Archive for the Books, Talks and Reviews Category

Adventures with the One-Point Distribution Function

Posted in Bad Statistics, Books, Talks and Reviews, Talks and Reviews, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on September 1, 2015 by telescoper

As I promised a few people, here are the slides I used for my talk earlier today at the meeting I am attending. Actually I was given only 30 minutes and used up a lot of that time on two things that haven’t got much to do with the title. One was a quiz to identify the six famous astronomers (or physicists) who had made important contributions to statistics (Slide 2) and the other was on some issues that arose during the discussion session yesterday evening. I didn’t in the end talk much about the topic given in the title, which was about how, despite learning a huge amount about certain aspects of galaxy clustering, we are still far from a good understanding of the one-point distribution of density fluctuations. I guess I’ll get the chance to talk more about that in the near future!

P.S. I think the six famous faces should be easy to identify, so there are no prizes but please feel free to guess through the comments box!

Talking and Speaking

Posted in Biographical, Books, Talks and Reviews with tags , on August 28, 2015 by telescoper

Just back to Brighton after a pleasant couple of days in Cardiff, mainly dodging the rain but also making a small contribution to the annual STFC Summer School for new PhD students in Astronomy. Incidentally it’s almost exactly 30 years since I attended a similar event, as a new student myself, at the University of Durham.

Anyway, I gave a lecture yesterday morning on Statistics in Astronomy (I’ll post the slides on here in due course). I was back in action later in the day at a social barbecue held at Techniquest in Cardiff Bay.

Here’s the scene just before I started my turn:


It’s definitely an unusual venue to be giving a speech, but it was fun to do. Here’s a picture of me in action, taken by Ed Gomez:


I was asked to give a “motivational speech” to the assembled students but I figured that since they had all already  chosen to do a PhD they probably already had enough motivation. In any case I find it a bit patronising when oldies like me assume that they have to “inspire” the younger generation of scientists. In my experience, any inspiring is at least as likely to happen in the opposite direction! So in the event  I just told a few jokes and gave a bit of general advice, stressing for example the importance of ignoring your supervisor and of locating the departmental stationery cupboard as quickly as possible. 

It was very nice to see some old friends as well as all the new faces at the summer school. I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone about to  embark on a PhD, whether in Astronomy or some other subject, all the very best. You’ll find it challenging but immensely rewarding, so enjoy the adventure!

Oh, and thanks to the organisers for inviting me to take part. I was only there for one day, but the whole event seemed to go off very well!

Found in Translation…

Posted in Biographical, Books, Books, Talks and Reviews with tags on March 30, 2015 by telescoper

A nice surprise was waiting for me when I arrived at work this morning in the form of a parcel from Oxford University Press containing six copies of the new Arabic edition of my book  Cosmology: A Very Short Introduction. I think I’ve put them the right way up. I was a bit confused because they open the opposite way to books in English, as arabic is read from right to left rather than from left to right.


Anyway, although I can’t read Arabic it’s nice to have these to put with the other foreign editions, including these. I still can’t remember whether the first one is Japanese or Korean…






…still, it’s interesting to see how they’ve chosen different covers for the different translations, and at least I know what my name looks like in Russian Bulgarian!

For the sake of a seminar..

Posted in Biographical, Books, Talks and Reviews, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on January 17, 2014 by telescoper

Just a quick post while I drink my morning coffee. Yesterday afternoon I gave a seminar here in the Kobayashi-Maskawa Institute at Nagoya University. It was actually at 5pm; I almost made a mistake when I saw it on the the high-tech digital display screen shown here (see top right) because I thought that 16 meant 1600 hours:


Although I’ve got used to the time difference pretty well, I am still struggling to work out what day it is. The 16 stands for 16th January of course…

Anyway, it seemed to go fairly well and was pretty well attended by the students and postdocs as well as faculty. The lecture theatre was extremely well equipped with AV equipment and I got distracted quite often playing with the various gadgets. Also there were two projector screens, side by side, so the audience got my slides in stereo, so to speak.

In case you’re interested, here are the slides from my talk – complete with artistic flourishes:

For the cosmologists among you, the main protagonists here are Naoshi Sugiyama, who has a joint appointment here and at the Kavli Institute in Tokyo, Takahiko Matsubara, and Chiaki Hikage. The latter was a postdoc working with me at Nottingham and Cardiff; he then worked in Princeton before returning to Japan; Chiaki has been my host during my stay here.

After my talk, and a question-and-answer session, the staff treated me to dinner. We had some discussion about where to go during which I mentioned that I’d seen a place called Hamakin, which claimed to be a Japanese-Italian restaurant:


I wasn’t convinced by the concept but it turned out that, although it was a new place, Takahiko had been there before and thought it was very good. We ended up there and, much to my surprise, it was excellent. It was a lot more Japanese than Italian, I have to say, but we did try an interesting take on pizza with cod roe as part of the topping. They had an English menu, with some curious choices of English words. I wasn’t really tempted by “Economic Steak”, and “Cod Ovum” suggested, by use of the Latin singular of “egg”, an extremely small portion. I still don’t know what “pastured chicken” is, either.

As a special treat some sake from a bamboo container was served for me in a bamboo cup; the bamboo is supposed to make it taste nicer but I wasn’t able to discern a difference between the special sake and normal sake. I clearly don’t have a sufficiently cultivated palate. Apologies for the pun in the title of the post too!

Today, Friday, is the last working day of my visit so I’d better get on and finish what I’m here to do because there’s another seminar this afternoon which I’d like to attend. Tomorrow, if I can get myself organized, I might take a trip on the bullet train for a day’s sightseeing in Kyoto, which I am told is a must-see city.


Physics World Plug

Posted in Books, Talks and Reviews, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on January 7, 2014 by telescoper

Just time for a quick bit of shameless self-promotion. This month’s Edition of Physics World has an article by me as cover feature. Here’s a sneak preview, but to read the whole thing you’ll have to rush out and buy a copy! Alternatively, you can find it online here.


Book Review: Cosmology: A Very Short Introduction by Peter Coles

Posted in Books, Talks and Reviews with tags , on January 4, 2014 by telescoper


Here’s a review of my book “Cosmology: A Very Short Introduction” that I found a couple of days ago. I’m reposting as an excuse to remind folk that a new edition will be out later this year, or as soon as I’ve finished writing it, because my proposal has been formally approved by Oxford University Press.

Originally posted on The Alethiophile:

It is rare for me to walk into a bookshop and walk out again without buying at least one book; more often than not, it’s two or three at a time. This was one I picked up in the summer when I went to visit the royal observatory and national maritime museum in Greenwich, as there was an exhibition on at the latter which was on the subject of cosmology. There were various options open, though I chose not to get the enormous hardback book full of images from the Hubble space telescope.

For those of you who are unaware, I studied maths at university, with a particular emphasis on mathematical physics. In my first year, I took a free elective module in cosmology. So while I do review this book as an expert in the field, I do review it as an informed and educated amateur.

Of all branches…

View original 1,172 more words

The Cosmic Web at Sussex

Posted in Books, Talks and Reviews, The Universe and Stuff with tags , on December 10, 2013 by telescoper

Yesterday I had the honour of giving an evening lecture for staff and students at the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Sussex. The event was preceded by a bit of impromptu twilight stargazing with the new telescope our students have just purchased:

IMG-20131209-00241 IMG-20131209-00243

You can just about see Venus in the second picture, just to the left of the street light.

Anyway, after briefly pretending to be a proper astronomer it was down to my regular business as a cosmologist and my talk entitled The Cosmic Web. Here is the abstract:

The lecture will focus on the large-scale structure of the Universe and the ideas that physicists are weaving together to explain how it came to be the way it is. Over the last few decades, astronomers have revealed that our cosmos is not only vast in scale – at least 14 billion light years in radius – but also exceedingly complex, with galaxies and clusters of galaxies linked together in immense chains and sheets, surrounding giant voids of (apparently) empty space. Cosmologists have developed theoretical explanations for its origin that involve such exotic concepts as ‘dark matter’ and ‘cosmic inflation’, producing a cosmic web of ideas that is, in some ways, as rich and fascinating as the Universe itself.

And for those of you interested, here are the slides I used for your perusal:

It was quite a large (and  very mixed) audience; it’s always difficult to pitch a talk at the right level in those circumstances so that it’s not too boring for the people who know something already but not too challenging for those who don’t know anything at all. A couple of people walked out about five minutes into the talk, which doesn’t exactly inspire a speaker with confidence, but overall it seemed to go down quite well.

Most of all, thank you to the organizers for the very nice reward of a bottle of wine!


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