How do you write a PhD thesis? This question sounds like the start of the old joke: “How do you eat an elephant? One piece at a time”. A PhD thesis is a document which must explain, summarise and defend three or more years of research in your chosen field, often running to 40,000 words…… Continue reading Writing my PhD thesis
As we frequently hear1, we’re now in the precision era of cosmology. What this really means is that we’re in the era of measuring things really well, and we’re getting really good at measuring things because we keep building ever more enormous and powerful telescopes. I remember attending the STFC Introductory Summer School on Astronomy…… Continue reading Thesis off-cuts: the reproducibility crisis in cosmology
The death of George Floyd in the United States earlier this year sparked a flurry of long-overdue activity in my corner of academia. For a few weeks in June, everyone was interested in the subject of racism, and for us, racism in academia in particular. An informal strike was held on the 10th of June,…… Continue reading Superior by Angela Saini: essential reading for every scientist
Thanks to many hundreds of people making dedicated observations of the sky over many decades, we know that the majority of our Universe is comprised of two substances: dark matter and dark energy. Dark matter is an unknown type of matter, referred to as “dark” because it does not interact electromagnetically, meaning that it doesn’t…… Continue reading Thesis off-cuts: how special is our place in the Universe?
The distance duality relation tells us how, assuming that photons propagate on null geodesics in a pseudo-Riemannian spacetime and that their number is conserved, luminosity and angular diameter distances are related, via where dL is the luminosity distance, dA the angular diameter distance and z the redshift. This relation was introduced by Etherington in 1933,…… Continue reading The distance duality relation
Last week, a tweet by Roberto Trotta drew my attention to a recent paper by Simon Portegies Zwart that studied the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by running N-body simulations in different programming languages. https://twitter.com/R_Trotta/status/1309457430267523072 The figure that caught my attention was Figure 3, copied below from the version of the paper published in Nature…… Continue reading Tribalism in science
My early efforts at blog writing were somewhat sporadic, but I did mark some key moments during my PhD, in the posts Year Two and Year Three. In the former, I reflected on the major review that every Portsmouth PhD student must pass in order to progress to their second year. In the latter, I…… Continue reading Year Four
Making a daily log of my thoughts and things I tried saved the final year of my PhD.
I did my undergraduate degree at Aberystwyth University in Wales. I took the astrophysics course, which ran in parallel to the plain physics degree for the first two years, covering all the basics such as mathematical methods, classical mechanics, waves, optics, thermodynamics and so on. In the third year the astrophysics became the main focus,…… Continue reading How asking a question on Stack Exchange kick started my career in research
I have recently been thinking a lot about what introductory and background material I want to include in my PhD thesis, as my self-imposed December deadline continues to hurtle towards me at an alarming speed. Concurrent with this thinking, I’ve also recently been enjoying a fantastic book called The Poincaré Conjecture by Donal O’Shea, all…… Continue reading Thesis off-cuts: the ancient history of general relativity