Archive for the Maynooth Category

After the Storm..

Posted in Maynooth with tags , , on October 4, 2019 by telescoper

Storm Lorenzo passed over Maynooth during the night bringing with it a lot of rain but at least the winds were not too fierce. At least I assume they were not too fierce because I slept through the whole thing. I tend to sleep well with a bottle of fine wine inside me.

This morning as I walked into work it was still raining but other than that fairly peaceful. Maynooth University Library Cat was on post despite the rain although he was looking a bit bedraggled and his food dishes were filled with water. He must have had a rough night, as I’m not sure his box provided must protection. Unfortunately this was one morning when I didn’t have any treats for him in my pocket so I hope some other nice person gives him something to eat!

 

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The Calm Before Lorenzo

Posted in Maynooth, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on October 3, 2019 by telescoper

It was calm and rather mild this morning as I walked into work, although the news on the radio this morning was filled with news about the rapidly approaching Storm Lorenzo. Lorenzo is a huge storm and was only downgraded from hurricane to tropical storm when it was about 500km from the Irish coast so it could be even more serious than Storm Ophelia, which caused chaos a couple of years ago.

This is how the storm looked in the early hours of this morning:

And this is the projection for later today. The prevailing wind right now is westerly, but this will veer to south-westerly as the storm moves along its (roughly) north-easterly path:

Here is an infra-red image taken this morning showing the outer belts of cloud already over Ireland.

Quite a few events have been called off in anticipation of the arrival of Storm Lorenzo this evening, with heavy rain and gale force winds forecast across the country. There are signs, however, that the low pressure region at the heart of the storm is filling more rapidly than expected, so it might not be as severe as feared, although there remains a significant risk of localized flooding and wind damage, especially in the West. I plan to sit it out at home this evening with a glass or two of wine for company…

Scholastica Webinar – The Open Journal of Astrophysics Project

Posted in Maynooth, Open Access with tags , , on October 2, 2019 by telescoper

As you may know, together with Fiona Morley of Maynooth University Library, last week I contributed to this `webinar’:

If you missed the event itself then you can follow the link here to access a full recording of the webinar. You can also find a quick summary of the goings-on here.

And if all this weren’t exciting enough, here are the slides I used for my bit.

 

End of Summer Rains

Posted in Cricket, Maynooth with tags , , , on September 26, 2019 by telescoper

The rain is pouring down here in Maynooth, but this isn’t the only place to have had inclement weather today:

The picture above shows the scene this morning at Chester-le-Street in County Durham where the County Championship Division 2 match between Durham and Glamorgan was taking place. Or rather, wasn’t taking place. The game was abandoned this morning owing to a the cumulative effect of heavy rain over the last few days that allowed only 86 overs to be bowled in total over the four days.

This match being declared a draw, Glamorgan finish the season in 4th place on 167 points, missing out on promotion to Division 1 but having performed much better than last season. They were top of the table early on, but the loss of the excellent Marnus Labuschagne to Ashes duty for Australia proved a big blow and they fell back in the second half of the season. Anyway, at least they’ll probably win a few games next season, while they would undoubtedly struggle in Division 1. Lancashire finish top of the Division 2 table by a country mile, while Northants and Gloucester also go up.

I always thing of the last day of the County Championship as the end of summer. This year most of the final round of games has been hit by the weather so it’s a rather damp ending. This is also the first year in a while in which I haven’t seen any live cricket. Still, there’s always next year.

That’s basically all I have time to write about today as I’ve been running around all day – including popping into the library to give the webinar I mentioned yesterday. Moreover, at 6pm local time all the power in the building is going off and we’re to be turfed out while some repair work is done. I’ll shortly have to go round checking all the computers are switched off.

The Autumnal Equinox 2019

Posted in Maynooth with tags , , on September 23, 2019 by telescoper

The Autumnal Equinox (in the Northern hemisphere) took place today (Monday 23rd September 2019) at 8.50am in Ireland.

People sometimes ask me how one can define the `equinox’ so precisely when surely it just refers to a day on which day and night are of equal length, implying that it’s a day not a specific time? The answer is that the equinox is defined by a specific event, the event in question being when the plane defined by Earth’s equator passes through the centre of the Sun’s disk (or, if you prefer, when the centre of the Sun passes through the plane defined by Earth’s equator). Day and night are not necessarily exactly equal on the equinox, but they’re the closest they get. From now on days in the Northern hemisphere will be shorter than nights and they’ll get shorter until the Winter Solstice.

For many people the autumnal equinox is taken to be the end of summer, though there is a saying around these parts that `Summer is Summer to Michaelmas Day’ (which does not happen until September 29th). Nevertheless it is the first day of teaching term and the start of the last round of this years matches in English cricket’s County Championship. The end of the cricket season is the end of summer as far as I’m concerned, though I haven’t seen any matches in person this year.

Over the past week or two the new students have been going through various induction and orientation processes, but their first encounter with actual teaching will be tomorrow. I will be greeting our 94 new first-year Mathematical Physics students at 11am on their first day. I hope I don’t put too many off.  Then I start the fourth-years off on  Astrology and Cosmetics Astrophysics and Cosmology. That is assuming that I take the right notes to the right lectures.

Anyway, I think that’s enough rambling for now. I’ve got to finish getting my notes together for the next few days. Let me end by wishing the new and returning students at Maynooth  all the best for the new academic year. That goes for all students everywhere too! Work hard, and enjoy your studies, but don’t forget to enjoy life on the way!

Culture Night (and Afternoon)

Posted in Art, Biographical, History, Maynooth, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2019 by telescoper

I thought I’d do a quick round-up of my little trip around cultural and historic Dublin yesterday after being stood down from duty at the Higher Options fair at the Royal Dublin Society (RDS). I have to say it was wonderful to see so many people out and about in the City’s beautiful parks and public spaces enjoying the September sunshine as I walked around.

The RDS is in the Ballsbridge area in of Dublin, to the East of the City. My route into town from there took me along Northumberland Road, where I took this picture outside Number 25:

A little further along I went across Mount Street Bridge, passing this memorial.

If you want to know more about the significance of these memorials to the events of the Easter Rising in 1916, see my post here.

My main intention during my afternoon off was to visit the National Gallery of Ireland which is situated on one side of Merrion Square. I have to say that this was even better than I’d expected, and I’m sure to visit again many times in the future. The ground floor is dominated by the work of Irish artists from about 1660 to 1965, together with European Art from 1835 to 1965. You will find works by Monet and Picasso in this section, which has much to savour. Among the Irish artists represented in this show is Jack B. Yeats (brother of poet W.B. Yeats), an extremely interesting artist in his own right.

The highlights for me, however, were found on the 3rd floor which displays examples of European Art from the early Renaissance (c. 1300) to the Enlightenment. One of the interesting things about this collection is that it is arranged thematically rather than by artist (or nationality thereof). There is, for example, an entire room of paintings inspired and influenced by Caravaggio, all of them with an intensely dramatic use of light and shadow. The gallery is worth it just for that room, but there are also fascinating juxtapositions of religious paintings from the renaissance with icons and altarpieces from the Byzantine and Russian orthodox traditions from the same period.

Elsewhere in the collection there are notable works by Vermeer, Rembrandt and Perugino as well as a number of British works by, for example, Gainsborough and Reynolds.

The work that really stopped me in my tracks, however, was this:

This is St Francis Receiving The Stigmata by El Greco. I knew about this painting but had no idea it was in Dublin. Seeing it close up is a revelation: the swirling brushstrokes give it an extraordinary texture that makes it hard to bring the image completely into focus. The hypnotic feel that results is a brilliant depiction of a man undergoing a kind of ecstatic vision. This work has an unbelievably powerful effect on the viewer (or at least on this one).

After a break for a sit down and a cup of coffee I visited the Natural History Museum (which is practically next door to the National Gallery). This is a surprisingly old-fashioned affair, with hundreds of stuffed animals and birds crammed into two large rooms:

It reminded me a lot of visits to the Hancock Museum in Newcastle when I was a kid. It’s interesting, but more than a little creepy and would make an excellent setting for a horror story!

After adjourning to a pub for a pint of Guinness the final stop of the day was the National Concert Hall for yesterday’s Culture Night concert. On the way there I saw a big queue of people trying to get into one of the many free events around Dublin. It turns out this Culture Night was the grand opening of the Museum of Literature Ireland, which is situated in Newman House on the South Side of St Stephen’s Green. There’s another one to put on my list of places to visit.

The Culture Night concert was by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin. The opening piece, Kinah, was a composition by the conductor himself and is a sort of memorial to his parents, both of whom were classical musicians, one a violinist and the other a cellist, and together they formed half of the famous Hollywood String Quartet. It was a new piece for me, and I found it very moving indeed. After that there was a bit of reorganization on stage to make way for the Steinway on which the brilliant Xiayin Wang played the Piano Concerto by Samuel Barber, which consists of two fast and furious movements either side of a beautifully lyrical slower movement. This must be a ferociously difficult piece to play – especially the last movement which is at a breakneck pace in 5/8 time – requiring not only dexterity but physical strength. It was a wonderful performance by Xiayin Wang, who rounded off the first half with an encore in the form of a transcription of George Gershwin’s song The Man I Love.

After the wine break interval came the main course in the form of the Symphony No. 4 in E Minor by Johannes Brahms. This is of course a much more familiar work than the previous two, but I really like concerts that mix unfamiliar material with the standard concert repertoire. It also gave me the chance to persevere with Brahms as my friends keep telling me to. It’s not that I don’t like Brahms, it’s just that I don’t find that he moves me as much as many other composers and so many people rave about him that I think I must be missing something. The 4th Symphony is a very fine work, and was performed beautifully last night under the direction of Leonard Slatkin (conducting, incidentally, without a score), but I couldn’t stop myself thinking how much like Beethoven it sounds. That’s not meant to be derogatory, by the way.

But you don’t need to take my word for it. You can listen to (and watch) the whole concert here:

Anyway, after the applause had died down I headed out towards Pearse Station for the train back to Maynooth. I was a bit tired after a very full day and wanted to get the 10.08 train so I didn’t stop to watch any of the numerous musical and artistic events I passed on the way, including an intriguing installation involving images projected onto one of the buildings to the side of St Stephen’s Green. I made it to the station with 5 minutes to spare and discovered that, because it was Culture Night, the train home was free!

Higher Options

Posted in Biographical, Education, Maynooth with tags , , on September 20, 2019 by telescoper

So here I am at the RDS in Dublin for the final day of Higher Options which is a sort of trade fair for Irish Universities, other tertiary education institutions and related organisations.

It’s my first trip to one of these events and I was a bit taken aback by the crowds when I arrived. I’m not very good in unfamiliar situations where there a lots of people moving around me.

Fortunately I soon found the Maynooth stand, which was fairly conspicuous:

Once I found the sanctuary where I was supposed to be it was all fine. There was a constant stream of people coming to talk to us until about 1pm, when it started to quieten.

Just as well really as we had run out of the relevant literature!

Now I’m a free agent and it’s a lovely afternoon so I’m going to wander around Dublin this afternoon until this evening’s concert at the National Concert Hall. My excuses for not going back to Maynooth are (a) that I didn’t fancy going back just to come into Dublin later this evening and (b) that this is the last day before teaching starts next week, and therefore my last chance of a bit of rest and recreation before term!

Update: there was, apparently, an incident outside the RDS while I was inside, but I wasn’t aware of it at all and only found out about it after I left.