Archive for the Brighton Category

Happy Retirement, Sally Church!

Posted in Biographical, Brighton with tags , , on April 28, 2016 by telescoper

Today marks the end of an era for the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Sussex. Sally Church, pictured below, is retiring today after over 27 years in the Department (and almost 29 in the University). No doubt there are many readers of this blog who have passed through Sussex at one time or another and met Sally. In fact, she arrived in the Department when I was here in a previous incarnation as a PhD student in the late Eighties and was still here when I returned in 2013 as Head of School. She recently received a long service award from the University in recognition of her loyalty and hard work.

Sally Church

Sally has been our Course Coordinator for Physics and Astronomy and, as such, has been a key member of our office team, providing administrative support for a huge range of teaching and other activities. She will be extremely hard to replace as her understanding of the University’s systems and procedures is second to none, but she’s definitely earned a rest and on behalf of everyone in the Department, the School and the University as a whole I wish her a very happy retirement!

P.S. Shortly, at 2.30pm, there’s going to be a farewell gathering, with speeches and gifts, at which I hope to take a few pictures which I’ll post here later.

P.P.S. I only had time to take one picture, but here is Sally opening some of her gifts among the remains of the cakes and scones…


The 2016 Brighton Marathon

Posted in Biographical, Brighton with tags , , on April 17, 2016 by telescoper

Normally when I’m in Brighton on a Sunday I spent most of the day in my office in the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Sussex trying to keep the backlog of work under control. However, this morning buses to and from Falmer were disrupted by the 2016 Brighton Marathon so I decided to have a lie in, catch a bit of the action, and postpone coming up to campus until lunchtime.

I didn’t leave my flat until almost noon, and felt a bit guilty as I put a load of empty wine bottles into the communal recycling bin as runners laboured past on Marine Parade, the main road along the seafront on the eastern side of Brighton, where I live. Runners pass along Marine Parade at the end of my street twice, once at 6 miles heading East and then again at about 13 miles heading West. By the time I got there there were only people on the return part, and given the time these were mainly charity and fun runners:

Brighton Marathon_2

At thirteen miles the expression on quite a few faces was one of “Oh shit, I’m only halfway!”. Still, the weather was good for running: sunny but not too hot, and an occasional cooling breeze. I’d guess it never got hotter than about 10 degrees.

The marathon route is quite a strange one that doubles back on itself quite a few times:

marathon Course map 2016 AW 600

Anyway, proceeding in a westerly direction I found myself looking down from a point on Marine Parade near the finish line; the finish itself is at sea level. The elite race had finished by the time I got there but I saw quite a few runners chasing a sub-three hour time, some successfully and some not.

At bout three hours and fifteen minutes, when I took this picture, the frequency of arrivals had started to pick up and the crowd of spectators was increasing steadily.

Brighton Marathon

After about 3 hours and 30 minutes we were into the pack of less experienced runners, some of whom were definitely struggling at the end. I saw one chap whose legs had completely gone about 200 yards from the line. The crowd were giving as much vocal encouragement as they could, but he was out on his feet. Fortunately a steward realised he was in severe difficulty and helped him to the line. There was a huge cheer when he reached the finish, and medical assistance was promptly delivered.

I have run a few marathons in my life. I wish I could have carried on doing them, but my old knees won’t let me. There’s a great camaraderie amongst the runners and lots of support from the crowd, not to mention the huge amount of money raised for charity.

I’m writing this at 2.15pm, which is five hours from the start, and there’s probably quite a few still running. Congratulations to all those who finish. It’s a great experience running a marathon, but it feels even better when you stop!

Big Science Sunday in Brighton

Posted in Books, Talks and Reviews, Brighton, Uncategorized with tags , , on February 24, 2016 by telescoper

Just time for a spot of self-publicity. This Sunday, 28th February, is going to be Big Science Sunday at the Brighton Science Festival. This event is part of Big Science Weekend. The other part is called Big Science Saturday. On Big Science Saturday I’ll actually be working on campus at the University of Sussex for an Applicant Visit Day for prospective students, so the only part of Big Science Weekend I can participate in will be Big Science Sunday. I hope that clarifies the situation with respect to Big Science Saturday, Big Science Sunday and indeed Big Science Weekend as a whole… (Get On With It, Ed)

Anyway the reason for mentioning all this is that I will be taking part (on Big Science Sunday) in an event called Speaker’s Corner, which has been organized in collaboration with Oxford University Press, who no doubt hope that it will lead to some flogging of books. Here’s the blurb from the website:


(Actually it will start at 2pm, in the Sallis Benney Theatre on Grand Parade so make sure you get the time right if you want to be sure that you  miss my contribution).

The theme that unites the contributors to this strange event is that they have all written books in the OUP series of Very Short Introductions. I wrote Cosmology: A Very Short Introduction. I will be preceded by John Haigh who wrote Probability: A Very Short Introduction . John Gribbin wrote Galaxies: A Very Short Introduction, but I understand he can’t come on Sunday…

John and I settled the batting order in an appropriate fashion, via the tossing of a coin, and have agreed that we will both do our turns without any fancy graphics or computer malarky, in the manner of a couple of ageing buskers. I hope people attending this event will feel free to ask questions as we go along to make it as informal and interactive as possible.

So if you’re in the Brighton area on Big Science Sunday as opposed to Big Science Saturday do come along!

P.S. A new edition of Cosmology: A Very Short Introduction will be out later this year so we’ll be flogging off copies of the old edition at a heavily discounted price…


Hit and Run in Brighton

Posted in Brighton with tags , , on January 27, 2016 by telescoper

I was having a drink with friends on campus last night and the subject came up of a terrible hit-and-run incident in Kemptown on 14th July. I hadn’t heard about it until then. The location of this incident was Montague Place in Kemptown, which is due a couple of hundred yards from my flat . The police issued a video obtained from CCTV cameras and appealed for witnesses. Apparently this bore fruit and two people were arrested yesterday. Rumours are circulating that the car involved was stolen.

I’m including the horrific video here. The man who was hit suffered serious head injuries, but is apparently recovering well. He’s extremely lucky to have survived. If you watch the video I’m sure you will agree that he is very fortunate. Please be aware that this is extremely shocking to watch so don’t click it you’re squeamish. I’m showing it here because it’s a graphic illustration of what a speeding car can do to a human being. Cars frequently travel at ridiculous speeds around Kemptown. This is what can happen when people drive like maniacs.

If the persons arrested are guilty I hope they get very severe punishment.


Morning over the Marina

Posted in Brighton on January 25, 2016 by telescoper

How clear, how lovely bright,
How beautiful to sight
Those beams of morning play;
How heaven laughs out with glee
Where, like a bird set free,
Up from the eastern sea
Soars the delightful day.


p.s. note the authentic “rosy fingers” to the left of the shot…

Physics & Astronomy at Sussex – The Videos!

Posted in Brighton, Education with tags , , on January 20, 2016 by telescoper

So the annual University admissions cycle is getting into gear, which means I’ll be spending quite a few Saturdays giving talks and chatting to prospective students and their parents. As we prepare for  the first of Applicant Visit Days at the University of Sussex (on Saturday 23rd January) we’ve produced a number of videos featuring current students in the Department of Physics & Astronomy. I thought I’d share a couple here.

First here’s Anjelah, a student on our 4-year MPhys degree in Theoretical Physics. She still seems quite keen, despite having taken my Theoretical Physics module in her second year!

Here’s Joe, a 4-year MPhys (Physics) student:

And here’s another by Linn, who is on the BSc in Physics with Astrophysics degree:

You’ll notice that both of them talk about our dedicated study spaces, which the students really like. We’re one of the few Physics & Astronomy Departments in the UK – in fact the only that I know of – that has turned over the management of a large suite of rooms over to our students. We don’t just allow them to use the rooms 24 hours a day; we also give them a budget for furniture and books and they basically decide what they want and how to arrange it all. We also provide a constant supply of free tea and coffee (although I have to admit that I do pop in there from time to time and help myself too).


Morning over the Marina

Posted in Brighton with tags on January 19, 2016 by telescoper