Archive for the Maynooth Category

Good News for Quantum Computing in Ireland (and Maynooth)!

Posted in Maynooth, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , on December 8, 2019 by telescoper

I am sitting in Cardiff Airport waiting for my flight back to Dublin so I thought I’d pass on some good news that arrived last night.

Yesterday, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, TD, together with Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, TD, announced that 16 innovative projects have been successful under the second round of the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund administered by Enterprise Ireland. The projects will share €65 million out to 2022.

Graphic purporting to represent Quantum Computing

One of the projects selected for funding is called Quantum Computing in Ireland: A Software Platform for Multiple Qubit Technologies. To be eligible for this kind of funding, projects must involve businesses and this particular project includes IBM Ireland Ltd, MasterCard Ireland, Rockley Photonics and Equal 1 Laboratories, the latter two being SMEs based in the Dublin area. The project also involves the Tyndall National Institute (Cork); University College Dublin; and Maynooth University (full name: National University of Ireland, Maynooth). This is the first large collaboration in Ireland in this area.

The Maynooth involvement comes via the Department of Theoretical Physics, in the form of Dr Jiri Vala, so congratulations to him. I’m delighted that all the hard work that went into preparing and presenting this bid has paid off.

Maynooth will receive a relatively small (but still very welcome) slice of the financial cake (~€600k) but it’s nevertheless an important strategic success. In a difficult funding climate it is important for a small Department to get involved in collaborations, both nationally and internationally, and also to make the most of any opportunities that present themselves. That is not to say that we plan to neglect research in basic science, but this we have to strike a balance that allows both the flourish.

There’s another piece of good news for Quantum Computing in Ireland to report on top of this. The 2nd European Quantum Technologies Conference (EQTC 2020) will take place in late Noember next year in Dublin. The website is here.

Two Years in Maynooth!

Posted in Biographical, Maynooth on December 1, 2019 by telescoper

Mí na Nollag (the Month of Christmas) is how you say December in the Irish language. Today is the first of that month, which it makes it precisely two years to the day since I started work at Maynooth University. That seems a very long time ago as so much has happened since I wrote my first blog post after arriving in Ireland!

When I first moved here quite a lot of people asked me why I was moving to Ireland so I wrote quite a long post about it here. In december 2017 I wouldn’t have predicted that the UK would still be in the European Union but as I said in that post:

I think it’s still quite possible that the Brexit project will fail under the weight of its own contradictions, but that no longer matters. The damage has already been done. The referendum campaign, followed by the callous and contemptuous attitude of the current UK Government towards EU nationals living in Britain, unleashed a sickening level of xenophobia that has made me feel like a stranger in my own country. Not everyone who voted `Leave’ is a bigot, of course, but every bigot voted for Brexit and the bigots are now calling all the shots. There are many on the far right of UK politics who won’t be satisfied until we have ethnic cleansing. Even if Brexit is stopped the genie of intolerance is out of the bottle and I don’t think it well ever be put back. Brexit will also doom the National Health Service and the UK university system, and clear the way for the destruction of workers’ rights and environmental protection. The poor and the sick will suffer, while only the rich swindlers who bought the referendum result will prosper. The country in which I was born, and in which I have lived for the best part of 54 years, is no longer something of which I want to be a part.

Although two years on Brexit still hasn’t happened, the intervening two years have confirmed my worst fears. England has become increasingly intolerant and xenophobic and the forthcoming General Election looks set to usher in an utterly terrible government of fraudsters, liars and charlatans who will destroy all that is decent in the United Kingdom. The one silver lining I can see is that there is a chance at least that within my lifetime there will be a united Ireland. I’m very much looking forward to the party if that happens!

I’ve had several academic visitors from the UK over the last few months (including two on Friday). None have asked why I moved to Ireland. With UK universities currently on strike and the wider domestic political situation a shitshow of epic proportions, I’m not surprised about that at all. Ireland is by no means a paradise, but I’m glad I’m here.

Theoretical Physics at Maynooth University Open Days!

Posted in Education, Maynooth with tags , on November 30, 2019 by telescoper

Today, Saturday 30th November 2019, is another Open Day at Maynooth University.

I used to give Open Day talks quite frequently in a previous existence as Head of School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Sussex and now I’m at it again, giving talks on behalf of the Department of Theoretical Physics.

If you’re coming along today, please say hello either at the lecture (2.10pm)) or at the stall in the Iontas Building from 10.30 each day where you can chat about the course or anything else vaguely related to Theoretical Physics. There are other stalls, of course, but the Theoretical Physics one is obviously way more interesting than the others!

I might have time to take a few snaps during the day. If I do I’ll post them here. In the meantime here is a summary of my talk:

UPDATE: I didn’t get time to take any pictures because we were busy all morning. The subject talk in the afternoon was absolutely packed out – way more people than I’ve seen at any other open days here at Maynooth – and loads of questions at the end. Very enjoyable but rather exhausting. I think I might head home for a nap!

Open Day Friday

Posted in Biographical, Maynooth with tags , , , on November 29, 2019 by telescoper

It’s a busy day today in Maynooth with two very important jobs to do. Until lunchtime I’ll be preoccupied with an Open Day here at Maynooth University, the first of this year’s cycle. Here’s the poster advertising them (with dates included):

You’ll see that I have a new role as Poster Boy for Maynooth University, though they have understandably put me at the extreme edge of the poster (bottom right). I’ve got plenty of people helping on the stall in the Iontas Building today but I do have to give a talk to prospective students. There’s another Open Day tomorrow, for which I’ll be on the stall and doing the talk for most of the day.

Here’s a little promotional video:

Today’s  Open Day winds down by 2pm after which my second major task of the day begins. But that’s a secret, at least for the time being.




Irish Regional Accents – Niall Tóibín

Posted in Maynooth, Television with tags , , on November 14, 2019 by telescoper

I heard yesterday that renowned actor and comedian Niall Tóibín passed away yesterday at the age of 89. I knew him best from his role as the priest Frank MacAnally in Ballykissangel which I watched occasionally in the 1990s. This morning I heard a tribute to him on the radio and discovered that he was a bit of an expert on Irish regional accents, so I thought I’d share a clip here.

Living and working in Maynooth, which is not far from Dublin, the accents I hear most frequently are those of the Greater Dublin area. I say “accents” rather than “accent” because, as the clip demonstrates, there is quite a wide variety even in this region. At Maynooth we do have students from as far afield as the North of County Donegal and the South of County Cork (where Niall Tóibín came from). I’m better at identifying accents from the North than the South, and can at least tell the difference between Belfast and elsewhere in Ulster, but other than that although I can spot different accents I’m hopeless at identifying where they come from.

One final thing. Niall Tóibín mentions in this clip that the Cork accent sounds a bit like a Welsh accent. This is not the first time I’ve heard someone say that but I have to admit I can’t hear any resemblance myself!

Newton’s Laws in Translation

Posted in History, Maynooth, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on November 13, 2019 by telescoper

I’m about to do some lectures about Newton’s Laws of Motion to my first-year Mathematical Physics class so I thought I’d put up a quick post about how these laws have been expressed through the years. The original versions in the Principia (frontispiece above, first published in 1687) are of course in Latin. I did five years of Latin at school, but found most of the Principia impenetrable when I tried to read it in the original


The laws of motion are however fairly clear, perhaps because they are familiar in English:

Lex I: Corpus omne perseverare in statu suo quiescendi vel movendi uniformiter in directum, nisi quatenus illud a viribus impressis cogitur statum suum mutare.

Lex II: Mutationem motus proportionalem esse vi motrici impressæ, & fieri secundum lineam rectam qua vis illa imprimitur.

Lex III: Actioni contrariam semper & æqualem esse reactionem: sive corporum duorum actiones in se mutuo semper esse æqualeset in partes contrarias dirigi.

As I am teaching in a room in the old college here in Maynooth (which was founded in 1795), I looked for a contemporary English translation. This is from 1792:

Law I: Every body perseveres in a state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by forces impressed.

Law II: The alteration of motion is ever proportional to the motive force impressed; and is made in the direction of the right line in which that force is impressed.

Law III: To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction: or the mutual action of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts.

And finally here’s the modern version I was taught at School:

First Law: Every body continues in a state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line unless it is acted upon by an external (unbalanced) force.

Second Law: The rate of change of momentum of a body is proportional to the impressed force, and is in the direction in which this force acts.

Third Law: To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction,

an alternative form of the Third Law being:

Third Law: If Body A exerts a force on Body B then Body B exerts a force on Body A which is equal in magnitude and opposite in direction.

Going back to the 1792 English translation, the exposition of the second law continues:

If a force generates a motion, a double force will generate double the motion, a triple force triple the motion, whether that force be impressed altogether and at once, or gradually and successively. And this motion (being always directed the same way with the generating force), if the body moved before, is added to or subtracted from the former motion, according as they directly conspire with or are directly contrary to each other; or obliquely joined, when they are oblique, so as to produce a new motion compounded from the determination of both.

If only Newton had known vector notation!



Cosmology Job Opportunity at Maynooth!

Posted in Maynooth with tags , on November 11, 2019 by telescoper

With everything else going on I completely forgot to mention on here that there is a job opportunity for a senior research position in cosmology here in the Department of Theoretical Physics here in Maynooth that may
lead to a permanent position subject to satisfactory performance. The position was advertised some time ago through the usual channels (including and the Times Higher job site) as well as on the Maynooth University jobs site.

The details can be found here, at which site you can also apply.

You will have to hurry, though, as the deadline is Wednesday 13th November 2020 – about 48 hours from now!