Archive for Flagstaff

My talk at “The Origins of the Expanding Universe”

Posted in Books, Talks and Reviews, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , on October 9, 2012 by telescoper

You may recall that I gave a talk recently at a meeting called The Origins of the Expanding Universe in Flagstaff, Arizona. I put the slides up here. Well, the organizers have now put videos of the presentations online so you have the chance to see mine, warts and all.

I was relieved when I saw this on Youtube that the organizers were kind enough to edit out the embarrassing bit at the start when my laptop refused to talk to the data projector and I had to swap to another one. Sorting all that out seemed to take ages, which didn’t help my frame of mind and I was even more nervous than I would have been anyway given that this was my first public appearance after a rather difficult summer. Those are my excuses for what was, frankly, not a particularly good talk. But at least I survived. Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.

Views of Arizona

Posted in Biographical with tags , , , , on September 18, 2012 by telescoper

On the way to the airport on Sunday with my chauffeur, John Peacock, we took the opportunity to make a few detours to take in some of Arizona’s breathtaking scenery. The heat was also fairly breathtaking. I don’t really know how people manage to live out there, actually. Anyway, here are a few snaps I managed to capture with my phone camera.

The first is of course Meteor Crater, which is about 45 miles from Flagstaff:

The crater is about 170m deep and has a diameter of about 1.2km. You can see some mining equipment and other gear at the bottom. Initially people thought there would be the remains of a big iron meteorite buried underneath the crater, but magnetic tests showed that there was no so such thing. Modern understanding is that the meteorite vaporised on impact; evidence for this is found in tiny bits of fused iron that can be found as far as 7km from the impact site.

Here are another two pictures of the beautiful rocky landscape of Arizona which comprises various kinds of sandstone of different hues, including one which is just like terra cotta. Here’s an example of the spectacular formations you can find on the way from Flagstaff to Sedona:


This is Cathedral Rock in the afternoon sunshine

Well, that’s enough exotic travel pictures. Now I’m off to Swindon.


Posted in Biographical, Jazz with tags , , , , on September 14, 2012 by telescoper

I’m up bright and early this morning – well, early, at least – after my long trip yesterday. I was slightly nervous about my itinerary, especially the (for me) uncharted territory at the end. As it happens, the train from Cardiff to Heathrow, direct flight from Heathrow to Phoenix and shuttle bus from Phoenix to Flagstaff, Arizona, all went to plan. I arrived just after nine yesterday evening, tired but intact.

One thing worth mentioning is that this is the first time I’ve set foot on American soil for many years. My lamentable experience with the US Embassy in London in 2005 succeeding in putting me off visiting the States almost entirely. However, I’m told that travelling is meant to be good for me, so I decided to accept the invitation to attend and speak at the conference I posted about a while ago. One of the relics of the 2005 episode is an unused J-1 visa in my passport, and when we arrived in Phoenix I was consequently a little apprehensive about whether questions might be asked about it. That added to the usual anxiety about length of queues at Immigration. As it turned out, the staff were courteous and efficient and the uniformed officer I spoke to at the desk and who took my fingerprints etc was an enthusiastic amateur astronomer who seemed more interested in my work than in the formalities at hand. Anyway, my virgin visa attracted no comment at all.

Despite landing a bit late, I actually got through the airport in good time to catch the shuttle to Flagstaff. Phoenix, by the way, was a scorching 37 Celsius, even at 5.30 in the pip emma. I dread to think how hot it must have been at mid-day. Flagstaff is, I’m told, a bit cooler being up in the mountains although it was dark when I arrived and I didn’t really see much of the place before getting to the hotel, having a quick blog, and then crashing out.

Incidentally, the route from Phoenix to Flagstaff is north on the I-17 until it hits Route 66, subject of the famous song in which Flagstaff gets a mention:

My hotel is actually situated on Route 66, but so far there’s no sign of anything that could truthfully be described as “kicks”.

Anyway, I have to speak later today so I should probably start writing my talk.  As they don’t say around these parts, Toodle-pip!