Archive for Trinity College Dublin

The Eddington Eclipse Expeditions and Astronomy Ireland

Posted in History, Talks and Reviews, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , on December 10, 2019 by telescoper

After a full shift during the day at Maynooth University, yesterday evening I made my way into Dublin to give a talk to a very large audience in the famous Schrödinger Lecture Theatre in Trinity College, Dublin, an event organized by Astronomy Ireland. I have given a number of talks on the topic of the 1919 Eclipse Expeditions during this centenary year, but I think this one had the biggest audience! We adjourned to a local pub for a drink afterwards before I dashed off to get the last train back to Maynooth.

Here are the slides I used during the talk:

This time there was an important addition to my usual talk, courtesy of Professor Peter Gallagher of DIAS. He brought along the actual 4″ object glass used in the expedition to Sobral (Brazil) in 1919. I have previously only shown a picture of it. The appearance of the actual lens drew a spontaneous round of applause from the audience, and I have to admit it was a remarkable feeling to hold a little piece of history in my hand!

Obviously I was careful not to drop this item. It is on permanent display in Dunsink Observatory, by the way, if you want to see it yourself. I hope it made its way back here safely!

After the talk was over I was chatting to a couple of members of the audience when Peter Gallagher took this nice picture actually through the lens:

Picture Credit: Peter Gallagher

I look rather old in this picture. Obviously a trick of the lens.

Searching for Synge

Posted in History, mathematics, Television with tags , , on November 14, 2019 by telescoper

John Lighton Synge (above; 1897-1995), who was an expert on geometrical approaches to general relativity, was regarded by many as the most eminent Irish mathematician and physicist since Sir William Rowan Hamilton. Synge (whose uncle was the famous playwright John Millington Synge) was born in Dublin and had spells at Trinity College Dublin, the University of Toronto and various universities in the USA before taking up a position as Senior Professor at Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) in 1948 from which he retired in 1972.

I have been asked by a friend to find out if there are any video recordings of Synge talking or lecturing. A quick google search turns up nothing, so I thought I would put this request out into the blogosphere to see if anyone is aware of anything.

Given the dates it seems likely that any recordings of him would be originally on film (or perhaps television) which would have to be transferred to digital format. Perhaps there is archive material at Trinity College or DIAS that could be suitable?

University Rankings Again

Posted in Education, Maynooth with tags , , , , , on September 18, 2019 by telescoper

Last week saw the publication of the Times Higher World University Rankings which have once again predictably generated a great deal of sound and fury while signifying nothing very important. I can’t be bothered to repeat my previous criticisms of these league tables (though I will point you to a very good rant here) but I will make a couple of comments on the reaction to them here in Ireland.

First let me mention (for what it’s worth) that Maynooth University has risen from the band covering 351st-400th place to that covering 301st to 350th place. That means that Maynooth went up by anything from 1 place to 99 places. That’s two consecutive years of rises for NUIM.

(I’ll add without further comment that I arrived here two years ago…)

The Irish Media have not paid much attention to this (or to the improvement in standing of NUI Galway) but have instead been preoccupied with the fact that the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin, known as Trinity College Dublin for short, has fallen by 44 places to 164th place; see, for example, here. Now there’s no question in my mind that Irish universities need an injection of income – especially in science subjects – in order to improve standards of education and research, but I don’t really understand the obsession with Trinity College. It’s a fine institution, of course, but sometimes it’s almost as if the press think that’s the only University in Ireland…

In response to its declining fortunes Trinity College has claimed that Ireland needs a `Rankings Strategy’. No it doesn’t. It needs something far more radical – a higher education strategy. The current government  doesn’t have one

Anyway, given the rate of Maynooth’s rise and Trinity’s fall it is a straightforward undoubtedly scientifically valid extrapolation to predict that in two or three years time, Maynooth will have overtaken Trinity in the World Rankings anyway!

(No, I’m not going to take any bets on that.)

Turning away from the exercise in numerological flummery that is the Times Higher League Tables, let me pass on some numbers that are actually meaningful. The week before term with not everyone yet registered, the number of students taking Mathematical Physics in the first year at Maynooth has increased by 31% since last year and the number on our fast-track Theoretical Physics and Mathematics (TP&M) programme has increased threefold. These increases are very pleasing. Although lectures proper don’t start until next week, I did an introductory session with the TP&M students this morning. It was very nice to be able to welcome them to Maynooth for what I hope will be an enjoyable time at Ireland’s soon-to-be top University!

Irish Quantum Foundations and Other Matters

Posted in Biographical, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on May 23, 2019 by telescoper

So here I am then, at Irish Quantum Foundations (IQF) 2019 which is being held in the Hamilton Building (shown above), and hosted by the School of Mathematics of the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin, which is sometimes known as Trinity College, Dublin for short.

I got here a bit later than I originally planned as some last-minute things came up this morning to do with next week’s events. I’ll have to skip tomorrow morning too, for similar reasons. When I did get going this morning I had to stand all the way from Maynooth to Connolly because the train was packed. At least it was reasonably on time though.

Anyway, the schedule of IQF 2019 is rather varied and I’m looking forward to the parts of it that I can attend.

Among the things I have been dealing with to do with next week are  submitting the final version of pedagogical piece about the Eclipse Expeditions of 2019 which should be published very soon in Contemporary Physics (at least in the online version) and writing a short piece for RTÉ Brainstorm (which will appear on Monday 27th May), and sorting out an appearance on Newstalk Radio next week. How I’ll get time to finish my exam marking in the middle of all this I don’t know!