Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Open Computing

Having recently started my course I have been assigned a desk in the centre's computer lab. Interestingly in addition to the standard Windows install (in this case XP) the computers give the option of loading in Ubuntu.

I use Ubuntu at home, so was pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately access is password locked, so I am as yet unsure what it is there for (probably some Linux based computational chemistry programs). I will keep you updated.

Monday, 27 September 2010

On yer Bike!

I have just started cycling in London. I had been taking short test journeys since I moved 2 months ago, but my commute will be starting in earnest from next week. It can be a bit hair-raising, though I am lucky enough to have a 2 mile route from my front door along part of the London Cycle Network, complete with off-road cycle paths and properly signed along quieter roads.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Synchotron Research

I was flicking through a copy of Nature this morning and found the published article for the research from the Swiss Light Source which I commented on earlier this month.

The research, by Dierolf et. al. [1], describes a technique in X-ray microscopy which allows structures at the 100nm scale to be visualised (resolution <1mm³). This is pretty impressive and (in the example given) allowed lacunae and canniculae in bone to be resolved clearly. This allows very accurate assessment of osteocyte (bone cell) activity, in particular to study microscale structural changes in osteoporosis.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

1 in 3 Quangos to go?

In my first post I commented on the difficulties of cutting Quangos, especially because many of them carry out vital roles. Now it seems that more are set to go.

Both The Telegraph and The BBC were given leaked lists of bodies to be cut or merged. Among others Cycling England, the HPA and the Audit Commission are to go.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Protecting our Vitals

As we know science cuts are imminent, but opposition is mounting.

Science Minister David Willetts has been informed, by the chair of the House of Lords Science and Technology Comittee no less, that cutting science funding will put the UK "at risk".

In an open letter, supported by Vice-Chancellors of six of the UK's leading universities, Lord Krebs cites arguments including loss of staff, reputation and future growth.

This comes at the time when  a synchoton in Switzerland has developed and demonstrated an important nanoscale x-ray technique. In this light does cutting money to the Diamond Light Source make any sense?

If you support continued science funding join Science is Vital. They are also on Facebook and have a demonstration planned in London.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Rage, rage against the Dying of the Light!

South of Oxford, in the Vale of White Horse lies a machine. It's a big machine, housed under 33,000 m² of roofing and with a circumference of 561m the Diamond Light Source is Britain's largest synchotron.

A sextupole magnet at the DLS, ref.

Synchotrons allow the inspection and analysis of chemical mechanisms and material structures (among other uses) with real world results. The DLS has been used for vast numbers of projects including research into cancer, jet engines and Alzheimer's.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Future of London

Just off Tottenham Court Road, along a small street with mostly boarded up shops, the unwitting visitor will find an exhibit devoted to futurism, realistic futurism. The Building Centre, home of New London Architecture, and a massive (or tiny, it is 1:1500) scale model of Central London in 2030.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Students Again

Mark Easton, the BBC's home editor, has written a wonderful blog post looking at the benefits or otherwise of student immigration into the UK. He shows yet more of this misreporting by government, in particular Mr Damian Green.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Unsustainable Students?

No, this isn't going to be a discussion of how students get into massive debt (definitely not sustainable) or use lots of energy (in fact they tend to be frugal, but not universities themselves).

I will be looking at Immigration Minister Damian Green's announcement that student immigration is "unsustainable". Yes the same Mr Green who was arrested in 2008, resulting in a row over the use of arrest warrants in Parliament, though this is of no consequence here. At the same time the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has claimed that a graduate tax, proposed by the coalition, would cause graduates to leave the country.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

The Constant Gardener

The Constant Gardener is a film and book, by acclaimed author John le Carré. Le Carré is better known for his Cold War spy novels, including The Spy Who Came In From The Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The Constant Gardener departs from this background, it is set in modern-day Kenya, dealing with issues of corruption, international aid and corporate evil. Without spoiling the ending, le Carré has written a wonderfully evocative critique of the western medical activities in Africa.

Net Neutrality and the FCC

As a follow up to the last post;

The FCC has asked members of the public to join the discussion about the future of the internet.

You can join in, and rate others views, at