Archive for May 23, 2017

The Shaw Prize goes to Simon White

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on May 23, 2017 by telescoper

MPI Astro Physik – Prof .Simon White

To happier things. I was delighted to see just now that Simon White (above) has won this year’s Shaw Prize for Astronomy. The prize was awarded..

for his contributions to understanding structure formation in the Universe. With powerful numerical simulations he has shown how small density fluctuations in the early Universe develop into galaxies and other nonlinear structures, strongly supporting a cosmology with a flat geometry, and dominated by dark matter and a cosmological constant.

The citation seems a bit strange to me because Simon’s contributions to astronomy and cosmology are many and varied, but it’s in any case an extremely well-justified award. In a field filled with very many very clever people, Simon is definitely one of the cleverest!

The announcement of this awarded reminded me that I was one of the co-authors of a paper with Simon White, but looking it up I realized that was way back in 1993! Where does the time go?

Anyway, hearty congratulations to Simon! I think it’s his round…

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Manchester Thoughts

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on May 23, 2017 by telescoper

I went to bed early last night after a long day, so I only found out about the terrible events in Manchester when I woke up this morning. The lives of 22 people ended last night, and many of those who survived will never be the same again because of their physical injuries or because of the awful things they witnessed.

I know it’s a feeble response, but I send my deepest condolences to the bereaved and wish a speedy recovery to all those injured or in any other way affected.

Words fail in situations like this. Comprehension fails too. How someone purportedly of the same species as me can sit down and systematically plan to murder children and teenagers is quite beyond my ability to fathom. The choice of target was as callous as it was deliberate: an audience of young girls. The murderer blew himself up in the course of this attack, which means he has evaded justice. I just hope the police will identify the remains and wrap up whatever network helped him plan and execute this attack.

There’s enough information in the news to make a reasonably informed guess as to what kind of explosive device was used. It’s not difficult to make a bomb of that type, but it’s a step up in sophistication from the event on Westminster Bridge. Let’s hope it’s not the start of a new wave of terror attacks, but even if it is they will not win.

It’s difficult to concentrate on work when something like this happens, but I think it’s important to force oneself to do so. If we allow ourselves to become distracted, then the bastards have won. I won’t write much more, but I will refer you to a poem by Dylan Thomas, arguably his greatest, which came into my mind this morning as it has done (sadly) many times before.

A Refusal to Mourn the Death by Fire of a Child in London was first published just after the end of the Second World War and was written after Thomas heard news of a young girl who had burned to death when the house she was in was set on fire during an air raid.

The idea behind the poem is complex, and its message double-edged, but Thomas finds a perfect balance between horror and sadness, and between indignation and heartbreak. Children shouldn’t have to die, and neither should anyone else whose life is cut short by another’s hand, but we have to live with the fact that they can and do. There’s no consolation to be found in mourning and in any case it’s hypocritical to favour one death with elegies, when suffering is so widespread. The best we can do is allow the dead some dignity and the bereaved some time to heal.

Here is a short extract from the poem, which sums up my thoughts.

I shall not murder
The mankind of her going with a grave truth
Nor blaspheme down the stations of the breath
With any further
Elegy of innocence and youth.

I won’t post the full poem here, but you can find it elsewhere on this blog.