It's been a crazy busy month at work and at home. Lots of classes and exam papers to mark. Astronomy-wise, I've had quite a few public outreach events around Northumberland to contend with as well as a number of late night observing sessions centred around Comet Lovejoy. On top of that it looked like Mir and me might have to move house imminently but now, fortunately, that danger seems to have past!
Since January I've been studying a course on Coursera called "Galaxies and Cosmology". It's been a bumpy ride and there have been times where I've submitted the weekly assessments just moments before the deadline (typical student!) I'd like to have taken the course when I was a bit less busy with work. But, it is just for fun and I've been pleasantly surprised at how deeply immersed I've become in cosmology again. Given how much I learned a about maths when I had to start teaching it, I'm going to put together a short course on Cosmology for presentation at NASTRO later in the year. It'll go into the subject in a bit more detail than I've done in the past and allow me to spend more time talking about the methodologies of cosmologists and the evidence for the Big Bang theory.
It's going to be awhile until this busy period at work passes so there might be more posts about maths (teaching) than astronomy over the next few weeks.
Just bought a new Microsoft Surface 3. The (happy happy) days when I had to install the operating system myself are gone but I still have to put the software on.
Given that the resources are limited to 128GB (for the moment) on the tablet itself I can only really install stuff I absolutely need. So, this is a list of stuff that I can't get by without. Geek alert!
Absolutely must install SkyTools 3 too to record my observations at the telescope. I have installation disks but no CD drive so it'll have to wait for now.
I could happily survive without Microsoft Office but everyone else seems to use it. So therefore I have to. An unhappy situation. Space is tight on the tablet so I won't be installing Open Office alongside it.
It's mostly work, work, work with a dash of astronomy. I'm writing end of semester exams for the two maths modules I teach. I'm fine tuning some booklets of maths practice problems for the students to take away over the Christmas period. I spent a few hours last weekend writing an online test for Monday morning...but the computers all crashed when the students came to do it. So I'm hastily writing a replacement to do next Monday instead. On top of that I'm fixing some explanations and problems in the previous version of my maths book; there are a lot of things I need to improve about the textbook since I started teaching some of the topics - like Functions - this year. On Friday I've got an astronomy event with NASTRO at Bamburgh. Not sure what I'm going to talk about at that. Lots of young astronomers expected so I want it to be interactive. Over and out :-)
I know what that means now. Dawkins (the cat, not the biologist) was hiding in the bushes in the garden. He saw a young bird in the grass and he pounced on it. He didn't quite catch it but got his paws and teeth onto it before it got away. I thought I could intervene but I was few seconds too late. I scooped the cat up and the bird floundered in the grass unable to fly.....and then fell onto its back, eyes staring up into the sky. I put Dawkins in the house was about to go back outside to see if anything could be done. Through the kitchen window I saw a huge seagull come seemingly from nowhere - and with pinpoint precision landed on the little dying bird and carried it away. All of this to the strains of Bad Day by Daniel Powter on Spotify.
I've been going to work by bus (the good ol' X18) for much of the last year. That's at least two hours per day travel time - and I've been getting through a lot of books!
Here are the books that kept me occupied on the journey to and from work. First....the fiction list!
I have to admit that I've used the free time to widen my usual reading (which used to be mostly Stephen King, Dean Koontz, James Herbert and Douglas Adams) to include classics that I've always wanted to read but always managed to put off. Most of these books were read on my Kindle.
The non-fiction list is mostly science and mathematics:
I loved A Universe from Nothing by Krauss. The accelerating expansion of the universe will eventually carry other galaxies beyond the cosmic horizon and effectively make cosmology as we know it today impossible. We live in a golden age for finding out about the origin of the universe and the universe itself will rob future cosmologists of the evidence they need to put the story together.
More books for Christmas so I should be covered already for those grim journeys on cold, dark mornings in January.
First day away from work and I've been sneakily watching the US version of Netflix using a Google Chrome extension called Media Hint. So much more choice over the pond than here! Skyfall was great - definitely the best Bond movie I've seen. Olympus Has Fallen was excellent - a total take your brain out of gear and enjoy the explosions type of film (which should really have been called The Sum of all Die Hard 24). Followed that with Europa Report, an impressively realistic film about a mission to Jupiter's moon Europa. Going to round the evening off with Apollo 18 or Iron Sky. Can't decide if I want to see aliens or nazis wreaking havoc on the moon.
Dr Adrian Jannetta
Guitar strummin' explorer of the universe. Mild mannered maths teacher by day and astronomer by night.