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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in rplackett's LiveJournal:

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Saturday, December 11th, 2010
3:36 pm
Student Loan Repayment...
Given all the fuss over the last couple of weeks i have been trying to sort out whether i think the student loan proposals are more progressive or not. I don't really agree with them in principle, but am not massively against them either. Its a slightly tricky thing to judge because you need to make a bunch of assumptions to start with about income...

I tried modelling a number of career profiles and based the loan amounts on the maximum London weighted amount that I took (and am still paying for) for the old scheme over 4 years.

remembering that in both cases we pay 9p in the pound over the limit (15k old, 21k new) and the new one we only pay for 30 years. I assume an interest rate of 5%...

There has been no adjustment for inflation which makes you pay back less over time.
in general you repay £450 less per year in the new system

case 1 (a familiar physicist)
starting on a moderate graduate salary of £26k and rising to £30k in a few years then the rate of increase slowing.
old system - total repaid (over 21 years) £31.1k
new system - total repaid (over 30 years) £31.7k

case 2 (low paid flat rate - not really realistic)
starting on £26k and not rising at all
old system - total repaid (over 42 years) £41.5k
new system - total repaid (over 30 years) £13.5k

case 3 (low paid but rising steadily)
starting on a low graduate salary of £17k and getting a £500 pay rise every year
old system - total repaid (over 50 years at which point you die of debt exhaustion) £64k
new system - total repaid (over 30 years) £10k, not paying anything for the first ten years

case 4 (professional)
starting on a good graduate salary of £30k and rising by 3% a year
old system - total repaid after 13 years £24.6k
new system - total repaid after 30 years £71.7k

case 5 (high flyer)
starting on an excellent graduate salary of £35k and rising by 5% a year
old system - total repaid after (9 years) £22.5k
new system - total repaid after (20 years) £66.3k

So to conclude, in my opinion the new system is more progressive than the old - people with low paid jobs pay less at a lower rate than before, whereas people like me pay the same and people at the top end pay more.

The only slight unfairness seems to be that if you are super rich then you pay some less overall than if you are only normally well off. I hope thats not what the protesters are campaigning against.

My caveat to all this is i assume you take the maximum loan in both cases, if you can afford to pay the fees upfront now and not in the future case then you will be worse off. Again i think this really affects the middle of the distribution not the lower end, so for better or worse its still something of an improvement in terms of progressiveness and helping social mobility.

News at 11, mob fails to do the maths...
Monday, November 30th, 2009
9:00 am
LHC now at world record energy
I just received an email from CERN's Director General informing me that we have now exceeded the energy of the Tevatron and the LHC is now officially the world's highest energy particle accelerator (i don't think we have to wait for the guys from Guinness before it becomes official in this case). It isn't clear is whether there have been collisions yet, but as its not explicitly mentioned i suspect not.

This means that there is still time for you to go and hide from black holes under the bed.
Saturday, August 15th, 2009
10:38 am
So i am back running my second testbeam in as many months and have just started a 10 hour shift on a glorious saturday morning. Since those of you who have not delved into the jargon laced madness that is HEP will have little idea what im talking about i thought i would while away some of our time explaining what it is i'm doing.

I have put a matching set of photos on my flickr page here .

gory details under the cutCollapse )
Monday, April 20th, 2009
8:48 am
On my daily trawl through the beeb's steadily deteriorating news pages i found the following statement i thought i would share with you nice folk in lj land...

"Greenhouse gas emissions from food production and car travel in the fatter population would be between 0.4 to 1 giga tonnes higher per 1bn people, they estimated. " (no formatting changed)

So would it not have been more informative and more instructive to the general population to have omitted the giga and the billion, re-normalised the numbers, divided by 10^9 and said 0.4 to 1 tonne per person on average. After all a ton per person still seems like a lot to me.

This seems like another example of slack reporting by the science team reprinting verbatim nonsense press releases.

Worthy of note however is the purity of the intent of the original material, rather than go for the dry science they have plumped to combine two superlative media stories, obesity and global warming. Hats off to "Dr Phil Edwards, study leader and researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine" for this piece of media savvy, obviously science needs more of this type of chap. If the intentions of this merry band form the school of tropical medicine and celebrity gossip weren't clear enough the beeb end the piece with a quote..

"this is a calculation that deserves a bit more attention" ..... don't we all

Friday, September 26th, 2008
4:08 pm
Leaving Imperial
Just to Let people know today is my last day at Imperial. I will be going to work for CERN, for the MediPix collaboration for 18 months. Essentially I will be working on understanding the performance of their new radiation imaging sensor.

I will be heading to Geneva for a week on Monday for induction etc, then heading to Holland for six weeks where i will be working with a company called PANalytical, a Philips spin out. I intend to be back at weekends. Then in the middle of November I'm going to be moving to France full time.

So the end of an era, I have missed the decade at imperial by 3 days... my contract at CERN starts on the 1st and my first day at college in '98 was the 3rd (don't ask me why i remember that). I don't know what i think tbh, slightly sad at leaving the place i have stayed the longest of anywhere in my life, but also fairly excited to be doing something new.

I will have a spare room at the place in France so if people would like to invite themselves over for a long weekend they would be most welcome.

Current Mood: pensive
Monday, December 31st, 2007
12:30 pm
Making a wokbench
Today i completed my long running workbench project. The idea was that i needed a very sturdy table in my shed to accommodate my grandfathers metal lathe and associated machines and also have a place to make things on. After looking at some cheap flimsy rubbish and some very expensive things i decided i had better make my own. This escalated when i decided to do it properly - partly for my own amusement and partly because i felt it was somehow inappropriate to use my inherited carpentry tools to make something a bit bodged together.

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Monday, October 15th, 2007
2:35 pm
From the Conference
so i've just returned from the 10th bi-annual ICATPP conference on instrumentation in particle, astro-particle and medical physics. I delivered my talk with aplomb and only a little procrastination and have returned to report to you good people.

The conference itself was held in the lovely but crumbling Villa Olmo in Como, right on the shore of Lake Como in Italy. The villa was magnificent with painted arched ceilings and lots of marble things, although it looked just slightly unloved, like a bunch of muppets had been using it for conferences for 2o years...

Como itself felt slightly stuck in the 70's, just a little too much orange and plastic about, but was very pleasant, the food being the obvious stand out winner. "What you only want ONE main course?? you weak foreigner you!"

By and large the other talks were a mixture of interesting topics, mind numbing detail and incomprehensible accents. No i don't want to see photographs of your electronics boards.

Two however stood out form the crowd for their sheer lunacy value. Scanning the world for neutrinos with a giant boat based detector, and *listening* for ExaElectronVolt neutrinos fomr the galactic centre.

The first of these was a geophysics experiment, turns out we really don't know whats going on down there.. there are still some big gaps in our knowledge, things like "why is the centre of the earth hot?", and "whats it made from?" are still being debated. One theory is the world is partially heated by a sort of slow burning nuclear reaction of naturally occurring uranium deposits. This reaction will of course give off neutrinos that are able to escape and we can detect. Step up our old favorite the liquid Cherenkov detector. This time a large tank full of clear oil (with a nice high molecular mass for those pesky particles to interact with) surrounded by single photon sensitive photo tubes, much like the mighty Super-K. Ok all well and good, except we cant distinguish what coming form underground and whats coming from space...bugger. No wait, if we move the big tub-o-oil and see a local change that cancels out the background doesn't it, ok so we need a way of shifting this about... A BOAT! So the diagrams show a purpose built barge, but i suspect they secretly want a decommissioned oil taker for bragging rights. The image of a bunch of physicists sailing about the high sees with a tanker of baby oil telling passing fishermen they are scanning the centre of the earth is one i really will savour. That and its a really neat bit of science, since they could correlate any structure they see to the tectonic plates and really start to get some answerers.

Ok good as that was its not even close in my mind to listening for neutrinos... thats right same dudes, neutrinos the most non interacting particle that we have actually seen, weighting almost exactly noting this group expects to be able to listen for them. And lets be clear this isn't listening as in measuring cosmic pressure waves this is terrestrial listening with microphones.. Sounds mental but actually not so much, turns out that the most high energy neutrinos (ones that happen only once in a blue moon) that pass through the earth with approximately an ExaElectronVolt, or one with the energy of an electron accelerated in a field of 10^18 volts each contain about a joules worth of energy... thats a hell of a lot for a subatomic particle. And when one of these chapies actually bothers to interact it produces a pretty big hadronic shower, depositing all that energy in a fairly small region. Now suppose we assume that one of these guys hits the sea and somewhere underwater interacts with an unlucky molecule pf H2O, smashing both of them to pieces and spraying a pile of subatomic debris along its trajectory, you get a cylinder of energy deposition in the water about 1cm round and ~10m long, now in that volume of water a joule isn't very much, but a joule delivered instantaneously at the speed of light produces a noticeable noise (pressure wave) form the expansion of that column of water in the otherwise incompressible sea. Not only that its a very short pulse that you can use Fourier analysis techniques to pull out of all the other noises. So now all we need is an array of seabed microphones calibrated to detect the quietest of quiet noises, shame the ideas so crack-fueled, well never get the cash to build that lot right... Step up cold war paranoia, turns out the good old US navy and HMRN have just the things you want. So these guys presented their preliminary results of using the submarine sonar nets to listen for the lightest least interacting subatomic particles from the centre of the galaxy. The highlight of which was when he pointed to an uncorrelated noise peak and said "we don't know whats causing this noise, we hope its not some sort of fish."
Monday, September 3rd, 2007
10:29 pm
BBQ Chicken Satay
After a request here goes my recipe for an Indonesian style chicken satay. This is not an authentic recipe, i am not Indonesian, and only lived there before the age of two. It was picked up by my family and repeated so often it became a regular feature of my childhood.. heres how a reasonable facsimile of that experience can be achieved in the uk.

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Thursday, August 30th, 2007
5:41 pm
First National Electrical
Ok heres a quick warning to everyone out there searching for First National Electrical (aka 1st National Electrical) especially the Buckinghamshire branch of this useless company. Don't use them. This is my internet revenge for the day off work i squandered waiting for their electrician to turn up. Well at 4pm i phoned them to make sure everything was ok. Turns out it wasn't. He couldn't come today after all. He might be able to come tomorrow, but unfortunately I've just used up what little goodwill was left at work by taking today off so i cant do that.

What really bugs me is that they knew from about lunchtime he wouldn't be able to make it and also knew i had taken the day off, but still failed to phone me so i could do something with my day. So if anyone reads this and decides not to use this bunch of muppets i would be very happy.

I am now officially fed up with tradesmen and delivery companies who insist that you take a day off work for them to do their job and then fail to do theirs. So please add comments with any companies you would rather people at large didn't use as punishment for their disregard for their customers time.

Remember thats First National Electrical or 1st National (google this means you), they also do plumbing and drain clearing, and i suspect are equally unable to show up to do either of them.
Tuesday, July 24th, 2007
5:36 pm
Pointless Post
Todays post (the first for a long while) is brought to you by a free half hour before going for a budvar in Resteraunt 1. It concerns the unimaginative topic of today.

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Thursday, June 21st, 2007
1:17 pm
online word processing in LaTeX?
amongst the mirriad of other things work is asking me to to all at once is to write a 2 page summary document at fairly short notice.

The trouble is that im continually bouncing between 4 or 5 pcs depending on who is in the Imperial office at CERN, whether im in the lab, whether im using the laptop in the flat etc etc. atm ive resorted to writign the damn thing in word and saving it to my webspace... this is obviously not ideal.

So im starting to re-ponder my thoughts for using a wiki as a web based word processor that you type LaTeX code into and it generates nice pdf's when you ask it to, saving everything online, a history etc etc.

Atm im still too busy to do anything much towards this, but i know a bunch of you chaps are into your wikis in a big way so what is the best way to go about this sort of thing? Which wiki? Some appear to support LaTeX code? Am i talking about google word processor?

Anyone have any thoughts?

Current Mood: contemplative
Wednesday, November 8th, 2006
10:23 am
Credit cards
It has come to my attention that i will be spending some of the research groups money on flights and things via my credit card over the next little while. To make the most of this i am considering getting a slightly shinier one than i currently posses. One that gives me rewards for spending other peoples money seems like a good plan.

The question is what one should i go for, does anyone have any suggestions

I have head of ones that give you cash back at Waitrose, and access to the club class lounge at major airports and things like that.

Any thoughts mighty live journal masses? what are the best rewards to go for, what is on offer, what do you use?
Wednesday, October 4th, 2006
1:13 pm
hmm well i passed my viva yesterday, which was nice.

It went better then expected, which is god ecause i expected to go badly. It didn't, my examiners were easygoing and generous. They also didn't concentrate too hard on the background particle physics which i was very concerned about, as i felt i really didnt know as much as i should. Once we got past that with only afew sticky moments things were relativly plain sailing as we moved onto the bits of work i had actually performed. There were one or two tricky moments involving time progression of charge through silicon and the signal to noise ratio of an HPD but they didnt seem too upset that i didnt know the answers.

Im sorry i didnt organise anything oficial for afterwards but i really wasnt inany mood to tempt fate before the damn thing, im also sorry ive been such a miserable bugger in the last couple of weeks. (que cries of we didnt notice and how can we tell the difference)

I now have a few corrections to do, although no major reanalysis thankfully and then reprint, bind and submit for full doctorage.
Tuesday, July 18th, 2006
12:05 pm
The end is in sight
So today at ~11:59 i finished faffing with the references of the second draft of my thesis, compiled the LaTeX and sent it to my supervisor for his final readthrough...

Although im expecting quite a lot of alterations back from him, this feels like a minor milestone so i thought id imortalise it.

After that im going to give it one more readthrough and then to the binders we go...

atm it weighs in at 182 pages with 82 references
Tuesday, May 9th, 2006
5:14 pm
Writing to my MP
ok on the advice of pro-test.org.uk im writing to my MP to express my dissatisfaction a the inflametory language used in this early day motion http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=28280.

"That this House, in common with Europeans for Medical Progress, expresses its concerns regarding the safeguarding of public health through data obtained from laboratory animals, particularly in light of large numbers of serious and fatal adverse drug reactions that were not predicted by animal studies; is concerned that the Government has not commissioned or evaluated any formal research on the efficacy of animal experiments, and has no plans to do so; and, in common with 83 per cent. of general practitioners in a recent survey, calls upon the Government to facilitate an independent and transparent scientific evaluation of the use of animals as surrogate humans in drug safety testing and medical research."

from pro-test.org.uk
Main rebuttal points are that:
Europeans for Medical Progress have already had 5 complaints upheld against them by the Advertising Standards Authority.
The claim that there has been no formal enquiry is incorrect, there have been 3 in the last 4 years:
House of Lords Select Committee on animals in scientific procedures (2002)
Animal Procedures Committee Report on the review of cost-benefit assessment in the use of animals in research (2003)
Nuffield Council on Bioethics - Ethics of Research Involving Animals (2005)

The 83% of GPs stat in the EDM is misleading. 83% of GPs said they believed animal research COULD be misleading. In the same way, probably 100% of politicians believe democratic governments COULD make mistakes, this is not an argument against democratic governments.
The research company which carried out the survey (TNS Healthcare) said "the conclusions drawn from this research are wholly unsupported by TNS...The data does not support the interpretation made by the client [Europeans for Medical Progress]”.

The internet seems to support these assesments so the quaestion is as somone who supports animal testing should i send my letter or not. Are they reasonable objections?

I personally think i would be happier to see something that said 'there is some public controversy as to the effectivness of animal testing some research should be done to resolve the matter'

Obviously i dont just want to parrot a pressure group unless i have some measure of confindence they arnt talking bollocks. What do people think is a sensible course of action?
Saturday, April 22nd, 2006
9:14 pm
Beer the twelth
well we brewed so its time for another incomprehensible and interminable post on the subject.

This beer is to be a best/pride type and contained

4kg pale malt
150g crushed crystal malt
30g crushed chocolate malt
100g fuggles hops for an hour bittering
50g fuggles for for 10mins hopping
200g of light brown sugar

we created a new torroidal imersion heat exchanger that stretches the height of the copper (urn) so we can allow the precipitate fomr the hot and cold breaks to settle out. I manged to sieve a lot of it off during the boil, which is fun.

The sparging seemed to go well taking only an hour to bring us up to 20 litres (just over 4 gallons)

The hydrometer read ~1040, but then we knocked it over and forgot to take any more samples

The taste was good (for this stage) and this new system seems to produce very clear beer so fingers crossed

We remembered the moss this time.

In other news to excite fans of the barnes brewing collective we decanted the eleventh beer into its cask on wednesday and it was as clear as a bell. Totelly bright and not a hint of haze, straigh out of the fermenter. We tastred it today and whilst it was very bitter, since its so young, and we used golding hops If left for a couple of three weeks then i cant see any reason why it wont be a spectaularly nice summer ale. Another 40 pints to drink, woe! woe is us.

Actually i think woe may be the correct interperatation, during the interminable write up i seem to have lot all ability to drink beer and not feel a) extrordinarily pissed after about a half and b) horribly hungover the next day.
Tuesday, April 11th, 2006
8:45 pm
Beer XI
o so we are now onto our eleventh beer, and as the weather is no longer freezing and the long lead time we though it should be summary. Ive forgotten the name of the recipe but it contained:

4kg pale malt (3kg crushed pale malt 1kg larger malt)
NO darker malts, not even crystal
a bag~100g of golding hops
500g of unrefined cane sugar to boost up the strength

We used the new mash tun and sparging method, and although it didnt run bringt from the tun it did go very clear at the hot break, with lots of big lumps forming that could be caught in a sieve.

We had to mix it abour somehwta with the heatexchanger that made it go a bit cloudy agian, wihc was a shame.

We then ran it into the fermenter making sure it was thoroughly aerated.

We forgot to boil the moss (AGAIN - sodding hell thats like the tenth time!) and had to put it in as a tea afterwards on top of the yeast.

We used the french yeast in the blue packets cos there wasnt any of the other non-muntons variety in the shop.

Generally went ok - we need to build a better heat exchanger and get another barrel.

Beer number ten seems to be doing superbly, truly clear, although still a little bitter at the moment. have to restrain jim from drinking it all before i can have some.
Tuesday, April 4th, 2006
6:22 pm
Barnes Brew 10 the syphoning
ok I missed the brewing of this batch due to an attack of the dreaded thesis

It used the mash tun, a different recipy, cooled in the bolier for the hot and cold bread and was generally a very different method based on the book Mr A lent us.

So it came out with a really really good fruity smell, bitter flavour, light summary colour and a totally different fermentation action.

Previously we have had a large amount of lumpy sludge at the bottom ~2 inches, this time we had a thin layer of slimy sludge at the bottom and lumpy floaty bits left on the top after a vigerous fermentation.

Tasted pretty good, cant wait to see how it turns out

We syphoned it into the cask without any priming this time as it still seemed to be fermenting well

Andys Report of the brewing follows ***

We looked through the beer recipies and found one that we had most of the ingredients for. We didn't have enough malt, so we put in extra crystal and sugar. we wanted to do something that wasn't too dark so that we could see if it was clear, and also since it is almost summer. therefore the recipie was:

3kg of Larger malt
300g of crystal
85g bitter hops
20g aroma hops
500g demerera sugar

We seemed to have larger malt that should have gone off on the 14 of jan. this might not be ideal.
we mashed at 65C, topping up with boiling water half way through, for 90min.
we found that the flow through the grist was very slow when we tried to run off, and it wasn't running clear after some time (we added the turbid running back into the tun, so that they could be filtered again). We decided it was taking too long, and we should speed it up, so we disturbed the grist a little, and got on with the sparging. It would help if we had a smaller mesh that the deep fat frier as this has a large volume. We then sparged at 77-80C as reccomended, and this raised the grist back to about 68C. The grist seemed to allow quite a lot of shit through, but at the same time, quite a lot of scummy stuff was evident on the top of the grist. We sparged until we didn't seem to be getting much more out. We then made it up to volume and the gravity came out at about 1024. we boiled the heat exchanger in the urn and boiling water came out of it into the sink. we did the bittering for 45 min (the book said 90), and the aroma for 15, with the irish moss. We then turned off the element, and turned on the heat exchanger (still leaking) and it cooled quite quickly to 25C. We left it to settle with the boiler off and didn't pour and of the trub (shit on the bottom of the urn) into the fermenter. We decided to try deliberate aeration, and poured it out cold, with the maximum dribbling, and from a good height. This produced a foamy head, which dissapeared by this morning, but the lid was already bowing. There was almost no sediment in the bottom of the fermenter. by this afternoon then lid ws still repressurising, and a layer of yeast about 10mm thick, resembling dough has formed on the top. This has not happened before. Fuck knows what will happen next.

The tun was good at maintaining the temperature, although we added the malt at 72 to get to 64-65 so it might have been better a little hotter ~ 75. Its a bit small, but this is partly because the frier takes up too much space. There is also a problem getting it to run clear, but we are filtering some of it. The hot and cold break happening in the boiler is a good idea, as the heat exchanger is sterile, and the trub from the cold break stays in the kettle.
Tuesday, March 14th, 2006
4:45 pm
just to let people know, Claire and I have got engaged.
Monday, February 27th, 2006
8:21 pm
Beer - no.& and no.8 looking positive
this evening we syphoned the 8th barnes brew into its bareall and a few bottles (inclusding a clear one to keep an eye on things)

tasting it at this stage no.8 was really good - tbe best balance of flavours weve had yet

no.7 (to be drunk on thursday) was ever so slightly hazy (this is the first non opaque sucess weve had with the new clearing method) but tasted good if a little bitter. Aparently we have to expect homebrew to be sligty cloudy, although given how clear our first attempts were im a little disapointed, although i do much prefer the taste of the later ones which is whats important.

No. 8 is now ready to be taken to Mr. Audens establishment for the pie off, although as the yield is up i doubt he wants to carry 5 gallons home on the train on thursday evening.

Now the planning for number 9 - to enhance the clearing we may try and do the second phase in two stages - bung a splash of irish moss into it a day or so before we decant iut into the cask. THe heat excanger needs to be leak proofed, and we need to try and repeatt our very sucessful mahsing.

mmmmm beer
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