Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Expected Liverpool

In a followup to my recent post, where I found myself making an unexpected trip to Liverpool, I can now report that I am deliberately in Liverpool, to attend the "4th International Symposium on the Nuclear Symmetry Energy NuSYM14".  The eponymous nuclear symmetry energy is the characteristic energy it takes to change protons to neutrons (or vice versa) in the nucleus.  More often than not, it's discussed in the context of infinite nuclear matterwhich is an idealised nucleus of infinite extent, which dispenses with difficult things like finite number of particles, and the complication of the surface of the nucleus.  It's an easy(ish) thing to model and calculate, and the symmetry energy can then be worked out by making calculations with different proportions on neutrons and protons in the nuclear matter.  

The conference symposium is about all the ways this fictitious system and its properties can be used as a proxy to link together a lot of actually observed things - like the properties of neutron stars, the properties of finite nuclei and the results of heavy-ion collisions.  It's a nice small-scale event (with about 50 people) and I gave a talk on Monday, which was about work that my BSc Final Year Project student did a few months ago.  That was about linking properties of the giant quadrupole resonance, in which real nuclei vibrate with a particular shape (going between stretched rugby ball and squashed Smartie) and nuclear matter.  We (or, in fact, James) found that these resonances seem to probe the derivative of the nuclear incompressibility.  The previous knowledge of this parameter of nuclear matter was very poor.

It's been nice to catch up with a bunch of people, and I've met a lot of new people too, since this is quite a genre-crossing field.

The conference is at the University of Liverpool.  We're in an old lecture theatre (but a perfectly fine one).  The coffee breaks are in the lobby of a new central lab teaching building, in which laboratory space for many disciplines has been put together in a shared facility.  It's probably the only building in the world where a room labelled "Radiation Laboratory" is opposite one labelled "Flint Knapping".  It also has an awesome vertical garden just outside it, shown in the picture.

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