Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Excellent blog by Peter Coles

In the Dark

On Saturday 19th October the instruments and cooling systems on the European Space Agency’s Planck spacecraft were switched off, marking the end of the scientific part of the Planck mission, after about four years of mapping the cosmic microwave background.  Later, a piece of software was uploaded that would prevent  the spacecraft systems being  accidentally switched on again after being switched off and the transmitter from causing interference with any future probes.  Planck is already “parked” indefinitely in a what is called a “disposal” orbit, far from the Earth-Moon system, having been nudged off its perch at the 2nd Lagrangian Point (L2) in August by a complicated series of manoeuvres. On October 21st the spacecraft’s thrusters were fired to burn up the last of its fuel, an important aspect of rendering the spacecraft inert, as required by ESA’s space debris mitigation guidelines.

Planck

These preliminaries having been completed, today, at 12.00…

View original post 336 more words

Read Full Post »

At number 10 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 greatest albums is “The Beatles” (usually known as “The White Album”) by The Beatles.


At number 10 in Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 greatest albums is "The Beatles" (or "White Album") by The Beatles.

At number 10 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 greatest albums is “The Beatles” (or “The White Album”) by The Beatles.


This is one of the favourite Beatles albums. As I have mentioned before, The Beatles dominate the top 15 of this list of the 500 greatest albums. “Abbey Road” is at number 15, “The White Album” is at number 10, and The Beatles have 3 (yes, three) more albums in the top 10, making 5 (five!) in the top 15.

When I first heard this album I was not that keen on it. I bought it when I was sixteen. But I have grown to like it a great deal. I think what I didn’t like about it at first was how eclectic it is. But its eclectic nature is precisely the reason it is now one of my favourites. The sheer variety of song styles on this album is stunning, even from a given song writer.

By the time this album was being recorded, The Beatles were falling apart as a group. Indeed, during the recording sessions George Harrison walked out, and so at a different time did Ringo Starr. The Lennon & McCartney songs were written very separately by John and Paul, with no collaboration. Most of John and George’s songs were written whilst they were out in India visiting the Maharashi Mahesh Yogi at his retreat in Rishikesh.

This is one of my favourite songs on the album, “Dear Prudence”, which John apparently wrote for Mia Farrow’s sister who was with them in Rishikesh.



Which is your favourite song on “The White Album”?

Read Full Post »

In early February my son and I went to Cambridge, as he will be applying to university in about 8 months and so wanted to see if he would want to be a student there.

Here are some photographs of 3 of the colleges we visited, Peterhouse, Pembroke and Corpus Christi.

Peterhouse College


Peterhouse College

Peterhouse College

Peterhouse College

Peterhouse College

Peterhouse College

Peterhouse College

Peterhouse College

Peterhouse College

Peterhouse College

Peterhouse College

Pembroke College


Pembroke College

Pembroke College

Pembroke College

Pembroke College

Pembroke College

Pembroke College

Pembroke College

Pembroke College

Pembroke College

Pembroke College

Pembroke College

Pembroke College

Pembroke College

Pembroke College

Pembroke College

Pembroke College

Pembroke College

Pembroke College

Pembroke College

Pembroke College

Corpus Christi College


Corpus Christi College

Corpus Christi College

Corpus Christi College

Corpus Christi College

Peterhouse College, Cambridge, established in 1284.

Peterhouse College, Cambridge, established in 1284.

Pembroke College, Cambridge, established in 1347

Pembroke College, Cambridge, established in 1347

Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, established in 1352

Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, established in 1352

Read Full Post »

Yesterday (Thursday the 21st of March 2013), the European Space Agency (ESA) released its first results from the Planck satellite. The picture is shown below.


20130322-015819.jpg


This picture is a picture of the temperature differences in the earliest image we can obtain of the baby Universe. These temperature differences, technically called “anisotropies” are what have led to the structure we see in today’s Universe. They provide a powerful way for us to determine all kinds of things about our Universe, including its age, geometry, and what makes up our Universe.

COBE

The first satellite to provide us with a view of these anisotropies was COBE, the Cosmic Background Explorer, a NASA satellite launched in the late 1980s. In 1992 it released this image, which caused a sensation.


20130322-015750.jpg


The reason the image looks so “fuzzy” is because the detail with which COBE could see was limited, it only had a resolution of 7 degrees (a 7 degree patch, about 14 full Moons across, was the smallest patch it could see). The day it was released happened to be the day that Sir Arnold Wolfendale, who was then the “astronomer Royal” England, was visiting Cardiff, where I was finishing up my PhD. The press were constantly ringing the department to speak to him, and of course this was a time before mobile phones so the press kept the university’s switchboard pretty busy that day fielding calls for him.

Onwards to WMAP

Some 10 years later, a more detailed map was provided by NASA’s WMAP satellite. WMAP (Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe) had a much better resolution that COBE, as the image below shows.


20130322-015805.jpg

Between COBE and Planck were a number of important experiments such as BOOMERANG (a ballo-borne experiment) and DASI (based at the South Pole and led by John Carlstrom of the University of Chicago where I was based at the time) which gave some very important information, but I think it is fair to say that it was WMAP that heralded in the era of what we now call “precision observational cosmology”. Using technical analyses of the WMAP image shown above, cosmologists have been able to determine the age of the Universe (13.7 billion years), its geometry (flat), and even that only some 5% is made up of ordinary matter, with about 28% being made up of the mysterious “dark matter” and some 67% made up of the even more mysterious “dark energy”.

Why launch Planck?

Planck was launched in March 2009 by the European Space Agency. It was actually launched on the same rocket which launched the Herschel Space Observatory which I blogged about here. Planck has a number of improvements over WMAP, and over the next few years results will be released of measurements WMAP did not have the capability to make. But, its first result is its map of the anisotropies. As this fantastic article from the New York Times explains, there are a number of confirmations of our already accepted theories in this first image, but also a number of things which will require us to re-think some things we thought we knew.

For example, initial analysis of the Planck image suggests the Universe is 13.8 billion years old, not 13.7 as calculated by the WMAP data. Also, it has determined the composition of the Universe to be 4.9% normal matter, 27 dark matter and 68% dark energy, slightly different from values determined by WMAP. The value for how quickly the Universe is expanding is also found to be different, WMAP determined a value of 67 km/s/Megaparsec and Planck determines a value of 69 km/s/Megaparsec. Some of the features in the WMAP image which some argued were an artifact of the way the image was produced are still present in the Planck image, which has been produced with an entirely different satellite and processed with an entirely different method. This suggests some of these features are, in fact, real.

A lot more analysis of even this first image will be done over the next several months, and Planck will continue to make measurements over the next several years to refine the image shown above, as well as to make measurements of things like the polarisation of the radiation coming from this earliest view of the Universe.

I will leave you with this wonderful graphic from the above mentioned New York Times article.


20130322-053017.jpg


There has never been a more exciting time to be a cosmologist!

Read Full Post »

Joan Armatrading is one of my favourite female singer/songwriters. I have seen her about 3 times in concert, and each time was memorable. She has such a rapport with her audience, and her beautiful voice and fantastic lyrics are magical.


20130228-140644.jpg


This is one of her most beautiful love songs – The Weakness in me


I’m not the sort of person who falls in and quickly out of love
But to you, I gave my affection, right from the start.
I have a lover who loves me – how could I break such a heart?
Yet still you get my attention.

Why do you come here, when you know I’ve got troubles enough?
Why do you call me, when you know I can’t answer the phone?
And make me lie when I don’t want to,
And make someone else some kind of an unknowing fool?
You make me stay when I should not?
If you’re so strong or is all the weakness in me.
Why do you come here, and pretend to be just passing by?
I need to see you – I need to hold you – tightly.

Feeling guilty,
Worried, waking from a tormented sleep
‘Cause this old love, has me bound,
But this new love cuts deep.
If I choose now, I lose out;
One of you has to fall…
And I need you, and you
Why do you come here, when you know I’ve got troubles enough?
Why do you call me, when you know I can’t answer the phone?
And make me lie when I don’t want to,
And make someone else some kind of an unknowing fool?
Make me stay when I should not?
If you’re so strong resolve the weakness in me.
Why do you come here, and pretend to be just passing by?
I need to see you – I need to hold you – tightly


Read Full Post »

As I type this early on Wednesday morning (23rd of January 2013), half a World away in Melbourne Andy Murray is playing in the quarter final of the Australian Open Tennis tournament. He is playing against Jérémy Chardy of France, and Murray has just won the 1st set 6-4. Chardy is currenty ranked 36 in the World, Andy Murray is ranked 3rd. So, on paper at least, it should be a win for Andy Murray. Should he win, he has the unenviable prospect of facing Roger Federer in the semi final on Friday.

As those of you who follow tennins will know, Murray won his first Major a few months ago, when he won the US Open in September 2012. This came after his agonising defeat in Wimbledon, which I blogged about here, but also after his success one month later in August in the 2012 Olympics.


Andy Murray won his 1st Major, the US Open, in September 2012.

Andy Murray won his 1st Major, the US Open, in September 2012.


Prior to winning his first major, Murray had suffered an agonising series of 4 defeats in major finals. In particular, in Australia where he lost twice in a row. He lost to Roger Federer in the 2010 final, and in the 2011 final he lost to Novak Djokovic. Here is a summary of Murray’s records in Grand Slam finals.


Murray’s record in Majors
Year Tournament Opponent Score
2008 US Open Roger Federer 2-6, 5-7, 2-6
2010 Australian Open Roger Federer 3-6, 4-6, 6-7
2011 Australian Open Novak Djokovic 4-6, 2-6, 3-6
2012 Wimbledon Roger Federer 6–4, 5–7, 3–6, 4–6
2012 US Open Novak Djokovic 7–6, 7–5, 2–6, 3–6, 6–2


Now that Murray has finally won his first Major and got that monkey of his back, many are expecting him to go on and win many more over the next several years. Only time will tell. Certainly having Ivan Lendl as his coach seems to have made a big difference. Lendl won 8 Major finals in his career, but just like Murray he lost his first 4 Gland Slam finals. This experience has probably proved invaluable in advising Murray on how to improve his mental approach and start winning at the final hurdle. Should Murray win in Melbourne, he will be the first man in history to follow up his 1st major victory with a 2nd victory.


+++++UPDATE+++++

Murray won easily, 6-4 6-1 6-2.


Read Full Post »

This is just a post to try and figure out what is going wrong with the horizontal alignment of Latex text. For example 360^{\circ} doesn’t seem to align correctly with the text either side of it. What happens if I just put in F=ma into the line? That comes out above the text too. Clearly something is wrong!! What about P^{2} \propto a^{3}, how does this come out? Is a the semi-major axis? Yes it is, and P is the period of the orbit.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »