Archive for Niels Bohr Institute

Farvel til NBI

Posted in Biographical with tags on August 14, 2017 by telescoper

I just had my last lunch in the canteen in the Niels Bohr Institute and will shortly be heading off to the airport to begin the journey back to Blighty. It’s been a pretty intense couple of weeks but I’ve enjoyed it enormously and have learnt a lot, even though I’ve done hardly any of the things I originally planned to do!

I haven’t been staying in the building shown in the picture, but in one of the adjacent buildings not shown. In fact my office is directly above the canteen. I took this picture on the way home on Sunday, as I noticed that the main entrance has the date `1920′ written on it. I do hope they’re planning a 100th anniversary!

Anyway, farewell to everyone at the Niels Bohr Institute and elsewhere. I hope to return before too long.


On the Time Lags of the LIGO signals

Posted in Bad Statistics, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on August 10, 2017 by telescoper

It seems that a lot of rumours are flying around on social media and elsewhere about the discussions that have been going on here in Copenhagen between members of the Niels Bohr Institute and of the LIGO scientific collaboration concerning matters arising from the `Danish Paper‘.  The most prominent among these appears to be the LIGO team and the Danish team have agreed on everything and that the Danish authors have conceded that they were mistaken in their claims. I have even been told that my recent blog posts gave the impression that this was the case. I’m not sure how, as all I’ve said is that the discussions reached agreement on some matters. I did not say what matters or whose position had changed.

I feel, therefore, that some clarification is necessary. Since I am a member of neither party to this controversy I have to tread carefully, and there are some things which I feel I should not discuss at all. I was invited to participate in the discussions as a neutral observer as a courtesy and I certainly don’t want to betray any confidences. On one thing, however, I can be perfectly clear. The Danish team (Cresswell et al.) have not retracted their claims and they reject the suggestion that their paper was wrong.

To reinforce this, I draw your attention to the fact that a revised version of `The Danish Paper’ has now been accepted for publication (in the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics) and that this paper is now available on the arXiv. The referees raised a large number of queries, and in response to them all the revised version is almost double the length of the original.

Here is the arXiv entry page:

The main body of the paper has not been significantly modified and their main result – of an unexplained 7ms correlation in the background signal (referred to in the abstract as `noise’) – has not “gone away”. If you want to understand more, read the paper!

I’m sure there will be much more discussion of this and I will comment as appropriate when appropriate. In the meantime this remains very much a live issue.

P.S. In the interest of full disclosure I should mention that I did read over part of the revised version of the Danish paper and made some suggestions with regard to style and flow. I therefore have a mention in the acknowledgments of the final version. I was warned that I might expect some trouble for agreeing to be associated with the paper in this way but, as  Sam Spade says in The Maltese Falcon `I don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble’…

Copenhagen Again

Posted in The Universe and Stuff, Biographical with tags , , on August 1, 2017 by telescoper

As you might have inferred from my earlier post, I’m back again in the wonderful city of Copenhagen, as a guest of the Niels Bohr Institute. I’ve been here almost every year since my first visit here way back in the 1980s. I didn’t come here last summer, as I was too busy finishing off my duties at Sussex and relocating back to Cardiff so it’s nice to be back again now. I’m staying in one of the `9 small homes‘ that comprise a hotel near the NBI. I’ve stayed here before though not in my current small home, which is actually a self-contained apartment on the ground floor with its own front door. It’s also got a small kitchen so I can cook for myself when I don’t feel like eating out (like tonight). Incidentally, `hjem’ (the Danish word for `home’) is pronounced exactly as `home’ is pronounced in Geordie (i.e. as `hyem’). I did some shopping earlier this evening and attempted to speak Danish when I paid for my groceries. As always, however, I got a reply in English.

I realised only this morning that it’s a year since I left my previous job. I haven’t done half the things I had hoped to do in the year after stepping down as Head of School, but that’s partly because it took quite a while to get over certain health problems and also because quite a few things have come up that I didn’t anticipate. From what I’m told the old place is doing just fine without me!

Coincidently (?), I have arrived here at the Niels Bohr Institute at precisely the time that there is a delegation here from LIGO and there’s been a lot of serious – but good-natured – discussion of `The Danish Paper‘ that came out some time ago and which questioned some aspects of the data analysis of the first detection of gravitational waves. I think there are still quite a few issues to be resolved between the two groups. Although they do seem to be converging on what’s going on, I don’t think this controversy will be fully concluded until more data are made public, as the currently available time series are not exactly those used in the actual LIGO analysis.

I think this discussion can only be of benefit to the science community in the long run, especially if it encourages LIGO to get more fully into the spirit of open science, by releasing more data for use of researchers outside the consortium.

LHC Lights up NBI

Posted in Art, Biographical, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on November 16, 2012 by telescoper

Well, first things first. Congratulations to Dr Sabir Ramazanov on his successful thesis defence today! I’ll perhaps write a bit more about the process in due course.

After the formalities were concluded, however, the committee took a breath of fresh air outside the Niels Bohr Institute where, in the fading November twilight, we were treated to a peculiar light show; a set of small spotlights on the front wall of the NBI building is hooked up directly to the ATLAS experiment on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN so that every time an event registers in Geneva it is displayed almost immediately in public here in Copenhagen. Quite appropriate for a place so steeped in physics history. The resolution of the particle tracks is of course not marvellous, but it’s actually quite a remarkable thing to see, although not all that easy to catch it on camera, especially if you’ve had a couple of glasses of wine!

Flying Visit

Posted in Biographical, Education, Politics, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on November 15, 2012 by telescoper

I’m still at home at 10am on a weekday, which is unusual, but that’s because I’m soon going to be doing the familiar schlepp to Heathrow airport in order to get a flight to Copenhagen. The purpose of this little trip is to participate in a PhD examination at the Niels Bohr Institute. I’ve never taken part in a Thesis Defence in the Danish system before, although I’ve done many equivalent examinations elsewhere, so I’m quite looking forward to finding out how it works. Will it be much different from the system we have in the UK? Probably, as it is a much more public occasion. Will that necessarily make it better? I don’t know. I was reading the thesis last night, actually, and it’s very interesting which is another reason to look forward to the occasion. I might even get time for some shopping too.

Anyway, before going to the airport I am going to pop along to the local polling station. Today is the day for the Election of the Police and Crime Commissioner for the South Wales Police Area. I’m going to the polling station not because I have a burning desire to vote – the list of candidates is extremely uninspiring – but because I feel I should register a protest at this farcical waste of public money at what is supposed to be a time of austerity. The political class in this country has never been held in lower esteem than at present and the last thing we need is more politicians, helping themselves to six-figure salaries at taxpayers’ expense.  More politicians does not mean more democracy. We already have local council elections, Welsh Assembly elections, General (Parliamentary) Elections and European Parliament Elections. We don’t need any more! This Election is a complete waste of time and money.

I intend, therefore, to visit the polling station and, instead of putting a cross in a box, write a strongly (but politely) worded message voicing my opinion on the matter thus spoiling my ballot paper. It will be the first time I’ve ever done such a thing, but this is the first time we’ve had such a stupid election.

Postcard from Brumleby

Posted in Biographical with tags , , on August 9, 2012 by telescoper

The last few weeks having been a bit chaotic, it’s probably a good idea to mention that I’m currently in the fine city of Copenhagen. This may come as a bit of a surprise to some of you, and it’s a long story how I ended up here at this time. I won’t bore you with the details, except to say I needed to get away for a while and with the help of friends and colleagues here I’m convalescing and trying to get back to doing some research at the Niels Bohr Institute, where I’ve been a visitor on many occasions.

As a matter of fact I’m staying in a very nice part of Copenhagen, called Brumleby, “an enclave of terraced houses” in many ways not dissimilar to Pontcanna, the part of Cardiff where I usually live. Incidentally the -by ending (pronounced “be” in English) which also can be found in many English place names, especially along the East coast, is pronounced more like “bue” in Danish. Footballer Jan Mølby’s name was constantly mispronounced by English commentators…

Brumleby has an interesting history. It was one of a number of social housing developments constructed in the mid-19th century in Copenhagen in response to a cholera outbreak caused by chronic overcrowding and insanitary conditions in the old city. The original name for Brumleby was Lægeforeningens Boliger, which means the “Medical Association’s Buildings” for it was set up by the Danish Medical Association, Den Almindelige Danske Lægeforening. Most of the other similar developments have now been demolished, but Brumleby is now listed and preserved as a conservation area. The apartments are small, but very cosy, and as an added convenience for me only about 5 minutes walk from the Niels Bohr Institute.

Thanks once again for all the kind and concerned emails and other messages I’ve received over the past few days and weeks. I’m definitely on the mend and will start on a `permanent’ programme when I return to Wales. I also apologize yet again to my work colleagues, visitors, students, etc, for being so erratic recently. One day, perhaps, you’ll understand and maybe even forgive.

Auditorium A

Posted in Biographical, Books, Talks and Reviews with tags , , , , , on June 8, 2011 by telescoper

Just back from a splendidly wine-laden workshop dinner, I thought I’d do a quick post. My talk was moved to this morning, instead of the scheduled slot in the afternoon I think it went OK considering that, in the spirit of a small informal workshop, I talked mainly about work in progess…

That’s the whiteboard in my office in Cardiff, by the way, not my talk this morning. Auditorium A has good old-fashioned blackboards.

An advantage of speaking in the morning was that after it was over I was able to relax with a beer at lunchtime, but in the warm weather that made it rather difficult to stay on the ball afterwards. I’ve lost track of the amount of time I’ve spent sitting (or even speaking) in the famous Auditorium A of the Niels Bohr Institute over the years, actually, but I don’t think I’ve ever taken a picture there, so here’s one.

On the extreme left you can see our genial host Pavel Naselsky; in the centre left with blue shirt and grey hair, pretending not to be asleep, is Leonid Grishchuk; beside him to the right is Subir Sarkar and next to him,  more-or-less hidden from view, is Holger Bech Nielsen who travelled backwards in time especially to attend the workshop. The knee in the foreground remains unattributed.

Here is an “official” workshop photograph, taken while the participants were looking a bit more awake, but before quite a few had made it back from lunch..