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.