Thursday, 22 October 2015

A Week in Kyoto

I've been spending this week at the Yukawa Institute of Theoretical Physics at the University of Kyoto in Japan as part of a long-term (running over many weeks) workshop on theoretical nuclear physics. 

I'm here for just one week of it (this week, obv.). It's been a proper workshop -- with actual discussion,  and I've got lots of good ideas from the discussion and some plans for immediate collaborations with others, so it's been worthwhile from a physics point of view.

I also like coming to Japan.  It's a nice country to visit.  Not always easy for people such as me who haven't learnt Japanese, but that's not quite an obstacle enough in the big cities.  Of course, I should learn Japanese if I ever become a more regular visitor.

By chance, the particular week I am here includes the Jidai festival, which happens on 22nd Oct every year.  It celebrates the history of Japan, and happens in Kyoto because it is was the capital city of Japan for ~1000 years before that role passed to Tokyo in the nineteenth century.  The picture in this post shows a snap I took from the procession.  I could in principle be out now watching more of it, and the firework sounds are pretty loud in my hotel room, but I'm calling this bed-time.  

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Plastic electronics

I had a nice time this evening watching and listening to Radu Sporea talking about plastic electronics (= built on a plastic substrate).  I work on rather abstract theoretical stuff, but I enjoy very much learning about physics research that is more directly aimed at creating new technologies.  Radu's talk highlighted electronic devices that can be created on flexible plastic sheets.  Perhaps the most obvious application is to mobile phone screens which can be flexible without breaking.  I'm fortunate in not having ever cracked my mobile phone screen, but it was only earlier today that I sat on a train opposite someone with a cracked glass screen.  

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Open Access Week

I saw from an email from my University that it's Open Access Week next week, and that they are running a number of events to celebrate 10 years of Open Access being supported at the University.  I guess that's good, but I wonder if they'd like to know that the first paper I published on arriving at Surrey was submitted to the arXiv in 2000, a bit more than 10 years ago, and has thus been open access for all that time.

I would perhaps go along to one of the events and gently make this point, but I will be in Kyoto all next week.  Exciting!

Thursday, 8 October 2015


Greetings from Sofia!  I'm attending a workshop, which goes by the name SDANCA, which stands for Shapes and Dynamics of Atomic Nuclei: Contemporary Aspects.  I don't know if the acronym is supposed to convey any particular meaning in Bulgarian, but googling while on a Bulgarian IP address brings up a freestyle wrestler called Stanka Zlateva (I guess the Cyrillic станка can be transliterated just as well to Sdanka).  

We've had day one, and I was fortunate enough to be given a talk in the first session.  I always like to get my talk out of the way and enjoy the rest of the workshop without thinking about my own talk.  It's been a nice event so far -- it's really working as a workshop, with some proper discussion, unlike some attempted  workshops which are just conferences with talks and a short time for questions for those few speakers who do not overrun horribly.  

My favourite talk so far was from a speaker from Heidelberg who talked about possibilities for direct laser-nucleus interactions.  It's a topic I've blogged about before, and one that is likely to lead to the first 'nuclear optics' applications.  Her talk was not very sanguine about the hopes for immediate applications, but one promising thing is the potential use of the first excited state in Th-229 (at a mere 8 eV -- less than the atomic ionisation potential of hydrogen) as a nuclear clock for precise standards of time.

I took the picture, above, last night during the registration period.  The three people most in the foreground were the speakers in the first session today: (L-R) Peter Ring, Yang Sun and George Lalazissis.  In the background is Nikolay Minkov, who chaired that first session, as well as being the prime mover in organising the workshop.