Showing posts from October, 2012

Publishing Success!!!!

A very short post this week, as I am swamped - I will be away for almost 2 weeks and will explain in detail when I get back - but today was a good day in terms of my publishing.

Firstly, I got a letter accepted in the Sydney Morning Herald on science funding. Here's the letter.
But the bestest bit is that not only did I get the letter published (does this go on my CV), but I also got the letters' page cartoon dedicated to my letter.
I'm going to order a copy of the original cartoon to hang on my wall - I think it is excellent.

More when I have some more time.

Unearthing Foundations of a Cosmic Cathedral: Searching the Stars for M33's Halo

The Stellar Halo of a galaxy is a tenuous population of stars and other things surrounding the the bright spiral disk that characterises galaxies like our own Milky Way. Some of the oldest, most pristine, stars that we know can be found in the halo of our own galaxy, and so they provide clues to the processes that bought large galaxies into existence.

The problem is that they are, well, tenuous. When we look for halo stars in our own Milky Way, we have to sift through a sea of nearby fainter stars, to pick out the giant stars that are far away.

I've mentioned before about my work with the Pan-Andromeda Archaeological Survey, which has been mapping out the stars of our nearest large neighbours, the Andromeda and Triangulum galaxies.

Now that all the data is in, we're dissecting the various stellar populations in the vicinity of these tow galaxies, especially with regards to the large amount of substructure (the left over remnants of disrupted systems). But also we want to measu…

Catching the bus.....

OK, it's been a very good week (for reasons that will become clearer in the near future) and so I am going to take a breather for half an hour for a little recreational mathematics. The question is all about catching the bus.

One good thing about living in Sydney, which I've noted before, is that it easy to get to see international rugby at the Olympic Park. An excellent free bus service is provided to bring people in from the far-reaches of Sydney, and then take them home again.
It is quite impressive that it works, with tens of thousands of people pouring out of the grounds and onto buses quite efficiently.

So, I've been thinking - If people turn up at a bus stop at a certain rate, and buses arrive at a certain rate, then what do we expect the number of people on each bus to be?
OK, the question is easy if the people arrive at a fixed regular intervals, as do the buses. But we are not here to do the easy things.

Being a physicist, we start by simplifying the problem. Let…

Open-access science: be careful what you wish for

A very quick post tonight, but I've had an article published in The Conversation titled Open-access science: be careful what you wish for.

This is a word of caution on the push to make all science, bother the publications and data paid for with public money, available to all.

To cut a long story short, I fully support this move. I would love my science to be read by all (well, at least those who are interested :).

The caution is, however, that doing this costs. The current funding model is a bit busted; scientists need to publish in established journals, as articles that do not appear in the "highest impact journals" are not considered as important.

But the journals are owned by big publishing houses, and so libraries need to pay for access to the papers, often to see the science generated by their own researchers. It's a bit of a complex mess.

Anyway, my caution is that while the funding for open source science has to come from somewhere, it is not good to raid exis…

Flipping Bad Physics: David Blaine

The newspapers are ringing with the latest exploits of "magician" David Blaine. To a physicist, hopefully those who recently completed my first year course on electromagnetism, it is obvious that this story is little more than "man sits in a fancy Faraday cage for a while".

But that's not the point of the post. It's the text accompanying the image. And specifically the phrase "a million volts of fiery electric current"! ARGH!!!

I know Joe Public does not care, but such a sentence causes the inner guts of those with a passing knowledge of physics to twist in an awful pain. Put simply, voltage (measured in volts) is not the same as current (measured in amps).

If you are being electrocuted, the difference may not bother you, but the fact that smoke is coming out of your ears is not an excuse for physics illiteracy.

Right. This is going to be a short post, as I have lots to do, but let's use a gravitational analogy.

Let's imagine you are on …