As mentioned earlier, I stayed for the full astronomy course this weekend, rather than just presenting my lecture and leaving. This allowed me to hear several interesting talks on topics that I do not usually encounter.

Two of these talks were on exoplanets -- or worlds outside of our solar system. In my previous post, I mentioned the talk by Dr. Suzanne Aigrain on New Insights from Transiting Exoplanets. In her talk, she discussed how we can work out the composition and atmosphere of exoplanets, which impressed the heck out of me.

The other talk on exoplanets was more general (titled, quite simply, as Exoplanets), and given by Prof. Hugh Jones. Overall, I found it to be a less interesting -- and less organised -- talk than Dr. Aigrain's. However, he did mention -- somewhat cryptically -- that we should keep our ears pealed... as there would be an exciting announcement coming on Tuesday.

Well, it is now Tuesday. So what was Prof. Jones hinting at?

Turns out, he was not exaggerating. The news is out, and can be read about in brief here.

Or, to be even more brief, just read on: Another planet comparable in size to Earth has -- for the first time -- been discovered! How cool is that??

For those who are unimpressed, please recall that, until 1995, the prospect of finding any planets outside our solar system was considered to be more fantasy than fact. Hundreds have now been located, by a variety of methods, but they are nearly all giants -- making them far easier to detect. The discovery of a planet comparable in size to Earth -- orbiting a star twenty light years away -- is an astounding discovery, indeed!

Still not impressed? Fine. Perhaps this will entertain you instead: Following in the footsteps of the wildly successful Talk Like A Pirate Day (Sep 19) and the more amusing Talk Like A Ninja Day ([*]), the day after tomorrow -- Apr 23 -- is Talk Like A Shakespeare Day. Zounds! To celebrate the birthday of the Bard, people are being encouraged to speak like an Elizabethan playwright! Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious Springtime by this son of Chicago...


[*] The concept of Talk Like A Ninja Day evolved as a response to Talk Like A Pirate Day. It was independently proposed by multiple sources, of which yours truly is one. As such, it is difficult to find which is the best day to celebrate, though Dec 05 may have the strongest claim.

Whilst I may continue to be delinquent in updating with my January/February summary, I can at least get three thousand words (and change) closer by employing the PIWOTW rule[1].

On February 21st, I went with [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat, [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip and [livejournal.com profile] darkfloweruk to the British Museum to see the Babylon: Myth & Reality exhibit. Whilst waiting for the time on our tickets, we explored other areas of the museum, including the Michael Cohen Egyptian gallery -- newly reopened after ten years of conservation work and research. There, I met with definitive proof of my ancestry! If [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip and [livejournal.com profile] darkfloweruk had not previously believed me when I said that I was of Egyptian descent[2], then this picture provided sufficient proof[3,4]:



Meanwhile, the following week I was in Essex with [livejournal.com profile] bunnypip to celebrate our 0.5th anniversary[5]. We visited Colchester, with its awesome castle/museum; Southend-on-Sea, where we took a long walk on the world's longest pier; and Chelmsford. The trip was most excellent, and deserving of a true travelogue. In the meantime, however, here is an inspired photograph that we took on the Southend Pier (as well as its inspiration):



And, on that note, my coach has arrived in London. So heigh ho, heigh ho, to study neutrinos I go...


[1] Known in less acronymic language as "Picture Is Worth One Thousand Words".

[2] Which, I might add, is different from Arab descent. The Coptic Egyptians, of which I am ostensibly one, did not interbreed all that much when the Muslim Arabs arrived. Hence, the Copts are genetically the direct descendents of the ancient Egyptians.

[3] And I swear that I made no adjustments whatsoever to my hair before the picture was taken!

[4] It is worth noting that, whilst our hair has not changed in the last five millennia, our eyes have moved from the side of the face to the front. Evolution at work!

[5] Also known as a demiversary.


This afternoon, the excitement in our office has revolved around a small plastic helicopter[*]. We have been taking turns using the remote control to fly it about the office.

I do have at least five other LJ entries percolating in my head, but no time to write at the moment. Besides flying helicopters, there is a metric boatload of work to get done before tomorrow's meetings. Will try to write more during the commute home tonight...


[*] Pun intended.

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Gentle readers! I have just learned that today is "Bohemian Rhapsody Day"!

Apparently, the appropriate way to celebrate this holiday is to listen to the Bohemian Rhapsody twelve times!

Won't you all join me in the remembrance of this joyous occasion? I will award five hundred points to anyone who comments letting me know that you, too, have honoured this most venerable of holidays![*]

ETA: A bonus hundred points can be won by anyone who posts about this in their own journal and spreads awareness of this important occasion! I first offered these extra points only to [livejournal.com profile] lunarbitch, but it seemed unfair so I now make them available to all!


[*] Honour system here, people. Don't profane Bohemian Rhapsody Day by lying about this. I know the points are valuable, but still...

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anarchist_nomad: (Big Hair)
( Nov. 18th, 2008 04:06 pm)
It's four oh six... and LJ is still here!
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The Royal Shakespeare Company has announced the line-up of shows for its 2009 season. These include As You Like It, Julius Caesar, The Comedy of Errors, and The Winter's Tale. I have seen all of these performed on stage before -- some more than once -- except for Julius Caesar. However, RSC junkie that I am, I will probably tree to see all four shows. After all, I have not seen RSC perform any of them before.

Is it just me, or does it seems somehow ironic that their performance of The Winter's Tale runs from 31-March to 03-October?
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I was made aware of this hysterical video by the lovely [livejournal.com profile] kat1031 earlier today. Despite the fact that I am rapidly running out of time to finish packing, I had to re-post it for the enjoyment of anyone who either (a) shares my sense of humour, or (b) enjoyed this video waaaaay back in the 1980s. In particular, I am confident that the delicious [livejournal.com profile] tawneypup will be cracking up when she sees it...


Right. Back to packing now...

Checked out the flat in Headington this morning... and decided that it is a winner! Put down the money to hold it and start the application process this afternoon. Looks like we will be moving to east Oxford in a month.

The main motivation for the move is location. The new flat is as perfect for our new jobs as our current flat was for our previous jobs. Overall, the inside of the new place is also an improvement over our present flat.

As an added bonus, it turns out that the front door of our building is just half a block from the [in-]famous Oxford shark house. If I look left when leaving the building, this is what I see: )
Posed by [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat whilst we had music playing:
Who listened to Baltimora's Tarzan Boy and said "Yes! We want this for a Listerine commercial!"??
One hundred points will be awarded for each of the three best answers...

Snippet of conversation from our office today:

"You don't love me enough to get me a piece of the Challenger!

Ah, I do so like working in this office. We even still have the giant stuffed dog that AB kidnapped -- er, dognapped -- several weeks ago. Don't believe me? Then see the kidnapped dog here )
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You know it! You love it! You've been waiting three hundred and sixty five days for it! And here it is! It is now Talk Like A Pirate Day! Arrrrrrrr!

Enjoy it whilst it lasts, mateys! For we all know that Talk Like A Pirate Day comes but once a year![*]

Personally, I am hatching plots to make an official holiday called Talk Like A Ninja Day. Preferably on March 19th[**].


[*] Sort of like Christmas and Physics Didn't Destroy The Earth Day!

[**] Fifty points to the first person who can tell me why I chose that date.


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anarchist_nomad: (Doctor Nomad)
( Sep. 11th, 2008 04:38 pm)
So yesterday was all fun and games, watching the LHC turn on and marvelling at the fact that the world was still here. Google altered their homepage in honour of the event. A large fraction of my f-list -- mostly not other particle physicists -- posted about it. The Guardian had a hysterical parody of the physics produced by the "Large Haddock Collider". Sites like HasTheLHCDestroyedTheEarth.com sprang up. Good times!

Today, however, is different. The world is still here, after all. Yet no one seems to care anymore. No one is making any sort of fuss about it. Why is the world of today any less valuable than the world of yesterday?

Moreover, I must confess to pangs of envy. A slow jealous fire is seething within me. Why does it only matter when the LHC fails to destroy the world? No one made any sort of fuss when CRESST turned on and failed to destroy the world! What the heck?!? I can see that I might be a touch biased, as CRESST is my current experiment -- and it is a bit small. But it goes deeper than that! Looking back on all of my past projects, no one ever gave us any recognition for failing to destroy the world! The Pierre Auger Observatory is the largest cosmic ray detector ever built! We didn't destroy the world, either, y'know? Yet when the world continued to go on, no one gave us any praise whatsoever! Or how about Super-Kamiokande? Guess what? We didn't destroy the world, either! At the time it turned on, SK was the largest neutrino detector on the planet! It has made the front page of the New York Times and is expected to win a Nobel prize! Yet no one cared that it completely and utterly failed to destroy the world! People, what is wrong with this picture??? Not only did Super-K fail to destroy the world, but it failed to do so long before the LHC came along and failed to do the exact same thing! Why is it that credit is not given where credit is due??!

After all this time, I cannot help but start to take all this lack of recognition personally! Those of us who work on experiments besides the LHC (and RHIC), are we not particle physicists, too? Hath not a particle physicist experiments? Hath not a particle physicist sensors, front end electronics, firmware, detectors? Read with the same data acquisition systems, publish in the same journals, process with the same operating systems as an LHC collaborator is? If you introduce bugs into our software, do we not fret? If you give us deadlines, do we not pull all-nighters? If you send us to conferences, do we not present? And if you cut our funding, will we not cry?
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I don't usually post webcomics in this journal, having done so only once before in nearly nine hundred entries. However, the latest from xkcd resonated far too strongly for me to let it slide:



The last panel, in particular, is a gem -- what with both the kink reference and the quark humour[*].

Meanwhile, the latest news about the LHC continues to turn up in my InBox as the day goes on.
Here, for example, is an event display of the first tracks in the Outer Tracker of the LHCb experiment:  )

Finally, if you wish to feel a desire to bang your head into the wall, check out the comments about the LHC that readers are leaving on the BBC website. Times like this, when I stare into true idiocy, remind me how ridiculously smart all the people I spent my time -- in the lab and outside of it -- really are.


[*] For those who don't know, the six quarks are named up, down, charm, strange, top, and bottom.

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Just returned from Stratford-on-Avon, where [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I saw the Royal Shakespeare Company perform The Taming of the Shrew this evening. This was my seventeenth RSC production, and I have now seen fifteen of the Bard's thirty-seven plays performed by the RSC. However, I have seen this play before, so my total Shakespeare count still stands at twenty-three.

The cast was mainly composed of the same actors that we saw in The Merchant of Venice. Which seems appropriate... because I really do not like either play. For Merchant, the inherent antisemitism bothers me greatly; for Shrew, it is the sexism. Yes, Katherine is a monster at the start of the play. But so is Petruccio... and his monstrosity is celebrated, not shunned. I really have no desire to ever watch this play again -- seeing a woman tortured by starvation and sleep deprivation is really not my idea of a good time. The quality of the production was quite good... it is just the text itself that bothers me.

Rather than harp on this, however, I am going to return to that popular theme of mixing Muppets and Shakespeare. Instead of The Taming of the Shrew, I present to you now -- courtesy of Alistair Cookie -- The Taming of the Shoe!

So... Hamlet. Saw it last night, as I may have mentioned. In the car, riding home from Stratford-on-Avon, [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I started putting together a Muppet cast for the play[*]. It is not finished, though, so I thought I would ask my gentle readers for some assistance in completing the company.

Here is what I have so far: )

Suggestions for filling in the gaps are welcome. Improvements on the existing cast will also be taken under consideration. Preference is given to Hensen era Muppets[**].

Have at it, my friends! And a hundred points will be given to each Muppet suggestion that makes the grade!

Also, while we are on the topic of (a) Hamlet, (b) Patrick Stewart, and (c) Muppets... here is an old classic for y'all to enjoy. Enjoy!




[*] For the record, I am quite aware that the Muppets have brushed up with Hamlet the Dane from time to time. I know that Gonzo was once slated to play the role, and Link Heartthrob has done so. Nonetheless, I do not believe that a complete Muppet Hamlet exists and it is which that I wish to cast.

[**] Yes, I know that this is discriminatory to post-Hensen Muppets and that some of them (i.e., Pepe the King Prawn) are quite Muppetational. But there it is. Everyone's a little bit racist.


anarchist_nomad: (Big Hair)
( Aug. 20th, 2008 04:55 pm)
In about an hour, I will head over to St. Cross for bell ringing practice. Meanwhile, I have a bit of spare time, which shall be devoted to an entry on nothing in particular!

Random the First: I am thrilled to announce that, at [livejournal.com profile] wolfpeach's punting party on Sunday, I acquired my first 1p and 2p coins with the new designs on the reverse. I fully realise that caring about this makes me a dork, but that's okay! I also realise that I have a full uncirculated set of the new coins from the Royal Mint... but finding the ordinary ones is fun, too! To celebrate, I reorganised my coin collection. Don't look so surprised -- I did confess to being a dork!

Random the Second: I am delighted to announce, before I forget to do so, that [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat and I watched Batman Begins on Sunday evening, then drove to Birmingham after work on Monday to see The Dark Knight on the IMAX screen. I will freely admit that seeing it on the enormous screen does make a big difference... especially the scenes that were specially shot with IMAX cameras, rather than being simply adapted from ordinary film. It was good to watch the movies again, back to back; I continue to be impressed with the most recent Batman movie franchise. I cut my teeth on Batman -- my second favourite comic book character -- under Denny O'Neil's long editorial reign (1986 - 2000) and fully embrace his version of the hero. As such, these movies were really spot-on! Nice work! (And anyone who liked Heath Ledger's version of the Joker should hurry out to a comic shop to pick up Alan Moore's 1988 classic: The Killing Joke)

Random the Fourth: I have the cutest -- and most energetic! -- little kitten! He is omnipresent, simultaneously occupying all parts of Skullcrusher Mountain at once. He is also utterly adorable! Last night, as I wrote the previous entry, he sat on the back of the couch and ate my hair... then relaxed with his paws on my shoulder!

Random the Fifth: I am proud to announce that -- thanks to the lovely [livejournal.com profile] lunarbitch and the powers vested in her -- I have been upgraded from the Chia Pet Of Love to the One True Chia Pet Of Love! I am honoured and humbled by this distinction. I am also humbled by the big whomping tackle hug that accompanied the pronouncement!

And that, my friends, is all the news of the day!
anarchist_nomad: (Big Hair)
( Jul. 8th, 2008 11:48 pm)
As promised at the end of the last entry, today's post is meant to share some visual stimuli. So here goes!

Here are three different photographs from the sculpture exhibit at the Savill Garden on Saturday )

The hand puppets also wandered off by themselves for awhile -- taking my camera with them! When they returned, I noticed that they had done some photography of their own; a sample of the results can be seen in their own journal.

Meanwhile, adorable videos of kittens playing can be seen here and here. The videos are all of nine seconds and thirty seconds long, respectively... so don't be shy! Click away!

Finally, some time was spent this weekend brainstorming names for our newest furball. No decision has been made yet, but here are some of the top choices. Which do you prefer:

[Poll #1220065]

A decision needs to be made by Monday, as that is when the little guy -- currently sprawled out and sleeping on our hassock while [livejournal.com profile] cheshcat watches Doctor Who -- makes his first trip to the vet. We need a name to attach that new medical record to!
Got a letter in the mail today, soliciting my comments on a proposed change to the traffic crossing nearest to Skullcrusher Mountain. Turns out that they want to switch it from a pelican crossing to a toucan crossing but, before they do, they want to know what I think.

Need I say more?
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The weather this weekend in Oxford was better than just about all of last Summer. Gives me hope, it does, that we will actually have a Summer this year.

[livejournal.com profile] ms_katonic came out from London on Friday evening and we spent much of the weekend together. We had fun doing things like walking through tunnels under Broad Street, where books are sent about by the house elves who work for the Bodleian Library. We also went into the Radcliffe Camera -- which resembles Sauron's temple to Morgoth on NĂºmenor[*] -- saw the Divinity School and Duke Humphrey's Library[**], and visited the Convocation House where, on two or three occasions, Parliament has been held. We also took advantage of the stunning weather to come outside and above ground -- several hours were spent stroll and lolling about in the Oxford Botanic Gardens. There, I showed her Tolkien's favourite tree and the bench that Lyra and Will meet at in the final chapter of the His Dark Materials trilogy. We also got a glimpse of the Lord Mayor, who I still have not had to kill.

After getting out of bed today, we had a quick lunch together, then went out on our separate paths. Mine took me to the lab, the city centre and, in the evening, to St. Giles where I rang bells for services. My ropesight needs much work, but is obviously improving -- I rang the treble on some Reverse Canterbury. It is a method I have never rung before and am entirely unfamiliar with. However, the treble only hunts from front to back, repeatedly. Using this knowledge and ropesight, I could work out where I should be (more or less). The best campanological news of the evening came after tower bell ringing, though. JP and BM came back to Skullcrusher Mountain with me and we practiced our Plain Bob Minor on handbells. I rang the trebles and, for the first time, made it through the extent. Which is to say that we rang every possible combination of bells -- for six bells, this is 720 changes and takes about twenty-five minutes. A nice little milestone for my handbell ringing, and I am quite pleased by it!

Now I am watching the long twilight over Oxford as I prepare the Kelvinox for tomorrow. There is a long and busy week ahead, but much in it to look forward to. In the meantime, [livejournal.com profile] resourceress pointed me towards this little "film" -- featuring my favourite and second favourite super-heroes -- which is a bit of a laugh!

[*] From the outside, anyway. From the inside? Not so much. (Though I image that the interior of the camera is much more strikingly beautiful.

[**] The same Duke, I might add, who was younger brother to Henry V and features in the History Plays.
anarchist_nomad: (Center of the Universe)
( May. 7th, 2008 08:13 pm)
Sitting in my office as I write this, there is a clear sky with a magnificent glowing orb in it. You know the orb I mean -- it is slowly sinking into the horizon.

This week, starting yesterday, marks the beginning of summer for me. How can I tell? Because the weather has been sufficiently warm to change into shorts and sandals. I have had quite a number of errands to tend to, and cycling about Oxford in weather like this is quite pleasant.

There is a cooling cryostat in the next room with two proto-detectors and a radioactive cobalt source inside. Indeed, I need to get back to tending them soon. Fun stuff should happen with this tomorrow.

It is early enough that I should likely finished with the cooling and home before ten o'clock.

As another sign that summer is here, I can finish work after nine o'clock and still ride home in the twilight. I don't mind working late nearly as much when I can still have sunlight to keep me company.

Last night, I had a nice conversation with RG, who some of you know from P**T***. It was good to chat, as I hadn't talked to him in months.

Earlier this evening, I rang bells at St. Cross with the OUSCR. I had a fair bit of practice ringing Plain Bob Doubles. Up until now, I have only rang this on the #2 bell (or the treble or a covering tenor, both of which are much easier than the inside bells, #2-#5) for a plain course. Tonight, I tried it from the #3 bell -- which is the same pattern but from a different starting point -- and I rang a "touch" -- where "bob" calls mix up the order. This exercise was to help my ropesight along -- my memory for numbers allows me to "cheat" on the simple patterns by simply memorising who I should follow -- and it went remarkably well. That felt good. Ringing down in peal at the end also went exceptionally well; possibly the best go I've had at it so far.

In the mail at work today, I received an invitation to the "International Symposium on Coptic Culture: Past, Present, and Future", hosted by the Coptic Orthodox Church Centre in Hertfordshire and held next week at the British Museum. This is not strictly a good thing per se, but it gave me a laugh. Somehow, the Coptic Church on this side of the pond found me. Sort of. The letter was addressed to me at the Oriental Institute, not the Physics Department. Close, though. I have no intention of going to the lecture -- I would if it were held in Oxford, but I can't spare the time (and miss Thursday ringing) to go to London for it -- but knowing that I set their Coptic SenseTM tingling did amuse me.
.

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