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Shugborough estate


We had a lovely time at Shugborough estate. Though I have to say it wasn’t quite up to normal national trust standards. This was not helped by us having to pay an extra £7.50 on our normal NT membership. We were already aware of this but of course it makes a disjointed place feel even more like a let down. Don’t get me wrong we had a lovely time but I expect that was as much to do with our lunch and just being out in the countryside (especially whilst being sunny). Of course we could have just got into the house and gardens for free as NT members. That’s what we would do if we returned but that’s assuming we bother keeping our membership. Not sure we are getting great value out of it at the moment.

2013 in 365 photos

As promised in my last post here is the monster… one photo a day for the whole of 2013, it feels kind of weird stopping this now (well I’ll continue on until the little many is 1 and then down to 1 per week).

2013 in 365 photos

4 weeks of the little man

We have now had four weeks as being a family.. and they have been lots of fun – so far Henry has:

– met a cat (the cat is still confused):

Day 13: Rosie pondering Henry

– explore the snow (he did not enjoy this):

Day 19: Me, Henry and the weird snowman

– dressed like a Roman (and had a cheeky smile):

Day 26: a happy Henry

and been the centre of attention around his cousins:

Day 33: Henry with his cousins

Not a bad few weeks for all 🙂

Baby Arrival

A quick blog post to announce the birth of my first child, Henry Joseph. He was born on Saturday and both he and mother are well.

Nicely asleep

365 photo challenge

I’m going to take the on the 365 photo challenge this year. The idea is that I will document a year of my life by taking a photo a day. This is the first time I’ve tried to take this on and I hope to be successful. I’ll occasionally post here but all the photos will go up on flickr. There is, of course, and added reason that I am doing this – we have a baby on the way (expected Jan 19th). I’m planning todo a photo a day with the baby anyway so thought I’d extend it a little… hopefully some of the photos will be interesting and I won’t end up with too many self portraits or baby photos. Well here we go.. on to the first one – Elizabeth and the bump:

365 Day 1: Elizabeth and the belly

My 2012 in 12 images

Its about that time of year where I do my annual summary of what I have done… I normally go on endlessly writing random stuff. This year I thought I’d do something a little different (and hopefully a little faster for me to put together)… my year in 12 images of things I’ve done and places I’ve been:

1. The wonderful caves of Ellora, India (this is cave number 10)

Ellora cave 10

2. The serene and might Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) at sunset

GMRT Antenna at Dusk

3. Amsterdam Central Station

Amsterdam Central Train Station

4. Saracens vs the Harlequins and my first time at the new Wembley

Woop Wembley

5. Kings College, Cambridge


6. The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition and ALMA

some of the ALMA SSE team

7. Black Sabbath @ Download 2012

Black Sabbath @ Download 2012

8. Wicken Fens windpump

Wicken Fen Windpump

9. The 4C at the MRAO during one of my many public tours


10. Garden gate a Wimpole

Wimpole Garden Gate

11. St. Andrews Square in Glasgow

St Andrews in the Square

12. The baby’s room

Baby's room

Tectonic plates with golden syrup…

On Monday in class I ran a demonstration on the movement of tectonic plates. I like to visually show things using experimental material. So to demonstrate this I used a Bunsen burner, some golden syrup and a biscuit. You may now sound confused but trust me it will all come together.

Tectonic plates with golden syrup and a biscuit

  1. Take a 500 ml beaker with about 1/3 of it Golden Syrup and place it in a freezer for about one hour (this increases the viscosity).
  2. Break a biscuit in half and place together on top of the syrup.
  3. Place the beaker on a tripod (I used a gauze at this point) and heat with a Bunsen burner on high
  4. As the syrup heats, you should look side on, you will see convection currents forming
  5. Slowly the biscuits will start to move apart (in my demo one sank under another too).
  6. Be careful not to let it boil over – this could be dangerous (and what happened in my test – see video below) – and misses the point.
  7. When it cools they should move towards each other.

So what have we modelled? The core is represented by the Bunsen burner; the mantle (and flowing magma) is the golden syrup and the biscuit is the crust. This is a great chance to raise questions about how the model doesn’t really work. My students came up with some great answers, from the crust is too think and the density of syrup isn’t correct to the move ludicrous “but Sir magma isn’t sticky”.

So you have now gotten to this point… I think its time you saw my test demonstration (note: the end of the world-esq ending and me having to drop the camera to turn the Bunsen off):

Last day at Cambridge

Today is my final day of work at the University of Cambridge. I’ve been here just over a year – its been fun but I’ve grown weary of the academic job security – time to move on.. and on to being a science teacher. I still had a bit of time to make a cool antenna movie though:

This shows an antenna changing with time as the sky changed above its head. This is meant to be a simulation of a LOFAR antenna but its a bit early to say anything interesting…  all I can say is I’ve had quite a bit of fun playing with OSKAR2 over the past few month.s

Summers day walk around the MRAO

We took a stroll (and drive as the site is large and I was feeling lazy) around the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory (MRAO) this afternoon. It was the first time I’d taken Elizabeth out to the site so it was nice to show her the things I constantly go on about when I’m doing tours. It was a lovely day and I managed to get a couple of nice shots of the arrays out there…

AMI on a sunny summers day

MERLIN dish at Cambridge

Anglesey Abbey

On Saturday we took a nice slow walk around Anglesey Abbey. Its the second time we have been to this lovely National Trust place – we are slowly getting our money’s worth out of our annual membership. The grounds of Anglesey Abbey are lovAnglesey Abbeyely. Our last visit was great too but the house itself was a bit disappointing. The Lode mill however was a treat. This time we avoided the house and the mill was looking a bit full when we walked past. Instead we took a nice walk around the “nature trail”. We didn’t see much wildlife until we got to the viewing cabin they had. The view was full of lovely butterflies (such as red admirals, peacocks and white), dragonflies and some great tits. Definitely worth a 20 minute sit and watch. Using the binoculars provided (once again I left my nice ones at home) I managed to get a shot of one of the great tits.

Red Dragonfly at Anglesey Abbey

I was also pleased to get a shot, with me moving quite close and slowly, of this red dragonfly.

The moral of the story is I need to remember my big camera… though it was nice to be an opportunist with my mobile phone whilst enjoying nature. Overall a lovely wonder around the gardens.