Archive for the Talks and Reviews Category

Lights all askew in the Heavens – the 1919 Eclipse Expeditions

Posted in History, Talks and Reviews, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , on April 23, 2019 by telescoper

I completely forgot to upload the slides from my talk at the Open Meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society on April 12 2019 so here they are now!

Just a reminder that the centenary of the famous 1919 Eclipse Expeditions is on 29 May 2019.


Loughborough Pride in STEM Research Showcase

Posted in Biographical, LGBT, Talks and Reviews on February 13, 2019 by telescoper

So here I am then, in Burleigh Court (a hotel on the campus of Loughborough University), having just had a fine breakfast, preparing for the start of today’s Pride in STEM Research Showcase, which I am very much looking forward to. I’m giving the keynote talk at the end of the day’s events and will be here for the whole day. I’m very grateful to the organizers for inviting me and especially to Claudia Eberlein, Dean of Science at Loughborough University for greeting me when I arrived at Burleigh Court.

Some readers may recall that I worked with Claudia Eberlein at the University of Sussex a few years ago – she was Head of the Department of Physics & Astronomy for a time, but last year she moved to her new role at Loughborough. It was nice to have a beer and share some gossip about goings-on at the old place. It seems quite a few of the people I worked with at Sussex until 2016 have moved on to pastures new. Perhaps I’d better not comment further.

Anyway, I travelled yesterday evening from Dublin via the dreaded Ryanair who operate the only direct flights from Dublin to East Midlands Airport. In fairness, though, it was a very pleasant experience: we departed and arrived on time, where I was met on arrival by a driver who took me to Burleigh Court by taxi.

Well, I had better get my act together for the start of the meeting. Toodle-pip!

Not to Belfast and Back

Posted in Biographical, Talks and Reviews with tags , , , on January 23, 2019 by telescoper

Well, today I was supposed to give a seminar at the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s University Belfast.

I was actually quite looking forward to visiting Belfast and to my first go on the Enterprise train service between Dublin Connolly and Belfast.

Unfortunately, although the train left Dublin on schedule at 9.30am (due into Belfast at 11.45), after about half an hour we came to a stop near Balbriggan and remained motionless for over an hour owing to a `mechanical fault’. The train eventually limped into Drogheda station after 2 hours and 15 minutes. Passengers were then obliged to get off at board the following service (departing Connolly at 11.20) which was due to arrive at Belfast station at 13.32. Since my talk was due to start at 1pm and finish at 2pm I asked the organizers what to do and, following their advice, am now on the 12.08 service from Drogheda to Dublin.

The defective train was shunted out of the way, but by the time I left the 11.20 from Connolly due into Drogheda at 11.56 had not arrived, so the onward train would also have been late.

Queen’s University Belfast, which I didn’t visit today.

Mechanical faults do happen, of course, but was reprehensible was the complete lack of communication between the crew and passengers. The decision to terminate the train at Drogheda was announced on Twitter over an hour before the train manager bothered to tell the passengers.

Apologies to everyone at QUB for having to cancel, but I really had no choice. I’ll try to reschedule it, and next time I’ll take the bus.

Stokes, Lonsdale and DCU

Posted in Cosmic Anomalies, Maynooth, Talks and Reviews, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on November 2, 2018 by telescoper

On Wednesday I took a trip from Maynooth into Dublin to give a talk at the Centre for Astrophysics and Relativity at Dublin City University (DCU). I’ve stolen the above picture, which someone took near the start of the talk, from Twitter.

My talk was very general, as it was not a specialist cosmology audience, and was similar to the talks I was giving a few years ago about the Axle of Elvis Axis of Evil. If anyone is interested in the slides, here they are.

Confusingly, Dublin City University (DCU) consists of the same combination of quarks as University College Dublin (UCD), but I managed to find my way to the correct campus via Drumcondra Railway Station (which is next to historic Croke Park). Anyway, there was quite a big audience and not all of them fell asleep (even though I did go on too long) so by that measure at least the talk was moderately successful. Thanks to everyone there for their hospitality during the afternoon!

Incidentally, my talk was in the Lonsdale Building which is right next to the Stoke Building. Both are named in honour of famous Irish-born scientists. physicist George Stokes (who was born in Skreen, in County Sligo, but spent most of his adult life in Cambridge) and crystallographer Kathleen Lonsdale (who was born in Newbridge, County Kildare, but moved to England when she was only five).

Post-Planck Cosmology: Day 4

Posted in Talks and Reviews, The Universe and Stuff with tags , on October 12, 2017 by telescoper

So here we are at the end of the meeting, after a fourth and final day of wide-ranging cosmology talks. I did the first presentation at 9am. I won’t summarize my own lecture because you can find the slides here:

Here are two pictures of me in action:



After that we had, amongst others, invited talks by Subhabrata Majumdar on the eROSITA all-sky X-ray survey and Somak Raychaudhury (Director of IUCAA) on large-scale structures in the local universe, Kandu Subramanian on primordial magnetic fields and Anvar Shukurov on Probabilistic Topology and Morphology (a change to the advertised title). There were also a number of shorter talks of diverse nature mainly on the subject of large-scale structure and galaxy formation.

I have known Kandu Subramanian since I was a student at Sussex and he was a postdoc there. At that time he was working mainly on gravitational lensing. I haven’t seen him for quite a long time and was surprised to see that now his hair has gone completely white. That’s what happens to you if you work on primordial magnetic fields.

The afternoon session overran and I had an appointment for Skype call so I had to leave before the closing remarks, so let me take this opportunity to thank the conference organisers for putting together such an interesting meeting and especially for inviting me back to Pune after all this time. It has been very enjoyable.

Many of the conference guests have already left and some are leaving tomorrow. I am staying in India for a few more days, however. Tomorrow morning I’m going to Mumbai to give a talk at the Tata Institute for Fundamental Research. I have to get up early tomorrow for that trip so I think I’ll take an early night.

Cosmology beyond the Centenary of Λ

Posted in Talks and Reviews, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on June 6, 2017 by telescoper

I didn’t expect to be doing anything other than listening to the talks and getting updated on the progress of the Euclid project at this meeting in London, but this morning I was roped in to introduce a public event tomorrow evening, called Cosmology beyond the Centenary of Λ:


This will take the form of a dialogue/discussion/debate between two leading cosmologists taking a `big picture’ view of the state of cosmology now and likely future developments. I’m sure it will be very friendly so I won’t use any form of language that suggests confrontation but it features, in the red corner, George Efstathiou of the University of Cambridge and, in the blue corner, Ofer Lahav of University College London.

Incidentally, I posted some months ago about the fact that this is the centenary year of Einstein’s introduction of the cosmological constant into the field equations of general relativity in this paper:


I recommend anyone attending this Euclid meeting and indeed anyone with a passing interest in cosmology to read that paper – it’s very different from what you might probably imagine it to be!

The Cosmic Web – my Lincoln lecture slides…

Posted in Talks and Reviews, The Universe and Stuff with tags , on February 28, 2017 by telescoper

For those of you who are interested, here are the slides I used for the 1st Annual Robert Grosseteste Lecture on Astrophysics/Cosmology, given at the University of Lincoln on Thursday 23rd February 2017.