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Posted in Uncategorized on November 27, 2015 by telescoper


Elegy, by Coles

Posted in Music, Poetry, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on November 20, 2015 by telescoper

Last night on Radio 3 there was a concert involving music by Cecil Coles (among others). Coles – who, as far as I know, was no relation – was killed in action in the First World War, in April 1918. In fact he was shot and mortally wounded by a sniper while working as a stretcher-bearer trying to rescue injured soldiers from a wood, a task for which he had volunteered. He was 29 when he died and not much of his work as a composer survives. In the interval of the Concert I heard this recording of a work by Coles, which I think is very touching. It’s a setting of one of the Elegiac Stanzas (“Sic Juvat Perire”)  by Thomas Moore. Here’s the text:


When wearied wretches sink to sleep,
How heavenly soft their slumbers lie!
How sweet is death to those who weep,
To those who weep and long to die!

Saw you the soft and grassy bed,
Where flowrets deck the green earth’s breast?
‘Tis there I wish to lay my head,
‘Tis there I wish to sleep at rest.

Oh, let not tears embalm my tomb, —
None but the dews at twilight given!
Oh, let not sighs disturb the gloom, —
None but the whispering winds of heaven!

And here is the setting by Cecil Coles:


Vive La France!

Posted in Uncategorized on November 14, 2015 by telescoper


The bizarre naked man orchid

Posted in Uncategorized on November 10, 2015 by telescoper


Tired after a long afternoon on Senate, I lack the energy to do a proper blog post so I thought I’d just reblog this. I suppose it follows on from my Anthropic Principle item!

p.s. The word “Orchid” is derived from the Greek word for testicle. I just thought you would like to know that.

Originally posted on Why Evolution Is True:

Let’s finish the week not with a cat, but a plant. This one, the “naked orchid” or “hanging naked man orchid,” is a real species, Orchis italica.


There’s a reason they aren’t called the “naked hanging woman orchid”:


Don’t ask me the adaptive significance, if any, of this shape. Maybe there’s some insect that has a search image for men?

To see nine more bizarre flowers, many of them orchids, go here.

View original

MADCOWS and Extreme Galaxy Clusters

Posted in The Universe and Stuff, Uncategorized with tags , , , on November 4, 2015 by telescoper

I thought I’d do a quick post just to have an excuse to post this very pretty picture I found in a press release from  JPL:

extreme cluster

This is a distant galaxy cluster found in the “Massive And Distance Clusters Of Wise Survey“, which is known by its acronym “MADCOWS”. Ho Ho Ho. If the previous link is inaccessible, because you don’t have a subscription, then don’t worry: the paper concerned is available for free on the arXiv. If the previous link isn’t inaccessible, because you do have a subscription, then do worry because you’re wasting your money…

Anyway the abstract of the paper, by Gonzalez et al., reads:

We present confirmation of the cluster MOO J1142+1527, a massive galaxy cluster discovered as part of the Massive and Distant Clusters of WISE Survey. The cluster is confirmed to lie at z = 1.19, and using the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave Astronomy we robustly detect the Sunyaev–Zel’dovich (SZ) decrement at 13.2σ. The SZ data imply a mass of M200m = (1.1 ± 0.2) × 1015M, making MOO J1142+1527 the most massive galaxy cluster known at z > 1.15 and the second most massive cluster known at z > 1. For a standard ΛCDM cosmology it is further expected to be one of the ~5 most massive clusters expected to exist at z ≥ 1.19 over the entire sky. Our ongoing Spitzer program targeting ~1750 additional candidate clusters will identify comparably rich galaxy clusters over the full extragalactic sky.

I added the link to WISE, by the way.

This cluster is obviously an impressive object, and galaxy clusters are always “extreme” in the sense that they are defined to be particularly large concentrations of mass, but this one is actually in line with theoretical expectations for such objects. The following graph shows the spread of extreme cluster masses expected as a function of redshift:

If you mentally plot the mass and redshift of this beastie on the diagram you’ll see that it’s well within the comfort zone. As extreme objects go, this one is quite normal!


Posted in Uncategorized on October 29, 2015 by telescoper

It now behoves me to spend some time away from the office. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible but in the meantime there will be a short intermission…



Mathematical Cake

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on October 23, 2015 by telescoper

This afternoon in the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences we had one of our occasional thematic cake events:



As you can see, today’s cakes were inspired by Rubik’s Cube. One reason for this choice is that we were thanking the former Head of Department of Mathematics, Miro Chlebik who stood down this summer, for his service in that role. The other is that we felt that a Mattematical theme (Geddit?) would be appropriate to mark the departure of one of our office staff, Matt Tiernan, who leaves us today for a job elsewhere in the University. I’ll just add a “goodbye” and “good luck” message to the heartfelt thanks offered by our School Administrator Oonagh in her speech this afternoon!


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