International Conference of Physics Students (ICPS) 2016, Malta.

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Old streets of Valetta, Malta.

Sometimes, just sometimes, an unmissable opportunity comes along. You take it. You end up spending a fantastic week in the vicinity of people who happen to operate on the same wavelength as you, congregating from all over the world on this tiny but charming island of Malta. I am writing this on my homebound plane, knackered but content with the world and with a bucketload of memories freshly baked at this year’s International Conference of Physics Students (ICPS). As this is an annual affair, there is almost no way in the world that I would not be attending this next summer, this time in Torino. Or maybe even Helsinki, in 2018. I can only be amazed at not having heard of it before, which is why I am so keen on spreading the word out to anyone who wants to:

  1. Experience a truly international event, with a plethora of exchanged ideas, knowledge, and stories;
  2. Attend lectures by some pretty huge guest speakers;
  3. TRAVEL. Travel travel travel;
  4. Meet a wacky bunch of 300+ students from the likes of Malta of course, Croatia, Germany, Hungary,  Poland, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Georgia, America, India, Mexico…. Just a sample of the variety of people I’ve met this week!
  5. Be young and be inspired and learn and teach and have fun and and and….

This is an event organised by the International Association of Physics Students (IAPS), of which the Executive Committee changes yearly at the AGM – admittedly the longest meeting I’ve ever attended, but one which laid out on the table exactly what it is that IAPS really does for students, by students. Financial grants, academic support, trips, conferences, competitions (watch this space for call for teams to PLANCKS 2017!) and so much more. I am so proud to be part of this and the UK’s National Committee.

photo credit: ICPS 2016
photo credit: ICPS 2016

Student lectures were given by BSc, Masters and PhD candidates and graduates, spanning the entire spectrum of physics at a great range of levels, meaning that every single attendee surely learnt something throughout their stay! There were presentations about Active Galactic Nuclei (AGNs); Jupiter’s red spot; trapping light in organic solar cells; nuclear reactors and nondestructive testing; a lot of quantum… so much variety in one place.  But I also learnt one vital thing for when my time comes to present a lecture: for the sake of everybody’s sanity…. do NOT. Ever. Insert. A billion. Equations. Onto. A single. Slide.

Additionally to  the student lectures, guest speakers included the likes of:

  • Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, former president of both the Royal Astronomical Society (2002 – 04) and the IOP (2008 – 10), who talked about all the different ways of discovering new, twinkling and dark objects in the universe. I cannot help but also mention that she was the one to make the initial telescope observations in the 70’s which led to the discovery of radio pulsars. It was an honour to attend her lecture, shake her hand and even grab a smiley photo with some of our IOP University Student Network committee:
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photo credit: Benjie Cowan (left). Then: Dr. Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Danielle Harper (USN president) and myself (right).
  • Dr. Anthony Galeawho managed to revive my love for Fluid Dynamics after the atrocity of my finals. He only had to talk about vortices and I was sold!
  • Dr. Alessio Magro,who detailed out the process of constructing a telescope such as the radio Square Kilometre Array (SKA), an instrument which will be 50 times as sensitive as anything else currently out there operating at radio frequency! To achieve this, it will need processing power equalling 100 million PCs to churn through the heaps upon HEAPS of incoming data. Why all this? Because… the universe is big. But only a little bit big.
  • Prof. Mark McCaughrean (muh-CORK-run), only the senior science advisor for the ESA Rosetta mission which landed Philae on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (see this post!). He spoke for over 2 hours, but not a single moment of boredom or waning concentration was to be found. It left me reeling in excitement like a hyperactive child for the future of research. Humans have done some terrible things in the past; today is no different. But it seems that with these vast international collaborations, as witnessed especially in space science, humankind’s inherent thirst for knowledge about our place in the universe can be satisfied. And through this, we can do just a little bit of good in an otherwise ugly world of war, conflict and greed.

http://www.esa.int/spaceinvideos/content/view/embedjw/441534

Aside from all the intellectual learning, we had some spiritual learning in the form of none other than international cuisine and booze, of course. The so-called ‘Nations Evening‘ brought the spirit of the conference together, with every nation presenting a piece of their traditional food and drink (mostly the latter….). There was the Austrian ‘Stroh’ 80% rum, homemade German beer, Finnish Minttu liquor, Polish Soplica, so on and so forth! Tiramisu, pasta, Nachos, Norwegian bread and chocolate, Danish apple pie, kapusta, Ptasie Mleczko, just…an endless exhibition of yumminess. The following evening continued in this line with Lejla Maltija – Maltese night, with samples of pastizzi, snails, bean paste made at a workshop earlier that day and pink liquor (EDIT: made from prickly pears, I am told!). Not necessarily in order of my personal preference.

Most students experienced a fun day at the beach and had the opportunity to swim in the sea (whilst some of us had much more fun at the air-conditioned AGM, of course….) – but a BBQ and a beach evening awaited. There’s very little that would beat sitting around a table of cocktails and Cisk beer by the ocean, with people whom you had no idea even existed only a few days beforehand, learning about their interests, research, experiences and just their personalities. Who said physicists fit only one stereotype?

One student lecture in particular stood out from all the others – not only to me, but to everyone else too, it seems. Markkus spoke of his experiences over the last 11 years of ICPS, inspiring us all to do one, important thing: enjoy ourselves. Which is why the next day, a small bunch of us decided to battle the midday sun and venture out into the beautiful, beige city of Valetta, overlooking the harbour and generating a view to capture in your photographic memory for years to come. A day  of climbing the hilly city streets was followed by an evening of running around the otherwise silent, historic city of Mdina contained within walls. A scavenger hunt with a twist! We named ourselves The Holy Fail; luckily, our charming rendition of ‘Let It Go’ in St. Paul’s square and the speechless reinactment of the Big Bang helped us rise to our name and placed us 7th out of 8 teams.

But let me just latch on to the fact that at least one of these guys has attended this annual event for over a decade. Others had been returning for eight, five, three years… Of course there were also plenty of first-timers like myself, but not at any one moment did I feel like I didn’t belong. Not even once. Students meet each other here for the first time, then return to their home countries and not see each other until next year, and keep coming back year after year after year… Even I had a pleasant surprise of reuniting with a couple of guys I first met at UK’s CAPS from 2014. It took us all the way to Malta to meet again, but I guess that’s how these things work in an international community of research!

Torino, wait for me.

Closing ceremony :(
Closing ceremony😦

The Blue Whirl

This intriguing title describes a very pretty phenomenon, published in a paper for the PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of United States of America) on 4th August 2016 by a team of scientists from the A. James Clark school of engineering, University of Maryland. It is an unprecedented form of a fire whirl, the ‘blue whirl‘, which develops from a pool fire and can be thought of as a small-scale tornado. The science behind it is pretty awesome, as well as the potential implications: from enhanced research into fluid dynamics and specifically stable vortices, to reduced CO2 emissions and improved efficiency of cleaning up oil spills on ocean surface.

You may have seen large scale natural fire whirls in action, destroying life and surroundings with their intensity and turbulence, propelled by strong winds. The blue whirl phenomenon evolves from this type of fire, with key differences of stability, a smaller size, and obviously the colour. While an orange flame in the fire whirl signifies the presence of radiating soot particles from incomplete combustion (i.e. the amount of oxygen required for all the fuel to react fully [combust] is not enough), the blueness of a flame is down to complete burning of all the fuel (I.e. There is enough oxygen in the reaction). The rate of heating is also faster and therefore more efficient. 

  
In light of this, it has been proposed that the science behind these phenomena could be harnessed into improved methods of cleaning up oil spills. Currently, oil spills can be cleaned up with inefficient, ordinary burning of the fuel which releases an ugly amount of CO2. You’d be forgiven to question whether using this technique is worth the clean up at all, in a world where increasing emissions are pushing us off the edge of safety. But very few things tried on e.g.the BP oil spill actually worked. The experiments in Xiao’s publication were appropriately conducted on a water – fuel surface boundary, and found that whirls also pulled fuel into the lower pressure centre, making for a credible result. More large-scale experiments are needed to make this idea become reality. 

This is good news for fluids dynamics research, too. There are analogies between the dynamics of the blue whirl and vortex breakdown with two modes: spiral and bubble modes. Before evolution into the blue whirl, the fire whirl can be compared to the spiral mode. Then, after swiftly evolving into the tornadoesque blue whirl, it lives for approx. 2 seconds and can be compared to the bubble mode – something not previously seen in nature to be caused by combustion (as far as the paper’s authors’ knowledge goes). So that is pretty cool. There is a nice description of all this in the short paper, so do have a read about the details if you are interested!

Here is a neat little video from the experiment: http://movie-usa.glencoesoftware.com/video/10.1073/pnas.1605860113/video-1

That’s all I really have to say, just thought I’d share this cool discovery with you all. Thanks for reading🙂

More reading: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2016/08/03/1605860113

http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/oil-and-chemical-spills/oil-spills/resources/in-situ-burn-emissions-comparisons.html 

I’m a graduate!

Here is a post I was supposed to publish over a week ago… A short, somewhat more personal than usual post of encouragement to all those who are struggling through their time at university. Cliché as it may be, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It is doable. If you believe in yourself, you can do it🙂

gifts
Worth sticking it out for three years.

It is done.

My undergraduate degree is finished. Only two weeks ago, three years after this trek began, I finally found myself sporting a rather fashionable blue-striped black robe and mortar. And in another three years’ time, I hope to be wearing an even funkier hat when I (hopefully!) graduate again. I will have to do a lot more work for that to become reality, I know. But the past three years have already put me through so much utter psychological  crap that I sometimes get genuinely surprised I made it thus far.

I vow to keep this short.

A science degree can become a rather isolating journey. Whilst groupwork is encouraged, I know of many people (including myself), who would often prefer to work in silence on their own. Understanding equations can take lots of lonesome time, leading to isolation if you are not a member of any societies or sports clubs (joining Taekwon-do has genuinely saved my sanity!). A joint honours degree like Mathematics and Physics combined could well mean that the aforementioned groupwork is… well, ignored and just not part of our curriculum. Never have I ever set foot in a lab…

Isolation, and being surrounded by utter geniuses can so easily make you feel like you just picked the wrong degree, got there on a stroke of luck, believed by everyone else to be smarter than you really are… Whilst everyone else around me is getting 60% and above in their exams, why am I only getting 40%? Dark thoughts overtake my mind, sabotaging my efforts to excel. It’s not like I’m slacking. Must mean I’m inadequate. I must be not as good as everyone else here. I’m not going to graduate. I’d better drop out.

This time last year, my mind was cluttered with crap of this sort. I was simultaneously waist-deep in combat of an illness I had been suffering with for a number of years, though officially diagnosed only in my second year of uni. This time last year, it threatened to strip me of my health and any chance of succeeding with my degree.

But, on the brink of being admitted inpatient during exam time, I could not face the prospect of being taken away from my family and friends and… well, physics. And mathematics. Zeeman was my favourite place on campus. The library was my second home. I wanted to reach green belt in Taekwon-do by the end of my third year. And to graduate with a 2:1. And to become a meteorologist.

Exactly a year later, two-thirds of that currently occupy my bag; a third of that is yet to be achieved. My last year at uni has quite literally turned my life around, in every single aspect. I have a few people to thank – you know who you are. I also have myself to thank. I still have a long way to go in recovery; it is a long, painful process. But it is so worth it.

So it will not be an easy feat to simply brush this entire episode aside and act like it could never hit me again. As a PhD candidate, I know I will hit many brick walls and consequently feel like a failure all over again. I know that. Deep down, I fear relapse as a means of coping with failure. But I am wiser now, more confident, bolder and ready to tackle new challenges of life. And I also know, that as long as I keep my friends and family close, I can achieve anything.

So can you🙂

How To Survive Results Day

Some pretty good tips for those of you awaiting results in a few weeks’ time. Good luck everyone!

The Storyteller

Hey guys!

For students in the UK, who have been doing their GCSE’s and A-levels, August is the month where we find out our results. These results are important, because they determine whether you get into sixth form or college to study A-levels, continue to study your A-levels, or if you have got the grades to get into university. The wait from the final exam until results day is stressful for everyone, so I decided to write a post on how to cope with the waiting, how to deal with the results you get on the day, and the aftermath of receiving this list of numbers and letters that will determine your future.

The Build Up.

The two months or so leading up to results day is the worst part, because if you’re anything like me, then you will let your imagination go crazy and you will eventually have the worst…

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CAPS 2016: Glasgow

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photo credit: Christy Nunns. Conference delegates!

The first day of the Conference of Astronomy and Physics Students (CAPS), Friday the 24th June, was a bittersweet affair. As the dire results of the EU referendum were announced, a 140-odd group of young, eager scientists was left feeling sombre and disappointed for reasons I need not name. It really is impossible to think of a better way to kick off a science conference…

But I am here to write about my otherwise cheerful experience at CAPS in Glasgow, rather than about the currently exigent state of the British economy.

I have never been to Glasgow, therefore already upon arrival I was astounded by the amount of historic architecture towering above the city streets. The university itself was no less impressive than the town centre, and I only wonder why on earth I chose to go to a university like Warwick, with so little culture in comparison!

The conference consisted of 10 student lectures which spanned the entire range of physics at every imaginable level: SHM experiments, quantum measurement, physics of the human ear, and even some talk about 17 x 17 matrices…. *shudder*. As well as these, there were guest lecturers giving presentations on the likes of black holes, dark matter, and single pixel quantum cameras from the QUANTIC group. You read that right. Quantum has the potential to do some amazing things.

Though I have only been to a few, what I love about these kind of student conferences are all the like-minded people you meet and keep in touch with for years afterwards. You might just become research collaborators in the future, thus networking at these events is ever so important! These conferences have already allowed me to travel round the UK a little more; my first ever CAPS at St. Andrew’s in ’14 was also my first ever visit to Scotland!

And I just love the variety of science that is presented, all at a level which is (usually!) pitched just right for the audience. Undoubtedly, some presenters will be at different stages of their study or career and will thus give a less, or more, technical talk which can so easily be far too complicated. I confess, it is so easy to switch off as soon as your mind is distracted, and missing one minute of the presentation might make it impossible to find your way in again. But listening and presenting is all simply a matter of learning and practicing, and what better way to learn than to try it out in front of an audience of an equal level to yourself? If you manage to give a flawless presentation and engage your listeners from the first to the last second – great news, do it again at a bigger conference! If everything goes pear-shaped – great news, nobody will ever hold the mistake against you and hopefully it will not happen again the next time round.

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What stands out to me as a highlight to the conference was the visit to the Glasgow Science Centre, where we had the opportunity to try on virtual reality goggles and experience a planetarium – the first time for me! As you come to the end of your degree, you might find that your original passion the subject has waned overtime, and that you require some sort of spark to reignite it. For me, this planetarium did just that. I was left feeling excited again about learning about how the world works and the microscopic speck of dust that we, humans on Earth, are in the grand scheme of the entire universe. This humbling, unifying feeling of overwhelm was so vital at a time of political turmoil and divide. Because in order to achieve great things, humanity should cooperate – not divide and conquer against one another.

Another unifying part of the conference was the conference dinner at the Hilton, where Haggis (plus a veggie version of it!) and a ceidlih were the honorary guests. A lot of dancing ensued to shake away the recent events – which, I will not hide, have cast a shadow to leave me feeling trodden and unable to appreciate the fact that I am graduating with a good grade. I question the sense of pursuing a PhD in a country where approximately 51.9% of those eligible to vote do not accept my presence here.

But once again I digress, and before I venture further into the dark depths of my mind, I should finish on a note of congratulations to the organising CAPS committee, which have done a fantastic job of the event! CAPS is one of those markers that signify the end of an academic year; meaning that my job as the Institute of Physics University Student Network secretary is slowly coming to an end….

Many things may not have gone to plan, but the situation was rescued successfully every single time – for example, when various committee members quickly whipped up some entertaining talks about ‘The Science Of Interstellar / The Martian / Harry Potter’!

This year’s CAPS is certainly a tough act to follow, but I have no doubt that next year’s hosts will give it a cracking go and pull off yet another successful event!

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A (terrible quality) snap from the Planetarium. Here we can see our universe as a light cone.

The lamps are going out: The EU Referendum

Beautifully written. All my emotions have evaporated and left me feeling numb about life since the announcement of the result. Matt, you’ve just perfectly expressed exactly how half of those eligible to vote feel about the outcome, and I am sorry to hear that you no longer feel like a happy, proud British citizen. But you should. Because it’s those few malicious persons who tarnish the good British name – and you are not one of those malicious snides.

I just can't see it any more

On Thursday 23rd June 2016, the voters of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (and the voters of Gibraltar), voted that the UK should leave the European Union.

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Books Which Downright Saved My Degree

The completion of my undergraduate degree merely cries out for a post about some of the books that helped me survive these last few years. There exists a plethora of educational texts on any possible topic within maths or physics, which could easily overwhelm students (especially first years) and prevent them from as much as stepping a foot in the university library. I know, because I, too, was initially utterly overwhelmed at the sheer amount of knowledge contained in the countless bindings of pages on the bookshelves.

It can be so easy and tempting to just always refer to some internet forum for an answer, but as fast and (usually, albeit not always) useful as the content on the WWW is, one might discover a lot of utter junk that is bound to a) confuse you even more, b) be aimed at the wrong level of expertise, c) be written by some troll who will make you feel like an idiot for asking a seemingly trivial question, and d) lure you into the darker corners of the internet, brimming with temptations to procrastinate. A  quick search for an explanation of the Pointing Vector may well turn into a half-hour episode of funny cats, John Oliver or Zoella….

Today, I want to share a collection of texts that have found incredibly helpful throughout my degree and talk about the importance of consulting some classic texts when you are stuck for an explanation of a concept. Some of these are more general texts, whilst others are geared towards a specific module; some would have appeared as “recommended textbook” for a particular course, whilst others were found on a whim from my curiosity.

Many of these might be searchable for a pdf download (at least definitely the ones I have starred!) and also bought cheap as chips second or third or hundredth-hand on www.abebooks.co.uk . I did not want to breach any copyright issues, hence no direct links to free pdf’s – but Google is your friend for the titles with the star!

I’ll begin with a more general piece which single handedly saved not only my degree, but also my sanity back in first year…

– L. Alcock, How to study for a mathematics degree. 

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source: http://www.amazon.co.uk

This is a text (quite obviously) geared towards mathematicians, but any science student would benefit because it offers some indispensable guidance on how to not only go about revising for exams, but also how to manage your weekly uni life in general so as not to drive yourself insane from the abundance of blackboards and chalk and neverending assignments. Lara Alcock, who currently teaches at Loughborough University, provided me with a means of reviving my crumbling self-confidence after performing atrociously on my first ever mathematics exams (one of which I did actually fail by one mark despite solid preparation; something I am still quite ashamed of). I was terrifyingly close to dropping out at this point and starting afresh next year. What I was not aware of at the time, was that the majority of students were equally as shocked as me at the difference between their marks in A-Level exams, and those they received upon sitting their first undergraduate mathematics exams. There are few things more mentally unsettling than witnessing your previous exam scores of >93% suddenly swapping the digits back to front.

It took a book like this for me to realise that I felt like an inadequate idiot only because I happened be in the vicinity of some super smart students. In reality, I was not, and am not, an inadequate idiot. I was merely below average in the couple of modules that happened to be examined first. I thank Laura Alcock, and the person who recommended me her book, for helping me find self-courage and light at the end of this three-year-long tunnel.

2*. H D Young and R A Freedman, University Physics, (Pearson).

Bulky enough to serve as a doorstop when not in use, this textbook covers pretty much everything in the first two years of a physics UG degree at just the right level. It satisfies the hunger, but is not quite sufficient to learn any particular topic in greater depth. It is, for this reason, a frustrating read – but at least it comes with lots of exercises and the bane of a fresher’s life: that dreaded weekly online Mastering Physics assignment….

3. M. Spivak, Calculus, (Benjamin).

A big and bulky mathematician’s bible. Along the same lines of Analysis are also:

  • M. Hart, Guide to Analysis, (Macmillan) – provided me with some beautiful epiphanies, where I finally understood limits…. Currently super expensive on Amazon, and no cheap copies going on abebooks.co.uk BUT you can ask me nicely and I may choose to pass my copy onto a new, loving owner…
  • * P. Walker, Examples and Theorems in Analysis, (Springer) – a snazzy collection of Analysis I, II and III all combined into a neat package of 282 pages. With examples, more examples and… examples. Maths is not a spectator sport, after all.

4. W A Sutherland, Introduction to Metric and Topological Spaces, (OUP)

This became a bedtime read during my summer between years 1 and 2. Glad it mentions Topological Spaces, as opposed to the title of the module (“Metric Spaces”) here at Warwick, which fails to warn the poor student that only about 10% of the module matches this title; whilst the remaining 90% is, indeed, Topological Spaces.

Alternative to the book, here is a very handy series of lecture notes by Korner from Cambridge.

5*. K.F Riley, M.P. Hobson, S.J. Bence, Mathematical Methods for Physics and Engineering, (CUP)

Perfect example of why I think turning to a book to understand Fourier transforms is much better than turning to the WWW. Triple integrals, spherical and cylindrical coordinates, some ‘illegal’ and wishy-washy mathematics… all to be found in this doorstop for the door not already supported by the University Physics textbook!

6. F. Mandl, Quantum mechanics, (Wiley 1992)

I never try to suppress the quantum nerd inside me, so it was only a matter of time before a quantum book made it onto this list! Mandl’s text explains things really well, and it served me for both years 2 and 3 quantum modules. Apparently not a standard textbook, but the quantum textbook of my choice…. closely followed by the Feynman Lectures on Physics vol. IIIand the one which made my final year project bearable: Quantum Information and Quantum Computation by M.A. Nielsen, I.L. Chuang.

7*. D. J. Acheson, Elementary Fluid Dynamics, (OUP)

Keep this on the quiet, but I actually quite liked my Fluid Dynamics module, and this beautiful little text may have influenced this. Evidently a massive fan of Navier and Stokes. Explains lots of confusing concept in a succinct manner and comes with lots of example questions (and model solutions) to help prepare for that exam.

8. JFR McIlveen, Fundamentals of Weather and Climate, (2nd Ed, Oxford, 2010)

Weather nerrrrrd unite! The weather module would have been my favourite module, if it hadn’t been taught in the most boring way possible. So this is where I supplemented the sleep-inducing lectures with various youtube videos and textbooks such as this one and also The Atmosphere and Ocean: A Physical Introductionby N. C. Wells (Wiley and RMetS).

9*. S. Simon, The Oxford Solid State Basics,  (OUP, 2013)

A book which covers the entirety of the Solid State Physics module, as given at Oxford by Prof. Simon. An incredibly comprehensive read, with a series of video lectures on the Oxford website, with a few terrible jokes to make your heart crumble a little. But it saved my socks for the exam, so go go go!

 

So: here is my shortlist, though many other texts have been consulted over the few years, with many more to come in the future I am sure! Don’t ever be afraid to search out helpful resources in the library or on the net, but take the latter with a pinch of salt. Feel free to message me or comment here with more suggestions of books which you may have found indispensable – be it studying physics, mathematics, or any other science.

Over ‘n out🙂

The Importance of not being idle.

As I count down the days until my graduation, 66 to be precise, I begin to reflect on all the things I have learnt whilst being an undergraduate student. (I also shiver a little at the thought!). There are many new things that have crept up in my course – after all, this is what I am here for! – but there are so many new things that have crept up in my life. Three years does not seem like a long time, but it can reveal so much about the kind of person that you are; where your weaknesses lie; where your strengths prop you up; the kind of people that degrade you and the other kind that … complete you.

Some may argue that the student life is a bubble; it is unrealistic. That you are merely floating on a loaned cloud, with no major responsibilities. With all that you could possibly desire right on your doorstep: a library, academic support, counselling support, a supermarket, the gym, a printer, a coffee shop, three different pubs and a hairdresser – all within a 2 mile radius. You cook for yourself, you clean for yourself, you study for yourself. You have no children, you have no husband, you have no pets or permanent furniture. You could pack a suitcase right now and just… disappear.

But why would you? The more I think about it, the more I realise, that life as I know it right now is.. life. If you were to live through every stage of your youth as it were just a phase until “real life” begins, then you would be living in constant fear of something vast and unknown and “real”. As if your current existence is just another phase, just an illusion.  But is it?

Is my life as a student an illusion? Is my rent, water bills, weekly food shop, cleaning rota, study routine, family contact, society executive responsibilities, FRIENDS, coping with physical and/or mental health issues, being a human  – is this all an illusion before “real” life begins? Maybe I am young and naive, but I believe that as long as I am learning from whatever life throws at me – no matter how significant – I am living a life.

Aside from various formulae and their derivations, the last three years have taught me a lot. They have also revealed that:

  • I really need to grow a thick skin and accept constructive criticism.
  • Sometimes, your work will be described as “just… awful”.
    • This may or may not be your final year project viva….
  • Self doubt creeps on you without warning and prevents you from progressing. Learn how to not let it sabotage your potential.
  • But, a healthy dose of self-criticism prevents arrogance.
  • Actually, a healthy dose of anything is… well, healthy.
  • Crying is okay.
  • Too much crying is… a sign of something not being okay.
  • And that’s okay. Seeking help is okay.
  • You need to learn how to look after yourself, so that one day you might be able to look after others.
  • Being an independent person will get you far.
  • But good friends will also get you far.
  • Some people are just not worth it.
  • Some people really are worth it.
  • Respecting people will earn you respect.
  • Candles and Ludovico Einaudi make everything better.
  • Leaving things until the last minute will not make things better. It will only stress you out.
  • You will forget many things.
  • Making lists is the best way to not forget things. Investing time in being organised is simultaneously an investment in a healthy relationship with your time management.
  • And time management is key. It is something I still yearn to master!

You learn new things every day. As long as you are learning, you are living.

Over and out🙂

P.S: Exams are not life. Exams are merely hurdles in life.

Reconnecting with the World

In the midst of burying my head in a stash of textbooks and lecture notes, which constitutes the revision for my final year exams (argh?!??), last night I got chatting to someone very close to me about writing, books and past interests. This naturally led me to search out the annals of the Internet and re-visit my ancient music blog, which subsequently flooded my entire being with a tsunami of nostalgia. An entire evening’s worth of revision on non-degenerate perturbation theory in quantum mechanics has now successfully gone amiss, but only because I have devoted a solid, worthwhile couple of hours to rediscovering this intricate little love of writing that I have held for a little while now. Or maybe a few years. To quote myself from some distant blog post,

“I want to write. I don’t know what I want to write about, but I just want to write. Yearning to surround yourself with galaxies and numbers in later life doesn’t mean you should discard your dream of being a writer. The two things can work.

….I will be a scientist. A mathematician. An astronomer… Call me crazy.

5 years later today, as a young science student set out on a rocky pathway to graduate and hopefully start my journey to a PhD in pursuit of becoming a real scientist, it is clear now that the kind of writing I will be doing in time to come will be very different from the kind of writing I used to do back then. It’s super scary that the time between now and until I will (hopefully?!?) be writing my thesis is less than the time since the ikkle Kaja wrote those paragraphs above….

The reason I write today is because just I really miss it. Simple. All too often it feels like my life is a perpetually spinning reel of film played at double speed; too fast for me to catch those little flecks of life and wispy moments that matter and make life worthwhile. Which is why I vow to make more use of this blogspace and return to what I used to love so much.

I am beginning to realise that perhaps one of the reasons why I sometimes hold back from writing here on a sciency-type blog is because I am an amateur in a big, big, field of big, big people with big, big knowledge. And this is daunting. But what I am, perhaps more importantly, also beginning to realise is that just because I am only starting to take baby steps in the direction of somewhere between ADULT and STUDENT and SCIENTIST, I do not have to turn my back on KAJA.

(…and Kaja would normally crack a joke here along the lines of,”Those directions don’t form an orthogonal set anyway!”, which probably means that looking at eigenfunctions for too long today has succesfully turned my brain to mush – thus tuning this post into something borderline personal-journal-worthy!) .

So, uh… Expect some more of this. But for now, I have a set of exams to study my backside off for. And hopefully, I will be able to thank myself later down the line in three months’ time🙂

Here’s something I found from Simon Clark, a climate vlogger with about a gazillion tips on how to be successful!

Katie’s Stormy Moods

Easter weekend 2016 witnessed an angry visitor land on the shores of the UK. First disrupting the peace in Cornwall, subsequently working her way north-eastwards towards Norfolk, Katie the Storm was the 11th named storm since the system began last year as a public project. She was a bit of a hotshot: here on Easter Sunday night; gone Easter Monday. One could think it was an extra special ‘Dyngus’ morning – a Polish tradition where you splash a bit (or a lot!) of water onto anyone you see that day, usually before 12 noon. Just like Katie did. Anyway…

Although her lifespan was short, she managed to cause some damage. With inland gust speeds of up to 70mph, coastal up to 80mph (though peaking at 106mph), she broke power lines and left 27 thousand homes throughout the UK without electricity by the afternoon; she ripped roofs, diverted planes and ensured that her presence was known through heightened water levels in rivers.

She then went on to pester the rest of Northern Europe.

What interests me is the system of naming these UK storms and what constitutes the physical criteria to become a qualified named storm. The Met Office and The Met Éireann (the Irish service) began this as a pilot project, with thousands of names being suggested via Facebook and Twitter, and the list for the 2015/2016 season now having been finalised. I would definitely like to find out how they came to choose the names they chose; there must have been some form of debate between the staff along the lines of, “No guys, we can’t have a storm named Barney, that’s a purple dinos…. Uh, fine, let’s have Barney”.

Name our storms list
source: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/uk-storm-centre

This had not been in place before 2015, so you might wonder why all of a sudden, the UK is copying the hurricane-naming system seen over in the States. “We noticed that various organisations during the last couple of winters, when we have had bad storms, started giving names to them”, said a M.O spokesperson to the Guardian. This would often lead to confusion, where a single event would be known to different people under different names.

“The naming of storms using a single authoritative system should aid the communication of approaching severe weather through media partners and other government agencies.” – The Met Office

For a storm to qualify for a name, it must be forecasted to have medium to high impact from winds, with a yellow (“be aware”), amber (“be prepared”) or red warning (“take action”), as given out by the National Severe Weather Warning Service. If an already developed, named storm (or its remnants) is making its way to our shores from the Atlantic, its ex-original name will be used throughout.

On that note, the missing letters Q, U, X, Y, Z are as such to comply with the North American convention of naming hurricanes.

Here’s hoping that Lawrence and its descendants tone it down a bit.

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