Archive for February, 2019

Back to Victory

Posted in Biographical, Crosswords, Maynooth with tags , on February 17, 2019 by telescoper

Well, I got back to Maynooth from my little tour last night, on time and not too knackered. Credit where it’s due to Ryanair, in that all three flights I took last week (Dublin-EMA, Luton-Copenhagen, and Copenhagen-Dublin) were in good order and on schedule, as well as being very cheap.

Today I’ve been in the office for a few hours catching up on some preparation for tomorrow’s teaching. I’m starting a new topic in my Engineering Mathematics module so had to assemble a new problem set for distribution.

That done I downloaded a batch of weekend crosswords. I’ve decided not to buy any more British newspapers and to get my news instead from the Irish Times. However, the Financial Times, Guardian and Observer all put their prize crosswords online for free so I can keep up the crossword habit at a much lower cost.

Downloading this week’s FT Prize Crossword, I found that I’m actually a winner:

It’s interesting that two of the three winners are based in Ireland, though I would not wish to over-interpret this datum.

I wonder how long it will take for the prize to reach me in the post? It’s
The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary, not a dictionary but a book about a dictionary. Meta.

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A Day Out in Copenhagen

Posted in Art with tags , on February 16, 2019 by telescoper

As planned I spent most of today as a tourist in the fine city of Copenhagen. Specifically I decided to visit the Ny Carlsberg Glyptoteket, a museum of considerable interest. Here are some pictures I took inside.

Head of a wounded Amazon, a roman copy of a Greek original, c. 350 BC

A fine selection of classical beards

Head Room

Statue of the Egyptian God Anubis

A fine collection of bronzes by Degas.

And this is a gratuitous tourist picture of the lovely harbour of Nyhavn in the sunshine…

And after that I had a late lunch with an old friend. All in all rather a nice day. Now I should get my stuff together and head to the departure gate!

Fortiter Defendit Triumphans

Posted in Biographical with tags , , , on February 16, 2019 by telescoper

So here I am in my hotel room in Copenhagen after breakfast doing a quick post before checking out. I’ve put the DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door.

Ibsens Hotel seems to know its guests!

My flight back to Dublin is not until this evening and I have to leave the hotel by 11am (local time) so I have a few hours wandering about the city which should be very nice, since the weather is lovely.

I took the above picture with my phone yesterday morning while taking the short walk to the Niels Bohr Institute. The strange effect was cause by the mist hanging over the city. This morning is bright and sunny. Ideal for a walk about.

Anyway, the main point of this post is to congratulate Dr Sebastian von Hausegger who successfully defended his PhD thesis yesterday. In the Danish system the thesis defence is a public affair, involving a talk by the candidate followed by questions from a panel involving two external examiners, of which I was one. The talk lasted about 45 minutes and was followed by about 40 minutes of questions. I’m told that was a longer than usual question-and-answer session, but that’s only because we found the thesis so interesting. The thesis concerned various projects related to the cosmic microwave background, including foreground subtraction methods and analysis of polarization.

It was actually a very enjoyable occasion, rather than an ordeal, and the candidate passed with flying colours. Afterwards there was a small drinks reception, during which I got to talk to Sebastian’s parents and his girlfriend (who apparently reads this blog). I hope they all had a good celebration yesterday evening!

P.S. I couldn’t think of a good title for this post so I borrowed the latin motto of the City of Newcastle (my home town). Roughly translated it means `triumphing by brave defence’!

Subaru and Cosmic Shear

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , on February 15, 2019 by telescoper

Up with the lark this morning I suddenly remembered I was going to do a post about a paper which actually appeared on the arXiv some time ago. Apart from the fact that it’s a very nice piece of work, the first author is Chiaki Hikage who worked with me as a postdoc about a decade ago. This paper is extremely careful and thorough, which is typical of Chiaki’s work. Its abstract is here:

The work described uses the Hyper-Suprime-Cam Subaru Telescope to probe how the large-scale structure of the Universe has evolved by looking at the statistical effect of gravitational lensing – specifically cosmic shear – as a function of redshift (which relates to look-back time). The use of redshift binning as demonstrated in this paper is often called tomography. Gravitational lensing is sensitive to all the gravitating material along the line of sight to the observer so probes dark, as well as luminous, matter.

Here’s a related graphic:

The article that reminded me of this paper is entitled New Map of Dark Matter Spanning 10 Million Galaxies Hints at a Flaw in Our Physics. Well, no it doesn’t really. Read the abstract, where you will find a clear statement that these results `do not show significant evidence for discordance’. Just a glance at the figures in the paper will convince you that is the case. Of course, that’s not to say that the full survey (which will be very much bigger; the current paper is based on just 11% of the full data set) may not reveal such discrepancies, just that analysis does not. Sadly this is yet another example of misleadingly exaggerated science reporting. There’s a lot of it about.

Incidentally, the parameter S8 is a (slightly) rescaled version of the more familiar parameter σ8  – which quantifies the matter-density fluctuations on a scale of 8 h-1 Mpc – as defined in the abstract; cosmic shear is particularly sensitive to this parameter.

Anyway, if this is what can be done with just 11%, the full survey should be a doozy!

Copenhagen Yet Again

Posted in Biographical, Education with tags , , on February 14, 2019 by telescoper

Once again I find myself in the wonderful city of Copenhagen. As far as I’m concerned, at least, my wavefunction has collapsed (along with the rest of me into a definite location: Ibsen’s Hotel, in fact. Henrik Ibsen isn’t here: he checked out many years ago.

The hotel management, being Danes, are refreshingly honest in their description of my room:

Usually hotel rooms this size are described as `standard’…

After a very enjoyable but rather tiring day yesterday I was up early this morning to get from Loughborough to Luton Airport. What I thought would be the reasonable way of making the trip – train from Loughborough to Luton Airport Parkway and shuttle bus from there – turned out to be inconvenient in terms of timing and cost, so the kind people of Loughborough University just booked me a cab all the way there. I had to leave at 7am, though, so missed the hotel breakfast but I got to the airport in good time to have something there.

My second flight with Ryanair this week was also on time and Copenhagen’s excellent public transport system got me to this hotel very quickly. It’s a good few degrees colder here than in England.

When I checked in the receptionist asked me if I had stayed here before. I said yes, but couldn’t remember when. She said it was 2012, as I was still on their system. I did actually post about it then. The hotel hasn’t changed at all from what I remember last time. I must remember to get to breakfast in good time.

The flight from Luton Airport carried a large contingent of Chelsea supporters. Their team is playing  Malmö this evening in the UEFA Europa League. Malmö is easily reachable from Copenhagen by train over the Øresund Bridge. Fortunately I was heading into Copenhagen on the Metro so parted company with the supporters as soon as I left the airport.

Anyway, I’m in Copenhagen again as one of the External Examiners for a thesis defence at the Niels Bohr Institute tomorrow morning and then I’ll be returning directly to Dublin on Saturday afternoon. I’m missing today’s Computational Physics lecture and laboratory in Maynooth, but the students are being well looked after in my absence by John and Aaron who have all the notes and lab scripts.

 

R.I.P. Gordon Banks (1937-2019)

Posted in Football with tags , , , , on February 13, 2019 by telescoper

It’s been a hectic couple of days during which I somehow missed the very sad news of the passing of legendary goalkeeper Gordon Banks, who died yesterday (12th February 2019) at the age of 81.

Gordon Banks made 628 appearances during a 15-year career in the Football League, and won 73 caps for England, highlighted by starting every game of the 1966 World Cup campaign. He will however be best remembered for one amazing save in the 1970 World Cup, so by way of a short tribute here is a rehash of a post I wrote some years ago about that.

–0–

I’ve posted a few times about science and sport, but this bit of action seems to defy the laws of physics. I remember watching this match, a group game at Guadalajara (Mexico) between England and Brazil from the 1970 World Cup, live on TV when I was seven years old. The Brazil team of 1970 was arguably the finest collection of players ever to grace a football field and the names of Jairzinho, Carlos Alberto, Rivelino and, of course, Pelé, were famous even in our school playground. The England team of 1970 was also very good, but they were made to look very ordinary that day – with one notable exception.

The only thing I remember well about the game itself  was this save – the best of many excellent stops – by the great goalkeeper Gordon Banks. I’ve seen it hundreds of times since, and still can’t understand how he managed to block this header from Pelé. You can tell from Bobby Moore’s reaction (No. 6, on the line) that he also thought Brazil had scored…

Here’s the description of this action from wikipedia:

Playing at pace, Brazil were putting England under enormous pressure and an attack was begun by captain Carlos Alberto who sent a fizzing low ball down the right flank for the speedy Jairzinho to latch on to. The Brazilian winger sped past left back Terry Cooper and reached the byline. Stretching slightly, he managed to get his toes underneath the fast ball and deliver a high but dipping cross towards the far post. Banks, like all goalkeepers reliant on positional sensibility, had been at the near post and suddenly had to turn on his heels and follow the ball to its back post destination.

Waiting for the ball was Pelé, who had arrived at speed and with perfect timing. He leapt hard at the ball above England right back Tommy Wright and thundered a harsh, pacy downward header towards Banks’ near post corner. The striker shouted “Goal!” as he connected with the ball. Banks was still making his way across the line from Jairzinho’s cross and in the split-second of assessment the incident allowed, it seemed impossible for him to get to the ball. He also had to dive slightly backwards and down at the same time which is almost physically impossible. Yet he hurled himself downwards and backwards and got the base of his thumb to the ball, with the momentum sending him cascading to the ground. It was only when he heard the applause and praise of captain Bobby Moore and then looked up and saw the ball trundling towards the advertising hoardings at the far corner, that he realised he’d managed to divert the ball over the bar – he’d known he got a touch but still assumed the ball had gone in. England were not being well received by the locals after cutting comments made about Mexico prior to the tournament by Ramsey, but spontaneous applause rang around the Guadalajara, Jalisco stadium as Banks got back into position to defend the resulting corner. Pelé, who’d begun to celebrate a goal when he headed the ball, would later describe the save as the greatest he’d ever seen.

Here is Gordon Banks describing it in his own words.

Brazil deservedly went on to win the game, but only by a single goal. Without Gordon Banks, England would have been well and truly hammered.

Rest in peace, Gordon Banks (1937-2019).

Loughborough Pride in STEM Research Showcase

Posted in Biographical, LGBT, Talks and Reviews on February 13, 2019 by telescoper


So here I am then, in Burleigh Court (a hotel on the campus of Loughborough University), having just had a fine breakfast, preparing for the start of today’s Pride in STEM Research Showcase, which I am very much looking forward to. I’m giving the keynote talk at the end of the day’s events and will be here for the whole day. I’m very grateful to the organizers for inviting me and especially to Claudia Eberlein, Dean of Science at Loughborough University for greeting me when I arrived at Burleigh Court.

Some readers may recall that I worked with Claudia Eberlein at the University of Sussex a few years ago – she was Head of the Department of Physics & Astronomy for a time, but last year she moved to her new role at Loughborough. It was nice to have a beer and share some gossip about goings-on at the old place. It seems quite a few of the people I worked with at Sussex until 2016 have moved on to pastures new. Perhaps I’d better not comment further.

Anyway, I travelled yesterday evening from Dublin via the dreaded Ryanair who operate the only direct flights from Dublin to East Midlands Airport. In fairness, though, it was a very pleasant experience: we departed and arrived on time, where I was met on arrival by a driver who took me to Burleigh Court by taxi.

Well, I had better get my act together for the start of the meeting. Toodle-pip!