Archive for Maynooth

Extensive view of Carton House, County Kildare, with Maynooth in the distance – Willem van der Hagen

Posted in Architecture, Art, History, Maynooth with tags , , , on July 8, 2021 by telescoper

I came across the above painting on the Maynooth local history Facebook page the other day and thought I’d share it here. It’s by a fairly obscure artist called Willem van der Hagen who was Dutch but who settled in Ireland around 1720. The painting (oil on canvas, 107.6 cm by 133.6 cm) dates from around 1730 and was sold at Christie’s in 2017 for £428,750. The painting was probably commissioned by Henry Ingoldsby who inherited Carton Demesne on the death of his father Sir Richard Ingoldsby in 1712.

The view is of Carton House, a location very close to where I live and which I blogged about here. The grounds of Carton House are very pleasant for taking recreational walks.

The bird’s-eye view in the painting shows Carton and its demesne before the house was extensively remodelled in the mid-18th Century, although the layout is still recognizable in the modern house:

Th refurbishment of the house was undertaken by architect Richard Castle for the 19th Earl of Kildare between 1739 and 1745. The view in the painting dates from before this change and shows Carton at the centre of an elaborate formal garden. In the foreground, on the southern side of the house, avenues of lime trees radiate outward into the countryside from the enclosed entrance courtyard; on the northern side of the house can be seen a stepped series of walled gardens and terraced walks.

The gardens and demesne were also transformed when the house was rebuilt to reflect mid eighteenth-century taste. More recently the grounds have been turned into golf courses, one to the front and one to the rear as the house itself is now a golfing resort hotel so nothing remains of these extensive gardens.

In the distance to the far left you can see the ruins of the keep of the ancient FitzGerald castle in Maynooth, but St Patrick’s College was not built until the end of the 18th Century and much of the present-day town centre dates from the 19th Century so in those days Maynooth was a small place. The area between the castle and the walls surrounding Carton House demesne is now largely built-up although there is a pleasant tree-lined avenue leading from Maynooth towards the House as far as the Dunboyne Road.

In the right foreground you can see the Prospect Tower built by the Earl of Tyrconnell, which still stands. I always assumed this was some sort of folly but it was apparently intended as a mausoleum for one of the previous owners of the house.

Boards of Examination

Posted in Biographical, Education, Maynooth with tags , , on June 11, 2021 by telescoper

We’ve at last staggered to the end of a week dominated by Examination matters. For myself that consisted of preliminary Examination Boards for Theoretical Physics and Engineering (for which we teach modules in Engineering Mathematics) followed by Final Examination Boards in both subjects with External Examiners present. Those final meetings both took place today so it’s been a particularly busy end of the week.

That’s not quite the end of the examinations business for the academic year, however, as we have the Final Final Examination Board in about ten days’ time. That is when marks from all Departments come together to determine the final results for students who are taking degrees in combinations of subjects. We have quite a number doing Joint Honours with Mathematics, for example. It does add an extra level to the process, but I think that’s a price worth paying for the flexibility we offer to students.

This final Examination Board takes place on 23rd June and students will get their marks a couple of days later on 25th June. Even that won’t be the end, because some students will be taking repeat examinations in August, but at least it signals a gap in the assessment cycle during which we can hopefully think of other things for a while.

Obviously I’m not going to comment on the marks for individual students but nobody will be surprised to hear that the Covid-19 pandemic has obviously had a big impact on some. It also had an impact on our External Examiner for Theoretical Physics who actually caught Covid-19 recently and became quite ill. Thankfully she is now feeling better and well enough to join us remotely today.

The Repeat Examination period takes place in August and will again be conducted remotely but hopefully the 1st Semester examinations next year will be under more normal circumstances. It’s not so much that I’m worried that our online examinations are somehow inappropriate, it’s just that it does take far longer to mark them than paper examinations and this year it has been extremely tight getting everything ready for the deadline by which marks must be committed to our central system (which is Monday 14th June).

Anyway, we’ve now done the job so I have an opportunity to thank all the staff in Theoretical Physics for their hard work and diligence!

Now it’s definitely wine o’clock.

Buttercups and Columbines

Posted in Biographical, Covid-19, Maynooth with tags , , on June 2, 2021 by telescoper

I suppose Ranunculus and Aquilegia are technically both weeds but they are adding a bit of colour to my garden at the moment and seem to be thriving in their spot next to the wall so I’ll leave them undisturbed.

I suppose it was inevitable that, the day I finished correcting my examination scripts, the glorious weather would end and it would start raining. Still, the rain is good for the garden. There’s always a burst of new growth after each shower. I wonder what will come up next?

The weather improve for the coming weekend which will be nice. It’s a Bank Holiday next Monday and a significant date for me personally on Friday so I’m hoping to take a break during which some gardening will be on the agenda (weather permitting).

I was also thinking about going into Dublin at some point for the first time in over a year, just for a walk around and maybe to visit the National Gallery again. The stories in the press of big crowds of people drinking outdoors last weekend have put me off a bit, but I dare say I can avoid the likely problem areas. Having been stuck in one place for 15 months (apart from a trip to get vaccinated) I feel I should make the effort to begin some sort of renormalisation.

With the exams over, students are asking what is going to happen with teaching in September. The answer is still that I have no idea, though if there’s a spike in infections due to recent events it will be even less likely that we will be back to normal for the new academic year.

The Return of Sherlock Holmes

Posted in Maynooth, Television with tags , , , , , on April 5, 2021 by telescoper

Regular readers of this blog – both of them – will know that I am a huge fan of Jeremy Brett‘s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in the Granada TV productions of the classic detective stories by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle first broadcast during the 1980s.

It turns out that Virgin Media in Ireland is now broadcasting the series The Return of Sherlock Holmes, the first episode of which, The Empty House, was on last night (Easter Sunday). I watched it with all the pleasure of meeting an old friend I hadn’t seen for years. It’s hard to believe that episode was first broadcast way back in 1986.

For those of you not up with the canon, this story (based on the original story The Adventure of the Empty House) is set three years after Holmes apparently fell to his death, along with his arch enemy Moriarty, at the Reichenbach Falls.

Holmes’s body was never found, for the very good reason that he didn’t die! It turns out he escaped and spent three years on the run exploring the world and evading Moriarty’s confederates. Much of the first episode is taken up with an account of these goings on, and the case that brings Holmes back to London is fairly slight, really just providing an excuse for his return. A murder in London provides Holmes with an opportunity to trap the last of his erstwhile opponent’s associates.

I did however experience a little frisson of surprise when I heard the identity of the victim of the murder at the heart of the story, namely the Honourable Ronald Adair, the second son of the Earl of Maynooth*…

*The title is fictional, there was a title Earl of Kildare but never an Earl of Maynooth.

Now, for bonus marks, and without using the internet, can anyone tell me the connection between Sherlock Holmes and the field of astronomical spectroscopy?

To see the answer, click below

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Intel, Leixlip and Maynooth

Posted in Maynooth with tags , , , on March 26, 2021 by telescoper

With all the doom and gloom going around I thought I’d just pass on some local news that’s good for Maynooth!

Intel’s Leixlip campus – the new construction is at the top end of the image, where the cranes are.

The giant multinational silicon chip manufacturer Intel has announced that it will be creating 1600 permanent high-tech jobs when construction is completed at its enormous new campus in Leixlip. Most of these will be graduate jobs and a sizeable fraction will go to physics graduates.  Many of Maynooth’s physics graduates and postgraduates go there already of course, but this will boost their employment prospects even further. Leixlip is on the border between County Dublin and County Kildare, and is just 5 miles away from Maynooth. The construction is expected to be completed by 2023.

Incidentally, `Leixlip’ is a name of Norse origin – it means ‘Salmon’s Leap’. Apparently there was a viking settlement there, positioned because of the abundance of salmon in the River Liffey which flows through on the way to Dublin. `Leix’ is similar to, e.g., the Danish `Laks’, meaning salmon, and ‘leap’ is similar to many words in modern European languages derived from proto-Germanic sources.

Another item of good news came through my door this morning. Preliminary works have started on the extension of the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transport) system to the West of Dublin as far as Maynooth. Currently the DART runs North-South between Malahide and Greystones:

The new DART line to Maynooth will run along the existing commuter route but will use overhead electrification so new structures will have to be built beside the track. The note I received this morning concerns preliminary ground investigations for the design phase. My house is reasonably close to the line, but not close enough for me to be disturbed by the noise from trains or other work. Of course this is all preliminary and it will take several years to complete but it’s good to see it started. When finished it should make it even easier to travel from Maynooth to Dublin and back!

That was the Astrophysics & Cosmology Masterclass that was

Posted in Education, Maynooth, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on March 25, 2021 by telescoper

I’m a bit late getting round to writing something on the blog today because it has been yet another hectic day. Between my usual lecture this morning and Computational Physics Laboratory session this afternoon we also had our long-awaited Astrophysics & Cosmology Masterclass (held via Zoom).

This event had been delayed twice because of Covid-19 so we were glad that it went ahead today at last!

We were a little nervous about how well it would go but as it happened I think it was a success. We had approaching a hundred schools tuning in, from Wicklow to Tralee, Longford to Monaghan, Donegal to Cork and many places between. The level of engagement was excellent. We held a question-and-answer session but were a little nervous in advance about whether we would actually get any questions. As it turned out we got a lot of questions with some very good ones among them. Reaction from students and teachers was very good.

For those who couldn’t make it to this morning’s session we did record the presentations and I’ll make the video available via YouTube in due course.

Now, I’ve been Zooming and Teaming (with a bit of Panopto thrown in) all day so if you don’t mind I’ll now go and vegetate.

The Vernal Equinox 2021

Posted in History, Maynooth with tags , , , , on March 20, 2021 by telescoper

It is 9.37am Local Time in Ireland on Saturday 20th March 2021 which means that the Vernal Equinox or Spring Equinox (in the Northern hemisphere) is taking place right now!

The Spring Equinox jumped back a day last year because 2020 was a leap year and now is gradually moving forward again. Of course the actual date depends on where you are in the world. The date last year was 20th March (early in the morning) in Ireland, but 19th March (late at night) in New York.

People sometimes ask me how one can define the `equinox’ so precisely when surely it just refers to a day on which day and night are of equal length, implying that it’s a day not a specific time?

The answer is that the equinox is defined by a specific event, the event in question being when the plane defined by Earth’s equator passes through the centre of the Sun’s disk (or, if you prefer, when the centre of the Sun passes through the plane defined by Earth’s equator). Day and night are not necessarily exactly equal on the equinox, but they’re the closest they get. From now until the Autumnal Equinox days in the Northern hemisphere will be longer than nights, and they’ll get longer until the Summer Solstice before beginning to shorten again.

Loughcrew (County Meath), near Newgrange, an ancient burial site and a traditional place to observe the sunrise at the Equinox

Here in Ireland we celebrated Saint Patrick’s day on March 17th, the reputed date of his death in 461 AD. Nobody really knows where St Patrick was born, though, so it would be surprising if the when were any better known.

In any case, it wasn’t until the 17th Century that Saint Patrick’s feast day was placed on the universal liturgical calendar in the Catholic Church. In the thousand years that passed any memory of the actual date was probably lost, so the Equinox was perhaps rebranded for the purpose.

The early Christian church in Ireland incorporated many pre-Christian traditions that survived until roughly the 12th century, including the ancient festival of Ēostre (or Ostara), the goddess of spring associated with the spring equinox after whom Easter is named. During this festival, eggs were used a symbol of rebirth and the beginning of new life and a hare or rabbit was the symbol of the goddess and fertility. In turn the Celtic people of Ireland probably adapted their own beliefs to absorb much older influences dating back to the stone age. St Patrick’s Day and Easter therefore probably both have their roots in prehistoric traditions around the Spring Equinox, although the direct connection has long been lost.

Particle Physics Masterclass at Maynooth

Posted in Education, Maynooth, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on February 26, 2021 by telescoper

I have already informed you of a Masterclass in Astrophysics & Cosmology at Maynooth that will take place on March 25th 2021. For more information on that event including instructions on how to book see here.

Now it’s time to announce the International Masterclass on Particle Physics. The  Department of Theoretical Physics has hosted such event for secondary school students each Spring, apart from last year when it was cancelled because of Covid-19.  The next event will take place online on 21 and 22 March 2021. You can find more information, including instructions on how to book a place, here.

These Masterclasses give secondary school students the opportunity to discover the world of quarks and leptons for themselves, by performing measurements on real data from CERN, meeting active particle physics researchers and linking up with like-minded students from other countries.  We will join thousands of other secondary school students at more than 100 universities and laboratories around Europe and worldwide in a programme stretching over four weeks.

Physics at the most fundamental level – the smallest and most basic building blocks of matter – is an exotic world.  But a few introductory talks and working with data from CERN will give the students insight into the fundamental particles of matter and the forces between them, as well as what went on during the Big Bang.

On Sunday afternoon, the students are introduced to particle physics, experiments and detectors in lectures given by active particle physics researchers.  On Monday, after a virtual visit to the ALICE detector at CERN, they work on their own with data from ALICE Afterwards they participate in a video conference with students from other countries and moderators at CERN, where they discuss and compare their results.

For more information on the Particle Physics Masterclasses, see the International Masterclasses web site.

I don’t know. You wait ages for a Masterclass in Physics at Maynooth University, and then along come two in quick succession!

Údarás na Gaeltachta

Posted in Biographical, Maynooth with tags , , on February 25, 2021 by telescoper

In today’s lunchtime Irish Language lesson we learned a bit about the Gaeltacht, i.e. Irish speaking areas in Ireland. Here is a little video:

You will see that most of the Gaeltacht is in the Western extremes of the country because these are the regions that largely escaped the English encroachment and suppression of the Irish language. One thing I wasn’t aware of before today however is that there is a part quite near Maynooth in the form of the town of Ráth Chairn (English: Rathcairn) about 40km away in County Meath. The people who live there were originally from Connemara so they speak the Gaeilge Chonnacht. This is where our teacher comes from, actually, so if I ever develop any ability to speak the language I’ll probably have do so with a Connacht accent!

Astrophysics & Cosmology Masterclass at Maynooth

Posted in Education, Maynooth, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on February 23, 2021 by telescoper

Regular readers of the blog – both of them – may remember that we planned to present a Masterclass in Astrophysics & Cosmology on January 14th 2021 but this had to be postponed due to Covid-19 restrictions. After today’s announcements by the Government of  a phased return to school starting on March 1st we have now decided to proceed with a new date of March 25th 2021.

This will be a half-day virtual event via Zoom. It’s meant for school students in their 5th or 6th year of the Irish system, who should be returning to classrooms on March 15th, but there might be a few of them or their teachers who see this blog so I thought I’d share the news here. You can find more information, including instructions on how to book a place, here.

Here is the updated official poster and the programme:

I’ll be talking about cosmology early on, while John Regan will talk about black holes. After the coffee break one of our PhD students will talk about why they wanted to study astrophysics. Then I’ll say something about our degree programmes for those students who might be interested in studying astrophysics and/or cosmology as part of a science course. We’ll finish with questions either about the science or the study!