Collective Effects

There are interesting developments at the moment on the borders between particle physics and nuclear physics, in the study of hot dense blobs of matter made of quarks and gluons.

A fragment of rainbow over the LHC because why not

A fragment of rainbow over the LHC because why not

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Posted in Particle Physics, Physics, Science | Tagged , ,

Scientific Exile?

This article in the Guardian describes a situation which is already happening. I have personally been in two recent scientific/training network planning meetings in which UK leadership was ruled out as a possibility (by mutual agreement) as too risky in the circumstances.

I am pleased and proud that our EU collaborators are standing by us as network members though, despite the risk to them from our current political instability. We also did out best for Swiss friends during their difficulties, but as you can see from the article, the impact of isolationist decisions can’t be completely mitigated.

(Not really an article, just another tweet that got out of hand…)

Posted in Politics, Science, Science Policy, Travel | Tagged ,

Being English abroad, 2019

My weekend was mostly spent on the French side of border country, experiencing serial incidents of Englishness.


On Saturday we went to a lake and swam. There was a French guy who seemed to be staring at me while I changed out of my swimming trunks. I was doing this under a towel, a manoeuvre which feels very English and always makes me think of cheeky Blackpool seaside postcards. (The French have no word for manoeuvre, of course¹.)

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Posted in Politics, Rambling, Travel | Tagged , ,

MMR and me. And propaganda.

I used to think propaganda was about making people adopt a particular ideology or political stance, but increasingly it seems to be more about causing paralysis by sowing confusion and division.

“Bad actors” stoke up anger and spread falsehoods on both sides of controversies, to degrade the level of debate. Even something as stupid as claiming the Earth is flat can serve your purpose. In fact any noise that makes it harder for people to evaluate evidence and come to a rational decision is potentially useful. It doesn’t matter if some of the facts being hurled around are true, they will be buried in the lies, anger and stupidity. Someone who believes nothing they hear is as ignorant and helpless as someone who believes everything.

The above could have been triggered by any number of current issues, but the reason I’m writing it now is the news that the UK has just lost its relatively recently acquired measles-free status. This is because of a decline in take-up of MMR, presumably influenced in part by various anti-vaccine propaganda campaigns waged for the reasons above, although complacency because the vaccination has succeeded in reducing the occurrence of the disease seems also to be a factor.

This is very sad, children will suffer and die unnecessarily.

I was nearly fooled by the fraud at the start of the MMR controversy, and worried about it for ages, this is what I wrote for the Guardian a few years ago, in case it is still helpful to anyone.

Life and Physics

I have a doctorate in physics. My wife has one in chemistry. We have an 11-year-old son, who should have got his MMR jab in 2003

A lot has been written about the MMR scare of just over a decade ago. More is being written now because children who were not immunised back then are getting measles. The scare has been thoroughly debunked by people who took risks and did a lot of work. I’m not going to add anything to that.

But I do want to add a personal story. It’s no big deal, but it might be helpful to some people. So here we go.

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