Salmon sashimiBennett, Baird, Miller and Wolford won the 2012 IgNobel prize in Neuroscience with their work with a dead (definitely dead, not just resting) salmon. There is a serious point to the work: The problem of false positives. This is a problem in statistics and is a real trap for the unwary.

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Child with a ponytailMy Friday was made when I learnt that a good friend, Patrick Warren, had shared the 2012 IgNobel Prize in Physics. A few years ago, we did some work together on the surfaces of protein crystals. Patrick, together with three other scientists won the prize for work on ponytails. I wrote a blog post on this in February, when the work that won them the prize was published.

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Jon Butterworth: Our first speaker
Jon Butterworth: Our first speaker

I have arranged the evening public lecture programme for the local Institute of Physics branch. I’ll post some advertisements to the individual talks closer to the times, but here is a summary, with full details appearing at the IoP website.

  • Wed 24th Oct: Discovery at the Large Hadron Collider – Prof Jon Butterworth, UCL
  • Wed 21st Nov: Is the End of the World Really Nigh? – Alok Jha, The Guardian
  • Wed 13th Feb: The Atomic Theory of Matter: From Democritus to the Quantum Computer – Dr Chris Hooley, St Andrews
  • Wed 13th Mar: Title TK – Dr Arnau Rios, University of Surrey
  • Wed 24th Apr: Title TK – Samantha Shaw , DSTL

All talks take place in the Griffiths Lecture Theatre at the University of Surrey, and last from 7pm to 8pm. They are free to attend and unticketed. Please just turn up in time for a 7pm start.

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KevinbacongfdlI am quite proud of my Erdös number of 4. An Erdös number of 4 means via a trail of 4 papers I can reach the prolific Hungarian-born mathematician Paul Erdös. Erdös published papers with an astonishing 511 other mathematicians. The path of papers is here, but basically I have written a paper with a good friend Jon Doye (Erdös number of 3), who has written a paper with a guy called Richard Berry (Erdös number of 2), who wrote a paper with a P. Salaman, who published a paper with Paul Erdös himself and so has an Erdös number of 1.

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Argentinosaurus BWArgentinosaurus is believed to be the largest land animal to have ever lived. It was a dinosaur and at maybe 100 tons and 30 m, it was a very big dinosaur. I wanted to know the largest land animal for the lectures on biological physics I am giving this coming semester, and Google and Wikipedia provided. Anyway, in the lectures my question will be: Why was the largest animal 100 tons, not say 10 tons, or 1000 tons?

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PositronDiscoveryAll the above featured on the open day poster covering nuclear physics research in the Department. For those not around when Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s album Deja Vu came out in 1970, the connection is the lines in the album’s song Woodstock ’We are stardust, we are golden/We are billion year old carbon’. This is true, although I guess most of the carbon in our bodies is billions of year old not just a billion years old. But that is close enough, and we are certainly stardust, the carbon in our bodies was made in stars.

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