Friday, 20 September 2019

Semi-empirical mass formula on the plane

I've just returned from a long trip away, to visit students on MPhys placement, attend a conference and discuss work with some people I am collaborating with (a phrase I still think of as meaning something sinister).  On the plane I watched a terrible film called Red Joan.  It sounded like it might be a decent enough spy thriller and Judy Dench's name lent it some respectability.  On-topic for me is that it featured someone (the eponymous hero, or antihero, Joan) who passed secrets about the UK's wartime and post-war atomic weapon secrets to the Russians.  There was one scene, supposedly dramatically showing people thinking about a physics problem, in which the camera focused on the pencil-and-paper working of one of the scientists, which showed the semi-empirical mass formula (see attached photo).  This is certainly something that was known in the late 40s, and the kind of thing that would have been used to give an idea of the energy release from nuclear fission, so credit to them for doing that research.  Given that I was on my way to a conference where I talked about the semi-empirical mass formula, it was a nice coincidence, and I took the photo of the screen on the back of the seat in front and used it in my talk, and here in this post.

Friday, 13 September 2019

HIAS conference photo

It's the last (half) day at the HIAS2019 conference today.  Just before the first session started (with some oldish results from RIKEN around the tin-132 isotope, they presented the obligatory group photo which was taken on Tuesday.  Here it is.  I'm in the back (as ever, being quite tall), wearing a blue hoodie, and a beard.  Next to me is ex-Surrey student Ed Simpson who laughed at me when I called my hoodie a "cardigan".  The photo can be clicked on to get a high resolution version.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019


I'm in Canberra visiting some students on their MPhys Research Year placement, and also attending the HIAS-2019 conference (HIAS = Heavy-ion Accelerator Symposium).  The scientific topics cover any of the things that one can do at a heavy-ion accelerator which include the kind of reactions that I am interested in calculating, but also things like accelerator mass spectroscopy.  This is a very sensitive way of measuring the masses of individual isotopes in a sample of material.  One such application was presented by Dominik Koll who showed how to measure the abundance of Iron-60 which is a long-lived radioactive isotope generated in supernova explosions, and shot out into interstellar space, some of which then arrives on the Earth.  It turns out that it is currently raining down on Earth to the extent of a couple of atoms per square centimetre per year. 

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

European Few Body Conference

At The Univerity of Surrey we are hosting (and organising) the 24th European Few-Body Conference.  Its topics cross nuclear, atomic, and solid state physics;  any place where a many-body problem can be considered a few-body problem, with the resulting related set of mathematical techniques for solving them across the physics sub-fields.

Running a conference in ones own institution means competing with other day-job activities.  I have four MSc projects doing projects this summer who need meeting, and I only work on 4 weekdays, having a day with my children on Mondays.  So today is the first day I'll be able to attend all the sessions, and we've started with a talk on hyperons -- protons or neutrons in which one (or more) quarks have been replaced by strange quarks. 

On Monday, I thought I'd bring the kids along for the coffee break to see the conference.  They quite liked the lecture theatre chairs with the little desktops fitted into the armrests, though they do look a little bored in the picture I took that I've put in this post.  I'm presenting a poster tomorrow on the triple-alpha reaction -- work started by a BSc project student last year.

By the way; when I say above "we are [...] organising" I really mean that Natasha Timofeyuk is organising, and the rest of the committee are playing bit parts.  My bit is mainly sorting out the proceedings;  a job which is about to start getting busy, assuming anyone submits their papers.