Thursday, 18 January 2018

Nuclear Physics at 78ºN

I've been out of action lately;  off work on sick leave for the last few months of 2017.   Upon my return I notice that the next in the series of Nordic Meetings on Nuclear Physics is taking place in Longyearbyen, Norway.  This has to rank as one of the most exotic places for a nuclear physics conference to take place in.  It's about as far north in the world that one is able to get to using scheduled transport.  It's further north than anywhere in mainland Canada or Russia, and the northernmost place with civilian inhabitants.  While it is sorely tempting to go there given the opportunity, I have no good justification for using up travel budget on a relatively expensive location for a conference which, while interesting and relevant to me, is not vital to my research.

Although it was quite a while ago, I have actually been to Longyearbyen once before.  I was on a cruise as a companion of someone employed to play harp recitals on the ship.  My only task was to do a bit of harp-lugging, for which I got a free cruise from Newcastle, up the coast of Norway, stopping off at various points, and then up to Spitsbergen, where Longyearbyen is.

I don't have my photos of the trip to hand, so here's one that I found from google maps of the town of Longyearbyen.  My trip was in October, so there was snow on the ground as in the picture.


Friday, 12 January 2018

The loneliness of the long-suffering ECR

Post-docking can be a lonely life, being part of a university research group, without necessarily having much connection with the rest of university life.  That, and the series of short-term contracts are not conducive to easily building up interactions with other people.  

A postdoc who used to be a PhD student here at the University of Surrey has had the excellent idea of setting up a mailing list to give social support to lonely early career researchers who would like it.  In the hope of spreading the news about it a bit wider, I point to the website she has created about it here.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

A FAIR view

I remember in the relatively early days of the WWW, or at least my first experiences of it in the early-to-mid-nineties, it was considered pretty exciting when webcams came along.  I guess most web users of the time would have looked at least once to see how much coffee was in the pot of the Trojan Room Coffee Pot in the Computer Science Department at a University of Cambridge, via the webcam pointed at it.

I can't really comment on the extent to which webcams (as opposed, for example, to video cameras for video calls) are that useful or interesting, except to say that I don't think I ever regularly visit a website just to see one pointing at something elsewhere in the world.  Still, if you are interested in such things, than I notice that the under-construction Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research (FAIR) in Darmstadt, Germany, has a webcam showing the progress of construction.  Perhaps an enterprising student could use the feed to show how the current status compares with the schedule.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

RIP Glen Campbell

I learned today that Glen Campbell had died.  His most famous song is probably Wichita Lineman.  I think I heard it first through this cover by REM.  It's a fine song.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Cross-country physicist

Yesterday I had an enjoyable trip to Birmingham to visit a student on a sandwich-year placement.  He is working at Cross-Country Trains, effectively doing logistics work.  As it happens, there is a single Cross-Country train service from Guildford to Birmingham per day, so I took it (though at 06:02 it's a little earlier than I needed to travel).

Once there I met the student, and we had breakfast together at a place near his office called Boston Tea Party which, I can report, does an excellent vegan cooked breakfast.  He's been getting on well and enjoying the challenges of the business world;  not just the technical work that he is doing that draws upon his analytic, problem-solving and numerical skills that he has been picking up as a physicist, but the networking, dealing with work relationships and getting involved in the structures and reporting lines that business use.  It's not an atypical placement for a physics student on our BSc programme, though it does not involve directly doing physics.  Our sandwich-year students end up going to more or less any kind of place that wants to employ graduate physicists, and that include train operating companies.

Because I ended up meeting the student as soon as I arrived in Birmingham, I was done with the meeting with him, and later his supervisor, quite early in the day.  I therefore had a wander round the city.  Parts of it have changed a lot since I first got to know Birmingham (when I was an undergraduate in Oxford and my then-girlfriend went to study in Birmingham).  The renovations are rather nice.  Particularly impressive is the new library, which is beautiful inside and out.  I went there for a couple of hours to do some work.   The picture above is taken from the balcony on the third floor of the library.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

NuPECC Long Range Plan 2017

Every few years, the Nuclear Physics European Coordination Committee (NuPECC) publishes a Long Range Plan (LRP) to try to give a unified community picture of what the broad goals are for nuclear physics research in Europe for the coming years.  The most recent one was published a couple of days ago and is available to download.  It's a pretty lengthy document (236 pages) and I can't say that I've read the whole thing yet, but the recommendations seem broadly sensible.  I don't know how much influence it will have, but at least we have a kind of official-looking document to point policy-makers at, and amongst the recommendations are support for nuclear theory, so I should be (and am) glad about that.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

More new isotopes

Since I subscribe to Michael Thoennessen's isotope newsletter from his Discovery of Isotopes Project, I learn that two papers have just been published which between them give details of observations of new isotopes of Mn (Manganese), Fe (Iron), Co (Cobalt), Cu (Copper), and Np (Neptunium).  The Neptunium isotope was created and observed in China, with all the others from a single experimental run in Japan.  

Welcome to the world, new isotopes! (though you decayed fractions of a second after you were created)