Time is a funny thing. As physics students, we learn that our most basic assumption of time is, in fact, true: its silent immutability, that cold, heartless pace of the clock, is a lie. Of course, time doesn’t actually run slower in a queue, when one minute feels like five, or run faster in an exam, when the last five minutes feel like one; spacetime is warped by inertia, not boredom. But even if this agreement between perception and reality is coincidental, the subject makes for some thinking.
I’m writing this from home, 14 days and 500 miles away from Imperial, and though there is much to celebrate about being back – not having to cook every meal, or being around people who actually know how to iron, or simply just being able to get up at noon without feeling guilty – there is equally a curious feeling of trying to peddle back lost time.
For my last research interfaces task (yes it is finally over now) I had to write a short ‘article’ style thing on my Masters project. I thought I’d share it with you here and then tell you about some of the realities of it that I didn’t write about…
Listening to the sea
It’s not often you find a whole new scientific discipline in the rubbish. That’s what W. Steven Holbrook effectively did back in 2003 when he noticed that there was meaning in the noise people searching for oil were throwing away.
For decades people had been taking ships out into the centre of the ocean and firing high pressure bubbles of air into the water to create sound waves searching for oil beneath the ocean floor.
Happy 2016! I hope everyone had an interesting and vaguely relaxing break.
I was actually wrong in my last blog to say that nothing particularly interesting would happen before the end of term—I ended up helping out in the Science Museum lates for Tim Peake’s launch. Some people from Astrophysics had a pop-up planetarium and an infrared camera and I entertained (and scienced) the people waiting for it by showing them how to make a spectroscope out of a DVD. (It actually works surprisingly well.)
Two years ago I won an Imperial Essay competition and part of the prize was a trip to CERN.
Often people will say they don’t understand my blogs, so this one is split into three bits (imitating nature as we shall see) depending on how much physics you care to know.
Bit one: the standard model
The standard model is a theory about our best knowledge of particle physics to date, and it includes a toolkit of particles with which you can build a universe from. Each of these particles has different properties, but there are lots of patterns and links between them (just like the periodic table in chemistry).
There are two types of particles overall- the ones that make up stuff– the matter particles, and the ones that make the stuff do stuff– the ones that carry the forces.
Only one day, one tutorial and one lecture to go before Christmas holidays! We had our house dinner yesterday, which was awesome, but this blog is on something a bit different…
Basically, I was trying to listen to a lecture on matter reacting to magnetic fields, when I noticed a great tweet by symmetry mag showing their paper snowflakes in the shape of famous scientists. They look amazing, but are pretty intricate, and I don’t have a craft knife—also I was pretty sure I could make them even more nerdy, so I decided to come up with my own science inspired snowflakes.
Last Thursday I went to a meeting of the London Forum for Science and Policy (LFSP). I didn’t really know what to expect from this, but it was amazing! It is a newly set-up student think -tank whose job will hopefully be to mediate conversation between scientific experts in their fields and politicians. Through it you can learn about writing policy papers, the way that policy is implemented and hopefully help policy makers get the evidence they need. In this meeting we were spoken to by Dr. Jason Blackstock a senior lecturer in Science and Global Affairs from UCL, who introduced to us just how vital it is to teach scientists the workings of policy.
For seconds, lectures are already interesting 😛 I finally found out what people are going on about when they say ‘centrifugal force isn’t real’ and how Newton’s laws can apply when we are not in an inertial reference frame. That has bugged me for years—being on a spinning planet flying across the solar system, how can we use F=ma if we are already always accelerating?
It turns out when you look down at the Earth from a stable—let’s say relative to the Sun, vantage point, you see things on the surface of Earth moving as you would from Newton’s laws.
I was going to make good on my promise to give some Python tips for this blog, but after reading through all my lab python notes I realised that there are better links from the lab website (and now even pre-course material to complete before the start of labs.) Damn it. Oh well—I think that is a good idea and am glad Imperial have beat me to it 😛
You probably know this already but you can find all this lovely information on the first year laboratory and computing website and the whole of the course is actually on Blackboard, including a load of links on where to download python and places to get tutorials and everything.
This March, the media was sparked into a frenzy by reports of the first sightings of gravitational waves in the cosmic microwave background. There was talk of ‘breakthroughs’, ‘new frontiers of Physics’, ‘smoking guns’ and, of course, Nobel Prizes. The announcement was made by a team working on data from the BICEP2 telescope, who claimed to have discovered signals in the first ever light emitted in the universe. These signals hint at a time even earlier than that, a time that we will never be able to measure directly and that has teased scientists since its proposal in 1980: inflation.
Inflation is an idea put forward to explain why the universe appears to be at such an even temperature.
Here is the previously promised planet cake video 🙂
The pictures you can’t quite see in the background are a plan of the cake (in the picture below) and that classic photo of Earth seen through Saturn’s rings as the little tiny blue dot.
Frustratingly, the side we cut into the green (metallic hydrogen) layer was a bit mixed in with the outer atmosphere of Saturn! It actually came out much better the other side, but we ate that so you’ll have to take my word for it…
If anyone is thinking of doing this themselves please (please!) cook the core completely then fill the edges of the molds with the next layer’s mixture and place the cooked core inside it to cook again and continue this way.