A day of madness and extravagance during the lockdown. We ordered a takeaway from the restaurant chain Cinnamon. Not quite a takeaway, as it takes a day to deliver from London and requires finishing at home. This was a celebration of their 20years of existence. It arrived, and that evening we ate most of it. We were stuffed and never got to the afters. They were reserved for the next day. Extravagant, but really tasty. Not at all like a chicken vindaloo.
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.
Rosemary and I had a trip to Oxford today. Parking virtually impossible in Oxford, so you have to use the Park and Ride. Being retired, the cheapest and easiest way into Oxford is to park at the Bicester Park and Ride which is free. Then catch the S5 into Oxford, yet again free with your bus pass, and they supposedly run every 15 minutes. The website shows you live arrival times of buses, ours was a tad late.
In the city of Oxford, we went straight to the Library where there was an exhibition of books and magazines. The Bodleian is a copyright library so receives most publications from the UK. These included erotic publications, some of which were subsequently banned. The access to these publications was restricted and categorised as Phi. Students could see them for research purposes only with a written note from the Director of Studies. Most of the books displayed in the very public area were very tame, you could hardly believe any of them would have been banned in the UK.
Next was the business of the day shopping, clothes shopping. Having spectacularly failed at this, it was time for lunch at the Cinnamon Kitchen, an upmarket Indian Resturant on the upper floor of the Westgate shopping centre. There are several restaurants up on the roof. Many with outside seating for warm days. A token gave us a free glass of bubbly and we had a fine meal.
Well after this, it was home time, but we had to go to the sweet shop for some aniseed balls. These were purchased at Hardys Sweet Shop on the High Street. It is so much further down the road than we ever imagine. We always believe we have gone past, and the shop has closed. Aniseed balls purchased for Rosemary. I won’t touch them now after a large dentist bill to replace a cracked tooth; I tended to crunch them up with my teeth.
Today was forecast as a brilliant day, and so it was. The sun shone into the van at an early hour, but we were awake, the peacock had seen to that. We left early picking up the bread and pain au chocolat as we left the campsite for the 9.11 bus into St Peter Port. This arrived on time and we were whisked to our destination via the hospital. Today we were catching the 10.30 ferry to Herm. It should be a lovely day there. Seems many others thought the same, as the ferry filled up.
The tide was low and we arrived at the steps and not the harbour. More steps and we were on our counter clockwise walk around the island. The first part is on the cliffs where bracken grows rather too profusely, smothering most other vegetation. Various flowers were spotted and photographed as we walked around, although I did not photo the brromrape.
We stopped for tea at a Kiosk on a small beach where we had seen people swimming in late October. Today despite the warm sun, there was only one intrepid elderly couple dipping their toes into the sea. Umbrellas and sun worshippers were in evidence.
We continued to Shell Beach where we ate lunch. Rosemary started her shell hunt. As one couple said, the shells and sand urchins were small. I ventured out onto the rocks and took a few photographs around the area. A few other photographers were in evidence, one keen woman with a professional Canon lens. It was always interesting to try and see what she had been photographing. Many times, I was mystified.
We walked the rest of Shell Beach to the furthest point from the landing steps, when Rosemary announced we were to catch the 3.35 home, and we had 35 minutes to walk back. We did make it in plenty of time, and thankfully our hurry meant we did not have to spend time in the shop.
Back to the camp site on the 81 bus. I said we were going to Candie Road, was perplexed when the driver said, that’s just up the hill. He was soon stopping and telling us we had arrived. No I said, the other Candie Road, just before the Little Chapple. OK the road was named Rue du Candie, so technically I was wrong.
More cider was drunk at the campsite, and then we discovered someone new had arrived and they were parked in their VW next to us.☹
Some good photo opportunities as the sun set on the campsite, missed most of those.
We had planned to go to Herm Island today. The weather, though dry, was not sunny. Thursday according to the weather gurus was likely to be better. So, instead we lounged around the campsite reading books, drinking tea and making lunch. We went for a short walk around the campsite looking at the sheep, chickens, turkeys, pigs and ducks. The turkeys had chicks, the very protective mother was most concerned as we stood by. They were protected in a cage on the field because if they weren’t, the gulls would come in for a quick meal. The pigs were all rare breeds with a couple of Old Spot (and others I have no idea of now). We missed two piglets but we saw them later when we came back from our afternoon walk.
Enough lounging about was enough, so off we went for a walk to Cobo Bay trying to keep to green lanes and the ruettes tranquilles. We arrived and had tea at one of the famous Guernsey Kiosks, the Cobo Bay one, with me further treating myself to a Classic Magnum as we left.
The walk back took us a different, slightly shorter route which passed two Island fortifications we have never seen before. Both were not marked on our Guernsey maps. Maybe we should update to a newer version. They are obviously proud of these fortifications with the new signs and historical notes.
Arrived back at the campsite to what looked like a swarm of midges which must have been awakened by the warmth and sunshine appearing during our walk. We decided on a bottle of cold, local cider (6%) brewed not more than a few hundred yards from away. Nope they were not midges, they were Guernsey Honeybees doing their swarming bit. (Perhaps from the apple orchard making our cider?) The owner of the orchard was contacted and arrived, donned his kit and captured the honeybees, placing them in a box. Quite exciting. One of the campsite’s two young Border Collies managed to get a bee entangled in her tail and was quite subdued & anxious until the insect was found and removed.