Posted by Pete Hague on 11 Aug 2012
I'm currently preparing to submit my first paper to a peer reviewed journal. I've decided that I'm going to blog about this process as I go through, as it may be of interest both to people wishing to study physics at this level, and perhaps of interest to those not planning a career in science, but who would like to know more about the inner workings of it.
The first stage of the process is the initial submission. I've been pointed towards MNRAS (Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society) and ApJ (Astrophysics Journal) as important and widely read journals in my field, so these will be the ones I am going to be submitting to. After submission, the paper will be distributed to appropriate (anonymous) reviewers, who will pick apart everything we have done, and the return some comments - assuming they don't reject the paper outright, which I sincerely hope they don't. This process will go back and forth until everybody is happy, at which point the paper will be published.
Posted by Pete Hague on 22 Jul 2012
I wasn't planning to blog about skepticism again. I thought that I had said all that needed to be said when I described my estrangement from the skeptics movement. However, there have been recent events which have reminded me of those last year that began to drive me away from organised skepticism.
Firstly, in response to DJ Grothe (head of the James Randi Educational Foundation) saying that people exaggerating the problem of sexual harassment at TAM (The Amazing Meeting) was more likely to be putting of women attending than sexual harassment himself, Rebecca Watson and others decided to boycott the conference, seemingly based on a complete misinterpretation of his actual statements.
Posted by Pete Hague on 19 Jul 2012
A recent news story has prompted me to talk about something that I've wanted to discuss for a while - the problems inherent in the concept of IQ. The story, mostly picked up by the right-wing press going by my Google News results, states that women have overtaken men in IQ scores. This produced a predictably angry response from many people commenting on the Internet.
Lets get the required scientific skepticism out of the way - this has the hallmarks of a university press release being regurgitated by lazy journalists, and the underlying quality of the work is by no means assured. But let us give the benefit of the doubt for a moment, and say that the Telegraph and the Mail have accurately reported on some scientific conclusions that are actually supported by data.
Posted by Pete Hague on 09 Jul 2012
The university press office has also taken an interest - presumably spurred on by the fact that last year the Journal made an appearance in the Guardian. As an aside, the team mentioned in the press release all worked with me on the undergraduate cubesat project that I briefly mentioned in this post. Its nice to see that they've still got a taste for physics!
Posted by Pete Hague on 08 Jul 2012
In the Leicester Physics Department, PhD students are for their first year, not technically PhD students (although in almost every case other than in documentation, they are referred to as such). According to the university, they are 'Advance PostGraduate' or APG students. Progression to the second year, and the PhD program proper is dependent on a presentation and a report handed in ~8 months into the students postgraduate studies.
I am in this process at the moment; I have made my presentation to the department, and handed in my report - the remaining step is for me to meet with my thesis committee and discuss the report. My thesis committee consists of my supervisor, my second supervisor (aka my advisor) and my personal tutor.
Posted by Pete Hague on 14 Jun 2012
I've had a bit of a screw up this week. Its not the end of the world, but I wasted quite a great deal of time tracking down an very silly mistake in the code that I am using.
One part of mode code has to fit a curve (a radial dark matter density profile) to some data (the observed rotation curve of an artificial galaxy I generated) and has been producing some strange results. The curves that it deems ideal fit quite nicely, but the parameters of these curves don't seem right. Worse, when you compute the difference between the dark matter profile the optimisation code proposes, and the one you used to generate the data in the first place, It turns out that the new curve is substantially smaller than the original one.
Posted by Pete Hague on 11 Jun 2012
We live in a culture that respects intelligence, and very often judges the quality of an argument by the perceived intellect of the person making it. To sustain this, there needs to be a means by which you can judge a persons intellect swiftly, without sitting them down, giving them standardised tests and asking them to submit a thesis. To make ad hominem judgements efficiently, a person has to be able to pick out things from what a person says (or how they say things) that can be used as proxies for their intelligence. I've noticed this can quickly turn into an in-group/out-group sort of thing, as I briefly mentioned in my blog post about the skeptics movement.
It follows that, when people make this kind of judgement about intelligence, their opinions on education might be shaped by the desire to teach children to exhibit what they consider the to be the signifiers of true intelligence.
Posted by Pete Hague on 08 Jun 2012
Reaction Engines Skylon is a proposed spacecraft that can reach Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in a single stage, taking off and landing like a plane. This has long been a dream of rocket engineers, and has thus far been unrealised. However, Skylon utilising some potentially game-changing technology that might make the 'spaceplane' an idea whose time has finally arrived.
Posted by Pete Hague on 24 May 2012
I want to steer this blog more towards space and astronomy, but there are some issues that I feel sufficiently strongly about that I have to speak up on. One such issue is the complex relationship between environmentalism and science.
I consider myself an environmentalist. It informs my views a lot more than most people; as I have shown in my previous posts here I try to interpret economic matters through how they interact with our physical environment.
Posted by Pete Hague on 19 May 2012
This morning, the first attempt by SpaceX by launch a capsule to the International Space Station was aborted a fraction of a second before lift off due to a abnormal pressure in one of the Falcon 9's engines. All engines were shut down, and the rocket remained exactly where it was. SpaceX will attempt another launch on Tuesday.
This type of abort is not trivial. Most rockets are not held down like Falcon 9; once the engines fire, there is no option but to launch the rocket. Falcon 9 can turn its engines to full power, verify they are functioning properly, and only then proceed to leave the pad.