Another Week Ending

As this term staggers on I once again arrive at a weekend in a state of exhaustion. Still there are just two teaching weeks left for this term so soon it will be the Christmas break. At least there won’t be any teaching then, though there will be other things to do before the examinations start in January.

I’ve managed to keep a reasonable pace up in both sets of lectures. The last one due this term is for Vector Calculus and Fourier Series, on Friday 18th December, but I think I may be able to complete the module content on the Tuesday lecture which means the students will be able to have a bit more time to relax before Christmas or, alternatively, a bit more time for revision. I hope it’s the former, as I imagine the students are at least as tired as we staff are. This has been a difficult year for everyone.

At Maynooth University, lectures for Semester 2 start on February 1st 2020. That will give us a bit of time to see how the Covid-19 pandemic progresses before deciding exactly how we’re going to approach teaching. Other universities that resume earlier have less time to make this decisions. I fear that the number of cases may rise rapidly over the three weeks remaining before Christmas, even before the Christmas break itself, and we therefore might have to go fully online next term. What I don’t want to happen is what happened in September, namely that we made elaborate plans for lecture rotations and tutorial groups that were then ditched because the Coronavirus situation changed. That was quite demoralizing because it involved a great deal of effort that was wasted.

Being a Department of Theoretical Physics we don’t have the problems facing the more experimental subjects that require extensive laboratory classes which are difficult to do under social distancing. Next term however we do have Computational Physics, which has laboratory classes, so I’ll have to decide how much of that we can do in person and how much students will have to do online using their laptops. I hope we can return to full in-person lab sessions, but we can’t be that will be possible right now. In any case computer labs are far easier to run online that practical chemistry or physics labs, so I think we will be able to do a reasonable job whatever the circumstances.

For added fun, next term I’ll be teaching a new module; 4th Year Advanced Electromagnetism. Although there’s always a lot of work required to teach a module for the first time, I am actually looking forward to doing this one as there’s some interesting physics in it (especially relativistic electrodynamics). I may try to squeeze a bit of plasma physics in too. But will it be online or on campus, or a mixture of both? Time alone will tell.

Anyway I’m looking forward to this weekend being as stress-free as possible. There’s a good start tonight, as Newcastle’s game against Aston Villa has been postponed due to Covid-19 so no anxious looking at the score this evening. The rest of the weekend will be dominated, for me, by the two semi-finals of the All Ireland Gaelic Football Championship (Cavan versus Dublin tomorrow and Mayo versus Tipperary on Sunday). It seems to be written in the stars that the final should be Dublin versus Tipperary, the two teams that played on Bloody Sunday, but time will tell on that one too.

Update: Dublin did indeed comfortably beat Cavan on Saturday but Mayo beat Tipperary in a high scoring game in a foggy Croke Park on Sunday (Mayo 5-20 Tipperary 3-13). The final will therefore not be a rerun of the 1920 final.

That’s enough rambling. Have a good weekend.

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