Archive | October, 2010

Today: Expensive to Educate

26 Oct

I have just returned from an emergency meeting set by my students union, as a comittee member and society executive, i am constitutionally required to attend, so i potted along to have a listen to what Cardiff Students Union plans to do in spite of all the cuts that Higher Education is to face in the next few years.

I was expecting to listen to inspirational speeches about how the union will survive in these hard times, and how we’ll all have to tighten our belts – much the resolve of the UK population to date, but i was surprised as to what i read on the agenda, and heard from the floor.

Now without going into all the nitty gritty of the proposals, i’ll sum it up for everyone:

Cardiff University Students Union WILL be fighting aginst the rise in tuition fees, and the cuts to higher education

We heard many points from the floor, the risk of how the UK will become a heirachy system based on cost -and not education (comparable to the system implemented in the USA), how the union is going to put the points of view of their members across (lobying, protests, student council discussions, vice chancellor addresses) among other defying and quite impressive tasks.

One point that was brought up from the floor, was in support of the fee rises. Now everyone is entitled to their opinion so i’m going to say mine now: What he said was elitest, wrong and just plain ignorant.

How anybody can suggest that allowing universities to set the grade of their own tuition fees, and then comparing this fact to how ‘good’ their degrees are? Rubbish.

As was also pointed out, in comparison to the American universities, a Harvard education is just as good as any other education. Except because you have to fork out about $40k a year for your education there, it minimises the people applying, minimises the numbers and hence people seem to have 1 on 1 conversations with their lecturers – That’s all well and good, but surely someone who gets the same grade in a class of 200 as one in a class of 20 should be considered first?

Allowing universities to set themselves above the rest by having the higher fees is plain ridiculous. It won’t make them any better, and it sure won’t attract the students to join them.

A motion was rejected (well an ammendment within a motion) to say that we, as a student union, reject all fees, and campaign for zero tuition fees, and that we, as students should be paid to come to university (the latter, another point brought up by the floor) – Then general public already see us students as living off the system, if we start shouting for zero fees, surely we’ll be looking like spoilts brats? I’m willing to pay SOME fees, the university has to survive after all.

i’m against these rises because it will throw a huge amount of the coming generation into debt, causing them to save more, causing shops to not sell alot (see where i’m going with this?), causing a nother dip of a recession.

There is a compromise here. I’m sure of it. The government SHOULD and WILL hear the students voices, saying they’ll raise the fees and we can pay back after uni is all well and good when you’re on £250k a year (Mr Prime minister), and when they had state funded education at a high level – yes they had to pay upfront an amount of money, but nothing on the scale that I as a graduate next year will have to start paying off.

There is a protest march on November 10th for all students to protest against the rise in tuition fees.

We aren’t wanting to live off the state, we are trying to make a life for us to beable to NOT live off it. Please support our cause.

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Today: 1 – 2 (DNF)

24 Oct

SO

Korean GP this weekend, after all the speculation as to whether the thing would actually go ahead, everybody racked up nervously over the past week, anxiously doubting what they would be expecting on the 5 hour drive from Seoul.

It seemed apart from the media bridge and the placements of seats IN the grandstands, everything seemed complete. The newely laid track was scrutinised by all drivers and race engineers, and even Martin Brundle had a crack at it.

Cautious thoughts were raised about the oil seeping through the top of the track surface (a natural process for all newely laid tarmac… needs a few weeks to sort itself out) making it very slippery. The pit lane – a completely different surface altogether left the front jack man from prety much all the teams with sore shins, as the concrete that was down just made the cars do this nice little slide when the brakes were applied.

The entrance to the pitlane became more of an issue when FP1 graced our screens, cars slowing to enter the pitlane, were behind a blind corner, on the racing line :/

The times during all three practice sessions dropped off from about 2min 30sec to 1min 40secs or less, everybody having to learn the track. This probably revealed the most adaptable and quickest learner on the grid, Robert Kubica, who although decided to remain distinctly average throughtout FP1 and FP2, demoted the rest of the field to nul by setting the fastest time in FP3 – fastest of anyone in free practices.

Qualifying led to no real surprises, Quali-king Sebastian Vettel made pole with Mark Webber blocking out the dirty side of the grid in second. Petrov suffered his 5 place grid drop and started the race in 20th, whilst there was more controvery over the 7-time world champion Michael Schumacher blocking his former team mate Reubens Barichello. When the issue was pointed out in the media interviews afterwards, MS waited to apologise. It seemed accepted with a pinch of salt – old wounds don’t heal completely it seems.

THE RACE.

“It’s raining, quite alot” – Legard is way ahead of us in pointing out the obvious. Charlie whiting decided it safest to start behind the safety car, which they all did, for 4 laps.

Red flag and everyone starts twiddling their thumbs in their cars (Felipe Massa), re-doing their make-up (Lewis Hamilton), re-doing their hair (Nico Rosberg) or were discussing the differences between the safety car in spray and an F1 car with Bernd Maylander (Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso ).

Cup of tea later and they decide to start following the leader again. THEN FINALLY they let them go go go! time seemed to fly at least for Nico Rosberg who seemed to jump everyone and was doing fantastic until Mark Webber decided that running a little bit over the curb was a brilliant idea. 2 retirements. (and some more following the leader)

Racing continued with Sutil seeming to explore across everbody else’s racing line like a sheep dog, and Liuzzi taking some excursions. Jarno Trulli was the next retirement with some unfortunate Hydraulic issues. 3 retirements.

Lucas Di Grassi assisted Virgin by adding more DNF’s to their race tally, unlucky aquaplaning, whilst Sebastian Buemi took a first class ticket off the track taking Timo Glock with him, earning himself a grid drop at the next race. Vitaly Petrov seemed to think that the race didn’t have enough carnage spread across the track, so put his shiny yellow Renault into the pitwall. Pretty hefty impact, which won’t do his 2011 race seat any good. Sutils explorations soon caught up with him, as he collided with Kamui Kobayashi, and also earned himself a grid drop for knowing e had break issues. (I think the issues are called ‘standing water’)

Sebastian Vettel had it all going for him until his engine just went. He pulled a Heiki Kovalinen to put his own car out on track.

Hulkenberg secured a point after a magnificant race leaving him with a NEED to pit a few laps from the end of the race, Algesuari finished above Jenson Button, who in turn finished above Kovalinen and the 2 HRT’s.

Fernando ‘eyebrows’ Alonso took the victory, Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa followed him swiftly over the line as darkness fell over the first race weekend at Korea.

A good weekend all in all. The track should be perfect for next year and all the curbs will be in place, as well as some accomodation and apparently more parking facilities!

Eyebrows now leads the championship by 11 points, with 2 races to go. Although RBR are still confident they WILL win both championships, the fans confidence was knocked a bit at the time. But we’re a resiliant bunch. The victory will be ours.

The party afterwards will defo be worth getting arrested for sneeking into aswell…

 

Today: It’s Bloody Freezing

17 Oct

Those who reside in the UK (mainly those who reside in Wales) are used to the cold/wet weather conditions that frequent our beloved island. However the recent warm ish spell has had us all surprised.

That is of course until about Tuesday just gone, I’m not sure about other people but it felt like i was going to shiver to death. Walking home from the foam party held at the student union on wednesday night was also…. rather chilly. I slept in ALOT of clothes.

These freezing conditions (when i say freezing i do tend to mean single figures above zero) however carry some advantages for the Astronomers among us. Cold temperatures and no wind tend to mean that the air is still enough NOT to distort the light as much as in warm windy conditions.  It’s meant that me and a friend manged to get my rather dusty 6″ reflector from my room to my back yard and have a looksie around the sky.

Being in the centre of Cardiff holds its usual problems of light pollution, However since i am surrounded by terraced houses, the bit where the light pollution holds most true is blocked out. Which means that the stars i do see look very impressive.

My friend and I managed to train my poor telescope in on Jupiter (this is quite hard when your view-finder isn’t linked up with the main tube). We saw the 4 Galileon Moons, and with the highest magnification my lens’ could manage, we could see the main bands. Very pretty stuff.

After staring and going “oo pretty” at Jupiter for about 15 mins, we decided to look for other things. Now as Astronomers in training, you would think we had a basic grasp of where things were in the sky, but since it took us 20 mins to find the North star (Casseiopia was being particuarly awkward and the Plough was behind my house), things weren’t looking up (no pun intended).

We receeded back to what we had a small idea of, books. We looked up the constellation Andromeda, which is next to Casseiopia and contains the Andromeda galaxy in the middle. My telescope SHOULD have been able to pick up the fuzzy blob and we were going to name it Andromeda, whether it was or not. But not having a lined up view-finder and tube made this thing difficult. It was also difficult because we totally got the orientation of the constellations wrong, and stars move – go figure – so we just pointed and hoped for the best.

Needless to say, our method didn’t quite work out. We found a diffuse cluster of stars, nothing on the scale we were looking for (a fuzzy blob), but thought it was cool. The hunt is still on for the Andromeda galaxy. I’m sure it’s still there. Somewhere….

Today: A small room, 5 F1 fans, and work to be done

15 Oct

Physics is a rather abstract degree choice for most ‘normal’ people. Infact i wouldn’t say anybody is normal on my course…

As a third year I currently have a project to complete, worth a double module, and I get to do something fancy with a spectrometer, take pretty pictures, then fret about why my image suggests that stars aren’t even hot enough to start fusion. I’m predicting alot of calibration time will be required…..

I have been located on the 5th floor of my building – mainly to protect the rest of the physics department from unfortunate distraction, but also because that’s where pretty much where all the stuff is i’m going to be using. Putting a telescope in the basement isn’t particuarly useful (but a good location to store the broken ones). I am in a room with 5 other people, now out of the 100 or so people in my year, there are a couple of people who like F1 (we’re the wierder of the wierd people, but not the worst) and yes, all but 2 of them are located on the 5th floor, in a tiny room, for 7 hours on a Monday, and 4 hours on a Thursday, every couple of weeks there is at least a 2 hour discussion on anything BUT our projects.

Thankfully our supervisor hasn’t quite figured this out, when i say our supervisor, i mean theirs. Mine leaves me to it most of the time!

What type of things do we like discussing? Well they are all McLaren fans and have all come to the same conclusion that I think most people have: They don’t want Alonso to win, they would prefer Vettel or Webber to take the crown – favourite there is Webber, and they have silently given up any realistic hope on either Button or Hamilton making it to be WDC.

As McLaren fans, i’m going to generalise them into thinking that they still think they have a mathematical chance. They do, but with Hamilton’s current record in finishing his races, al i have to say is “LOL”.

I do feel pretty gutted for Hamilton, he had a good race in Suzuka after suffering that gearbox change, then lost 3rd gear…. I’d check with the supplier Lewis.

Button barely made an impression on the TV, same for Alonso. Infact whenever the tv crew decided to film the front runners, boring doesn’t really describe it.

The beginning was where the action happened, Petrov got away to a good start (as the Renault’s generally do) but then did a Vettel and pulled in just a tad to quick. Bad luck there i say, Stewards say 5 place grid drop. Massa just got most things wrong. Driving incidence yes, but an unfortunate end for Liuzzi. Not what the Italian really needed! Then during the safety car period, poor Kubica who made it past Mark Webber (who had a SHOCKING start again) had a tyre fall off. A fate which would soon be experienced by Rosberg later in the race.

The bonus of Rosberg going out? Lotus have made it to 10th in the constructors championship. Lotus are my adopted new team, most people who have watched F1 have ‘adopted’ a new team to follow, The 5 who reside up on the 5th all have different choices, mainly split between Virgin and Lotus ( I Like green….) with HRT being the team we discuss most about. Confused? yeah… we all are too.

The problem with being 5 scientists talking about F1 is that we all think we’re right, I normally am. It’s the mentality we have been brought up with throughout uni, you have to believe you are right to get anywhere with anybody, when deciding through problems we have to justify what we have done, so we have to talk like we are incredible.

Exhausting.

Korean GP next week, looks like the track is down, and cars can you know… drive round it. They say they just have some ‘landscaping issues’ left to deal with. I think building grandstands and putting places for the fans to watch is pretty important but then again, i’ll be watching from under my duvet as it will be 2am/6am again.  So i won’t really notice anything except the sultry sound of Ant Davidson and Karun Chandhok commentating saying how er… lovely the track is looking!

Today: 2 years

7 Oct

They say that love and relationships are hard to find, hard to deal with and hard to keep.

It’s worth it. As long as you over come that difficulty.

I’m one of these true romantics, I love being made like I am the only one in the room, the only thing that matters, the only thing that was worth fighting for. Self centered? Yeah probably, but I tend to go all in, so i’m there i’m the same back.

2 years ago one of my boyfriends broke up with me. We’d been together for 2 years, survived my first year at uni, survived his freshers week the year after and then he decided he couldn’t do the distance – in more than one sense. His perogative I guess but ultimately devestating for me.

Although full of spite – as you get when you break up, no matter what the situation – I decided a new lease of freedom was good for me, yes i had a couple of other boyfriends since, but none that really had the same meaning as he did. Now it has come to my attention just how much ‘damage’ it caused me, i use the word damaged lightly because in all sense and purposes i’m fine. I just get all flimsy with guys, I just can’t be bothered with them because they’re just going to leave anyway, or that’s what I’ve come to persuade myself anyway.

Although at the rip old age of 21, I am pretty terrible at remembering key moments in my life, I tend to remember the random ones;

  • Sheltering under an aeroplane wing at an airshow during the rain,
  • going past Swindon on the train and listening to the defining song of my university life, I was moving to university, on my own, defining track for me.
  • My first marksman badge at cadets
  • my first clay that i broke at shooting for the uni
  • the decision to go camping with the shooting crew
  • the christmas me and my brother had at 5 in the morning
  • The day a young girl said she wanted to do a physics degree so she could drive the train at Legoland
  • painting my nails with permenant marker whilst watching finding nemo at 6am at a sleepover
  • The first time my boyfriend held my hand
  • The look on his face as he walked out the door…

Yes the last point is mildly depressing but that look has stuck with me, He didn’t love me anymore but he cared enough to be hurt by the fact he was hurting me. I am still sad to say it still hurts to this day. I had the happiest and the saddest day of my life with him. It’s a bit hard to try and replace that!

I’m not looking for anyone right now, I don’t think I could manage it either, what with my final year where i have already taken on much more than i probably should, (and staying up till the early hours watching the F1 doesn’t help…) a relationship would screw me over, then what would i do after uni? I want to make a name for myself, I’m going to make a name for myself.

I’m not sure whether him leaving made me stronger or just more cynical about well, everything. I know I have become determined not to let anybody hurt me again, in anyway.

Anybody who can break down that wall, get through the caves, across the ocean, to the pub and find me in the corner silently chugging cider I would give a chance at, but i’m pretty hard work to convince otherwise.

I am the most important person in my life. Over the next 2 years I plan to become even more important, and i’m not too bothered how people react to that.

Today: #scienceisvital

4 Oct

A recent protest silently growing in support, titled: Science is Vital, it aims to curb spending cuts in the scientific community by showing the government how science is VITAL.

I posted a blog a few weeks ago (Today: I’m a Grown up Scientist) hopefully it illustrated my dissapointment in the government for not seeing how cruicial science is.

I must admit i didn’t ever think that I could sign a petition, for any cause, I’m not entirely sure why but i think it has something to do with them not really having much impact. Now however I can tell why people sign it. It show passion, it shows enthusiasm, it shows that people care and most of all, It shows how vital science truely is.

I’m signing it. You should do it too here

So to the cut-myster. If you want to dissapoint all these people, these respected scientists, these budding young scientists, these enthusiasts and these researchers – GO AHEAD. I sure won’t stick around the UK to try any more further education as what’s the point? You’re getting rid of all the science jobs that attracted me to do a science degree in the first place.

I give you the finger, I take my Passport, I leave. Tarra!