Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Responsible SciComm

Posted in Uncategorized on April 1, 2020 by telescoper

One of the things I’ve written about on this blog quite frequently is how important the treatment of uncertainty is in science, both in the application of the scientific method itself and in the communication of results to a wider audience. This blog post makes a similar point about the presentation of results from modelling the spread of Covid-19.

...and Then There's Physics

Yesterday, a group in Oxford released a paper that implied that a signifcant fraction of those in the UK may already have been infected. This was quickly picked up by numerous media outlets who highlighted that coronavirus could already have infected half the British population. James Annan has already discussed it in a couple of post, but I thought I would comment briefly myself.

To be clear, I certainly have no expertise in epidemiology, but I do have expertise in computational modelling. So, I coded up their model, which is described in Equations 1-4 in their paper. They were also doing a parameter estimation, while I’m simply going to run the model with their parameters.

The key parameter is $latex rho$, which is the proportion of the population that is at risk of severe disease, a fraction of whom will die (14%). They explicitly assume that only…

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The Goats of Llandudno

Posted in Uncategorized on March 31, 2020 by telescoper

If you’ve ever been to the seaside town of Llandudno in North Wales, you’ll know that there are mountain goats living on the nearby headland known as the Great Orme. Well, the streets of Llandudno are very quiet right now because of the Covid-19 measures and the goats have come down into the town to investigate!

(I got these pictures from Stuart Maher on Twitter.)

R.I.P. Phil Anderson (1923-2020)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on March 30, 2020 by telescoper

I heard this morning via a friend who knew him personally of the death, yesterday at the age of 96, of condensed matter physicist and Nobel Laureate Professor Philip Warren Anderson. He will perhaps be best remembered known for Anderson Localization but he worked on a huge range of topics in physics and his influence was felt across many branches of science (including astrophysics). It’s too early for obituaries to have been published yet but I will add links when they become available.

Update: here is the New York Times obituary.

R.I.P. Philip W Anderson (1923-2020).

The Open Journal of Astrophysics and the Free Journals Network

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 30, 2020 by telescoper


I am pleased to announce that The Open Journal of Astrophysics is now a member of the Free Journal Network.

We are in fact the 51st member of the network, which exists

…to promote scholarly journals run according to the Fair Open Access model (roughly, journals that are controlled by the scholarly community, and have no financial barriers to readers and authors.

A full list of the illustrious journals belonging to this network can be found here.



Life going on..

Posted in Uncategorized on March 26, 2020 by telescoper

I’ve had the feeling that this blog is in danger of turning into some sort of plague diary so I thought I’d pass on a couple of examples of life going on. It’s not quite business as usual, but there’s no point in us sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves.

As it happens I came onto campus today, mainly to check on the Library Cat (who was absent from his post, but well provisioned with food) but also to check the Departmental mail. Somebody has to deal with the invoices, or at least the minority of them that don’t come electronically. In fact there were only two.

Anyway, as I walked through campus I saw the building work on the Kilcock Road site continuing apace. It can’t be difficult to practice social distancing at the top of one of those cranes:

The last picture I took of the construction site was on St Patrick’s Day (17th March), just nine days ago:

It’s from a different vantage point, but you can still see they’ve added quite a lot in the past week and a bit. You can also see how much the weather has improved. In fact the last few days have been lovely!

Another thing worth reporting on is that there’s been a notable uplift in submissions to the Open Journal of Astrophysics recently. It’s almost as if some people have got some time on their hands to write papers! I’ll do a separate post about a few developments on the OJA front in due course but, for the time being, I will just mention that as a fully online journal all our processes run remotely anyway so we are, and will remain, fully operational throughout the Coronavirus emergency.

Well, now I have to get my act together and activate another remote computational physics laboratory session. Fingers crossed!

The Shell House Raid

Posted in Uncategorized on March 21, 2020 by telescoper

Almost forgot that the grim events described in this old post took place in Copenhagen 75 years ago today…

In the Dark

An early morning walk around Copenhagen this morning reminded me of a longer visit I made here about 25 years ago, during which I rented a room in a nice large apartment on Frederiksberg Allé, which is in a rather posh part of the city called Frederiskberg. The landlord, who also lived on the premises, was a Mr Vagn Jul Pedersen, a nice old man who had lived in that part of the city all his life. One evening we sat talking over a beer or two and he told me of a terrible thing that he had seen during the latter stages of the Second World War when he was a young man, and I thought some of you might be interested to learn about it.

In March 1945, the British decided to carry out a low-level bombing attack on a target in Copenhagen, which was under German…

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Farewell to Flybe

Posted in Uncategorized on March 20, 2020 by telescoper

Just for the record, I today received a full refund for the cost of my Flybe tickets via the Chargeback scheme. Thanks to AIB for processing this so quickly!

The collapse of Flybe happened on 5th March 2020, just over two weeks ago. Can it really have been so recent? It seems like ages ago.

In the Dark

It had been on the cards for some time, but last night the airline Flybe collapsed and has now gone into administration. Let me just leave this Twitter announcement made in January by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps here:

It seems that Flybe has gone the inevitable way of every Tory promise.

I had bought a ticket to fly from Dublin to Cardiff at the end of next week as the following week is a study break that includes the St Patrick’s Day holiday. As a result I got this email this morning.

Obviously it’s an inconvenience for me as I’ll have to find another way to get to Cardiff, but I’ll probably get my money refunded by the Chargeback scheme so it’s not such a big deal. The same can’t be said of the 2000 people who worked for Flybe who have now lost their jobs, nor the many…

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