Monday, 16 April 2012

The end, and a re-start?

The big (and sad) news in the world of nuclear physics research is that the Holifield Radioactive Ion Beam Facility has ceased operation.  It's a shame, not because science facilities must run for ever, but that HRIBF really seemed in the prime of its life and was doing things that can't be done elsewhere.  As ever in such cases, though, science was not necessarily the highest priority when making the decision.  My (only?) colleague in the world of nuclear physics blogging, Miss Atomic Bomb, has written about it.  She works there.  My slightly tenuous link is that I used to work in its shadow, literally - in the (now demolished) theory building next door!

On the other hand, I flew to Germany today.  Usually when I fly, I pick up a free copy of the FT.  This is not so I can complete the look of an English businessman in a suit and bowler hat, but more because they print interesting news stories that are often not covered much elsewhere.  At £2.50 per issue, I tend not to ever buy it myself, but I enjoy reading it when I do, and more importantly it has what I consider a sufficiently challenging, yet sufficiently easy cryptic crossword to keep my occupied on the plane journey when I've finished reading the news.

Today, the FT carried a story on the expected future price of uranium mining stocks, which apparently have fallen to about half their pre-Fukushima value.  It is reported that Japan is going to restart some nuclear power stations following some stress-testing.  This is happy news for people with an interesting in uranium mining, I guess, and interesting to me as I didn't really see how Japan could do otherwise.

There were actually another couple of stories mentioning nuclear issues - about the talks regarding Iran's nuclear intentions and an editorial speculating about North Korea's.   Perhaps I should be reading the FT more often.  I do live a very short walk from a library at which I can read a free copy.

Anyway, while I have mentioned the FT crossword, I can tell you about the joke that I learned as a child, and obviously didn't understand at the time.  It goes, "What is pink and hard in the morning?"  The answer is "The Financial Times crossword."  I heard a friend of my parents tell it, and I re-told it as "What is pink and difficult in the morning?"  Much less funny.  

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Nuclear Tourism

Just a quick post to point out that I've been in Montreal, home of McGill University.  Ernest Rutherford, the father of nuclear physics, worked here between 1898 and 1907, and it was here that he performed the work that won him the 1908 Nobel Prize in Chemistry (though his later work in Manchester ought to have gained him a second prize, in Physics).

There's a small Rutherford Museum in the Physics Department here.  I saw it only through the glass in the locked door to the entrance.  It turns out one can only visit by appointment, and I turned up towards the end of my last day in Montreal.  Still, here's a picture of me standing next to Rutherford, in the lobby of the Physics Department at McGill: