Welcome to our little home on the net. We are Steve & Rosemary and live in Buckinghamshire, UK. This is a blog of our life, sometimes interesting, but mainly boring. It is very picture orientated as Steve loves to take pictures, especially of wildlife. Sometimes he has his arm twisted by Rosemary and takes the odd snap of a weed.
Saturday – Oxford Conference
For several years we have been meaning to attend a one day conference at Oxford University on various topics concerned with the History and Philosophy of Physics. These conferences run about three times a year and are organised by the Post Graduate college of St Cross. They appear to be open to anyone.
We dutifully made full use of our old people’s bus passes and parked at the Bicester Park and Ride (still free) and took the S5 into Oxford. We walked to the Martin Woods Lecture Theatre for our days’ conference on The Rise of Big Science in Physics.
Big Physics: The Manhattan Project
The first session was a history lesson given by Professor Helge Kragh from the Niels Bohr Institute. This lecture charted the history of Big Science before, after and including the Manhatten Project. We heard about the Leviathan of Parsonstown, a large telescope built by William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse which was the largest telescope in the world from 1845 to 1917.
The liquefaction of Helium was an expensive project first undertaken by Kamerlingh Onnes. In 1904 he founded a very large cryogenics laboratory and invited other researchers to the location. In 1908 he was the first to liquify helium. He also discovered superconductivity and superfluity during this research.
Big science ramped up in cost when high energy synchrotrons were built. These were necessary to understand the building blocks of life. They became more costly as they became more and more powerful.
During the war, the Manhattan Project to build the Nuclear bomb was an expensive project, which involved organisations from across America. In today’s money, this project cost $20 billion. Huge industrial plants were built to separate the uranium isotopes.
We heard how the Americans led the high energy physics until the Europeans got together after the war, coordinated and jointly funded CERN to build powerful cyclotrons. We also learnt a little about the Russians and their spying.
Dr Isabelle Wingerter from the French National Centre for Scientific Research talked about CERN, and the Large Hadron Collider built to find the Higgs Boson particle. Listening to her talk, you became amazed how these large projects are run. How technology advances during the build, and how the documentation and project management must be an absolute nightmare. Definitely going to visit CERN when we are in the area again.
Next up was Bernard Bigot, the director-general of the ITER project. ITER is a Nuclear Fusion reactor being built in France. It will be the model for commercial reactors and should be the first reactor to generate more power than put in.
The project is funded by China, EU, Japan, Korea, Russia and the USA. Components for the reactor are built in all the counties and shipped to France to be assembled. The agreement to build the reactor was signed in 2006. All members of the project share all the intellectual property rights generated by the project. The UK participates, and the fusion reactor at Culham is used to prototype technologies to be used in ITER.
This reactor should generate 500MW for 50 MW put in. Commercial reactors will be larger. The reactor works at high temperatures and uses a magnetic field to keep the plasm in place, The device is huge, with 18 Toroidal Field Coils weighing 360 tons each. They are built to a precision of 0.2 mm. The central solenoid is 1,000 tonnes and powerful enough to lift an aircraft carrier out of the water.
The work is progressing on time, work started on site in April 2014. The next two years are crucial with most of the large components being delivered and installed. Then comes the long few years in commissioning the equipment. The first plasm should be generated in December 2025.
We left for lunch and had soup at the Pitt Rivers Museum. The queue was busy when we arrived. A few from the conference were there also. A thought, each session of the conference was around 30 minutes, with questions afterwards. Some of the questions were rather bizarre. One attendee was asking about documentation, and how to get these large projects documented. He found nobody wanted to update the Wikis. Isabelle said there was nothing better than human interaction and meetings. But what happens years down the line when everyone has left.
Interesting to hear how the published papers now had hundreds to thousands of names as authors. These were the researchers, but not the technicians who built. operated and serviced the machines.
Professor Carole Jackson from Astron, The Netherlands Institute of Radio Astronomy talked about the mega projects in Astronomy. Here we learnt about the creation of NASA and how they were the birthplace of big astronomical projects. We again heard about the hyper authors, with over a thousand authors named on a paper.
As well as building large radio telescopes, there is collaborative research where telescopes are linked together across the world to make one large machine. Pure Science research requires global participation.
Look Ahead at the Next Decade
Dr Michael Banks a journalist from Physics World, Institute of Physic Publishing, took a look into the next decade.
In 2021 we should have the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. This will work in the Infrared and is a joint project from NASA, EAS and CSA. $8.8 billion
2025 The European Extremely large telescope with a 39.9-meter diameter dish. This will be used to searching for exo planets. $1 billion.
The Square Kilometre Array, thousands of radio antenna, building in South Africa and Australia. (low radio interference) $1 billion
2027 Long baseline Neutrino Facility. A proton accelerator and neutrino detector. Built-in Fermilab and Sanford. To detect the symmetry violations in antimatter. 180 organisations including CERN. Cost $1.5 billion
2027 Hyper Kaniokande, 260,000 tons of pure water in a mine in Japan to detect the symmetry violation of neutrinos. Why is there more matter than antimatter? $0.8 billion.
2035? International Linear Accelerator. 20 km accelerator (250GeV) with two detectors. To study the Higgs Boson in greater detail. To be built in Japan, $7.5 billion
2040? Compact Linear Accelerator 11 km tunnel (380GeV) CERN, further study of the Higgs Boson. $6.0 billion
2040? Future Circular Collider. 100 km tunnel, first stage 250GeV, then 100TeV with protons. Higgs Boson and look for further particles. $9-25 billion
Tea was taken in the Physics Department. Chatted with a couple of attendees. One was a questioner, who had a bone to pick on documentation. Hopefully, he won’t be at the evening meal.
Professor Frank Close closed the proceedings with a summary of the days’ events.
Dinner was held at St Cross College. We arrived in plenty of time and sat in the Common Room waiting for pre-dinner drinks. Close examination of the pictures on the wall, which had all been bought in a few years from a bequest. The College was founded in 1965, admitting its first five graduate students a year later. The College moved to its present location on St Giles in 1981.
After preprandial drinks, we went into dinner. Rosemary and I seemed to be seated in quite a good position on the table. Near to the organisers and some of the speakers. Our dinner, which included wine was.
Twice-baked cheddar souffle
Confit of duck with spiced plums, celeriac mash and flageolet bean ragout.
Vanilla baked cheesecake with roasted spiced plums
Coffee, mints & petit fours
It was an enjoyable evening with lots of conversation. We left and caught the S5 bus home. Busses seem to run late into the evening and well past midnight in Oxfordshire.
Sunday – Cambridge Society
Next day was the Berkshire branch of the Cambridge Society AGM. It had been scheduled to be the last AGM. This was to be the winding up AGM as there was no one wanting to stand as committee members. Thankfully two new members were found and we are going forward.
The meeting was held at Hurley Village Hall. We held the AGM, over quite quickly. We then ate lunch, each of has brought along a dish. Then there was a talk on a cruise from the UK, to France around Spain and back again. This did not persuade Rosemary to undertake any more cruises. We might visit Bordeaux though.
I came away not a member of the committee. We were asked to look at whether it was possible to organise a tour of the Space Centre at Wescott.
I had booked a test drive of a Tesla 3. We drove to Milton Keyes and walked into the ITSU shopping centre in Central Milton Keynes. The Tesla showroom is right inside the shopping centre. Here a young lad showed us how to work the Tesla in the showroom, and then took us up the stairs to the car park. A row of Tesla vehicles was sat there ready to be driven. We waved the card at the car. opened it up and sat inside. We were allowed to take the car for a 30-minute drive with no one accompanying us, but R asked for the salesman to come in case things went tits up.
So I drove out and took a random route through MK to Willen Lake. The acceleration on the Tesla 3 is very good, and this model was only the rear-wheel-drive model. The one I was contemplating also had both front and rear-wheel drive and faster performance. It definitely accelerated well and cornered around the roundabouts as if on tracks. It was definitely a good drive.
The only oddity, which didn’t take long to get used to, was when you took your foot off the go button, the car slowed quickly. This was the regenerative braking coming into action. Approaching roundabouts, you needed to leave the accelerator pressed a bit, until you wanted to slow down. I rarely used the traditional brakes.
Would I buy one? Yes? Rosemary didn’t like the inside, saying it was totally boring and not a bit like a car. So maybe we will look at the Polestar 2 coming out mid-year. Personally I would really like the pickup trucks coming out, the Rivian, or the Cyber Truck. Strongly suspect those choices would get vetoed by R.
The cafe in the Tesco at Bicester is so much better than the cafe in the Aylesbury Tesco. The Bicester Tesco has cooked breakfast, ideal for morning sustenance while Rosemary is doing the weekly shop. They recently launched their vegan breakfast which comprises two vegetarian sausages, half an avocado, baked-beans, mushroom, tomato, toast and some steamed green leaves (spinach??).
The breakfast took a long time arriving, much longer than a traditional breakfast. I assume this was because the food had to be prepared fresh, and not from a range of food already prepared, or at least cooking on already hot griddles.
So what did it taste like?
The sausages were fine, avocado was good, spiced with some black pepper. Beans, can’t go wrong. The mushroom and tomato could have booked cooked longer with more oil. The toast was OK. The steamed green leaves were bitter and not at all nice.
Would I have this again? No, the cooked standard breakfast was so much nicer than this. I don’t have an issue with vegan foods, just I don’t think you should try and make a pretend English breakfast from vegetable ingredients. Some hummus and toast would have been so much better.
(In case anyone is thinking what a swine I am to be eating while R is food shopping, I should say I go with her blessing. In fact, she positively herds me towards the cafe. Apparently, I become irritating if I walk around with her. (So you know what to do, chaps…..)
Rosemary and I visited Valerie and Norman in Leicester, staying the night. Rosemary was persuaded to walk around the Botanical Garden, something I have already done. This time we entered the cactus hothouse to see some fabulous specimens. The sculptures in the garden intrigue me.
Ravi and Simon arrived for a pub lunch at the Cradock Arms. The place was heaving and we were lucky to be able to park. The pub was the start and end points of a club’s monthly walk trip. We all departed and went our own way after lunch.
We visited Rob and Kirsty for lunch. After lunch, we all rode the Bluebell Line from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead and back. First, we visited the engine shed to view the locomotives on display, and of course the shop. The shop, as well as featuring the usual tourist merchandise, also had plenty of model railway gear, and anorak magazines to purchase. We didn’t have time to see the museum, we will have to leave that for another day.
The trip to East Grinstead was mainly uphill, stopping at two stations on the way before arriving. The engine uncoupled and moved to the other end of the train, and we set off on the return trip as the sun set on a beautiful sunny afternoon. Soon the mist started to form in the valleys. On the East side of the track, there were several large vineyards.