Monday, 6 January 2014

Whoa! It's, like, 2014 already?

Hello faithful readers.  It's a little while since I posted, and any posts I composed in my head over the holiday period never made it online, partly thanks to a rare under-use of computers over the break, thanks in part to a broken laptop charger, and also to an adorable baby daughter.  I will try to catch-up in the following short paragraphs, though will no doubt forget some things

Happy 2014!  201410 = BBC13, so I'm calling this year BBC and switching to base 13 for the duration of it.

The size of the neutron skin in lead-208 continues to be a matter of interest across a few intersecting fields of nuclear physics, and I was interested to see a paper appear on the arxiv towards the end of last year from the Edinburgh group with a measurement of the neutron radius via pion photo production (= generating pions through photon interactions with the nucleus).  They got nice small error bars, though the analysis from the measured cross sections to the neutron skin thickness involves some model-dependence.  Nice paper, though.

The time between the start of the semester (early October) and Christmas was just about the busiest I have ever been with the day job.  I ended up getting into the office at 5 many days to get through things.  This was through a combination of all my yearly teaching allocation (aside from projects) being in one semester - including a new course - and partly through a couple of major admin deadlines to do, which included getting all our courses (re-)accredited by the Institute of Physics.   Just before Christmas the letter arrived with the confirmation that they all passed muster!  Hooray!  And to top it all, I have passed on the chair of the Board of Studies to my colleague, so congratulations to him.  Or me.

I'm going to India!  At the end of next month, there's a conference on nuclear fusion in New Delhi.  I sent in an abstract and learned just before Christmas that they will give me a talk.  I love India, and am excited to be going back.  My job allows for a reasonable amount of travelling, and I always enjoy going to new places.  There are some places I'm not so bothered about going back to, but India is one I don't imagine tiring of visiting.  

I have two other trips to meetings at which I'm talking before then.  To Abingdon in a couple of days for a community nuclear physics meeting.  It's in the Cosener's House, a pretty place owned by the  funding council.  It's licensed for civil weddings I see on the web page, so if I get married, I could always surprise my lucky partner by holding it in an STFC premises.  The next meeting after that is in Dublin, next week.  It's on "Physics with large arrays of novel scintillators" which is less rude that it sounds.  

The next meeting after those three is probably the one I am / should be organising in April.  It's the annual IoP nuclear physics group conference, and it's the responsibility of the group at Surrey to organise it.  Through various discussions with the IoP conference team, we've decided to go for the Selsdon Park Hotel in Surrey, famous for the moniker of Selsdon Man, not to be confused with Piltdown Man.  The conference venue is also a golf course, and Surrey golf courses are also famous dogging sites, as pointed out by one of my colleagues, so who knows what hilarity might ensue.

I was pleased to learn that my ex-student, who got his PhD last year, is back at Surrey to do a post-doc in the department (which also reminds me I should email him some comments to feed back to the referee on our most recent paper).

There were many good blog posts and some good news stories over the break about the expansion of the EU to allow the free travel of Bulgarians and Romanians into the UK.  I'm not going to try to link to them all now, but I did feel a similar sense of frustration as others to the the response of some of our press, and politicians to the situation.  Let me just add two things to much of the things that have been said.  (1) I think it is wrong on the one hand to promote the free movement of capital between countries but restrict the equivalent free movement of people.  It is putting the wrong freedom first, and (2) I work at a University at which there are already many Romanians and Bulgarians.  They can be here because of their skills, just like we have doctors etc from all over the world.  I think it is of dubious moral standing to plunder poor countries for their skilled people while turning others away.  This is generally what we do of course, and what the EU rules are forcing us to stop doing, at least for these two countries.