The Ogler’s Guide to Shibuya, Tokyo

Since I was brought up in a city and have travelled to about two dozen of them, I can attest to at least one universal fact about them: cities have rhythms.

They might occur with perfect periodicity or with the irregular percussion of a jazz drum solo but either way, they set the beat to which a city moves.

In London for example, asides from the obvious day/night cycle and the awful bass-thumping from your inconsiderate neighbour’s speaker at three in the morning, the buses come every fifteen minutes, the guards at Buckingham Palace change on the hour and a tourist manages to block your path at least every twenty seconds. Every few months or so, the clouds part, just a fraction, and everyone goes temporarily mad worshipping the big glowing orb in the sky.

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Shibuya Crossing

Continue reading “The Ogler’s Guide to Shibuya, Tokyo”

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Ben Feringa’s missing Nobel prize

Ben Feringa is the sort of person you’d call ‘smart’.

Despite being relatively famous in his field, you probably haven’t heard of him. I certainly hadn’t up until recently.

One indication of Feringa’s intellectual chops is that he’s a professor of Chemistry at the University of Groningen. The research group he leads is [correction: unofficially] called the “Ben Feringa Research Group”, which should tell you something, but if that’s not convincing enough, you can peruse the very impressive looking list of awards he’s accumulated over his career, on his website1.

I mean, the man was knighted by the Queen of the Netherlands2, for goodness sake. Yet despite his carefully curated list of accolades, (his website claimed to have been last updated March 2018), there’s one, quite obvious omission.

His 2016 Nobel Prize. Continue reading “Ben Feringa’s missing Nobel prize”

On the “Code of Ethics” for Data Science

Cards on the table, as a PhD researcher in a STEM field (Particle Physics), it’s been pretty much impossible to avoid the allure of Data Science, calling out from the technological horizon.

Last year, you couldn’t go more than a few weeks without hearing about some new advance made using Data Science (DS) and its heavily overlapping field, Machine Learning (ML). From DeepMind’s undefeatable Go-playing program to self-driving cars and image recognition, news organisations have had a field day reporting on them all.

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There are moments though, when I’ve had my reservations. Continue reading “On the “Code of Ethics” for Data Science”

The Ocean Before Us : Should you do a Phd?

I originally wrote this article to be shared on postgraduatestudentships to promote the annual PhD Funding Fair in London. Hopefully the advice is general enough to work as a standalone article, which is why I reproduce it here, -TNR

 

In the years spent working towards your PhD, your sense of self worth is put through the wringer, time and time again under the benevolent questioning of those around you. “What exactly is it you’re doing?” your family will ask, cautiously, to avoid an academic lecture. Over dinner, your date will nervously ask if “You’re still a student?”, thinly veiling their shock and bemusement. “Are you trying to avoid the real world a bit longer?” your friends will jest, as they begin to climb the ladder in their graduate careers.

The response to this questioning usually requires a bit of soul searching. Am I really doing original research or just jumping through the hoops put before me? Am I a researcher or a just a student? Do I really want to stay in academia? Why am I doing this? Continue reading “The Ocean Before Us : Should you do a Phd?”

Ball rolling Bees

I’m buzzed (sorry) to find out that a small segment I produced about bees learning novel behaviour from one another, for The Naked Scientists last February made it into their 2017 Science Roundup!

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I interviewed Clint Perry at Queen Mary’s University to get the details of an experiment he helped conduct, in which bees learnt from demonstrations to roll balls into a ‘goal’ in return for sugar water. Cue awful puns, mercifully included in the final cut.

You can have a listen below, it’s a fascinating story.

https://www.thenakedscientists.com/articles/interviews/football-playing-bees

While I’m on a Bee Binge, I’ll also throw out a recommendation for a book, The Bees by Laline Paull, which apparently only marginally exaggerates just how intelligent they are.

Beam Therapy: A short story.

This story was originally written as a submission to the Quantum Shorts competition, 2017. The rules of the contest were to write a short story in 1,000 words or less, clearly inspired by some aspect of Quantum Mechanics containing the sentence “There are only two possibilities: yes or no.”

I would love to edit it a hundred more times, but since this is the version I submitted as my entry, it’s the same one I include here. -TNR

UPDATE: I’m pleased to say that this story was shortlisted for the Final Prize in the Open Category! https://shorts2017.quantumlah.org/shortlisted-stories 

TNR 02/02/2018

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Before they affixed the mask over your head I held your hand firmly in mine, for my sake as much as yours, as you lay down on the couch. Shortly afterwards we were asked to leave the chamber.

Years earlier, when your mother and I were first dating, I slipped my fingers between hers as we walked back from dinner one evening. As I attempted to wax lyrical about the simple joys of holding hands and the contact between our skin, she couldn’t help but talk shop. Continue reading “Beam Therapy: A short story.”

The Particles behind the Pyramid

Last week, a team of physicists and engineers announced they had discovered a large ‘void’ in the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the World: The Great Pyramid of Giza. Published in an article in Nature, the void, found by the ScanPyramids team, is the first major structure found in the Great Pyramid since the 19th century. It is estimated to be the same size the Grand Gallery, a passage roughly 50 metres long that connects the two largest chambers inside, the Queen and King’s chambers. Understanding this new void may help Egyptologists distinguish between the competing theories that aim to explain how the pyramids were constructed 4,500 years ago (although the void’s relevance to this issue remains contentious, see below).

How exactly does one go about making such a discovery? The first option is to simply dismantle all six million tonnes of limestone that comprise the pyramid, carefully noting the position of each part, as you destroy the UNESCO world heritage site. The advantage here is that, in principle, you could map out the entire structure of the pyramid, or as much as you could take apart before the Egyptian authorities stopped you Continue reading “The Particles behind the Pyramid”