Tag Archives: science

Days 3-5: Stars + Music = Starmus.

The Starmus-ship Enterprise journeyed further – for a third, fourth and fifth day! Yes, five full days for one single conference – and me present for (almost) every presentation (of the first three days): a first for me.

I’ve grouped the last three days into one post as five posts on one conference would be a little OTT… and anyway, the last three days were slightly less jaw-droppingly intergalactic than the first two. They were still really something however, including several Starmus ‘star’ moments, including this one:

Stephen Hawking.

This clever chap hardly needs an introduction. He started out by telling us a Brief History of Time His Life. Of course, you can read all about that on Wikipedia, but it’s a lot better from the horse’s mouth. Actually, not from the horses’ mouth, and not from his own, but from software that scans his eyes and selects the required words to make sentences. This, plus the synthesized words over the sound system really made an impression. What a guy! An amazing character. Huge respect.

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Read on: Check out these views!…

Starmus – Day 2: Saturn’s Remarkable Rings and Rats’ Remarkable Memory.

Starmus is a quantumly stellar conference! I can’t remember a conference where I went to every presentation, from beginning to end, but I did here (well, almost). Thoroughly interesting, lively, engaging, stimulating. In short: out of this world – just like most topics spoken about.

All righty. Here’s my quick synopsis of all the speeches of day two:

Brian Schmidt.

The American-Australian astrophysicist. Nobel Prize in Physics in 2011. Thought-provoking presentation about dark matter, of which, he reckons, a large proportion of the Universe is made up, but which we can see with neither the naked, trained, nor micro-/telescope-assisted eye. Also told us about dark energy (sounds like a sub-genre of techno:), which, though also completely unknown and unseen, is “hypothesized to permeate all of space”! (- Wiki).

Galaxies rotate, the Universe expands: it’s as if there’s dark (unknown) matter and energy at play. Even though we can’t see it, it’s thought it makes up… 95% of the contents of the Universe! In other words, all that we can see around us only makes up 5% of what’s really there – 5% of the matter and energy of the Universe. EH?!?!!

Read on: Jokers, scientists and astronauts…

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Starmus – Day 1: A Big Bang for the Brain!

Hola folks!

Still on Tenerife – today at the Starmus Festival. Hardly your usual festival, Starmus combines astrophysics, fundamental physics and music. Never heard of it? Well, I hadn’t until this year, but here I am speaking at it already!

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Briefly, this is a conference where the coolest, most distinguished scientists in the world give formal presentations and also speak plenty informally on the sidelines – about the stars, the cosmos and the microcosm, or whatever else is their particular niche they’ve devoted their lives to.

Talk about big names: Stephen Hawking, probably the world’s leading star of science, a physicist-cosmologist who has scientific theories named after him; Brian May – the guitarist from Queen – and also an astrophysicist; Brian Eno – ambient music pioneer, Roxy Music member, U2 producer and thought leader; the astronaut Alexey Leonov, Hero of the USSR and the first man to walk in space; and many more…

Read on: Big Bang and multiverse bubbles…

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Santorini: Dreams Do Come True Sometimes.

I’ve got some great news! The archaeological digs in Akrotiri have been resumed – thanks to, ah, um… us! (Not that I want to blow the KL trumpet or anything but, well, what am I going to write? The money grew on trees?) And not just the digs, also the reconstruction of the frescoes and reinforcing of the settlement’s walls! Yes, we’ve become the main sponsor of the excavations at Akrotiri! Hurray! That’s why I was on Santorini last week.

So how did the KL-Akrotiri connection come about? Why Greece? Why Santorini? Why Akrotiri? I’ll be telling you all about that in this post. It’s quite a long tale – but not as long as the time it’s been in the making: 13 years!

Read on: It all started in 2003…

Minoan Mystery in Santorini.

The island of Santorini is famous not only for its sensational panoramic views, its stunning sunsets and its multicolored beaches (white, red and black). It’s also – to some primarily – famous for its ancient history. To the south of the island parts of an ancient settlement were dug up that were well preserved under volcanic ash. Three-story homes, drains and sewers (!), and a unique cultural aspect. Oh my Greek gods!

The settlement went the way of Pompeii around 1500 years… not ago, but BC!! Meaning all these walls, streets, windows, pots and pans are more than 3500 years old!

Read on: The excavations have stopped but it gets better…

The eyes of the Earth.

How does Planet Earth look out at, er, the world [sic.]; I mean, where are its eyes?

That’s right – its telescopes!

Telescopes come in different types and shapes and sizes and uses: there are radio/gamma telescopes, assorted space telescopes, and also optical telescopes – which measure more than a meter in diameter. Of the latter there are just several dozen or maybe just over a hundred in the world. However, there are a lot fewer suitable locations for them; in fact – just three. There’s Hawaii (been), Atacama Desert in northern Chile (haven’t been yet), and the Canary Islands (was there just the other week). All three spots have plenty of clean, dry air and stable weather conditions and are well away from the glare of civilization, aka – ideal astro-climatic conditions.

While on Tenerife last week, after the SAS-2016 conference we decided to go have a look at these large telescopes. We reckoned we might as well since we were there, and hopefully have a chat with the astronomers/astrophysicists, have a feel of the kit, and take the usual slew of snaps (where it’s allowed; and it turned out that it was allowed practically everywhere:).

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Read on: Great telescopic plans…

The biggest device in the world – part three.

First, a brief summary of the previous two parts…

On the Swiss-French border, near Geneva, there’s a place called CERN. Within its various buildings, modern-day alchemists scientists conCERN themselves with the fundamental structure of the universe. They disperse protons and other particles at near light speed and have them smash against one another, which creates various kinds of quark-gluon plasma and other mysterious physical phenomena. Then they apply titanic brainpower (math, physics, nuclear physics, quantum mechanics… all that), engineering capacity, and computing power to track the results of collisions of these fundamental particles.

We were there the other week and given a good long guided tour. Took lots of pics too…

The first accelerator we saw is called LEIR (the Low Energy Ion Ring). In it, lead ions are pooled. First the ions come from the LINAC-3 linear accelerator to LEIR, then they pass through to a PS ring, and then into a complex of big hoops, including the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

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Read on: who does what at CERN…

The biggest device in the world – part two. 

Bonjour mes amis!

All righty. You’ve had the soup for starters; now let’s move on to the main course…, rather, into the main course – i.e., inside the proverbial pie served up as main course, and check out the filling – the proverbial steak and kidney, as it were… (but I digest).

Put simpler – let’s find out what goes on within the walls of these plain buildings on the Swiss-French border where nuclear-physicists study the very nature of… nature – at it’s very deepest level.

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Read on: So what happens inside the Large Hadron Collider?…

The biggest device in the world – part one.

It’s not just the biggest, it’s also the most expensive, most innovative device in the world. Naturally, that means it’s highly computerized. I wonder what AV it’s got :).

What we’ve got here is a modern-day wonder. Research at the cutting edge of both theoretical and practical knowledge into particle physics  the study of what makes up matter. Other groundbreaking stuff has been going on here since the 1950s too, including the small matter of, in 1989, the invention of… the World Wide Web!

CERN

Yes folks, this is CERN. An international team that prods the microcosmic world with various kinds of prodders to try and learn what’s going on down there. Here they make particles ‘collide’ at the speed of light to find out how they interact and to get clues to the fundamental laws of nature. Pretty cool, no?

Read on: unassuming contraption winning the Nobel prize…

Nifty lifty.

On my business travels around the world, I come across some of the most ingeniously intriguing bits of tech-kit, which never cease to amaze me. Simple ideas, efficient ideas, effective ideas, smart ideas. And they normally were thought up long ago. Maybe they just seem quaint now because of modern hi-tech overload numbing? That’s possible. Still, they’re no less fascinating for it…

Here’s a perfect example: the paternoster (meaning ‘Our Father’ in German).

It’s an elevator that goes up and down non-stop with a fairground carousel-like action. Or you could think of it as a vertical escalator. Wikipedia describes it as similar to rosary beads passing through one’s fingers round and round. Not so sure about that one. Hmmm, photos don’t really help out either in trying to explain exactly what it is. But I think the animated gif on Wikipedia cracks it:

Paternoster: how it works?

The first ‘Our Daddy’ I saw was in Hamburg in the Axel Springer building in 2009. Nice.

Read on: Lift, I’m youк daddy!…