Archive | March 2012

Head of OPERA has resigned

From the Beeb: the head of the OPERA experiment, which caused that flurry over some neutrinos apparently travelling faster than the speed of light, has resigned.

Just a recap on what the whole thing was about: the OPERA experiment was (and still is) a collaboration between the Gran Sasso laboratory in Italy and CERN to detect neutrinos. However, they noticed that the neutrinos were arriving earlier than they should – by about 60 nanoseconds, or 0.000000060 seconds. Which meant they were travelling about 0.0025% faster than the speed of light in a vacuum.

Of course, EVERYONE got really excited about it, even though most physicists were sceptical. I was too. It turned out that a wire hadn’t been plugged in correctly, something that just about anyone could do. Since the ICARUS group tested this and found no discrepancy at all, the whole thing has died down.

And now, the head of the experiment is resigning. There is no statement as to why, but why? Maybe he’s just worn out after it all. It might be that they need a scapegoat – but I have no idea why. Everyone makes mistakes, and the whole thing made a perfect example of the scientific method at work. For that reason alone, I’m not going to forget about it.


Imperial March on bagpipes!

Begone, most unholy and thoroughly awesome abomination! Darth Vader on a unicycle, playing the bagpipes!

The best thing is the second-highest rated comment:

That is an incredibly effective way of๏ปฟ demonstrating the Doppler effect!

You can hear the pitch of the bagpipes changing as he moves towards and away from the camera. That’s what the Doppler effect is: the perceived sound has a lower pitch (lower frequency) as the source (e.g. an ambulance or any vehicle with a siren) approaches you, but then it has a higher pitch as it moves away from you.

How awesome is that?

My project is over!!


I handed in the report for my project this morning, which means it is officially over! ๐Ÿ™‚
I’ve also learnt that, provisionally, I got a B in the Problem Solving course – which means in the region of 60-69%! WOOT!

The Mountaineering Club has their AGM tonight and the end-of-year party afterwards. I guess I have a reason to celebrate, now! ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m back!

I’ve been rather naughty and neglected this recently…so sorry.

Long and short is I fucked up on the project. Being stubborn, I didn’t ask for help with the project when I got stuck. Here’s how:

I was supposed to deconvolve images created from data from the Fermi telescope. However, the Point Spread Functions I used were wrong: after only a few iterations, they were starting to break up and lose information, and the background noise was being amplified and starting to swamp the images. Some of the PSFs were off-centre, mainly because these ones were actually maps of the Vela pulsar, and the resulting images were oval-shaped.

Being the donkey I am, I didn’t ask for help and so I didn’t actually manage to analyse the images I’d created to see if their resolution had improved or not.

However, the presentation on the results today went better than I expected. Maybe I haven’t done as bad as I thought! However, I’ve been busy trying to get the presentation sorted and continue with the report. Well, just one part left to do.

Photos of Coral Beach

I went out to Coral Beach near Carraroe yesterday, and while I was out there I snapped some photos. That isn’t sand you’re looking at, it’s pieces of coral! Or more correctly, coralline algae. But still, it’s beautiful even on a rain day…

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Jamming speech

Who needs electronic communications jamming when you can use this? It’s a version of a radar gun that takes somebody’s speech and delays it by 0.2 seconds, enough to mess up the flow of speech. From what I can see, it looks relatively simple.

Obviously, there are human rights implications here. You don’t even need to beat up an irritating protester who hasn’t got themselves permission to protest, you just point this at them and make them sound like an idiot. Of course, that wouldn’t work against one who’s waving a sign, but it’s a step in the right direction.

But on the plus side, it would be great for dealing with annoying ads on the telly, and it would be excellent at telling politicians to hurry up. The paper itself suggests this could be used during debates to prevent interruptions. What do you think?

Petition against ACTA

Sign the petition so we can make the European Commission discuss ACTA in the open!