Archive for January, 2019

Plan S Briefing Presentations

Posted in Maynooth, Open Access with tags , , , , , , on January 24, 2019 by telescoper

I thought it might be useful for the research community in Ireland and beyond to share the slides for the presentations used on Tuesday’s Briefing on Plan S for Open Access

Here are the five main presentations (shared here with permission from the Royal Irish Academy):




Don’t forget that the deadline for submission of feedback on the Plan S proposals is February 8th 2019!


Not to Belfast and Back

Posted in Biographical, Talks and Reviews with tags , , , on January 23, 2019 by telescoper

Well, today I was supposed to give a seminar at the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s University Belfast.

I was actually quite looking forward to visiting Belfast and to my first go on the Enterprise train service between Dublin Connolly and Belfast.

Unfortunately, although the train left Dublin on schedule at 9.30am (due into Belfast at 11.45), after about half an hour we came to a stop near Balbriggan and remained motionless for over an hour owing to a `mechanical fault’. The train eventually limped into Drogheda station after 2 hours and 15 minutes. Passengers were then obliged to get off at board the following service (departing Connolly at 11.20) which was due to arrive at Belfast station at 13.32. Since my talk was due to start at 1pm and finish at 2pm I asked the organizers what to do and, following their advice, am now on the 12.08 service from Drogheda to Dublin.

The defective train was shunted out of the way, but by the time I left the 11.20 from Connolly due into Drogheda at 11.56 had not arrived, so the onward train would also have been late.

Queen’s University Belfast, which I didn’t visit today.

Mechanical faults do happen, of course, but was reprehensible was the complete lack of communication between the crew and passengers. The decision to terminate the train at Drogheda was announced on Twitter over an hour before the train manager bothered to tell the passengers.

Apologies to everyone at QUB for having to cancel, but I really had no choice. I’ll try to reschedule it, and next time I’ll take the bus.

Plan S Open Access Briefing

Posted in Maynooth, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , on January 22, 2019 by telescoper

This morning I found myself in the centre of Dublin to attend an event at the Royal Irish Academy, in Dawson Street. Coincidentally this is just a few yards from the Mansion House, scene of the meeting of the First Dáil on 21st January 1919 (which I blogged about here) and also scene of the commemorations of its centenary yesterday. I’m guessing that the removals van was taking away some of the paraphernalia used for yesterday’s event.

Anyway, the event at the Royal Irish Academy organized by the National Open Research Forum (NORF) was intended to disseminate information about Plan S – a European initiative for Open Access publishing.

I have blogged about Plan S and some of the reactions to it before (e.g. here and here).

The main point is that comprehensive technical guidance on how to comply with Plan S and you can also submit feedback on the guidance here until the deadline of February 8th 2019. Full implementation is expected by January 2020. Things are moving relatively quickly, which is a very good thing. Some people thing this deadline is unrealistic, but I think it was a smart move to make it close so as to galvanize researchers into action.

I learnt a particularly interesting fact during the talk by Maynooth’s own Cathal McCauley, namely that the global revenues of the academic publishing industry amount to about, €22 billion per annum. This exceeds the global revenues of the recorded music industry. Profit margins for these publishers are much larger (up to 45%) than Apple, Google and BMW. The research community is being fleeced, and the worst offenders are the `Big Four’: Elsevier, Springer, Wiley and Taylor & Francis.

One of the main concerns expressed in the discussion session was the extent that move away from traditional journals might have a negative effect on early career researchers, as those responsible for hiring postdocs and new faculty members often concentrate on the journal in which their work is published rather than the work itself. The obvious way to address this problem to use article-level information rather than journal-level metrics, which is entirely feasible to do, but it is true that we need a change of culture across the board to make this work for the benefit of science as whole. I am optimistic about this, largely because I recall very well how rapidly the culture in astrophysics adapted to the existence of the arXiv. With regard to open access publishing the way forward is to disrupt the existing Academic Journal Racket by developing alternative modes publication which demonstrate benefits in cost, reach and simplicity, combined with pressure from funding agencies imposing mandates on publications arising from their grants.

There is no question in my mind that in just a few years, when Open Access is the overwhelmingly dominant mode of publication, researchers will look back and wonder why we ever put up with the absurd system we have at present.

As a final comment I’ll mention that the Open Journal of Astrophysics got a few mentions during the session. I’m hoping to make some exciting announcements about this journal very soon indeed. Before that, however, I have to go to Belfast to give a talk…

The Centenary of the First Dáil

Posted in History with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2019 by telescoper

As I mentioned at the weekend, today marks the centenary of the historic first meeting of the Dáil Éireann, at the Mansion House in Dublin on (Tuesday) 21st January 1919. The picture above shows the 27 Teachtaí Dála (TDs) present. The event is being commemorated this afternoon.

I’m summarizing the events surrounding the First Dáil largely because I didn’t learn anything about this at School. Despite Ireland being such a close neighbour, Ireland’s history is only covered in cursory fashion in the British education system.

The background to the First Dáil is provided by the General Election which took place in November 1918 and which led to a landslide victory for Sinn Féin who won 73 seats, and turned the electoral map of Ireland very green, though Unionists held 22 seats in Ulster.

In accordance with its policy of abstentionism, the Sinn Féin MPs refused to take their seats in Westminster and instead decided to form a provisional government in Ireland. In fact 35 of the successful candidates for the General Election were actually in prison, mostly because of their roles in the 1916 Easter Rising and the Ulster Unionists refused to participate, so the First Dáil comprised only 27 members as seen in the picture. It was chaired by Sean T. O’Kelly; Cathal Brugha was elected Speaker (Ceann Comhairle).

As part of this meeting, the adoption and the ritual of ‘the Turning of the Seal’ establishing the Sovereignty of the Irish Republic was begun. The First Dáil published The Declaration of Irish Independence.

It also approved a Democratic Programme, based on the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic, and read and adopted a Message to the Free Nations of the World in Irish, English and French:

On the same day as the first meeting of the Dáil (though the timing appears not to have been deliberate), two members of Royal Irish Constabulary were shot dead by volunteers of the Irish Republication Army in an ambush at Soloheadbeg, Co Tipperary. The IRA squad made off with explosives and detonators intended for use in mining. This is generally regarded as the first incident in the Irish War of Independence. The war largely consisted of a guerrilla campaign by the IRA countered by increasingly vicious reprisals by British forces, especially the infamous Black and Tans who quickly became notorious for their brutality and indiscipline.

Following the outbreak of the War of Independence, the British Government decided to suppress the Dáil, and in September 1919 it was prohibited. The Dáil continued to meet in secret, however, and Ministers carried out their duties as best they could.

The War of Independence lasted until the summer of 1921, when it was ended by a truce and the negotiation of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. That, in turn, triggered another cycle of violence with the breakout of the Irish Civil War in 1922 between pro-Treaty and anti-Treaty forces and the eventual partition of Ireland into the independent Republic and Northern Ireland which remained part of the United Kingdom.

Bloody Wolf Moon

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , , on January 20, 2019 by telescoper

In the early hours of the tomorrow morning (Monday 21st January 2019), people in Ireland and the United Kingdom will be able to see a Total Lunar Eclipse. It will in fact be visible across a large part of the Earth’s surface, from Asia to North America. Around these parts the time when the Moon is fully within the shadow of the Earth is about 4.40am until 5.40am (Irish Time). The Moon will be well over the horizon during totality.

For a combination of reasons this eclipse is being called a Super Blood Wolf Moon. The `Super’ is because the Full Moon will be close to its perigee (and will therefore look a bit bigger than usual). The `Blood’ is because the Moon will turn red during the eclipse, the blue component of light reflected from the Moon’s surface having been scattered by the Earth’s atmosphere. The `Wolf’ is because the first Full Moon of the New Year is, according to some traditions, called a `Wolf Moon’, as it is associated with baying wolves. Other names for first Full Moon of the year include: Ice Moon, Snow Moon, and the Moon after Yule.

Having looked at the Weather forecast for Ireland, however, it seems that instead of a Super Blood Wolf Moon we’re more likely to get a Bloody Clouds No Moon…

Azed Christmas `Play-tent’ Puzzle (No. 2428)

Posted in Crosswords with tags , on January 20, 2019 by telescoper

I haven’t done a blog post about crosswords for a while so I thought I’d post a quickie about the Christmas Azed Puzzle Competition (No. 2428), the results of which were announced this week. One of the few things I really enjoy about Christmas is that the newspapers have special crossword puzzles that stop me from getting bored with the whole thing. I had saved up a batch of crosswords and gradually worked my way through them during the holiday. I left the Azed puzzle until last because, as you can see from the image above (or from the PDF here) it looks rather complicated. In fact the rubric was so long the puzzle extended across two pages in print edition of the paper. I therefore thought it was fearsome and needed to build up courage to tackle it.

The title `Play-tent’ is a merger of two types of puzzle: `Letters Latent’ (in which solvers have to omit one letter wherever it occurs in the solution to the clue before entering it in the grid) and `Playfair’ which is based on a particular type of cypher. I blogged about the latter type of puzzle here. In this ingenious combination, the letters omitted from the appropriate clues together make up the code phrase required to construct the Playfair cypher grid.

It turned out not to be as hard as it looked, however. I got lucky with the Letters Latent part in that the first four letters I found had to be removed were F, L, K and S. Taking into account the hint in the rubric that the code-phrase consisted of three words of a total of 13 letters from a `familiar seasonal verse’ , I guessed FLOCKS BY NIGHT, which is thirteen letters long and fits the requirement for a Playfair code phrase that no letters are repeated. It was straightforward to check this by looking at the checked lights for the bold-faced clues, the solutions to which were to be entered in encrypted form. Most of these clues were not to difficult to solve for the unencrypted answer (e.g. 18 across is clearly ABELIA, a hidden-word clue). Thus convinced that my guess was right I proceeded to solve the rest of the puzzle. The completed grid, together with the Playfair grid, is shown here:

It took me about 2 hours to solve this completely, which is quite a bit longer than for a `Plain’ Azed puzzle, but it wasn’t anywhere near as hard as I anticipated. People sometimes ask me how to go about solving cryptic crosswords and I have to say that there isn’t a single method: it’s a mixture of deduction, induction, elimination and guesswork.Leibniz was certainly right when he said that “an ingenious conjecture greatly shortens the road”. If you want to learn how to crack these puzzles, I think the only way is by doing lots of them. In that respect they’re a lot like Physics problems!

But solving the puzzle is not all you have to do for the Azed Competition puzzles. You have to supply a clue for a word as well. The rubric here mentions the word three words before the code phrase, i.e. SHEPHERDS. Although I was quite pleased with my clue, I only got a HC in the competition. You can find the prize-winning clues together with comments by Azed here.

For the record, my clue was:

What’s hot on record? You’ll find pieces written about that in guides!

This parses as H(hot)+EP(record) in SHERDS (word for fragments). The definition here is `guides’, which is a synonym for shepherds (treated as a part of the verb form).

I’ve said before on this blog that I’m definitely better at solving puzzles than setting them, which probably also explains why it takes me so long to compose exam questions!

Anyway, it was an enjoyable puzzle and I look forward to doing the latest Azed crossword later this evening.

Update: today’s Azed Crossword (No. 2432) was quite friendly. I managed to complete it in about half an hour.

Domhnall Ua Buachalla and the First Dáil

Posted in History, Maynooth on January 19, 2019 by telescoper

This Monday, 21st January 2019, is the centenary of a momentous day in Irish history. On 21st January 1919 the first Dáil Éireann met and issued a Declaration of Irish Independence and so the War of Irish Independence began..

This post from Maynooth Library describes fascinating archived material relating to Domhnall Ua Bramhall, who was elected to the First Dáil for Kildare North (which includes Maynooth).

I’ll probably do a brief post on Monday to mark the centenary.

MU Library Treasures

Ciara Joyce, Archivist

May God send in every generation men who
live only for the Ideal of Ireland A Nation’ James Mallon B. Co. III Batt.
I.R.A. Hairdresser “To the boy of
Frongoch” with E. D’Valera Easter Week 22/12/16 Frongoch’.

                                                            MU/PP26/2/1/7 Autograph by James Mallon

Members of the first Dáil 1919

On the 21st of January 1919, the first meeting of Dáil Éireann took place in the Mansion House, Dublin. Elected in the 1918 General Election, the members of parliament refused to take up their seats in Westminster, and instead established the Dáil as a first step in achieving the Irish Republic.

Prominent elected members included Michael Collins,Constance Markievicz, Éamon de Valera, Cathal Brugha, W.T. Cosgrave, Eoin MacNeill and Arthur Griffith. A number of T.Ds, including de Valera and Markievicz, were serving sentences in British prisons at the time and…

View original post 893 more words