Daily Archives: 01/04/2010

Another rock star physicist talks

The Queen guitarist Brian May famously gave up on his PhD on the F layer of the Sun (zodiacal dust) to concentrate on his career as a, well, guitarist for Queen. He then even more famously returned to his alma mater, Imperial, and completed the PhD many years later. He has since worked as a ‘self-funded postdoc’, going in and doing research.

In the Times’ Eureka supplement, following the rise of D:REAM keyboard player Professor Brian Cox, May, increasingly regular on the Sky at Night and related publications (such as Bang! A history of the Universe, coauthored with Patrick Moore and Chris Lintott), returns to the spotlight in a quick profile.

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Semi-success for sued science writer Simon Singh

I’ve been doing a few entries on what could loosely be termed the #SciVote agenda, issues of politics relevant to science. One of these fronts has been a recent libel trial where the British Chiropractic Association sued science writer Simon Singh simply for pointing out that their field wasn’t supported by the evidence in an article for the Guardian. They argued this amounted to defamation.

The judge in the preliminary hearing at the High Court, Mr Justice Eady, said Mr Singh’s comments were factual assertions rather than expressions of opinion and, as such, he would have been forced to prove it was his assertion were true or use the defence of responsible journalism.Mr Singh’s comments were factual assertions rather than expressions of opinion and, as such, he would have been forced to prove it was his assertion were true or use the defence of responsible journalism.

However at the Court of Appeal, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger and Lord Justice Sedley ruled that he need only prove that it was reasonable for him to hold the opinions that he does. They adopted the US approach in deciding that evidence determines the outcome of scientific trials and the results can be spoken of freely. Further detail on the specific terminology used can be found on Jack of Kent’s blog. The Guardian’s report on the result (with a video of Singh) can be found here and the Times’ report is here. The Times points out that not only can the BCA continue legal proceedings on this matter, but other researchers and science writers also face procedings against them at this moment.

…and just as you may have thought #SciVote and related campaigns were gaining traction, some journalist in the Times thinks wouldn’t it be a nice idea if scientists campaigned for candidates in the upcoming election who are pro-science. A nice opportunity for some publicity lost there…

ISS Symposium approaches

The European Space Agency, NASA, RosKosmos, JAXA and the Canadian Space Agency will be hosting a symposium on the International Space Station in Berlin, Germany on the 19th-21st of April at the Adlon Kempinski Hotel. The symposium will celebrate the fact that the station is eighty percent complete and performing science as intended.

The program will include discussions of science carried out and scientific objectives, the ISS impact on culture and industrial implications of ISS technology and development. Representatives from all five partner agencies will be present.

Some pretty pictures out

As spring has sprung, nice views pop up everywhere. Astronomy Now magazine, for example, has put up a gallery of pictures related to news items in the present edition. The European Space Agency has got in on it all with a new calender page to download and enjoy.

Some April fool’s jokes of note

The world of physics and astronomy is not immune to the lures of April Fool’s day, so here’s a quick round up of just a couple of ones that I caught…

The rise and accent of Professor Brian Cox was parodied by the Institute of Physics when it announced he would be doing a cameo on Coronation Street. Ok, the idea that he might turn up as lecturer Brian Knox isn’t too far fetched, but add in the revelation that he is Ken Barlow’s long lost son and he would be teaching basic physics to Rosie Webster and it all just becomes a little too much…

Meanwhile his science base, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN was facing its annual challenge from a potential new collider to be built on the circle line of the London Underground. Unfortunately, the RMT expressed concerns at the speeds the protons would be expected to travel at and started to demand rest periods longer than the 12 month shutdowns at the LHC.

Meanwhile a report from CERN itself suggests the LHC has discovered a repulsive paleoparticle.

The American Geophysical Union has apparently also toyed with the idea of calling the recent dip in solar activity the Stern Minimum, based on Stern’s long years in the field and deep dismay at having nothing as significant named after him…

Meanwhile, the departure of the Science and Technology Facility Council‘s beleaguered CEO, Keith Mason was announced by Steve Milan, citing “intolerable pressures” and admitting “mistakes were made”.

A couple of other roundups of science April Fools are here and here.