Archive for July, 2013

Is it hot?

July 22, 2013
An elephant being cooled down. Image courtesy of the Guardian

An elephant being cooled down. Image courtesy of the Guardian

The BBC tells us that it is hot:

Is that in any way unusual? The answer is ‘No’.Think about it.

Is it ‘News’  in any sense? The answer is ‘No’. Every n years, the temperature will inevitably be the hottest/coldest for years.

‘News’ organisations love statements of the form “it is the hottest/coldest/driest/wettest day/week/month/year/decade for X years/decades“. It makes it seem as though ‘Something is happening’ – something they are clear not to state but merely to imply. In this case the unstated implications are about ‘Climate Change’.

This is not to discount concerns about climate change which I personally think is the greatest existential threat to our country [Yes, I mean all those words]. But it is important to recognise that the issue of Global Climate Change is more tedious than a few uncomfortably hot summer days.

  • It involves  changes that are only detectable by satellite, or by abstracted analysis of ground station data.
  • It involves subtle changes to the timing of ‘spring’ and ‘autumn’ melts and freezes across the globe.
  • It involves melting of ice with almost no temperature change.

In discussions of climate change it is important to discount anecdotal ‘weather’ reports. The problems of Climate Change do not need to be ‘sexed up’ to merit our attention.

The Boltzmann Constant

July 14, 2013
Me and the NPL Cranfield resonator.

Me and the NPL Cranfield resonator.

It has been nearly a month since I wrote on this blog – but it feels longer because the past month has been so busy. Two related projects culminated within one week of each other: the NPL stand at the Royal Society Summer Science exhibition, and the publication of our estimate of the Boltzmann constant.

The Summer Science exhibition was utterly exhausting involving 92 hours of work and 14 hours of travel over 7 days. It seems to have been well-recieved and was certainly ‘good enough’.

I had hoped that I would be able to take a full week’s break afterwards, but in fact I had to de-rig the stand on the Monday and help unpack it at NPL on the Tuesday. And then there was preparation for the publication of the Boltzmann paper.

The paper received a fair amount of relatively positive publicity. The paper itself can be downloaded from Metrologia (FREE until 10th August 2013). There were articles in New Scientist – including a very supportive Editorial- and an intelligent analysis in  Scientific American.

Then there was the utterly surreal interview at 6:55 a.m. on the Radio 4 Today Programme (BBC4 Today Programme July 11th 2013). This involved being collected from home and arriving at Broadcasting House just after 6 a.m., being taken up to a studio where I watched the programme being broadcast until I was ushered in. Then Evan Davies told me how he would begin and then it was over!  All I can say is that I didn’t screw it up and that Evan Davies radiates kindness!

And then there was coverage across the web.

And on this Sunday night with work beckoning tomorrow, I finally don’t feel tired. I no longer feel anxious about the Summer Science Exhibition, and if there are any mistakes in our paper, it is now too late to do anything about them.

Momentarily,  I feel as though it might be possible to achieve a reasonable balance between work and home. I wonder how I will feel after a day back at work!

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