Archive for the Books, Talks and Reviews Category

Building Baby Universes

Posted in Books, Talks and Reviews, The Universe and Stuff with tags , on July 29, 2017 by telescoper

I’m going to be off on some travels soon, but before I go I’ll take the opportunity for a spot of gratuitous self-promotion. The next (August) edition of Physics World contains a review by yours truly of the book A Big Bang in a Little Room: The Quest to Create New Universes by Dr Zeeya Merali.

The above illustration accompanies the article but to find out any more you’ll have to read Physics World! 

One Day in London

Posted in Biographical, Books, Talks and Reviews with tags , , on June 15, 2017 by telescoper

As it happens, I was in London yesterday to give an Astrophysics seminar at South Kensington Technical Imperial College. In due course I’ll post the slides as I normally do on such occasions.

It was an enjoyable day, with a train journey from Cardiff nice lunch followed by a question-and-answer session with students followed by the talk followed by a cup of tea, followed by a train ride home – all (for a change) running exactly to schedule. It was also extremely hot which meant the walk between Paddington and Imperial (across Hyde Park) left me rather sweaty. Better than getting rained on I suppose.

My hosts gave me an espresso cup, with an interesting motto on the back.


Usually when I go to Imperial or thereabouts I have a minor quandary about whether to walk or take the tube, with such factors as time, weight of baggage and weather taken into consideration before making a decision. This time, however, there was no decision to make because there were problems on the Underground in the area because of the terrible fire at Grenfell Towers, which has claimed the lives of at least 17 people (and possibly many more). The fire itself was near Latimer Road station, which is not on the line I would have taken, but there were apparently fears that the building might collapse near the line (which is overground at that point) so trains were suspended all the way from Hammersmith to Edgware Road, which disrupted the running of the Circle Line.

The venue for my talk was two or three miles away from Grenfell Towers, but in mid-afternoon you could still see smoke in the distance. It was a grim sight. I think I’ll remember yesterday afternoon very well, not because I gave a seminar, but because of the terrible events that happened earlier the same day.

There are many questions that urgently require answers. How did the fire start? Why did it spread so rapidly? Did the smoke alarms work (and if not why not)? Did the cladding on the outside of the building play a role? Did the fact that there was only a single stairwell – astonishing to my mind for a 20-storey residential building – cost lives?

I hope we’ll find the answers to these questions through a proper public inquiry. In the meantime all I can do is express my deepest condolences to those bereaved by this disaster, and wish a speedy recovery for those injured. They will need to understand what happened, urgently.

On the train home yesterday I looked at Twitter and saw this picture, of grim-faced and exhausted firefighters taking a break. I found it almost unbearably moving. We take these people for granted so much of the time, but they’re heroes – every single one of them:

Wave Mechanics and Large-scale Structure

Posted in Books, Talks and Reviews, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on May 24, 2017 by telescoper

I thought I’d share the slides I used for the short talk I gave last Thursday at the Osservatorio Astronomico di Bologna, on the topic of Wave Mechanics and Large-scale Structure. I’ve posted about the general idea underpinning this workhere, and here are some links to references with more details of the cosmological setting, including a couple of papers by myself and Chris Short on some of whose old slides I based the talk.

http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1993ApJ…416L..71W
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1997PhRvD..55.5997W
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2002MNRAS.330..421C
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2003MNRAS.342..176C
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2006JCAP…12..012S
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2006JCAP…12..016S
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2010MNRAS.402.2491J

I had a few problems with the movies during the actual talk, and they probably don’t work in this embedded version. There are a few formatting errors in the slideshare version too, but hopefully you can figure out what’s going on!

Doris vs Robert Grosseteste

Posted in Books, Talks and Reviews, The Universe and Stuff on March 2, 2017 by telescoper

Here’s a repost of the blog of the School of Mathematics and Physics at the University of Lincoln about my (storm-delayed) talk there last week, complete with photographs!

Maths & Physics News

Poseidon has definitely sent storm Doris to  prevent establishing a new tradition in Lincoln – annual public lectures in Cosmology/Astrophysics. However, his efforts were in vain: in a truly heroic 9 hours trip, combining multiple trains and a taxi, our inaugural speaker Professor Peter Coles arrived from Cardiff to the waiting audience in Lincoln. Straight out of the car he delivered a most fascinating 1st Annual Robert Grosseteste Lecture in Astrophysics/Cosmology. The lecture series is named after a medieval bishop of Lincoln, Robert Grosseteste. Peter took us on a time journey of the formation of the Universe and the history of our knowledge about it from the medieval times to the modern research on the large web structures. His talk sparkled some questions, and you can see his slides in this link.

Thank you, Peter!

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1st Annual Robert Grosseteste Lecture in Astrophysics/Cosmology

Posted in Biographical, Books, Talks and Reviews on November 29, 2016 by telescoper

A few years ago I blogged about the fact that the University of Lincoln was setting up a new School of Mathematics and Physics. Well, now they’re up and running and they’ve invited me to give the first in a new series of annual public lectures!

Maths & Physics News

cosmic-web-sm

The Cosmic Web

a public lecture by

Professor Peter Coles

School of Physics and Astronomy, Cardiff University

Thursday 23 February 2017 at 6 pm

Stephen Langton Building (former EMMTEC) Lecture Theatre, Brayford Pool Campus, University of Lincoln

Eventbrite - Annual Robert Grosseteste Lecture in Astrophysics/Cosmology

coles_2The 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’, ‘dark energy’ and ‘cosmic inflation’, producing a cosmic web of ideas that is, in some ways, as…

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Public Statement

Posted in Biographical, Books, Talks and Reviews on April 20, 2016 by telescoper

As a prominent public figure and in the interests of transparency and accountability I hereby publish my latest Royalty statement.

image

This is of course just a high-level summary. Subsequent pages give a more detailed breakdown.

I hope this clarifies the situation.

The Three-Card Puzzle

Posted in Books, Talks and Reviews, Cute Problems on February 29, 2016 by telescoper

As promised I did my turn at the Brighton Science Festival yesterday. The Sallis Benney Theatre wasn’t quite full but there was a decent crowd, which was mildly surprising because the event I was involved in hadn’t really been advertised very well. If you want to know how my talk went then you should ask someone who was in the audience because I wasn’t really paying attention. However, I was preceded by John Haigh (seen below in mid-talk) whose presentation included a nice puzzle for the “Cute Problems” file:wp-1456735427335.jpeg

Imagine you have three cards. One is blue on both sides. One is pink on both sides. One is pink on one side and blue on the other. Other than the colours the cards are identical. For the demonstration John glued playing cards together, but they don’t have to be playing cards. Anyway, you put the three cards into a bag (seen on the stage in the picture), pull out one card “at random” and look at the colour of one side but not the other. If the colour you see is blue, what is the probability that the other side is also blue?

Try to answer this without googling. I’ll post the solution when there have been enough responses to the poll:

 

OK. Over a hundred people responded so I have now closed the voting.

As always seems to be the case with this sort of problem, the majority went for the “obvious” answer, which turns out to be wrong!

SOLUTION: If the card is blue on one side then it must be either the blue-blue or blue-pink one. I think most people voted for 1/2 because there are two possible cards. But the relevant consideration is that there are three possible sides: side 1 of the blue-blue card; side 2 of the blue-blue card; and the blue side of the blue-pink card. Each of these is equally likely and two of them result in the other side being blue. The correct answer is therefore 2/3; it is twice as likely for the other side to be blue as it is to be pink.