You really must pay attention in maths classes

September 14th, 2013 by ajb

Pay attention please. What more can I say to my students?

It’s official, beer goggles also work on the wearer!

September 14th, 2013 by ajb
 This years Ig Nobel prize in psychology went to Laurent Bègue, Brad Bushman, Oulmann Zerhouni, Baptiste Subra and Medhi Ourabah, for confirming that drunk people think they are more attractive than they really are. The experimental work they conducted was published in [1].

This effect had long been observed in the “wild”, but now we have experimental proof that the effect is real.

I might just have to confirm this myself, for science you understand. Any one fancy a beer?

Groundbreaking experimental psychology in action!

Reference
[1] “‘Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beer Holder’: People Who Think They Are Drunk Also Think They Are Attractive,” Laurent Bègue, Brad J. Bushman, Oulmann Zerhouni, Baptiste Subra, Medhi Ourabah, British Journal of Psychology, epub May 15, 2012.

CERNs latest contribution to the world

September 8th, 2013 by ajb
 On the 2nd of September CERN announced that at it’s Entrance B at 17.10 on 26 August 2013 a baby boy, called Lorenzo was born! The baby was a little eager to be born and so the parents stopped at CERN to seek assistance.

In all my 20 years at CERN, I’ve seen many things, but this is a first. In fact the last time something similar happened at CERN was 40 years ago.

Véronique Fassnacht, Head of the CERN Medical Service

New hadron discovered at Entrance B (mother and baby doing fine) CERN Bulletin

The Einstein myth

September 7th, 2013 by ajb
 There is a romantic image of Albert Einstein as a lonely patent office clerk who from nowhere revolutionised our understanding of the Universe. While it is true that Einstein’s papers of 1905 were published while he was working at the Swiss Patent Office, he was not an “outsider” and was well qualified in physics. This is all well documented, so I will not examine the details here, rather I will just highlight Einstein’s education and early achievements.
• 1901 Einstein completed a 4 year mathematics and physics teaching diploma at Zurich Polytechnic. In the same year Einstein published his first paper in Annalen der Physik, which is a good journal. He acquired Swiss citizenship that year and, as he was unable to find a teaching post, he accepted a position as technical assistant in the Swiss Patent Office.
• 1905 Einstein obtained a PhD from the University of Zurich under Alfred Kleiner. This was his “annus mirabilis”, the year in which he published works on the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, special relativity, and the equivalence of mass and energy which brought him to the wider attention of physicists. Much of this work was done while at the patent office as well as in his spare time.
• 1908 Einstein was appointed lecturer at the University of Bern.

Einstein’s disservice to physics
So we see that Einstein was well qualified in physics by the time he published his best known works in 1905. He has a diploma in mathematics and physics, and had completed his PhD studies. Einstein was an “unknown” in physics in 1905, he only just finished his PhD, but he was by no means an “outsider”.

Einstein’s biggest disservice to physics was not being able to get a teaching job in 1901. Unfortunately, finding jobs is not easy and many good people struggle today, just as they did in Einstein’s time. Anyway, this has lead to the false image of Einstein that many quacks have; “if a simple patent office worker can revolutionise physics, then so can I“.

Albert Einstein – Biographical (Nobel Prize website)

Science Spectacular at Manchester University

September 7th, 2013 by ajb

As part of the Manchester Science Festival, The University of Manchester is going to the Science Spectacular. There will be a tour of research at the University and the chance to take part in some great science challenges. There will also be the opportunity to talk with some of the scientists and engineers behind the research conducted at Manchester.

If you are anywhere near, why not go along?

Science Spectacular The University of Manchester

Want to study physics in the UK or Ireland?

September 6th, 2013 by ajb
 If you are thinking about studying for a degree in Physics in the UK or Ireland you should check out MyPhysicsCourse. There you will find a listing of all the physics degree courses starting in 2014.

The website is run by the Institute of Physics and The Ogden Trust.

It is hard for graduates to get jobs in Cardiff

September 6th, 2013 by ajb
 Alan Bacon, a graduate in documentary, film and TV from the University of South Wales, had a rather unusual interview at an electronics store in Cardiff, Wales.

I ended up dancing to Around the World by Daft Punk, doing rubbish robotics in my suit in front of a group of strangers.

Alan Bacon

Well, I just hope any future job interviews I go to don’t require me to dance!

3 Minuite Wonder

September 5th, 2013 by ajb

3 Minute Wonder is a competition in which researchers in physics-related fields explain their work to the public in just three minutes.

The participants pitch their work to a panel of four judges and an interested but non-specialist public audience. The points awarded for how well the idea is communicated rather than the science itself. The winner and runner-up will receive a cash prize of £250 and £100 respectively, along with the chance to compete in next year’s grand final at the Institute of Physics headquarters.

Non-members of the Institute of Physics are able to enter the competition.

3 Minute Wonder

YOUR NOMINATIONS FOR 2014 FUNDAMENTAL PHYSICS PRIZE

September 4th, 2013 by ajb
 Nominations are now being taken for the 2014 fundamental physics prize. The nominations are open to the public as well as the scientific community.

There are two prize categories:

• The New Horizons in Physics Prize, a $100,000 prize awarded to young researchers. • The Fundamental Physics Prize, a$3,000,000 award given to researchers making transformative advancements in the field, with special attention to recent developments.

Nominations will be accepted until October 15, 2013 and the three winners will be announced in November. Read more by following the link below.

What is a topological space?

August 31st, 2013 by ajb

Introduction
A topological space is a rather general notion of a space in terms of a set of points endowed with some extra structure that gives us some notion of “nearness” of points. Topological spaces are quite general objects and appear all over the place in modern mathematics.

I my early post on manifolds, I used the notion of a topological space in defining the domains that are patched together to build a manifold, though I did not use the word “topology” at all. So manifolds are very nice examples of topological spaces.

Intuitively topology is the study of the properties of topological spaces that do not change under deformations, stretching and bending, but not cutting and gluing. That is we keep the notion of “nearness” of points.

There are several equivalent ways of defining a topological space, but here we will take the most intuitive route in terms of neighborhoods of points.

Neighborhoods
Our topological space is a set of points, which we will denote $X$. By a neighborhood of a point $x \in X$, we mean a subset of $X$ that consists of all points “sufficiently close” to $x$. What we mean by “sufficiently close” depends on the situation and can depend on the different neighborhoods. Anyway, neighborhoods satisfy some natural axioms (properties):

1.Each point $x$ belongs to every one of its neighborhoods.
2.Every subset of $X$ that contains a neighborhood of a point $x$ is also a neighborhood of $x$.
3.When two neighborhoods of a point $x$ overlap, this overlap is also a neighborhood of $x$.

The above three axioms are very natural and clear. The fourth is less so, but very important in patching neighborhoods together.

4.Any neighborhood $N_{1}$ of $x$ contains another neighborhood $N_{2}$ of $x$ such that $N_{1}$ is a neighborhood of each of the points in $N_{2}$.

The feeling one should get from this these axioms is that we have a notion of “closeness” given by points sharing neighborhoods. Moreover, given a point and one of its neighborhoods, one can “move the point a little” and still remain in the original neighborhood.

Continuous maps
As hinted to earlier, topology studies spaces up to changes that do not “cut and paste”. The notion of topological spaces and continuous maps (“small changes in input give small changes in output”) between them formalises this. So, as i want this to be a rather informal post lets not get bogged down with details and look at an example.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Above is a graphical representation of a continuous deformation between a mug and a torus. Heuristically, you see that points that are near each other on the mug remain near each other on the torus. Also note that such a map does not change the overall shape, there is one hole and always one hole here.

In conclusion
Intuitively topological spaces are just sets in which we have a good notion of “nearness” of points. Topology is interested not in the details of the geometric shape of the spaces but only on how the space is put together.