Yesterday my roommate and I went to the lecture of Stephen Hawking in Leuven. The auditorium would be open from 8pm, but by that time the auditorium was already overcrowded. A consequence of the unfortunate combination of the kindness of giving as much people as possible the chance to be part of such a special event and not having a great organisation talent.
The lecture itself was clear and easy to follow. The level was a bit less than I hoped but it was a public lecture so it had to remain interesting for everyone.
After the lecture we went to the youth hostel where we stayed for the night. In the bar we talked with some other people about our point of view and about some other things related to nuclear physics and technology. I really loved that part of the evening. It is really interesting to exchange thoughts with people who have another point of view.
Eventually, but too late, I went to bed and after a too short night I went back home cause no matter how what a wonderful evening I had yesterday, today was an ordinary school day.
Here is the link to the lecture of Stephen Hawking on the beginning of the universe.
Since I knew he was coming to Belgium I couldn’t believe it was true! I just didn’t want to miss it! But lots of people were thinking the same. Stephen Hawking who gives a lecture in Belgium is really a rare event and it seemed that in less than a day everybody was into physics.
There were only 850 tickets for over 4000 people who wanted to be there. They were distributed today at 5pm in Leuven. Everyone could get two tickets so who wanted to be sure of a ticket needed to be quick.
This morning I went to school cause I had an obligated lesson and two hours nuclear physics, my main course. My roommate had less lessons so he said he would go early to Leuven. A quarter to one we, a classmate and I, could finally leave. We went with the car to the train station, waited for the train for a half an hour and finally arrived at half past two in Leuven.
I have never walked as fast as today to the kiosk in the park. When we arrived, breathless, there were so many people in queue for the tickets of the lecture. We were afraid that we were too late but we hoped and stood there for three hours. In those three hours I felt so nervous and I was hoping so much that we would have a ticket. But as soon as they handed out the tickets I was afraid we wouldn’t make it.
I almost lost all hope when I suddenly saw Wouter, my roommate, with two tickets in his hands. I was so happy! The stress fell away immediately.
Of course I stayed in the queue hoping to get some tickets for some people that couldn’t make it but unfortunately there were 50 people to many in front of us.
Tomorrow is the big day and I am really looking forward to it! I don’t think I can be any happier than this. I never thought that I would have ever the opportunity to go to a lecture of such a great scientist.
Thank you so much Wouter!
Yesterday I read this article in the Japanese Times about recently discovered radiation in Tokyo, Japan. The hotspot, an abandoned house, was found 200 km from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 and thus not likely to be caused by it. The radiation was also not likely to be natural because the ground did not have a high radiation.
2.707 microsieverts per hour were measured, on a yearly basis that would be 14.2 millisieverts. To give you an idea in Belgium the 4 millisieverts is the average received dose in one year. This level of radiation is not dangerous in the short term but children are more susceptible to the effects of radiation and because of a school nearby residents are concerned.
The contamination was likely to be from radium-226 which is not used in nuclear power plants.
This morning luckily the mystery was solved. Under the floor of the house they found bottles and test tubes filled with radium-226, a substance that can be used in luminous paint. Some of the bottles were labeled with ‘Nihon Yako’. Yako means luminous so the name could possibly be of the name of a luminous paint company.
The owner of the abandoned house is a 90-year-old woman who lived there until February. She says she had never seen those bottles before. She lived there since 1953 and slept 2 meters away from the bottles. The ministry estimated that she may have been exposed to 30 millisieverts per year. A dose that can be dangerous over a long period of time.
The article of the Japanese Times (in English) you can find here.
Electricity generated by the movement of waves, that is the principle of wave farms. The United Kingdom has running up to 30 projects with tidal power, good for an electricity production for more than 20 000 homes, and Scotland is busy catching up.
More information about upcoming projects with tidal plants you can find in this article from BBC news. For those who want to know more about wave farms and tidal power there always is Wikipedia!
When I look at my modest scientific book collection the authors are mainly men. There are some female co-writers but not one book is written by a woman alone.
I never thought about the subject until I read this article where they are trying to figure out why so few female writers make it to your scientific bookshelf. Even the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books is awarded only once to a book with a female co-writer and only nine of the 144 shortlisted books were written by a woman.
It is not for a lack of women writing about science cause when you read scientific magazines the gender balance is very equal but somehow women don’t make it to a book that easily.
More about this subject you can read in this article.
The past 4 days it was Boekenfestijn in Hasselt with millions of books at low prices! I was there Thursday afternoon so I would have a lot of choice. But today I went back cause there were some physics books which I regretted not buying.
First some good old classics!
Tolstoy! I have been looking for a good version of peace and war for almost a year know. And because these books only cost two euros at Boekenfestijn I bought three books of Tolstoy at once. And of course Ana Karenina is one of them!
Also on my list were some books of the Brontë sisters but I only found some books of Anne and Charlotte. I just love the time when the books take place. And of course there are only a few books that can match the drama and romance of the books written by the Brontë sisters!
I also added some books by Jane Austen to my collection. I think I have all novels of her except one, Persuasion.
Last in my list of recently bought classics is Fitzgerald. I bought these books because someone recommended them so I hope they will be good!
I also bought part 3 tot 5 from Earth’s Children. It’s a series I am currently reading.
The two following books are from a totally different genre, ecothriller. I just love to read it because it makes you think about the world. I bought Limit by Frank Schätzing because I read the Swarm and that was such a great book of his. The other book I bought is written by an author I didn’t know so that is going to be a surprise. Darkness Falls by Kyle Mills
Last but not least in the list of my new books is The Alchemist’s daughter by Katherine McMahon. I first read The Rose of Sebastopol, another book of hers, and I need to say that it was one of the best books I have ever read!
Like I said I went back today to buy some physics books today. I bought a book about Einstein but that is more a recreational book than a scientific one. The other three books are about nuclear physics, accelerators and the Boltzmann theory.
NASA and the university of Arkansas are funding new researches for solar sells. The goal of the research is to develop solar cells to power satellites with an efficiency of 40 percent instead of the current 23 percent.
In the new solar cell silicon will no longer be used. They have two approaches in mind to create the new cells.
According to the first approach the new cells will be made from nanocrystals grown from a mix of copper, indium, gallium and selenium together with titanium-dioxide or zinc-oxide nanotubes.
The second approach uses molecular beam epitaxy to create quantum dots of indium arsenide.
The plasmonic effect of trapping sunlight will be investigated as well to increase the efficiency of the energy conversion.
more about this subject you can read in this article from the Engineer.
The kilogram is defined by a lump of metal in Paris but several comparisons with identical copies showed that its mass is changing. That’s why the kilogram needs to be redefined.
Scientists want to redefine the SI units in terms of fundamental constants of nature. To redefine the kilogram scientists use the Quantum-Hall effect so mass is defined in terms of h, Planck constant.
Next constant on the list is the Ampere, the unit of electrical current, that would be redefined in terms of the electron charge e.
More about this subject you can read in this article from Physics World
Today was my first day at school after summer break. I was so glad when I saw this building again cause to me it means a new year with a lot new interesting things for me to learn. I’m in my third year now so that means that I’m finally in my specialization years!
When I arrived at school it was nice to see a lot of familiar faces again and to catch up about what everyone has been doing during summer break. On the other hand there were some people I was hoping to see again but due to the change of classes I think I will see them a lot less this year.
My first lesson was German but this won’t be too difficult I guess cause we only have to be able to use german documents so we don’t have to learn the full grammar.
My second class was nuclear physics, a subject I was looking forward to for almost a year now. I was hoping to delve into the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics but unfortunately we only see these subjects in the context of for us useful applications. So I hope that I’ll find a good course or a good book about it somewhere so I can study it in my own time. (Don’t call me crazy now. You’re passionate or you’re not! And I am : ) )
The last course of the day was digital techniques and we will learn there to program hardware.
Thus it was a nice day at school and I am looking forward to the knowledge contributing to my specialization, but not everything I would like to know will be taught at school. Luckily there are weekends!
Recently I told you that the United Kingdom joined the nuclear fusion project. Since that news laser fusion is hot!
One of the big advantages of laser fusion compared to magnetic fusion is that laser fusion produces much higher temperatures and pressures with faster fusion as result. The National Ignition Facility at Livermore is the worlds biggest fusion laser. They hope to produce more energy from fusion than is needed to generate the laser pulse by the end of next year. They are very optimistic about the first running laser fusion power plant. A plant producing about 440 megawatts of electricity is expected in a decade. Plants of 1000 megawatts (full scaled version) will follow later.
More about laser fusion, its advantages and the latest developments you can read in this article from New Scientist