Archive for Theory

Physics is more than applied mathematics

Posted in Education, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on July 15, 2015 by telescoper

I thought rather hard before reblogging this, as I do not wish to cause any conflict between the different parts of my School – the Department of Mathematics and the Department of Physics and Astronomy!

I don’t think I really agree that Physics is “more” than Applied Mathematics, or at least I would put it rather differently. Physics and Mathematics intersect, but there are parts of mathematics that are not physical and parts of physics that are not mathematical.

Discuss.

Protons for Breakfast Blog

A problem set for potential applicants in the foyer of the Cavendish Laboratory. Despite appearances - this is not physics! A problem set for potential applicants in the foyer of the Physics department of a premier UK university. It looks like physics, but it is in fact maths. The reason is that in the context of this problem, the string cannot pull a particle along at all unless it stretches slightly. Click the image for a larger diagram.

While accompanying my son on an Open Day in the Physics Department of a premier UK university, I was surprised and appalled to be told that Physics ‘was applied mathematics‘.

I would just like to state here for the record that Physics is notapplied mathematics.

So what’s the difference exactly?

I think there are two linked, but subtly distinct, differences.

1. Physics is a science and mathematics is not.

This means that physics has an experimental aspect. In physics, it is possible to disprove a hypothesis by experiment: this cannot be done in maths.

2. Physics is about…

View original post 256 more words

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STFC Consolidated Grants Review

Posted in Finance, Science Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2014 by telescoper

It’s been quite a while since I last put my community service hat on while writing a blog post, but here’s an opportunity. Last week the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) published a Review of the Implementation of Consolidated Grants, which can be found in its entirety here (PDF). I encourage all concerned to read it.

Once upon a time I served on the Astronomy Grants Panel whose job it was to make recommendations on funding for Astronomy through the Consolidated Grant Scheme, though this review covers the implementation across the entire STFC remit, including Nuclear Physics, Particle Physics (Theory), Particle Physics (Experiment) and Astronomy (which includes solar-terrestrial physics and space science). It’s quite interesting to see differences in how the scheme has been implemented across these various disciplines, but I’ll just include here a couple of comments on the Astronomy side of things.

First, here is a table showing the number of academic staff for whom support was requested over the three years for which the consolidated grant system has been in existence (2011, 2012 and 2013 for rounds 1, 2 and 3 respectively).  You can see that the overall success rate was slightly better in round 3, possibly due to applicants learning more about the process over the cycle, but otherwise the outcomes seem reasonably consistent:

STFC_Con1

The last three rows of this table  on the other hand show quite clearly the impact of the “flat cash” settlement for STFC science funding on Postdoctoral Research Assistant (PDRA) support:
STFC_Con

Constant cash means ongoing cuts in real terms; there were 11.6% fewer Astronomy PDRAs supported in 2013 than in 2011. Job prospects for the next generation of astronomers continue to dwindle…

Any other comments, either on these tables or on the report as a whole, are welcome through the comments box.

 

Astronomy Jobs at Cardiff!

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , on June 1, 2012 by telescoper

Just a quick post to advertise a couple of job opportunities in the School of Physics & Astronomy at Cardiff University. For further details you can look at the official website, but here is an outline:

Two Faculty Positions in Astrophysics

Observational and theoretical studies of star-formation and/or extrasolar planetary systems.

The School of Physics and Astronomy at Cardiff University has immediate vacancies for two permanent faculty appointments in Astrophysics.  We are seeking experts in observational and theoretical studies of star-formation and/or extra-solar planetary systems to conduct world-class research and research-led teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate level.  The appointments will be at any level from Lecturer to Professor depending on the experience of the candidate; we expect at least one of the appointments to be at a junior level.

Physics and Astronomy at Cardiff University has undergone substantial expansion in the past few years and has very strong research groups in gravitational-wave physics, astronomical instrumentation, extragalactic astronomy and cosmology, star-formation and condensed matter physics.  There are presently 18 academic staff involved in astrophysics and relativity, with 15 post-doctoral researchers and 22 PhD students.

The appointment will be made at a level commensurate with experience.

The advertisement is also available on the AAS Jobs Register, or will be when they get their act together and put it online. The AAS website is just one of a number that have been recently improved, with the result that they’re much less efficient than they were before.

Anyway, I’m just passing on the advertisement so please don’t send me your CVs! If you’d like to apply please do so using the official Cardiff University jobs page, which also has a lot of general information about the City and the University.

P.S. There have been quite a few job vacancies in astronomy around the UK recently – Edinburgh, Surrey, Liverpool, Exeter etc. I wonder why that is, and where the money is coming from?