Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Astroparticles are the best particles

As I've been fairly lax (and in reality a bit too busy) in the past month or two about writing blog posts I've decided to take the opportunity to write something while I'm on the train back from Edinburgh to Glasgow after a day at the IoP Astroparticle Physics meeting (there's still another day of meeting, and I am talking tomorrow, but now's the best chance I've got to write anything - at least until my laptop battery runs out). We've just had the meeting dinner (at the Caves), which was designed to appeal to the non-Scots, by consisting of a (decent) starter of haggis, and finishing with some Crannachan (spelling not-withstanding) [and also some of the worst tablet I've had!] followed by a Ceilidh. I had to commentate on the meal to my fellow table-mates due to my knowledge of all things Scottish (I have been here getting on 7 years now, so can interpret the native ways [although those East coasters's could do things slightly differently!]), and during the Ceilidh I was involved in all the dances (until I had to leave to catch the last train back to Glasgow) as I had a slight advantage in knowing what was going on. It was good fun, but dances generally should involve a higher female-to-male ratio! I don't mind dancing with other guys, but I think as a first go at Ceilidhing for some it may have been too much man-on-man action!

Prior to that we had a rather good speech by Sir Tam Daylell (former Labour MP and father of the house, who was slightly embroiled in the recent expenses stuff by claiming for some expensive book shelves prior to leaving office in 2005). What I didn't know about him was that he'd been very active during his time as an MP at promoting science and scientific outreach (he'd been told to do this by C. T. R. Wilson on meeting him during electioneering in 1958, when Wilson invited him in out of the rain for a cup of tea), and has met pretty much all the major physicists of his time (often by accident) - his parents hosted Born for a while.

In general the first day of the meeting has been good. It's a smallish meeting, which actually makes it easier to listen to the talks. One of the best talks was by Malcolm Fairbairn about the velocity distribution of dark matter (he amusingly illustrated the talk with images of Gordon Brown!) - he showed some interesting statistics and gave an interpretation of the DAMA results that I'd not heard before.

Like at NAM, one of the best session was actually about outreach. Astroparticle physics is a rich seam to tap for outreach. It's quite easy to set up detectors to show cosmic rays and is a very good way to enthuse school kids about the subject. I'd not really thought much about this before, but it's definitely worth more consideration.

Right, my laptop battery is about running out, so I'll have to actually upload this when I get home. There maybe more to write about tomorrow and hopefully I'll get back to blogging more soon!

[I uploaded this when I got home after a brief snooze on the train and having to be woken up by the conductor when we reached Queen Street. I should really be asleep now as I have to be up early.]