Iss017e011632On Friday an atmospheric scientist I know from the University of Leeds, Ben Murray, gave a talk on his research. His research is on how ice forms in the atmosphere. It was very interesting, and one of the things I learnt is how big the atmosphere is, and how high up some clouds are. The image above is taken from the International Space Station and at the top of the image are what are called noctilucent clouds.

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D hamsterBy one increasingly common measure of how good you are as a scientist, I am twice as good a scientist as Tisha the (now sadly late) hamster. Beating a dead hamster in a field that apparently requires high levels of intelligence is quite unsatisfying. The measure is the average number of references people have made to my scientific papers. I have published about 100 scientific papers, and Google Scholar reckons that they are cited about 21 times each on average. Tisha’s paper has been cited 12 times. Incidentally, the picture above is not of Tisha but just one of a random hamster I got from Wikimedia.

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Yesterday I ran the physics bit of a University Open Day for prospective students, and so I talked to a lot of prospective students and their parents, we had about 100 visit the department. I chatted about personal statements to one of them. Today I read in The Guardian that apparently there are companies that charge £350 to write personal statements for students applying to University.

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For more 15 years I taught the level 3 Physics of Stars course at Surrey, because of my lifelong amateur interest in astronomy. This was kindled because my father, Paul Murdin, is an astronomer. Some of the best memories I have from childhood are of going with him to observatories, either looking up at the glorious colours of the night sky from the top of La Palma, or inside playing my first computer game (a Star Trek game that in 1978 involving typing instructions to fire photon torpedoes on punched cards, feeding them into the reader and waiting for a the punched response card telling me if I hit the Klingons).

Paul is famous because he discovered the first stellar black hole, Cygnus X1. All confirmed black holes are at galactic centres, and confirmation that Cygnus X1 is also a black hole was the subject of a famous bet between Kip Thorne and Stephen Hawking (they have now agreed that it really is a black hole).

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Rose Champagne BubblesThe title is a James Bond quote, from The Spy Who Loved Me. A brief web search suggests that Dom Perignon 1952 retails at £950 a bottle, which probably explains why I so rarely get to judge Dom Perignon drinkers. Dom Perignon is champagne of course, which is noted for its bubbles.

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