Thursday, 23 June 2022

Lord of the Dance

 Hot on the heels of my trip to GLive on Monday to see the Unthanks, I was back to see Lord of the Dance.  This was quite a different event to the minimalist and intimate folk music of Monday night.  Lord of the Dance featured a giant projected screen starting with a mini hagioraphy of Michael Flatley, dancer and founder of the show.  After that the live dancing started, along with grandiose scenic accompaniment on the projected screen.

The dancing was very impressive, with a mixed group of dancers playing out scenes in story of a battle between good and evil (loosely, and to the extent that I understood the story).  The music was augmented by the rhythmic sounds coming from the dancers' hard shoes, and I enjoyed seeing brilliant well-practiced artists doing their thing.  Monday night was more my scene, but I'm glad I came to see the dancing.  

From where we were sitting we had a good view, but it was quite far back, so my picture taken as the cast were coming on to take their bows is not the clearest

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

The Unthanks at GLive

 Last night I went to see The Unthanks play at GLive in Guildford.  I was excited when I heard that they were coming and managed to be online when the tickets were released, so I and my partner were right in the middle of the front row.  They played a 2x1hr set with a break in the middle, where I had the pleasure of talking to my colleague Wilton and his wife Andrea at the bar. 

This is the start of an unusually hectic week for me.  I'm back at GLive on Wedensday for Lord of the Dance, out for my ice skating lesson on Thursday and at book club (for Elena Knows) on Friday.   Perhaps once this would not have been so unusual, but since having children it is.  I guess the youngest is now getting to the age that going out and leaving him with a babysitter is doable.  Still, the fact that he wakes us up at least an hour before we want/need to get up is still a hindrance to having too many late nights!

 Here's a picture taken from our plum seats in the front row:

Thursday, 19 May 2022

14 year-olds using matrices

Coming up soon is the Qiskit Global Summer School which is something I'm suggesting some of my students attend. 

I was wondering whether at least some of it might be far too elementary for them, as the summer school is open to students aged 14 and over, with a prerequisite of knowledge that attendees know some basic maths including matrices.  One of the co-supervisors I was discussing this with, who is a bit younger than me, commented that he'd never come across a 14 year old who knew about matrices, which reminded me that today's students indeed don't come across them at that age. 

I happened to have on my desk a copy of Book 4 volume 2 of the School Mathematics Project textbook that I used at school.  Indeed, it has a stamp in it of my secondary school, and it is presumably a copy I should have, but didn't, give back to them after using. 

Here's a picture of the first page, the start of chapter 11 (it being volume 2, after all)

 Its opening sentence is "we saw in Book 3 how a matrix could be used to represent a transformation ..." so matrices were obvioulsy introduced no later than book 3, possibly eariler.  Inserted into this book was a folded timetable for my 3rd year (Y9 in current terminology) timetable, so I suppose I used book 4 volume 2 in that year.  Clearly, I was a 14 year old once who knew about matrices.  Being taught them then was so matter of fact that I never thought much about it.  There was a simple enough rule for multiplying them and that was effectively all that one needs to learn about matrices to use them.  Applications, such as using them for geometrical transformations, is another matter, and one can find ever more esoteric and advanced applications, but the basic properties are really rather simple.  Of course, I am the sort of person who ended up doing a PhD in theoretical physics, but the educationalists of the time presumably thought matrices a perfectly wholesome activity for 11/12 year-olds.

Tuesday, 17 May 2022

RIP Ben Mottelson 1926 - 2022

I saw announced on Facebook, via my colleague and friend Adam Maj from Krakow, that Ben Mottelson has died.  It took a couple of days for Wikipedia to catch up, but there I saw a link to a Danish news story seeming to confirm it.

Ben Mottelson was a co-recipient of the 1975 Nobel Prize for his work in nuclear physics, specifically unifying the theories of single particle and collective motion in nuclei, and for showing that nuclei could be deformed in their ground states.  The co-recipients of the prize, Aage Bohr and James Rainwater died in 1986 and 2009 respectively.  Mottelson worked closely with Aage Bohr and though the prize was split equally three ways, the prize was effectively for Rainwater's work and for Bohr and Mottelson's largely joint work. 

I don't think I've ever seen Mottelson at a conference or anywhere else, and have little I can add personally as an anecdote.   He is most well-known to me as the author of the two volumes, with Aage Bohr, of the the Nuclear Structure textbook.  This seminal work educated generations of nuclear physicsists.  I'm afraid I haven't studied the book as much as either I should have or would have liked to, and only eventually acquired my own copy rather recently, but here I am having (or pretending to for the camera) a read of it

Friday, 13 May 2022

The Liverpool Synchrocyclotron

There's in intersting article in Physics World this month about the Liverpool Synchrocyclotron.  For a period in the 1950s it was in the first tier of leading particle accelerators for nuclear and particle physics.  It innovated in the extraction of the beam from the cyclotron into a beam line to be directed at a target.  This is now a commonplace setup, but beforehand targets and detectors all had to be inserted inside the synchrotrons themselves.  

The picture below, included in the Physics World article courtesy of The Victoria Gallery & Museum, University of Liverpool, shows the huge magnet being delivered to the site in 1951.  If it wasn't for the truck delivering an enormous magnet, I might have guessed the picture was much older.

Thursday, 12 May 2022

New paper up on quantum computing

A new paper from my PhD student Isaac, me, and the other co-supervisor appeared (or "dropped" as the young people say) on the arXiv this morning.  It's somewhat broad title "Quantum Computing for Nuclear Structure and Nuclear Data" is to some extent due to the fact that the paper is a conference proceeding associated with a poster presentation of the same name, presented at a very general quantum technologies conference (SPIE Quantum Technologies 2022).

The content is a bit more specific, and deals with a couple of examples of applying the variational quantum eigensolver algorithm to nuclear Hamiltonians.  Both the examples we look at have been explored on quantum computer already, but we show the results of using a different, more compact, mapping from the Hamiltonian to the qubit representation, and a method for finding excited states with a variational methtod (by minimizing the variance of the Hamiltonian with respect to the parameters in the trial wave function).  The paper is not a full description of everything Isaac has done or is working on, but the kind of work-in-progress conference paper you might expect to be associated with a poster presentation.  It's nice to have our name out there as a group working on quantum computing algorithms in nuclear physics.  Will be interesting to see what response it gets.

Here's a picture showing the energy as a function of two variational parameters in the wave function ansatz we used for one of the problems we were looking at (the deuteron ground state):

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Flamin' Groovies

Hot on the heels of my visit to London to see the Divine Comedy, I went to another gig on Saturday.  This time it was at the 100 Club on Oxford St, to see the Flamin' Groovies.  I took my Dad, as a birthday present for him.  I had looked through the listings for bands I thought he might want to see.  I had heard of The Flamin' Groovies, but didn't really know them, and my Dad had not heard of them, but they've been around since the late 60's, and the idea of going to the 100 Club, where my Dad used to go around half a century ago to listen to jazz, decided us in favour of this being the birthday present.  My Dad and I have a combined age of 122, but it certianly wasn't the kind of gig where either of us felt particularly old or out of place.  At one point, though, the lead singer did say he needed to pause and catch his breath, and that he was 74 ("youngster" my 75yo Dad muttered).  Despite their age, the band rocked pretty hard!