I don't teach the DO WHILE construct in the year 1 computing course, but instead  "IF (i<5) exit", which can be inserted wherever in the loop the user wants the test to be done.  Enterprising students will, of course, find out about DO WHILE on the internet and make use of it. 

Thursday, 3 November 2016

New isotope of lead discovered

Yesterday, the journal Physical Review C published a paper announcing the observation of the isotope 178Pb – an isotope of lead with 96 neutrons and 82 protons.   This ratio of neutrons to protons is pretty extreme for such a heavy element, where the large positive charge of the 82 protons tend to prefer to be padded out with more neutrons than that.  126 neutrons is the number producing the most abundant isotope, so the one just discovered in a reaction at the laboratory at Jyväskylä University in Finland has an amazing 30 neutrons fewer than that most stable isotope.  At the other end of the scale, the heaviest lead isotope so far observed is 220Pb, with 138 neutrons.

The lead (no pun intended) author on the discovery paper is a PhD student, originally from Syria, who is studying at Jyväskylä.  Well done to all involved!


Books: An update

At the end of 2015 I posted about the books that I head read during the year.  I resolved to read more in 2016, and have managed to do it.  I expect I'll give a mini-review of them all at the end of the year here on the blog, and you can get a sneak preview on the Goodreads website, if you really want to.

As I noted in the 2015 post, I actually read loads of books, in the form of books for toddlers.  I can't realistically keep track of all such books I read, but for one month, in October, I attempted to do so.  Here is the list:

Miffy
Miffy at school 
My First Numbers
Peppa’s Easter egg hunt
The Fire Engine
Peppa’s Gym Class
Peppa’s Pumpkin Party
Daddy pig’s Fun Run
Daddy Pig’s Office
Daddy Pig’s Office
Mum’s New Hat
The Golden Touch
Ouch!
The Monster Hunt
Funny Fish
Poor Old Rabbit
I Can Trick a Tiger
Dad’s Birthday
Missing!
Little Miss Sunshine and the Wicked Witch
Little Miss Naughty and the Good Fairy
Danger Dragon
Hungry Floppy
The Spaceship
Dad’s Birthday
Missing!
Floppy and the Bone
Girls' Potty Time
Mr. Nobody
Mr Topsy Turvy
Mr Messy
Mr Tumble's Sunny Day
The black and white baby book animals
Bunny and Bee can't sleep
My First Trucks
Mr Grumble
Mr Perfect
Poor old rabbit!
Super dad
I can trick a Tiger
The Monster Hunt
Ouch!
Missing!
The old tree stump
The spaceship
My very noisy digger
Hungry Floppy
Silly Races
Dad's Birthday
Funny Fish
Mum's New Hat
Floppy and the Bone
Dragon Danger
Blue chameleon
Numbers
Frieda and Bear
Hello Kitty first words
Winter 
Guess how much I love you
Hello Kitty first words
Winter
Hello Kitty first words
Picnic Time
The snowman
Silly races
Dad's birthday
Funny Fish
Mums new hat
Hungry floppy
The spaceship
The old tree stump
missing!
Spike the spider
Baby Animals
Peppa favourite things
Peppa at home
Peppa at playgroup
peppa's garden
Peppa's Friends 
Peppa's family
Looking After Gran
Guess How Much I Love You
Winter
Hello Kitty First Words
Spike The Spider
Baby Animals
I can treat a tiger
The monster hunt
Dragon danger
Floppy and the bone
Miffy is crying
Miffy at the seaside
Miffy the fairy
Miffy at the zoo
Miffy and the new baby
Spike the Spider
Hello Kitty First Words
The Golden Touch
Picnic Time
Funny fish
Dad's birthday
Silly Races
The snowman
Bod's Dream
Bod and the cherry tree
Peppa's new neighbours
Peppa at playgroup
Peppa's friends
Peppa at home
Peppa's favourite things
Peppa's garden
Peppa's family
Lines that wiggle
Zog
Meg and Mog 
The golden touch
Mountain rescue
Looking after gran
Arctic adventure
Hello Kitty first words
Owl babies
Owl babies
Zog
Mr lazy
The very hungry caterpillar
The story of the little mole who knew it was none of his business
Mr noisy
Spot loves bedtime
Jack and the Beanstalk
Aye aye
Jack and the beanstalk 
Meg and Mog
Spot goes to school
Where's Spot?
Spot's First Christmas 
Zog
The golden touch
The hairy-scary monster
Arctic adventure
Pip and Posy The Snowy Day
Pip and Posy The Big Balloon
Dentist Trip
Super dad
Poor old rabbit
I can trick a tiger
The monster hunt
Dragon danger
Floppy and the bone
Spot says good night
Bread and jam for Frances
Peppa's Pumpkin Party
Miffy's bicycle
Miffy's birthday
Miffy in hospital
Miffy at School
Peppa's Easter egg hunt
The fire engine
Peppa's gym class

As you may have noticed, I read many books several times.  I include the cover of one of them at the top of the post, since I always like to have an illustrative picture when I make a blog post.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Another MPhys publication

In an automatic list of announcements of papers published in the latest edition of Journal of Physics G, I noticed a paper co-authored by one of our (University of Surrey's) MPhys students on her research year placement.  The paper, entitled The PROSPECT physics programme, describes a project taking place at a research reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to study neutrino oscillations.    

Neutrinos are very light elementary particles that are created in nuclear processes such as beta decay.  As far as we currently understand, there are three flavours of neutrino, associated with three different particles:  The electron neutrino, the muon neutrino and the tau neutrino.  When any of these neutrinos are created they are fully of one of these three types.  The oscillations begin as the neutrinos travel through space, and find that they oscillate between the different flavours, so what starts as an electron neutrino will oscillate between the three different flavours.  This effect has been observed by a couple of experiments (Daya Bay and Double Chooz) which both looked at neutrinos as observed at some distance (at least a kilometre) from the nuclear reactors which are the source of the neutrinos.  PROSPECT is designed to look for very short range changes in neutrino flavour by having the detectors very close (a few metres) to the reactors, to help understand the nature of neutrino oscillations, and potentially look for some hypothetical neutrino-like objects. 

The apparatus for the experiment is still being built and tested, and the paper is something of a statement of intent and progress report for the project.  Our student, Brennan Hackett, is working at Oak Ridge National Laboratory on the detector assembly that is being placed close to the High Flux Isotope Reactor (pictured in this post).  Congratulations to Brennan on what I think is your first physics publication (and all while an undergraduate student)!

Monday, 3 October 2016

Seaborg in the Times Crossword

Yesterday, the Times Crossword featured the clue "Old US scientist bags ore for breaking down (7)". Seasoned solvers of cryptic crosswords will spot that "bags ore" has 7 letters, and that "for breaking down" could reasonably indicate that one should make an anagram from the 7 letters.  That leaves the rest of the clue "Old US scientist" as the definition.  The answer is Seaborg

Now, I wouldn't necessarily have thought that Glenn Seaborg was famous enough to feature in a crossword, but with this kind of clue where you have a shortish anagram to work with, it's often the case that you (or at least I) figure out a plausible answer then have to look up to check if you are right.  Seaborg was a nuclear physicist or nuclear chemist (them being really the same thing) who worked at University of California, Berkeley, where he was famous for research into making transuranium elements -- those elements heavier than Uranium which are not found in primordial matter, and need to be synthesised in the lab.  Element number 106 was named after him, as seaborgium.