Archive for Niels Bohr Institute

Fortiter Defendit Triumphans

Posted in Biographical with tags , , , on February 16, 2019 by telescoper

So here I am in my hotel room in Copenhagen after breakfast doing a quick post before checking out. I’ve put the DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door.

Ibsens Hotel seems to know its guests!

My flight back to Dublin is not until this evening and I have to leave the hotel by 11am (local time) so I have a few hours wandering about the city which should be very nice, since the weather is lovely.

I took the above picture with my phone yesterday morning while taking the short walk to the Niels Bohr Institute. The strange effect was cause by the mist hanging over the city. This morning is bright and sunny. Ideal for a walk about.

Anyway, the main point of this post is to congratulate Dr Sebastian von Hausegger who successfully defended his PhD thesis yesterday. In the Danish system the thesis defence is a public affair, involving a talk by the candidate followed by questions from a panel involving two external examiners, of which I was one. The talk lasted about 45 minutes and was followed by about 40 minutes of questions. I’m told that was a longer than usual question-and-answer session, but that’s only because we found the thesis so interesting. The thesis concerned various projects related to the cosmic microwave background, including foreground subtraction methods and analysis of polarization.

It was actually a very enjoyable occasion, rather than an ordeal, and the candidate passed with flying colours. Afterwards there was a small drinks reception, during which I got to talk to Sebastian’s parents and his girlfriend (who apparently reads this blog). I hope they all had a good celebration yesterday evening!

P.S. I couldn’t think of a good title for this post so I borrowed the latin motto of the City of Newcastle (my home town). Roughly translated it means `triumphing by brave defence’!

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Copenhagen Yet Again

Posted in Biographical, Education with tags , , on February 14, 2019 by telescoper

Once again I find myself in the wonderful city of Copenhagen. As far as I’m concerned, at least, my wavefunction has collapsed (along with the rest of me into a definite location: Ibsen’s Hotel, in fact. Henrik Ibsen isn’t here: he checked out many years ago.

The hotel management, being Danes, are refreshingly honest in their description of my room:

Usually hotel rooms this size are described as `standard’…

After a very enjoyable but rather tiring day yesterday I was up early this morning to get from Loughborough to Luton Airport. What I thought would be the reasonable way of making the trip – train from Loughborough to Luton Airport Parkway and shuttle bus from there – turned out to be inconvenient in terms of timing and cost, so the kind people of Loughborough University just booked me a cab all the way there. I had to leave at 7am, though, so missed the hotel breakfast but I got to the airport in good time to have something there.

My second flight with Ryanair this week was also on time and Copenhagen’s excellent public transport system got me to this hotel very quickly. It’s a good few degrees colder here than in England.

When I checked in the receptionist asked me if I had stayed here before. I said yes, but couldn’t remember when. She said it was 2012, as I was still on their system. I did actually post about it then. The hotel hasn’t changed at all from what I remember last time. I must remember to get to breakfast in good time.

The flight from Luton Airport carried a large contingent of Chelsea supporters. Their team is playing  Malmö this evening in the UEFA Europa League. Malmö is easily reachable from Copenhagen by train over the Øresund Bridge. Fortunately I was heading into Copenhagen on the Metro so parted company with the supporters as soon as I left the airport.

Anyway, I’m in Copenhagen again as one of the External Examiners for a thesis defence at the Niels Bohr Institute tomorrow morning and then I’ll be returning directly to Dublin on Saturday afternoon. I’m missing today’s Computational Physics lecture and laboratory in Maynooth, but the students are being well looked after in my absence by John and Aaron who have all the notes and lab scripts.

 

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 Biographical, The Universe and Stuff 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.