Archive for January, 2010

Audience Participa-shaun

Well, it’s time once again* for  us and you both to dance the symbiotic dance of reader feedback. We seem recently to have entered a phase where the ratio of readers to commenters on this blog is undefined, because exactly one of those numbers is zero. That’s fine; we’re here for your gratification and not the other way around.

But in addition to joining us in stirring ever more extreme compotes of popular science, unpopular mathematics and token sport and politics coverage, let’s make sure there aren’t some simple topics falling between the cracks.

Even though the irregular bursts of activity are probably a good reflection of what is possible in the post-doc blog-industrial complex, perhaps there is something to be said for working at a different place along the quality–quantity curve.

Finally, I think there is much room to include some more classical music and short-form prose fare, plus links to good recipes on one of Rachael’s blogs. I also anticipate more Micallef Tonight, Micallef P(r)ogram(me) and David McGahan clips, so don’t go on a YouTube binge right now.

* N.b. that we may not, in fact, have ever done this before.

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The precursor to this post ended with the cliffhanger:

We demonstrate that when the diffraction pattern of a finite object is sampled at a sufficiently fine scale… the 3D structure of the object is in principle determined by the 2D spherical pattern.

Today, I describe how this piece of magic is achieved. (more…)

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Here’s a great little contribution appearing in this week’s edition of our sister journal:

The ability to determine the structure of matter in three dimensions has profoundly advanced our understanding of nature… Here we present a 3D imaging modality, termed ankylography (derived from the Greek words ankylos meaning ‘curved’ and graphein meaning ‘writing’), which under certain circumstances enables complete 3D structure determination from a single exposure using a monochromatic incident beam.


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Tim Garn (1982 – 2010)

Tim Garn

Some very sad news from the Royal Observatory today. Tim Garn, a post-doc in Philip Best’s extragalactic astrophysics group, has died over the weekend. John Peacock writes:

I am very sorry to have to give you some awful news: Tim Garn has died in a mountaineering accident. He was descending from Ben Lui on Sunday January 17, when he suffered a fatal fall.

Tim had been a postdoc at the Institute for Astronomy for little more than a year, and was just at the start of a career full of promise. We will all miss him; but our thoughts are particularly with his family at this dreadful time.

Tim was my office-mate while I was writing up my dissertation in the first half of 2009, & given his prodigious early output, I expected that he’d be around for the rest of my career reminding me of that. He was a pretty classic guy, very old-school and focussed in the office. We didn’t like each others’ tastes in music: once he asked me to turn down the volume when John Adams’ Fearful Symmetries was playing; admittedly, it has a distracting ostinato beat structure.

I remember—shortly after I moved in—I was last out of the office one day and when trying to find the light switch, I flipped a switch that shut off all the power in the room; his computer restarted once I turned everything back on. I disavowed all knowledge the following day, & told him it was because the IT at site could be dodgy sometimes.

It’s a terribly sad loss, & our hearts go out to Tim’s family.

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It’s a new decade, & I’m well rested after a week locked inside the Iberostar Resortcatraz1, so there is no better time for a rejuvenation of the compact between blogger and blogosphere the mathematical space of readers and writers of blogs.

But I’ll ease myself back in with a trivium amusing to perhaps one person only. As we know, I enjoy Andrew Sullivan’s writing, & one gimmick of his blog is the View From Your Window2 snapshot series. I enjoy looking at all these different images, but am yet to bother sending anything in because of a well-known aversion to using cameras myself (Luke is much, much better at that sort of thing). But wait: here is one from Jan 8:

Copenhagen Window

Copenhagen, Denmark, around ten in the morning on January 8, 2010.

Awww. It’s nice to know that there are at least two people in Denmark reading Andrew’s blog. The round tower in the background is none other than the Round Tower of Tycho Brahe, who built it after he was voted off the island where his more famous observations were made. The inside is an ascending spiral—not of steps, but a smooth cobbled road, apparently so that the astronomical instruments could be carted up by horse. It’s very interesting!

I left Copenhagen two days after this photo was taken. I’ve had a nice time here is Mexico, although I’ve been mostly cut off from that taproot of Western Civilization you and I call the Internet. My flight into SFO is in a few hours—and what do I find today on Andrew’s blog?

Berekeley Hills Window

Berkeley Hills, California, a bit before five in the afternoon; I'm on to you, Sullivan!

So, I welcome the Internet back to my inertial frame. I’ll be staying at a place in these very same Berkeley Hills for the next little while and working in the Astronomy Department at UCB. May the bright colours of a new place forming its first impression on the mind provide much for me to write about.

1. I would have thrown myself into the carnivorous tortoise pen after the first day had there not been a cosmology conference to attend—and it was a very good meeting indeed. So a shout out to everyone who made it along. As per the request of the organisers, I draw everyone’s attention to it. There’ll be another one next year!

2. Andrew, Patrick & Chris have put together a book of these windows, selected by the readership from the many, many photos that have been sent in since 2005.

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