Archive for March 11, 2020

Break Points

Posted in Biographical, Covid-19, Education, Maynooth with tags , on March 11, 2020 by telescoper

It is now Week 6 of the Spring Semester at Maynooth University.  My lectures on Engineering Mathematics take th place on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday so today I gave the 18th of the semester, which means I am halfway through the module. Next week is a scheduled Study Week so there are no lectures planned after this Friday until 23rd March. Just two days to go before the breaking

It remains to be seen whether teaching does indeed resume on that day. If the coronavirus situation in Ireland gets much worse we may stay closed for a longer period.

There is a subdued mood around campus, and the number of students in my class this afternoon was significantly lower than usual. I don’t know whether that is because of coronavirus or because some students have headed home early for the break or because they didn’t fancy learning about curves and tangent vectors!

Last night the University issued updated guidance. The main thing is that we stay open but the Conferring Ceremonies for postgraduate degrees scheduled for Thursday and Friday next week have been postponed indefinitely.  The students will formally receive their degrees in absentia although they will (hopefully) be able to attend a ceremony to get their certificates in person at some point in the not-too-distant future.

I blogged on Monday about contingency planning and I’ve been spending quite a lot of time this week making the best arrangements possible for students in case we don’t reopen on 23rd March. That includes getting all the notes and examples sheets ready for Engineering Mathematics, which is now done.

My other module is Computational Physics. For that one there’s a small project that the students do (usually) in pairs. I published the list of projects for the students to pick from earlier than originally planned and will hopefully be able to allocate them before the end of this week. That way, if there’s a campus closure they can at least get on with their projects. Fortunately Python is free so they can run code on their laptops. All the other resources for that module will be available online too so disruption shouldn’t be too bad: even if we have to cancel the laboratory sessions the students can still work through the scripts on their own.

What will happen with examinations is not yet clear, but those don’t take place until May so they’re not the immediate priority!

I asked the students in my Engineering Mathematics at the end of this afternoon’s lecture please to keep an eye on their email and social media for announcements about changes in the situation. The positive message for students is that they are actually at very low risk of serious illness themselves (although they should of course take precautions to ensure they don’t infect others).

I feel a bit guilty for thinking about the positive message for staff, but I do have quite a bit of writing-up to do and a nice long campus closure would seem to provide an ideal opportunity to `self-isolate’ and get on with it. For the time being, though, it’s business as usual…

Brave World, by Tony Hoagland

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on March 11, 2020 by telescoper

But what about the courage
of the cancer cell
that breaks out from the crowd
it has belonged to all its life

like a housewife erupting
from her line at the grocery store
because she just can’t stand
the sameness anymore?

What about the virus that arrives
in town like a traveler
from somewhere faraway
with suitcases in hand,

who only wants a place
to stay, a chance to get ahead
in the land of opportunity,
but who smells bad,

talks funny, and reproduces fast?
What about the microbe that
hurls its tiny boat straight
into the rushing metabolic tide,

no less cunning and intrepid
than Odysseus; that gambles all
to found a city
on an unknown shore?

What about their bill of rights,
their access to a full-scale,
first-class destiny?
their chance to realize

maximum potential?-which, sure,
will come at the expense
of someone else, someone
who, from a certain point of view,

is a secondary character,
whose weeping is almost
too far off to hear,

a noise among the noises
coming from the shadows
of any brave new world.

by Tony Hoagland (1953-2018).


Beard of Ireland 2020 poll sees record turn-out

Posted in Beards on March 11, 2020 by telescoper

I just checked the state of the voting in this year’s Beard of Ireland poll and, no doubt owing to some form of administrative error, I seem to be in the lead!

There are still several days to go however and things often change rapidly as these polls enter the final stages.

The really good thing about this poll is that it’s generating so much interest. I hope this may help counter some of the blatant pogonophobia going around because of the Coronavirus emergency.

Kmflett's Blog

Beard Liberation Front

Press release 10th March

Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266


The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that competition for the Irish Beard of the Year title has seen a record turn-out with votes cast so far already more than 500% up on 2019.

The campaigners say this reflects an increased awareness of the importance of beards in public life in Ireland

The 2017 winner was politician Colum Eastwood who bearded broadcaster William Crawley for the annual Award.

In 2018 the DUP’s Lee Reynolds shaved writer Dominic O’Reilly for the honour with Colum Eastwood in a steady third place.

In 2019 Lee Reynolds retained the title

The vote ends at midnight on 15th March with the 2020 winner announced to mark St Patrick’s Day on 17th March

The BLF says that while traditionally a…

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