Sunday, 26 July 2015

ils ne regrettent rien

I wonder if regular readers of this blog (Hi Kelly, Arron), have ever noticed the similarity (as pointed out by Arnau Rios) between Prof Wilton Catford of the University of Surrey and Aristide Bruant, the erstwhile French cabaret singer and nightclub owner, famed for his portrayal by Toulouse-Lautrec


Tuesday, 21 July 2015

UK academic job

Dear readers interested in a job in experimental nuclear physics,

The University of the West of Scotland (UWS) has a position open for a lectureship in their experimental nuclear physics group.  The research part of the job should bear a relation to the new SCAPA accelerator facility at Strathclyde University, of which the group at UWS is a collaborating member.  The job is based in Paisley, Scotland.  The picture attached to this post is Paisley Abbey, situated in the centre of the town.  Details of the job are found on the UWS website, in the jobs section

Saturday, 18 July 2015

A week in Dubna

I have been spending this week at a conference in Dubna, Russia.  The town was build immediately after the Second World War for the Soviet nuclear research programme, and is the home of Russia's main facility for basic nuclear physics research (as opposed to weapons research, which took place in a number of cities which are still closed).

Perhaps it is most famous for the discovery of some of the superheavy elements -- those elements in the periodic table that are too short-lived to be found naturally-occurring on Earth, but which can, and have been, created in the laboratory. 

The picture attached to this post if a statue of Georgy Flerov, and in the plaque you can see the symbol Fl and the atomic number 114, since Flerovium was named in his honour.  Dubnium is element 105.

I must confess, I was kind of expecting Dubna to be an ugly place,  It was built for a specific purpose in Stalin's time and I expected it to be pretty utilitarian, and not pretty.  Actually, it's a rather attractive place (at least the bit where I am staying), with nice buildings, the Volga cutting through the town, and the forest, which was not cleared when building the town, resulting in trees disturbing practically every pavement.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Two margarines

I wonder if readers of this blog (hi Mum) have previously noticed the similarity in appearance between Professor Vadim Soloviev, erstwhile physicist from Dubna, and John Shuttleworth, Sheffield's most famous son?


Tuesday, 14 July 2015

A pairing of physicists

I wonder if readers have previously noticed the similarity between Nikolay Bogolyubov, lately of the Joint Institute of Nuclear Research, Dubna, and Chris Hooley, extant physicist at St Andrews?


Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Results Day

Today is the day that the University gives the final degree results to students.  There will be some very happy students, and some not so happy.  From Facebook, I've seen mostly the happy comments from students who have done very well.

I'd like to offer my congratulations to all those physics students who will be graduating at the ceremony next week.  Unusually, I won't be attending this year, as I'll be away at a conference.  I'm particularly pleased that all my personal tutees have done well, and it's too bad that I won't see them next week.

When I was an undergraduate (at Oxford), the final exam results were posted on a bit of paper outside the Examination Schools -- a building on the High Street.  The results are they for everyone to see.  We had some guidance as to when the results would be out, but I seem to recall it was delayed for a day or two.  I remember asking one of the physics tutors at my college if there was any news about the results on the day that they were supposed to be out.  He told me that there was going to be a delay of a day or two.  He then added with a smile and a wink that I didn't need to be too worried about the results.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Summer and Units

It's a hot day in the vicinity of the University of Surrey, today.  According to the BBC News website, the temperature at Heathrow airport, around 20 miles away, is 35ÂșC.   The headline figures on the BBC website seem to be given in degrees Celsius, though I realise that this is user-settable, and I may just have set it in the past.  It does seem the norm now, in the UK, for temperatures to be given in degrees Celsius.  The newspaper closest to hand (an Independent on Sunday from a few weeks ago) also gave degrees Celsius on their map, and only give Fahrenheit temperatures in brackets on the longer lists of temperatures.

It was not always so, of course.  In my medium-length lifetime (I'm the UK's median age), temperatures have switched, weights of groceries have switched from pounds and ounces to kilograms, petrol is now dispensed in litres, not gallons, though we still measure road distances in miles, and buy beer and milk in pints.  I think people's heights are by now pretty widely dual use in terms of metres vs feet and people's weight similarly has both stones and kilograms widely in use in the UK.

I am not terribly young, but my entire school education has been using metric units for all practical purposes.  Anyone else my age or younger ought to find metric units a breeze, so when there was a story on the Radio 4 Today program the other day about a particularly heavy baby, with the weight only given in lb/oz, I tweeted, a bit tongue in cheek:
The main responses I got were along the lines that no-one the responder knows ever quotes baby weights in kilos.  That's quite curious.  Even when I was born, the record from the hospital given to my parents lists my weight in kilos.  Likewise for my two kids, and I certainly only remember their weight in kilos.