Archive | September, 2010

Today: The End is in Sight

30 Sep

It’s coming up to my final year at uni. I was pretty adament that i wouldn’t be participating in freshers week, due to me not really being bothered and due to the fact that freshers are inheritantly annoying.

A sudden wave of panic passed over me on Sunday afternoon however – kind of like a midlife crisis, but for students – that i wouldn’t beable to do anything like this again,¬† go out to my union and party till 2am whilst drinking more thn the recommended limit, dancing in terribly innappropriate shoes, and kissing boys i don’t really plan on learning the names of.

So to embrace this new found panic, i’ve been out as much as possible this week. Judging freshers, getting attention from all the younger guys who WISH they could get with a final year girl. Was pretty fun!

I was out at a union event last night called ‘megalash’ and my my was it mega. 4500 students to attend the multi-venue event within the union building i spent most of the evening dancing the night away in the night club with my friends, which kept a big smile on my face. I’ve missed my friends this summer and it occured to me that we only met 2 years ago really. Yet these are friends i am quite keen to keep in my life, yes yes i am sure that contact will be lost with most people i meet at uni, but these 4/5 have made such an impact on my life that i plan on keeping them in it!

Not to say i haven’t already had friends like this. I keep in contact with a few people from school and just stalk the rest on facebook like every other normal person.

This final year is going to be a massive decider in my life. I have only recently decided what i want to do and with that in mind i want to acheive the very best i can.

My initial goal when getting onto my preliminary year was to graduate. Graguate with honours and prove to all my teachers who said I would never go to Cardiff University wrong. The swift arrival of that goal in the next 10 months has made me hunt for a new one.

Tony Fernandes told me to “Dare to Dream“. So with that, i hope you’ll all see me sat on the pit wall during the F1 in the next 20 years or so.

It’s a tough dream let alone a goal. But I don’t back down from a dare lightly.

Lectures start on Monday, as does the stress of an overloaded work schedule and social calender.

Bring it On!!!

Today: Employment

25 Sep

YES!!!

Friday was my last day at work, I now get to return to being an undergrad ūüôā

Having already had 1 meeting with my supervisor, I have some work to already start on.

Loan is in, pay day is Thursday, it’s a race weekend and next week is freshers!

Good week ahead. Lots of stories i’ll be reporting back on!

Today: Another Monday Morning

20 Sep

After a pretty packed week last week, I was hoping that this week would be more laid back, few jobs to do and perhaps a few over extended tea breaks…

Last week Cardiff University: School of Physics and Astronomy, held it’s 6th form conference with 6 guest speakers and a snippet of the type of things you could learn at university.¬† I wish i had lectures like that! Far from the general lack of over done power-point slides, there wasn’t anytype of aroma of the night before, nor the sweet smell of coffee floating about the lecture theatre. The lectures were packed of demonstrations to wow and inspire an audience.

The technical staff involved in a mission like this (and trust me, only the word ‘mission’ can describe an event such as this) were either stressed to no end with the change-over of experimental pieces, or bored out of their minds waiting to lead the inspired youngsters to get fizzy drinks. I’m not sure they realised how much time and effort the technicians put in, speakers turning up a couple of days before, having not written their talks, asking for ideas on “how can i show this that and the other” my o my don’t we technicians really investgate the fact!!

But it worked. No major hiccup – if we ignore when one lecturers laptop crashed itself and the projector – and general concensus is that it was a success!!

Back on the Monday Morning wagon now, people are slowly filtering into work, trying to remain un-noticed, whilst I seem to have done 2 jobs already and written this blog.

I see another good week ahead! See everyone at tea-break. I’ll be the overly chearful one that you all WILL hear/see.

ūüôā

Today: Good Gravity!

17 Sep

Gravity, one of the most taken for granted aspects of Physics, everybody uses it, most don’t realise they do, some find it something to overcome, few ignore it.

So it’s pretty important then.

A challenge I got set when i was in 6th form was to show Newton’s Law of Gravitation:

F(g) = GMm/r^2

One thing that bugged me then – and was one of the reasons I initially couldn’t do it, was the fact you need TWO bodies to solve the problem.

Solving Gravity as a two body problem – Easy

Solving Gravity as a single body problem – Near Impossible, you could say that F=ma (where a = g) is a simplified equation explaining Gravity as a single body problem. However this equations explains the motion of a body in ANOTHER’s gravitational field.

Getting a bit more pedantic, you could even say that solving a single body program is never that – single body – going to smaller and smaller dimensions, even an atom, is made up of smaller ‘masses’. Although the electrostatic force is more dominent (or even forces within the nucleus).

So is there a single body problem? For any type of Force?

– Electric Charges move in magnetic & electric fields; but not their own. They move in another charges field, but also create their own.

This is the same for Gravity, Push and Pull forces – everything.

So what happens to a single proton in the vastness of space?

I’m not sure yet myself. But let’s put a point(less) mass there to have a look……

Today: Truely Satisfying

16 Sep

Today was day 2 of the 6th form conference that Cardiff University‘s Department of Physics and Astronomy are holding for lower 6th pupils to come and see some examples of what physicists do.

Brilliant idea – If the talks are aimed at them. All 6 presentations were interesting, thought provoking and had some pretty cool demonstrations. However it was all just that much too over the heads of young adults, just a few days out of GCSE.

O well. The event is still a success! So much so, it was good too see that these young adults were asking us (as the undergrads) questions. Not just the standard questions you get (what’s the difference between Astrophysics and Astronomy?) but questions about how they could cope on the course, and asking advice about application and what they can do to improve their chances.

One girl added to her feedback form a long essay about how she was interested in Physics -No real surprise their – But then she goes on to talk about how she would like advice as to how to get on a physics degree WITHOUT a Maths A-Level. Having been in a similar situation with my epic failiure at maths, i tried to help her as best i could, which was then reflected in her essay.

I handed the feedback form to our admissions tutor, to see if she could give this girl any advice – to which her response was:

“I’ll give her a call”

However simple this reponse was, it gave me great confidence that I truely am at an amazing department. They actievely seem to care about current, past and even potential students. Down to the individual needs.

After the thousands of people who applied and got into university, how many people do you think got that type of treatment?

A* Cardiff.

Today: I’m a Grown Up Scientist

14 Sep
CMB Anisotropy measured by BOOMERanG

Image via Wikipedia

Pallab Ghosh, the BBC‘s science correspondant has written an article about how the science community should have a better dialogue with the general public.

I’m sorry, but did i miss something? Generally something scientific isn’t reported on unless it has an impact on commerce, ease of living or if it’s to do with cloning.

So when anything is reported on, the public see it as a big leap, thinking it is totally over their heads and just came out of thin air. In reality, the ideas and inventions that come into the public domain have been developed and worked on for years, sometimes decades previous to any form of public release.

The unfortunate thing is, if you don’t stay even slightly tuned in to what’s going on in the scientific community, you will have a hard time understanding what is going on. Then when it comes to explaining things, scientists at any level sound like arrogant know-it-alls, I tried explaining what¬†a spectrometer was to my mum, as it’s my project for my final year at university but no matter how i tried to word the explanation, i felt i was talking down to her. Which made me feel horrendous as she has 2 degrees – though not in a scientific field.

It also arises in the article that the public only see science as being justifyable if it has a commercial outlet. This is a sad fact of the modern age where people take advantage of things they are being taught, things that are being done, and things that have made their lives easier.

The CCD for example, an accidental discovery which won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2009. Is now used every day in digital imaging software. Photographers who never did any science past GCSE? Yeah, you have them to thank for that.

Accidental discoveries and ground breaking theories can only come about with appropriate funding, and the freedom to pursue what could been seen to be commercially “relevant”.

The 2 new satellites Herschel and Planck which are surveying the cold dust of space (Herschel) and investigating the Cosmic Microwave background (Planck) could one day lead to discoveries and inventions not even conceived yet, which could be conceived by the youing scientists who will miss out on furthering their education through post graduate oppotunities, because the public do not understand it’s relevance, and hence can’t see it’s funding potential.

So in this new age of science¬†cuts and finalcially restricted research subjects, who knows what discovery could be over-looked?¬†Curing cancer,¬† create infinite energy, discover more efficient¬†space travel…. Or even just help us take better pictures.

Today: Raikkonen back in F1?

14 Sep

Rumours? Speculation?

Whatever has been whispered of late can only get the eas of F1 fans twitching, could Kimi be returning?

The Finn left Ferrari in 2009 after a poor season, and failed to negotiate a further seat for the 2010 season. He decided to  pursue a career in Rally Driving signing with Citroen.

However after contacting Renault’s Team Principle Eric Boullier, he (EB) is quoted as saying:

“He (KR) is one of the drivers on our Radaar…. as is Vitaly Petrov

So what would happen if Kimi came back to F1, taking Petrov’s seat?

We know the top teams: Red Bull Racing, Ferrari and McLaren are keeping their seats.

I believe the following seats are in jeapordy:

  1. Antonio Liuzzi – Force India
  2. Vitaly Petrov – Renault
  3. Pedro De La RosaBMW Sauber (news has just confirmed his replacement.)
  4. Lucas Di Grassi – Vigin Racing

Now it seams that Virgin are keen to sign GP2 competitor Jerome d’Ambrosio, whilst Sauber seem to have their eyes on Nick Heidfeld – and won. Where would the two go after this?

PDLR¬†may¬†take over Nick Heidfeld’s seat testing tyres at Pirelli, whilst the new comer LDG could be without a seat, unless a deal could be made with another team.

Liuzzi has had several chances in F1 to make his mark and seems to have barely scratched the surface when it comes to challenging his team mate Adrian Sutil. If Petrov is given the heave-ho maybe a seat at Force India is on the cards?

Lotus are set to ditch their new name, but keep both their drivers Whilst Virgin are keen to keep Timo Glock – whether he is happy their or not will be one to watch. Maybe Di Grassi can keep his seat after all!

Michael Schumacher anybody? I’ll leave that alone for now.

The last 5 races will be filled with championship racing for those at the top of the field, whilst those nearer the bottom will be racing for their seats. Interesting to watch the entire field then!

Today: Monza’s Reactions

13 Sep

Although a race track generally doesn’t have a reaction to a race result, Monza is one of those places where the tifozo come out in so much force that even the drivers feel the track is alive. Felipe Massa said:

“All you could see was the fans, you couldn’t see the track”

I think this is a paramount atmosphere that you could only experience at Monza, the willingness of the fans for Ferrari to suceed, whilst having a fantastic race for everyone else, ending in a fantastic party can only equal a good time!

Indeed, this can’t be more apparent than when Fernando Alonso took the top step at the podium, although you couldn’t hear it on the tv all that well, the crowd went wild, infact i am sure that when the Italian National anthem came on every Italian in the circuit was singing along.

Far from the domination that was expected from Ferrari this weekend, it all seemed lost at the first corner when Jenson Button took the lead, and then lead till his pit-stop! Lewis Hamilton found out the hard way that bumping into the side of a Ferrari – which accordig to Martin Brundle are built for such collisions – breaking a part of his steering and retiring him from the race. Before the completion of Lap 1.

Kamoui Kobayashi had a pretty rough time of it as well, starting from the pit-lane he also didn’t complete the first lap, having to pull over on track.

Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel dropped and made places all race, Webber had a tough time behind Nico Hulkenburg who cut as many chicanes as races he had raced in F1 and managed to get away with it. Jaime Algesuari on the other hand, wasn’t so lucky. Having cut the chicane once he then had to sulk down the pitlane for a drive through penalty.

Sebastian Vettel had all his fans hearts in their mouths as he left his pitstop till the penultimate lap of the race, i was worried that the young German would infact forget to pit -such being his luck and press at the moment – but he pulled a blinder. Managing to salvage 4th whilst Mark Webber salvaged 6th, and now leads the Drivers Championship.

 The race all in all was a race typical of common thought of F1, cars driving round and round. But the reprocussions it has on the championship will have every F1 fan sitting on the edge of their seats for the last 5 races of the season.

Today: It Must be Race Day- Monza

12 Sep

With McLaren regretting the spilt set-ups of their cars, Ferrari effectively dominated qualifying, Alonso (eyebrows) taking pole, the F-duct(ed) Jenson Button taking second and Massa lining up with Mark Webber to take the second row of the grid.

However much of a talented driver Lewis Hamilton may be, being stuck behind all of his Championship rivals and on the same row as the feisty Sebastian Vettel will certainly cause him some problems.

The first lap should be a critical time for all championship contenders, as there is no rain predicted during the race, the only other chance they could get at solidifying their positions is at the pit-stop. Which on a dry Monza track, will only happen once.

I hope for the Aussie Grit Mark Webber to sweep up past Button’s fat rear wing to grab a podium position.

I am not sure anybody can deny a total Ferrari white wash of Monza, I just hope that this time the true race result can stand on the podium.

Today: The Education of Science.

10 Sep

Sitting at second tea break, normally i am there dead on time. Leaving before the mass of academics converge on the tea room, indulging in in depth conversations. Usually involving Cricket, Where they have been on holiday and Golf.

Today however i was late due to reasons beyond my control (I lie. i just forgot the time) so i was surrounded by these people, all alot cleverer than i could every really be, all having about 4 conversations at once.

One conversation caught my attention however, one being held between 2 professors all about the correlation between A-level results and degree outcomes.

I’m always a little defensive when it comes to A-level’s, having not done very well (CDD) I had to do a preliminary year to guarentee myself a position at Cardiff University, doing alot better than what i had acheived in my A-levels.

However they turned not on the students in this case, but on the teaching standards that you receive. I was relieved and intrigued to hear what they were saying about how teachers make things seem too easy for the pupils. Effectively enabling them to fail when they don’t put effort in (for those of us lacking that genius gene), or denying those who are super genius’ from the challenge they deserve.

It took me back to ALL of my A-levels and how they were taught.

I went to Waingels Copse School in Woodley, Reading (Now called Waingels College…), for A-level i did Physics, Maths and Chemistry. Pretty much the hardest lot you could do, I was only ever really good and had fun in my science classes so it was an easy choice for me going into year 12 (where i also took Geography… I am still not sure why).

At the end of year 12, I had an E in physics, 2 marks INTO an E,¬† and D’s in everything else. I chose to drop Geography, and re-sat my As Physics and A-level Physice all in 1 year, bumping my final grade up to a C. The problem my school hit with this? My head teacher didn’t want to grant my head of physics permission to hire another physics teacher (there were 2 dedicated and one complete idiot who admitted that he hated teaching Physics). So he left… Half way through my final year. Causing my favourite Physics teacher Mr Jon Clarke to have to cover The department heads classes, and teach an A-level class. Needless to say the A2 class had dropped a lesson a week, and the As had the same. Leaving me 2 lessons down, and wanting to study Physics at Uni. Panic E-mail to the admission tutor cleared that issue up. Thankfully.

Next Issue came when January results came out. The people who took double maths (top set GCSE sat the full A-level in a year after doing their GCSE a year early) pretty much failed and dropped down into my class. So my class went from having 5 people in, to 25. It became a revision lecture for them, and i failed to get taught pretty much anything, no matter how much i asked, how much i complained to the teacher. It was not the students who dropped down to my classes fault, but my teacher for failing those of use who needed to be taught in the first place.

Chemistry was a bundle of laughs. Nothing went really wrong, just nothing went really right either. The teachers made us  try and see chemistry as an easy thing. So apart from my full marks in my practical examination, I learnt nothing.

It’s good to see that the lecturers see that A-level results are a result of teaching practices and not a students bone idle-ness when it comes to university. I tried very hard at my A-levels. In the end my hard work has paid off and i am currently averaging a 2:1, I have been taught well!

On a side note: If anybody reading this knows Mr Jon Clarke, or at least where he is, I would really like toget back in contact with him, as thankfully he has left Waingels and moved on. I want to thank him for keeping everything real. Being honest with me about my results, and to show him how far i have come. I did Physics and Astronomy because of his inspiration, I think shaking his hand is necessary.