Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Good News from Australia

I think that far too often when I write a blog post on my current country of residence, it ends up being negative.  So I want to bring attention to some good news from New South Wales, where a person has won the right to be identified as neither male nor female:
The Australian high court has ruled that New South Wales must recognise a third gender after handing down its decision in the long-running case of Norrie, who has been fighting since 2010 to have a sex change recognised as non-specific.
Notable is the following argument apparently used in court, suggesting that bureaucrats can't count past two:
Among the arguments of the registrar was that it would cause “unacceptable confusion” if state legislation, the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1995 (NSW), were to recognise more than two genders. The high court rejected the argument.
More seriously, congratulations are due to Norrie, for successfully winning this four-year legal struggle (and winning costs, too)!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Higgs Inflation Flexes its BICEPs

A couple of weeks ago we had the BICEP2 announcement, a new and exciting physics result that was perfectly timed with my parents visiting.  As such I rather missed my chance to comment at the time, and with inflation being somewhat beyond my area of expertise I wasn't sure I really had much to say that was better than, for example, Resonaances.

However, one thing that did strike me from that post was the following line:
Speaking about model building, Higgs inflation is ruled out, at least in the current version. A robust prediction of Higgs inflation is no tensor modes at an observable level. In other words, we have a new evidence for new physics beyond the Standard Model. 
If I've learnt anything in my time as a postdoc, it's that whenever you make this kind of statement it's just a matter of time before someone argues that it's not true.  In this case, it took a week.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

The Wind Rises

I just got back from watching The Wind Rises, the new film by Hayao Miyazaki.  I've been excited to see this since I heard he had a movie coming out.  Of course, that's dangerous; you might end up anticipating it too much, so it ends up disappointing.  But while this isn't the best film I've seen by Miyazaki, I did enjoy it.  Indeed, technically the film is a masterpiece of storytelling; it even avoids the weak endings of the otherwise perfect Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

News from Oz: Laugh or Cry?

I haven't posted much this year, as I've been busy finishing off a paper (done now, yay us!)  But there've been a number of stories I've seen from the new Australian government that remind me of the type of things I saw from the American right when I was living there.  That's not a favourable comparison, BTW.

Today's news item isn't that bad, indeed by itself provoked a chuckle:
Tony Abbott’s top scientific and business advisers are at odds over the science of climate change with the chief scientist, Ian Chubb, strongly rejecting assertions that climate science is a “delusion” or a result of “groupthink”.
Or, in other words, guy in charge of science accepts science, guy in charge of making money believes in making money at any cost.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Annual Modulation at CoGeNT

When talking about dark matter (DM), there's a standard line that gets used from popular talks through to journal papers: we only know about its gravitational interactions.  That is, we've measured its existence and abundance from how it affects galaxy rotation curves, or the structure of the cosmic microwave background; but we have no direct information about any other types of coupling it might have to the ordinary stuff we are made of1.

Of course, there are a lot of searches of various types looking for those interactions.  One of the most basic is direct detection, building a very sensitive and low-background experiment and looking for dark matter scattering off the atoms in your apparatus.  It is here that one of the more enticing, puzzling and long-standing mysteries of dark matter is to be found; the fact that several experiments claim signals, that seem to be ruled out by other searches that found nothing2.

My attention was drawn by the publication on the arXiv today of another paper in the signal column.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

New Angband Release

My brother came to visit over the holiday season, so I missed the exciting announcement of the release of Angband 3.5.0 on Christmas Eve!  It apparently has the longest changelist in the history of the game, and marks the end of the current lead and the start of a new one.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Red Mist Descends

I should really know better: when trying to work, don't read news that isn't sport.  I'll just find something that makes me rage too much to concentrate.
The prime minister, Tony Abbott, has distanced himself from the South Australian Liberal senator Cory Bernardi, who described abortion advocates as "pro-death" and suggested children raised by single parents were more likely to be promiscuous and law breakers.
Bernardi’s new book, The Conservative Revolution, also argues against other "non-traditional" families including step families and same-sex families, and says the “understanding that children come into families as gifts, not commodities” is missing in the push for in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) and surrogacy.
It seems the Senator also likes to criticise Islam, for reasons I'm sure are completely intellectual and not xenophobic.