White cliffs of dover 09 2004The title of this post is a quote, of disputed origin. Its true. CERN is currently spending billions of euros and employing armies of supersmart people looking for the Higgs particle (as well as doing more fun and useful stuff too). The Higgs mechanism was stolen from condensed-matter physics by particle physicists, whose descendants are running CERN. There is no shame in stealing ideas from one area of physics and using them in another.

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MortarboardAs I think I have said before on his blog, most science research is not done by middle-aged academics like me but by PhD students and postdocs (postdocs are typically people who have got their PhD within the last few years). We academics have so many things to do: teach, admin, meetings, more admin, etc, that we unfortunately can not spend as much time as we want on research.

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BombThis is the fun title of a chapter section in a book called The Cult of Statistical Significance, which is as entertaining as you would expect any book to be with both cult and statistics in the title. I have not read all of it but a lot of it seems like one long attack on p-values.

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Today I ran the Physics bit of another University Open Day for prospective students. I think it went well. It ran smoothly as the earlier ones in July did (see my earlier post). They are quite rewarding to run as I think it is good to answer the questions of prospective students. I told one prospective student and parent about how first and insurance choices work, and if I can help even one student understand the system and make the right choice that is good.

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First View of Earth from MoonThe image to the left is the first picture of Earth taken from the Moon. It was taken 45 years ago and now we are all used to seeing pictures of our home planet from space. Google maps gives you a satellite image of wherever you like, e.g., the University campus, in seconds. Some of these images are just stunning, like this image of the Southern lights (the Southern hemisphere version of the Northern lights aka Aurora Borealis) taken from the International Space Station.

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Following Paul Stevenson’s blog yesterday about some of the interesting events at this year’s British Science Festival, I thought I would add some my own favourites. I should say that the whole week, the largest science festival in Europe, held this year in Bradford, has been a resounding success. The events organised by the Physics and Astronomy Section drew in the largest crowds of all (as usual), apart from the big evening lectures in the theatre in town given by the explorer Ranulph Fiennes and Lord Robert Winston.
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15
Sep
2011

Young Rhesus MacaqueOver the years, scientists have made quite a few animals glow green (when illuminated by blue/near UV light). See an earlier post for glowing fish. Marmosets, pigs, mice etc all have been made to glow. And now cats have joined the list, thanks to the work of Wongsrikeao and coworkers. See here for a picture of a glowing cat. Handy if you can’t find Molly at night.

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WMAP probe
One of the fun things I get to do as part of my job is to be involved with the annual British Science Festival, getting involved in organising the physics and astronomy events. This year the festival is in Bradford, where I am now, and I sit outside composing this at a rather attractive new campus, sitting outside in the mid-September sun.
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Having been back at work a month, holidays are now seeming like a long time to go.  This year I went to Tanzania and climbed Kilimanjaro (it’s always good to have a nice restful holiday to set yourself up for the next term).  I hadn’t really looked into this before I left, assuming it would be a little like the Inca Trail but a bit higher.  I had also been led to believe that this was the ‘easy’ route – it was a bit of a surprise to discover the morning we started that the ‘easy’ related to staying in huts rather than camping and this was actually the fastest ascent, and consequently the highest failure rate.

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Antarctic Sea Ice - Amundsen SeaYou might be tempted to think that some multinational oil companies think that the global warming is not occurring. Particularly if you read articles like this one in The Guardian. It covers the oil company ExxonMobil funding a climate-change-sceptic, who seems to make a living attacking the scientific consensus that our world is getting warmer. But there is one way in which global warming is very useful to oil companies like ExxonMobil.

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