Friday, December 10, 2004

Cockney Kennedy in Christmas Carol

Not content with his role as Lib Dem leader, young Charlie Kennedy is starting an acting career by taking a part in an Eastenders Christmas special. His part is to be the ghost of christmas past in a special east end panto version of A Christmas Carol. I think Charlie may have had a wee whisky too many.

After David Blunkett showing how nasty politicians can be about even there cabinet colleges I was last night heartened to see opposition politcians showing genuine affection towards each other. Who am I talking about you may ask? Well, it's mine and everyone elses favourite political pairing, Michael Portillo and Diane Abbott. When Diane broke out in a coughing fit Michael jumped straight in to give her a gentle pat on the back and ask if she was all right. It was a touching moment. Portillo didn't show such kindness towards Tony Blair though with some scathing comments on Blairs dress sense. Michael, known for his Ralph Lauren shirts (he must have millions of them), was particularly dismissive of the jumper Blair chose to wear in his xmas card photo. He has also noted a decline in Blair's dress since Ali Campbell left, and it's not too hard to imagine Campbell being there when Tony woke up picking out the suit for the day.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Presentation, presentation, presentation

That should really be just presentation, presentation, as I'm only having to give two today. But two is still too many! This morning I managed to whip up a presentation in just 2 and a half hours and then gave it at midday. It wasn't the worlds best, but it hopefully conveyed the information intended. Tonight I have another presentation to be delivered this time via conference call. Those bloody west coast yanks needed it to be at a reasonable time (early afternoon), so it means we have to suffer with the late night call.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Revolving doors: energy saving neccesity or impediment to easy access?

Is it me or are more revolving doors springing up around the place? I admit this judgement is based only on a the fact that revolving doors have just been installed at my local cinema, but when I was in Boston I also encountered revolving doors at every entrance. I assume that the point of such things is to keep heat inside and therefore save energy, but they're just a bloody nusance to use. I remember as a child revolving doors were a wonderous thing. They were far better than your common door which you'd push and it would swing open. They provided that bit of extra excitement to the generally mundane operation. But really, in practical terms of what a door is supposed to do i.e. allow easy access to somewhere, then they are almost the worst way of doing it. It's taking something that does it's job perfectly well and then thinking of how you make make it several times less efficient and harder to use. I for one am against this proliferation (if indeed it is happening and isn't just a figment of my imagination forged by my inconvenience on visiting the cinema last night) and hope you are to.

As I was at the cinema last night I might as well say what I watched - I went to see Bad Santa. Well in fact I went to see the Incredibles, but that wasn't out yet despite my flatmate going to a preview on Saturday. I hadn't read anything about Bad Santa, but the title didn't fill me with confidence about it being a great film although my flatmate had said it was actually quite good. I was pleasantly suprised to find that it was good and pretty funny as well - you haven't seen comedy until you've seen a midget punched in the bollocks and topple over like a skittle. I should get to the see the Incredibles next week.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Bye Bye Beta Band

Last night saw an unexpected benefit of my coming to Cardiff - I got to see the Beta Band on their farewell tour. They played in Glasgow last Friday, but I only found this out on Friday night after the gig had started. Fortunately when I got down to Cardiff I was told that they'd be playing Thursday night, so I jumped at the chance of getting a ticket. I thought that getting a ticket the night before the gig would be rather challenging, but seemingly the people of Cardiff don't know the wonders of a live Beta Band gig and hadn't bought that many tickets (so little in fact that the venue had to be changed to a smaller room.)

I had rather high expectations of the gig seeing as the last time I saw them (back in 2000 at the London Astoria, supported by the bizarre Icelanders Sigur Ros) it was probably the best gig I'd ever been to. In fact it still is the best gig I've been to. This time was slightly different, the rather poor crowd turn out meant that the atmosphere was slightly lacking at from the start. I think the band were slightly pissed off about this. The songs were done really well but there was something missing. This all changed towards the end when the crowd suddenly picked up and the gig turned around. The band properly got into it and everyone started moving and cheering at a higher level. The encores were excellent. Still didn't match the last time I saw them, but something very special would have had to happen for that. A very good gig nonetheless - when it properly kicked off at least.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

So very, very tired

After the high life of jetting to different continents I've now come down to earth by flying to Cardiff. I am here to for three days of grueling hard labour in the search form neutron star quasi-normal modes with Prof. Bangalore "Sathya" Sathyaprakash. The problem being I'm severely knackered. It was my girlfriends birthday yesterday, which envolved a party on Saturday (no sleep there), tidying up and feeling shit on Sunday (very little sleep that night as I was far too hot) and going out drinking last night (again very little sleep) followed by having to be up extra early this morning to fly here. All-in-all I'm not in top shape. Tonight will involve as much sleep as I can manage to squeeze out of the night, unless someone invites me out for a pint that is.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Triumphant return sans baggage

Hi all. Sorry for the long wait between postings again. I've been jaunting around Boston for the last few days after the meeting I was at and didn't once connect to the internet. That's three whole days without checking my email once, how amazing is that?

The last time you heard from me I was going to give a talk at sais meeting presenting some wonderous (well not that wonderous results). The talk was all ready, the results were presented in a lovely table format, and then the day before giving the talk I find out nearly all the results were WRONG! Needless to say this made my talk far less exciting as the actual interesting bit (i.e. the funky number bits) had to be removed. Oh well, I still got to say something and may get the chance to present actual, not wrong, results in France in December.

I'll just say a bit about what I did whilst touring Boston. Firstly it's a really pretty city to visit in the Autumn. All the leaves on the trees are in hues of red and gold and it just looks really rather nice, I might add a link to some pictures soon. It's also bloody cold. The temperature was hovering around the 3-4C mark, although I only found this out after using the converter on my phone to get from Farenheit to Celcius. Wrapping up warm was a high priority.

I took the "famous" Boston Duck tour, in which you get driving around the sites of Boston in an old WWII amphibious landing vehicle by a guy with a plastic duckbill around his head. The guy was actually rather good despite the strange head gear and his penchant for quacking all the time. I got to learn a bit more US history than my generally fairly low pre-tour level.

I also went up the second tallest building in Boston - the Prudential Tower. It has impressive views - of the tallest building in Boston. No, really the views were very good and provided a good vantage point to get your bearings.

I visited Harvard University to have a look around. When you go there and see the student accomodation you realise just how bloody rich the university is. All the halls are really nice buildings and are situated in the lovely surroundings of Cambridge. Whilst there we must have looked like Harvard student as we got invited to a Toga party. I don't know what it is about wrapping a sheet around you to go to a party but American student seem to think this is the greatest thing in the world.

Anyway enough of my touristy ramblings. I might say a bit more about Boston later, but know I need to get home to see if my bags which got left in Heathrow whilst I came up to Glasgow have been delivered yet.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Reaction from Boston

As I'm in the US at the moment I thought I'd briefly have to say something about the election result. I've not really been able to poll any Bostonians about there views, but the reaction of my fellow scientists at the meeting I'm at has almost unanimously been dismay at Bush winning. At Heathrow airport when I was heading out here they had a TV with BBC News24 showing that Kerry had conceded which seemed to make the majority of Americans around me quite dispondent and apologetic. I heard a story from someone on another flight over here that when the pilot announced the news one person at the back of the plane started clapping - now that's some celebration.

Despite all the doom-mongering that has been talked about the world exploding if Bush was re-elected I've yet to notice a change. Maybe it'll happen tomorrow. He so far seems to have taken the quite horrific action of getting a new Scottish Terrier.

You'll be pleased to know that I got my presentation written yesterday and it's very good to. I'm presenting new upper-limits on the gravitational wave amplitude from 58 pulsars if that makes any sense to you. Let's just say that they're completely new and unique results which are really exciting! I now just have to give it the talk, which'll happen on Sunday.

Yesterday I was working till nearly 9.00 pm and tonight I'm going to be discussing work, albeit over dinner, all evening. Then the weekend will be taken up with meetings, so it's going to be a long weekend. Wish me luck.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

From England to New England

Sorry to have neglected my blog for the last week. I'm sure you've all missed a lot (or at least James, who's the only person that I know has looked at this). I've been quite busy getting ready for my trip abroad.

I am currently sitting in a meeting with my scientific collaborative partners. This meeting has been kindly organised by the good folk at MIT in Boston. At the moment efforts are underway by me to finish writing a presentation, which I think I'm supposed to be showing a draft of this afternoon.

Oh well, better get back to work.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Dimbleby does Miami

Last night's Question Time (BBC political panel debate) was broadcast from Miami due to the upcoming US election. It was looking to be a promising show with a panel including the ever up himself Michael Moore, the former Bush speech writer David "Axis of evil" Frum, former Clinton advisor Sidney Blumenthal, Sun columnist Richard Littlejohn, and some unknown woman. I sat infront of the TV all excited about the verbal fracas that should take place, but was sadly disappoitned. The first thing of note about the program was the general braying of the American audience. There were whoops and hollers, cheers and boos to almost everything that was said. It was just bloody annoying. This was noted by several of the people who were texting in to the BBC interactive comment service.

The main issue taken up was the war in Iraq. The problem with this was that we already knew all the panelists views on this subject. Nothing pertinent or new was said by anyone, although Moore managed to get his whoops from the liberals and boos from the Republicans with his attacks on the war.

Being as this was in Florida there was the obvious question about whether the vote counting could be rid of all the previous elections controversy. There was an almost unanimous no to this question, with trust in the ballot counting process all but gone and everyone expecting things to be decided in court. I also found out that lawyers have already filed 10 suits in Florida alone over supposed irregularities.

The final question, asked by a Brit in the audience, was whether the panel thought that a change in the White House would have an effect on Blair. There were some people of the opinion that if Kerry won things would look bad for Blair in the next UK election. I just don't see this at all. First and foremost Blair'll be good buddies with whoevers in the White House, which most panelists agreed on. But to think it'd be bad for Blair electorially if Kerry won is just strange. I could see the opposite maybe... well actually no I couldn't. The US president may have effects on the world, but election's in individual countries aren't decided by who it is or not.

After Question Time I always get a cheer from the fresh faces of Andrew Neill, Michael Portilo and Diane Abbott on This Week. It really is just a big family love in that show. Diane and Mike may disagree but you know that it's all alright in the end. What's amazing is the size of the sofa Mike and Diane are forced into. Diane's not the smallest of ladies, so on that sofa the pair can't do anything but be close. Anyway the fun that is This Week was nastily interupted by their guest Raymond Blanc, the very French chef. He was arguing for greater European intergration seemingly on the basis that he has lots of different nationalities working in his kitchen - honestly that was his argument! He also said that he was a better Frenchman for having lived in England for the last 30 years, which meant he could look on France critically from the outside. I think really he's spent those last 30 years honing his French accent to such a laughably stereotyped level that he's gone a bit mad.

There appears to be no fascinating space news today, but I urge you to check out the Astronomy Picture of the Day for lovely views of the heavens, it's a nice composite picture of the moon during a lunar eclipse today. Here's a nice relativity linked article as well for you all about frame dragging - nice.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

It starts

I know there's already been controversy in voting in this US election what with dodgy electronic voting machines and all, but now 58000 of 60000 absentee ballots have gone missing in Florida. If they weren't excited enough already you can just see the party laywers now almost orgasmic with glee at the legal disputes to come.

I was also reading about how the Bush camp blocked access to his website ( from overseas addresses. Security reasons apparenlty! Those pesky lefties and terrorists will do anything to bring down Dubya even attacking his website. For those of us outside the US who have a yearning for Georges web presence you can still visit him via some slight alterations of the address as given by those good folk at BBC News online.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Searching, forever searching

I think it's about time I let the good readers know what it is I actually do. Well from my profile you should be able to gather the information that I am doing a PhD in gravitational wave astronomy. "What's it all about?", you might be asking. Well a gravitational wave is a prediction of Einstein's (you'll have heard of him, famous Austrian scientist guy, E=mc^2 and all that) General Theory of Relativity. This theory says that masses, like the Earth, cause space-time to curve, and this curved space-time is felt by us as gravity. "Gravity, wasn't that invented by Newton, when the apple dropped on his head." I hear you all cry. Newton did come up with a theory of gravitation, which works very well in nearly all scenarios. There were a few problem with it though, and some phenomenon which it couldn't explain (i.e. the precession of the perihelion of Mercury .) One problem with Newton's equation was that they said that gravity was felt instantaneously at any distance from the mass causing it. This didn't fit well with Einstein's new view whereby any information couldn't travel faster than the speed of light, so how could something know instantaneuosly what the gravitational field of a distant body was doing. Einstein's new theory included the fact that the gravitational field was time dependent and stuck to the maximum speed limit it could have. In case you're thinking that this relativity is all just theory and hasn't been challenged or tested then you'd be wrong. Relativity has been tested on many occasions most famously by Sir Arthur Eddington who travelled to Antarctica to observe a solar eclipse. This doesn't mean that relativity is the theory to end all theories, indeed there are things which it can't explain in the quantum world, but it is a very good approximation to the true nature of space-time. So how does this lead to gravitational waves? Well, the fact than masses curve space-time and that this curvature (gravity) propagates at the speed of light, means that you can get ripples (waves) on the surface of this space-time. These ripples are produced by masses that are accelerating. The problem is that these ripples are tiny and very hard to detect. I think that enough to get on with for now. I'll go into a bit more detail about what I do in trying to detect these gravitational waves and their sources on another day.

As for the news of the day from the world of astronomy, Cassini, a probe sent to Saturn to analyse it and its moons, has sent back the first images of the surface of Titan. Titan is Saturns largest moons and is the only moon to be shrouded in a thick atmosphere. The nature of this atmosphere makes in exciting for many reasons, but you'll have to go to this link to find out.

Keep your eyes on the skies.


hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh... and relax. Sorry about that, just venting some anger via the internet. Very theraputic actually, give it a try. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggggh
hhhhhhhh... had a little bit of residual anger left there.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Champagne flows as this new blog sets sail

Hi all. My main reason for starting this blog is actually due to boredom and want of a distraction from doing work one Monday, i.e. this Monday, afternoon. I expect this is how many blogs start after the other computer based distractions of solataire, mahjong and general internet browsing have been exhausted (if they can). It's also here because I'm a bit of a copycat and my mate James started a blog recently and I decided to follow suit. His reason for starting was slightly more practical in that he's moved to Venice for a year and wanted to keep his friends updated with what he was up to.

In the course of this blog I hope to maybe keep people up-to-date with what I'm up to and whereabouts I am. There might even be some opinion, but it'll most likely be mild in its content. I'll possibly try to keep the general public, or more likely just the small group of my friends, who read this up-to-date with the lastest astronomy/physics related research, being as I'm an astrophysics PhD student.

That's enough intro for now. Hopefully you'll have reason to visit in the future and enjoy the content that I display.