Thursday, 28 May 2015

Music from Norway

I was in Norway last week and I forgot to post some examples of my favourite music from Norway, so I am remedying that now.  I'll put them up in the order that I first heard them.

First up is A-ha's Take on Me.  I remember hearing the song for the first time, walking by a record shop in L.A. and wondering what it was.  I was 11 years old at the time, and I asked my parents if we could go in and ask what the song was, but they said no.  It wasn't too long until I heard the song again and learnt what it was, and bought the 7" single -- a special edition gatefold version with cartoons inside!

next up is Solveig's song from Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt suite.  We spent some time on Peer Gynt in music lessons in school, and I liked it very much.

Finally, Festmusikk, from Mons Leidvin Takle, which I heard on Radio 3 one morning and had to then listen on iPlayer several times to catch the name of the composer, so awesome is the piece

Friday, 22 May 2015

Oslo workshop – Day 5

It's day 5 at the Oslo gamma strength workshop.  I've learnt quite a lot – particularly about how rich the data is from a wide range of experiments, and also how it is difficult to reconcile the interpretation of different experiments using different methods (such as those that excite nuclei with gamma rays vs those that use neutrons).  My talk is coming up later today, and I hope to get some good questions and suggestions for what I might calculate.

As much as I have been enjoying the conference, if I had been a bit quicker to notice, I'd have skipped one of the sessions on Wednesday because there were taking place, in the next building, the Abel lectures from this year's Abel prize.  The Abel prize, named after Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel, was set up in response to the Nobel prize not featuring a mathematics prize.  It's a prestigious thing, and the award this year went to John Nash Jr and Louis Nirenberg, both of whom were speaking on Wednesday, followed by longer talks about their work and legacy.  Quite an opportunity missed by me to go and see them!

Being at the University of Oslo, too, reminds me about gnus -- a computer program which runs under that operating system (and text editor) known as Emacs.  I used to use gnus as a newsgroup reader, and as an email program.  It is a brilliant program and could do all sorts of neat things, helped by the fact that it was extendable by users who were prepared to do a bit of emacs-lisp programming.  I was, and I even contributed a couple of patches to fix bugs in beta versions of the program.  As a result, my name can be found on every unix (including Apple Mac) computer, in the file containing the list of contributors to the gnus part of emacs.

Yesterday was the conference outing and dinner.  The outing was to Oscarshall, a royal palace set in a peninsula a short walk from the city centre.  The picture above does not do justice to the pretty meadow full of dandelions that we walked past on the way there.  The dinner was very fancy, and very tasty.  The Paleo Brasserie catered for us very well, and in particular gave me an excellent vegetarian meal.  The dessert was white chocolate with dill ice cream.  It's safe to say that I have never had dill ice cream before.

Update: The day after writing this post, John Nash travelled back from Oslo to New Jersey, and died in a car crash on his way home from the airport.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

The Oslo Method

I'm in Oslo this week for a workshop on gamma–ray strength and level density -- essentially the study of how strongly nuclei respond to being hit by gamma rays, as a function of the gamma ray energy, and what you can tell about nuclear structure through it.  They are experts on the topic here in Oslo, performing experiments with their cyclotron and deducing the gamma strength and level density using the Oslo Method, which sounds like a Cold War thriller. 

I came because I've been involved a bit in calculating strength functions, so I've come to advertise my method to the community.  The code I use to do it has been published and is available for anyone to use, so hopefully my talk will spur some applications of the code.  I also came for the excellent buffet, presented on Monday evening, as shown in the picture.

I started the #oslogamma hashtag on Twitter which has been picked up by a few other participants, so if you are reading this post in the week that I posted it, then you can follow a bit of live-tweeting.