Archive for William Herschel Society

Our Place in the Universe

Posted in Biographical, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on November 10, 2010 by telescoper

Just a quick post to plug a forthcoming lecture entitled Our Place in the Universe by my former PhD supervisor, Professor John D. Barrow.

This lecture is one of a series held jointly between the University of Bath and the William Herschel Society. In fact, I gave the corresponding lecture last year on The Cosmic Web, a podcast of which is available here. It doesn’t seem like a whole year has passed since I blogged about that event!

John Barrow’s lecture will take place at 7pm on Thursday 11th November, at the Claverton Campus of the University of Bath. For further details, see the link above. I realise that it’s a bit far for local Cardiff people to get there and back in the evening, but there might be a few readers of this blog who can make it there. John is an excellent public speaker and I’d encourage anyone who can go to do so, as I’m sure it will prove very rewarding.


Talked Out

Posted in Books, Talks and Reviews, Cosmic Anomalies with tags , , , on November 20, 2009 by telescoper

My trip to Bath yesterday turned out to be very enjoyable and entirely free of aqueous complications. The train ran on time from Cardiff to Bath Spa, although it was hideously overcrowded. About an hour later I was met at the station by Gary Mathlin and taken to the University campus  in his car. I didn’t get to see much of the city because it was already dark, but parts of it are very beautiful in a very Jane-Austen type of way. The University of Bath campus is a very different kettle of fish, a 1960s modernist construction in which I would have got completely lost had I not had a guide. Quite smart though. Better than most of its ilk.

The talk itself was in quite a large and swish lecture theatre. I’m not sure how many turned up but it might have been close to a hundred or so. Very mixed too, with quite a few students and some much older types.

I thought it went down quite well, but you’ll really have to ask the audience about that! I answered a few questions at the end and then there was  a very generous vote of thanks and I was given a gift of a very interesting book published by Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution. Thereafter I was whisked off to dinner, which I hadn’t realised was going to happen. I had the chance to chat to various people, including students and members  of the William Herschel Society, all of whom were very friendly and convivial after a few glasses of wine. Fortunately, Gary Mathlin lives in Cardiff so he gave me a lift home afterwards so I didn’t get back too late.

This morning I had to head straight to London without going into work in order to get to Imperial College to give a lunchtime seminar at the Theoretical Physics group, which is based in the Huxley building. I think it is named after T.H. rather than Aldous, because I wasn’t offered any Mescalin. Of course seminars like this have a much smaller audience and are much more technical than public lectures, but I still found myself having flashbacks to the previous evening’s lecture. I talked about various bits and pieces arising from work I’ve been doing with various people about the cosmic anomalies I’ve blogged about from time to time.

After this we went to a local pizzeria for a late lunch (and a couple of glasses of wine). I would have liked to stay longer to chat with the folks there, but I wanted to get back to Cardiff at a reasonable hour so I left in time for the 4.15 train.

Walking back home from Cardiff station along the side of the River Taff I was struck by its rather sinister appearance. Still high after the recent rains, and lit only by the lights of the city, it glistened like thick black oil as it flowed very quickly down towards the Bay.  I felt more than a hint of menace in the sheer volume of water streaming past in the darkness.

So far we’ve escaped the worst of the season’s bad weather. The fells of Cumbria, in the far north-west of England, have had 14 inches of rain in 2 days, which is a record. If that happened in South Wales I’m not sure even Cardiff’s formidable flood defences would cope! The  forecast for this weekend is terrible so I don’t think I’ll be doing anything very much outdoors. That suits me, in fact, as all this travelling about has left me well and truly knackered. Time for an early night, I think!

Aquae Sulis

Posted in Books, Talks and Reviews, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , on November 19, 2009 by telescoper

Just time for a quick post this lunchtime, in between a whole day of meetings with students about projects and other things. This afternoon I have to whizz off to the fine city of Bath where this evening I am giving a public lecture jointly organized  by the University of Bath and the William Herschel Society (which is based in Bath).

The title of my talk is The Cosmic Web, and a brief outline is as follows.

The lecture will focus on the large scale structure of the Universe and the ideas that physicists are weaving together to explain how it came to be the way it is.

Over the last few decades astronomers have revealed that our cosmos is not only vast in scale – at least 14 billion light years in radius – but also exceedingly complex in texture, with galaxies and clusters of galaxies linked together in immense chains and sheets tracing out an immense network of structures we call the Cosmic Web.

Cosmologists have developed theoretical explanations for its origin that involve such exotic concepts as ‘dark matter’ and ‘cosmic inflation’, producing a cosmic web of ideas that is in many ways as rich and fascinating as the Universe itself.

The University of Bath website has more details of the talk, and I think they are going to do a podcast too. I’ll actually be doing a recap in a couple of weeks’ time in Bristol at an event for the Institute of Physics, of which more anon.

Bath is only about an hour from Cardiff by train and I’m very much looking forward to this trip as I have never been to the University of Bath before.I remember from my schooldays that the Romans named the place Aquae Sulis (or, as my Latin teacher Mr Keating who couldn’t pronounce his esses would say, Aquae Thulith).  The local waters were famous for their healing powers even before the Romans got to England, and the Celtic inhabitants attributed this to a deity they called  Sulis. The Romans kept the name, although they decided that Sulis was actually their goddess Minerva in disguise. The Romans were good at appropriating local traditions like that.

The only potential fly in the ointment is the British weather, which has been terrible over the last week or so and further deluges are forecast this afternoon and evening. As I write, though, it’s actually fine and sunny and the weather map suggests the worst of the current band of rain has passed to the north of here. I hope I’m not tempting providence, and that there won’t be too much of the aquae heading in my direction!