Archive for April, 2016

Final training for May Day Beard Waggle

Posted in Uncategorized on April 30, 2016 by telescoper

Just a week after the London Marathon there’s even more serious action in store tomorrow…

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Beard Liberation Front
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Keir Hardie May Day

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that training for the ancient May Day tradition of Beard Waggling has reached its final day around the UK.

The beard waggle involves shaking the beard vigorously from side to side and in doing so stimulating air currents that can cause objects to levitate slightly.

The tradition is believed to originate in late medieval times, and was designed to underline the new Spring growth of facial hair and with it the hope of change and renewal represented by May Day itself

The BLF traditionally asks its supporters, on the traditional London May Day march from Clerkenwell Green, to waggle their beards individually or collectively as the mood takes them to celebrate the arrival of Spring and to strike a…

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Boole, Shannon and the Electronic Computer

Posted in Uncategorized on April 30, 2016 by telescoper

A reblog to mark the centenary of the birth of Claude Shannon, pioneer of information theory..

The Renaissance Mathematicus

Photo of George Boole by Samuel Prout Newcombe  Source: Wikimedia Commons Photo of George Boole by Samuel Prout Newcombe
Source: Wikimedia Commons

In 1847, the self-taught English Mathematician George Boole (1815–1864), whose two hundredth birthday we celebrated last year, published a very small book, little more than a pamphlet, entitled Mathematical Analysis of Logic. This was the first modern book on symbolic or mathematical logic and contained Boole’s first efforts towards an algebraic logic of classes.


Although very ingenious and only the second published non-standard algebra, Hamilton’s Quaternions was the first, Boole’s work attracted very little attention outside of his close circle of friends. His friend, Augustus De Morgan, would falsely claim that his own Formal Logic Boole’s work were published on the same day, they were actually published several days apart, but their almost simultaneous appearance does signal a growing interest in formal logic in the early nineteenth century. Boole went on to publish a much improved and expanded…

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An interview with Alfredo Carpineti

Posted in LGBT, Uncategorized on April 29, 2016 by telescoper

Ooh. I’ve just noticed this so thought I’d reblog it.

Dr Carpineti did the London Marathon last weekend too!


Current Job:  Science JournalistAlf

Scientific Discipline/Field: Astrophysics

Country: UK

Pick some letters (L,G,B,T,Q etc.): G


What does your job involve?

I work for ‘I fucking Love Science’. I write three articles a day about new research being published, mainly on physics and astrophysics.

How did you get to this job (education etc.)?

I have a B.Sc. from La Sapienza, Rome, an M.Sc. in quantum fields and fundamental forces and a Ph.D. in astrophysics both from Imperial College London.

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?

Yes, I felt I couldn’t really be myself in Italy so I decided to move to London to continue my studies.

Have you had any reactions from colleagues about being LGBT, either good or bad?

The reactions to my sexuality have mostly been good. I’ve never had a bad reaction personally, but I know of somebody, another Ph.D…

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Happy Retirement, Diane Greening!

Posted in Uncategorized on April 29, 2016 by telescoper

Yesterday’s retirement do reminded me that I had neglected to mention another retirement, this time from the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

Diane Greening is retiring at the end of this month from her position at STFC where, among many other things, she provided valuable support and guidance to the Astronomy Grants Panel. I’ve served on that panel myself and I can tell you it’s no picnic, not least because there’s just not enough money to go around so many applicants are bound to be disappointed. Those long and difficult meetings in Swindon would have been even tougher without the patience and good humour of the office team, especially Diane.

I’m sure I speak for everyone in the UK Astronomy community when I say thank you to Diane for her sterling service at STFC and wish her a very long and very happy retirement!


A Problem in Lagrangian Mechanics

Posted in Cute Problems with tags , , on April 28, 2016 by telescoper

Today, as well as saying goodbye to Sally Church, I managed to finish my lecture course on Theoretical Physics. There’s still another week of teaching to go, but I have covered all the syllabus now and can use the remaining sessions for revision. The last bit of the course module concerned the calculus of variations and a brief introduction to Lagrangian mechanics so for a bit of fun I included this example.

Professor Percy Poindexter of the University of Neasden has invented a new theory of mechanics in which the one-dimensional motion of a particle in a potential V(x) is governed by a Lagrangian of the form

L=mx\ddot{x} +2V(x).

Use Hamilton’s Principle and an appropriate form of the Euler equation to derive the equation of motion for such a particle and comment on your answer.

UPDATE: Since nobody has commented I’ll just reveal the point of this question, which is that if you follow the instructions the equation of motion you should obtain is

m\ddot{x}= -\frac{\partial V}{\partial x},

which is exactly the same as you would have got using the usual Lagrangian

L= \frac{1}{2}m\dot{x}^{2} - V(x).

Anyone care to comment on that?

Happy Retirement, Sally Church!

Posted in Biographical, Brighton with tags , , on April 28, 2016 by telescoper

Today marks the end of an era for the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Sussex. Sally Church, pictured below, is retiring today after over 27 years in the Department (and almost 29 in the University). No doubt there are many readers of this blog who have passed through Sussex at one time or another and met Sally. In fact, she arrived in the Department when I was here in a previous incarnation as a PhD student in the late Eighties and was still here when I returned in 2013 as Head of School. She recently received a long service award from the University in recognition of her loyalty and hard work.

Sally Church

Sally has been our Course Coordinator for Physics and Astronomy and, as such, has been a key member of our office team, providing administrative support for a huge range of teaching and other activities. She will be extremely hard to replace as her understanding of the University’s systems and procedures is second to none, but she’s definitely earned a rest and on behalf of everyone in the Department, the School and the University as a whole I wish her a very happy retirement!

P.S. Shortly, at 2.30pm, there’s going to be a farewell gathering, with speeches and gifts, at which I hope to take a few pictures which I’ll post here later.

P.P.S. I only had time to take one picture, but here is Sally opening some of her gifts among the remains of the cakes and scones…


What has the European Convention on Human Rights ever done for us?

Posted in Politics with tags , , on April 27, 2016 by telescoper

In case there are some people who haven’t seen this yet, here is a short video featuring Sir Patrick Stewart the Guardian made in response to Home Secretary Theresa May’s suggestion that the United Kingdom should leave the European Convention on Human Rights. It owes more than a little to Monty Python’s Life of Brian but is none the worse for that. Make sure you watch right to the end as it exposes the hypocrisy of Home Secretary’s position on this.