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Sea-level: Explained

By Nick,

Did you know that the ocean is around 180m higher off Australia than it is around Sri Lanka. This is incredible. Why doesn’t the water flow towards Sri Lanka then? It all got to do with gravity, and how it is varies across the globe. This explanation is brilliant, and I guarantee that after 2 minutes and 45 seconds, you will know a lot more about the world*.

In general I’m quite a fan of Minute Physics, it explains some pretty complex ideas simply and easily. Check it out.

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*unless of course, you’re a geophysicist and you know all this stuff already, but even so, its a cool video, and probably the best way of explaining to your Gran exactly what it is you do again.

Procrastiblogging

By Nick,

from wronghands1.wordpress
from wronghands1.wordpress

Over the past few months I’ve been writing a bit less on this blog, as I began writing on my thesis, and preparing to maybe start possibly looking at the possibility of perhaps at least inquiring about potential future employment, or lack of. It seems like its been the right time for the younger generation to get to grips with the blog. Kelly has already given her final PhD talk, which was typically amazing. Brendan has done likewise. And with myself and Evan also writing up and hoping to be out of here soon enough its high time the young whipper-snappers get to grips with some good old fashioned science communication!

But in the last month, I’ve written quite a few more posts, getting back to my old once a week effort. The reason for this: Procrastiblogging. Its a great way of putting off the real important writing for some light-hearted, still interesting bits of science. My writing isn’t going too well at the moment. For the first two or so months it was all going swimmingly, I was writing well, making some pretty graphs. But its all started to come to a halt. Perhaps what I’ve written so far has just been the low-hanging fruit, that I’ve written the easy chapters and am now getting into the harder nitty gritty that I’ve been avoiding. Evan has a post going into the grind of slow writing coming up soon.

So instead of tapping out words onto the page of my thesis, I’ve been blogging instead. It has helped! So for those writing a thesis, a blog-post can actually help relieve the sense of getting nothing done all day. And for those in the lower-years starting to take on the blog: get writing. Someday all that you see here will be yours.

One day, Simba, the sun will set on my time here, and will rise with you as the new king
One day, Simba, the sun will set on my time here, and will rise with you as the new king

Procrastibaking also helps – Amaretto and Chocolate cupcakes = yum

Late Nights and Scientists: how about some data!

By Nick

Following on from my blog post a couple of weeks ago, I’ve come across some interesting data which reveals the working habits of scientists across the globe. This study (reported on here) by a Chinese research groups studied the rates of paper downloads from a major journal publisher (Springer) at various times during the day throughout the week. The result is an interesting insight into cultural differences between the work-ethics of different nations.

Working habits of the top paper downloading nations
Working habits of the top paper downloading nations

Continue reading “Late Nights and Scientists: how about some data!”

Denmark passes 120% Wind Power

By Nick,

Last year, we reported on the impressive feat of Germany managing to source 50% of its electricity needs purely from solar: here and here. This was due to a period of sunny weather combined with the closure of several nuclear power plants following the Fukushima crisis. Now Denmark has succeeding in generating more than 120% of its energy needs from Wind Power, achieving this feet on November the 4th. This too was a combination of some windy weather and the opening of Denmark’s largest offshore wind farm in early september.

Denmark's wind power generation over 100% of consumption.
Denmark’s wind power generation over 100% of consumption on November the 3rd.

Continue reading “Denmark passes 120% Wind Power”

Lego, late nights and the working habits of grad students

By Nick,

The brilliant Scientist’s specialty is finding new and interesting ways to combine things together.
The brilliant Scientist’s specialty is finding new and interesting ways to combine things together.

Last week, Lego unveiled a new character, a female scientist by the name of Professor C. Bodin, with a coveted Nobrick prize. The wonderful thing is that the description of this new character does not explicitly say “woman scientist”. Its just a scientist character description using the word she. The company was rightly praised by news outlets and women scientists groups, as helping to break down gender stereotypes regarding women and science. But a couple of stereotypes remained: first the white lab-coat, which isn’t really too much of a big deal, but also in the description were the words:

“She’ll spend all night in her lab analyzing how to connect bricks of different sizes and shapes…”

Do scientists work all night? Is this stereotype gaining popularity? Is it even true? And if it is, is this a good thing or a bad thing for scientific progress?

Continue reading “Lego, late nights and the working habits of grad students”

The Ferrari of satellites succumbs to gravity

By Nick,

Sometime in the next two hours, one of my favourite satellites*, GOCE, will fall to Earth. GOCE stands for Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer and is the European Space Agency’s gravity measuring mission. It flies in a low earth orbit measuring tiny variations in the earth’s gravitational field to help measure ocean circulation patterns and sea-level. It also mapped the Mohorovicic Discontinuity, the boundary between crust and mantle, which I reported on here. Because it is flying so low (about 280km), it encounters a lot more air resistance than other boxy satellites, and so it was designed to be a sleek and beautiful machine. Being so beautiful, and built in Italy, it is often referred to as either the Ferrari or Supermodel of satellites.

The most beautiful satellite in (above) the world. Art by AOES Medialab / ESA
The most beautiful satellite in (above) the world. Art by AOES Medialab / ESA

 

Continue reading “The Ferrari of satellites succumbs to gravity”

Lab Lava: The hottest geology experiment around

By Nick

LavaProject_IRVis1

Oh my this is so cool, and by cool I mean 1600 degrees hot! A project at Syracuse University in the states is melting basalts and then pouring them down slopes, creating man-made lava flows. Its known as the lava project and its so awesome!

The project is a collaborative piece between geologist and a sculptor. But they are getting some really interesting scientific results, learning more about the interactions between lava flows and the surface they run over. For example, how lava flows interact with ice is important for learning how icelandic lava flows might behave. They are even publishing papers in geology from all the cool stuff they are learning. They’ve been trying different viscosities, adding crystals to the mix, all sorts of things.

One thing that is proving difficult though, is getting dissolved gases involved. Real-world lava flows involve a lot of escaping gas, which of course is hard to get back into the lava, when you melt basalts which have already degassed millions of years ago!

More details on the project can be found here, or try here for a decent article! There are videos abound! This looks like the ice video here:

Also: 666 posts for OnCirculation, with this one being written (but alas not published) on Halloween! Spooky.

Oh no, not another climate website! Wait, this one is actually good, it uses facts and everything

By Nick

There’s a plethora of climate change websites out there and sometimes it feels like the market may have reached a bit of saturation. So much discussion, so much arguing, so much opinion. Want to get some juicy facts instead, learn about the climate system from the experts, and then make up your own mind. Go on: try Climatica.

http://climatica.org.uk/

Climatica is a new website, co-founded by a good friend of mine, another postgraduate earth scientist from back home in the UK*. What’s different about this site? The articles aren’t written by journalists, or even well-meaning bloggers attempting to cover as broad a field as possible. Each article is written by an expert, a world renowned scientist in the field of what they are writing about. Accurate information about the world’s climate – now there’s a refreshing change of pace.

*not strictly true, he has now finished his PhD, and he claims not to be a geologist, he likes to call himself a “quaternarist” – I guess that’s what you get from doing a geography degree. But he drinks lots of beer, has an impressive beard and researches ice streams in the past – which seems like a damn good impression of a geologist to me.

Word Count = 0

By Nick,

The blank page
The blank page

Following on from this moment last month, I have now sat down to write. The blank page sits before me empty, waiting for some kind of wisdom or insight that I have gained over the last three years of experiments, conferences, and plenty of time analysing data. The calendar sits there quietly, six months to go. An eternity, and nothing at the same time. I stand at the metaphorical tunnel entrance, the light at the other end a mere rumour. How do you even start a thesis?

Every journey begins with a single step, every thesis begins with a single word.

Lets get to work.

Also: no-one told me about the snake part: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/faq-the-snake-fight-portion-of-your-thesis-defense

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