Kiwi Particle Physicist

March 31, 2006


I popped in to Freyberg, my old high school, for a visit yesterday. The place has changed a bit since I was last there, it's bigger with lots of new classrooms, but it still feels familiar. It was good to see all my old teachers again too.

My chemistry teacher took me into his Year 12 class to introduce me and then asked me to give a little impromptu talk about what I'm doing on the experiment. To begin with I wasn't quite sure how to go about explaining everything, so I sort of stumbled for the first few minutes, but after that the students all started to get involved and asked lots of good questions. It was more of a two-way discussion than a speech, which made it a lot easier to figure out what to talk about. The students all seemed fairly interested, and I managed to keep their attention for about 30 minutes, so it must have gone all right.

It's always difficult trying to explain what you're doing to other people, whether it's other physicists or family. You have to aim the explanation at exactly the right level, otherwise you're wasting everyone's time. Hopefully it's something I'll get better at with a bit more practice.

March 25, 2006


I'm on my way home for a few days for a holiday. It's been over a year since I was last in NZ and I'm really looking forward to seeing the folks and the whanau again. Still getting over last night. Had a really good time, although I left after a couple of hours when everyone else decided to head on to the second bar. Hopefully I can get a bit of sleep on the plane.

The free wireless connection here at Kansai airport is great, but I can only use it to access the internet. I tried to log on to the uni servers to get my mail and got declined.

>ssh_exchange_identification: Connection closed by remote host

Does anybody know how to get around this?

March 24, 2006


Just finished graduation ceremony.

We get our certificates in a few minutes and then a few of us are going out to celebrate tonight. Out of the 83 physics students who enrolled in 2000, only a handful of us are going on to doctors course, so it will probably be the last time we all get together. Will post photos later.

March 21, 2006

Spring/Autumn Equinox

Today is the vernal equinox, or first day of spring on the Japanese calendar, which makes it a national holiday. Actually, I think it's probably the halfway point of spring, but never mind.

The weather is getting warmer, and the days are getting longer. It was still light at 6:40, as opposed to 4:50 a couple of months back. Just about time to start evening soccer games outdoors again.

Anyway, the plum blossoms are out. I took this photo this afternoon at uni here in Osaka. It should only be another couple of weeks until the cherry blossoms are in full bloom and we have flower viewing. Apparently they are out in Tokyo already. The Japan Meteorological Agency says it is seven days earlier than average. I swear it's getting warmer every year.

March 14, 2006

Blog Motivation

Until recently there didn't seem to be too many science/physics blogs around, although they seem to be becoming a bit more popular lately. I think part of the reason for this is the success of blogs like Quantum Diaries, Cosmic Variance, and Bad Astronomy. These have all have done a good job of keeping the public up to date with what's happening with physics and science, which I think has encouraged a lot more scientists to jump on the bandwagon.

One problem with scientists writing blogs though is that they don't always seem entirely certain what they're trying to write about. At one extreme they end up becoming a place to rant about politics, no different from any number of other blogs around, and at the other they practically turn into a textbook aimed at graduate student level. My reason for starting is to try to keep friends and family up to date with what I'm doing over here on the experiment, and to use it as a place to discuss what's going on with particle physics and science in general over here in Japan, and also in New Zealand. It will hopefully also provide much needed writing practice.

I'm a bit worried I'll run out of stuff to write about, but I'll have to wait and see. Life as a particle physics grad student is not as exciting and action packed as it might sound. Anyway, I'll try to post a couple of times a week. Let me know if you have any good ideas or topics to write about, or if you have any questions about the experiment that I should try to explain.

March 12, 2006

Is Palmy that bad?

Apparently John Cleese wasn't too thrilled with Palmy when he stopped off last year.

Cleese, of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers fame, stayed in
Palmerston North last November as part of his My Life, Time and
Current Medical Problems tour.

Cleese called the city "the suicide capital of New Zealand" and said "if you wish to kill yourself but lack the courage to, I think a visit to Palmerston North will do the trick."

Is it really that bad? I always just thought it was a good spot to relax.

March 09, 2006

Welcome All

So I should probably introduce myself. I'm a student studying particle physics at Osaka University. I was born and raised in Palmerston North, New Zealand, and after finishing high school I came over to Japan to study physics. I spent my first year here at the Osaka University of Foreign Studies to try to learn a bit of the language, and then switched to Osaka University where I finished my bachelor's degree in 2004.

I've just spent the last two years doing my master's degree on the Belle experiment. The aim of the Belle experiment is to measure some of the differences between matter, which makes up our universe, and antimatter, which is a sort of mirror image of matter. The experiment is situated in Tsukuba, a medium-ish sized town about an hours drive north east of Tokyo. I spend about half my time at the lab here, and the rest at university in Osaka or in Kyoto.

Up until now I've been mainly working on developing part of one of the pieces of software we use for the experiment. Graduation is in another couple of weeks, and then I will begin work on a doctor's degree where I will probably be analysing some of the data from the experiment. In the meantime I should hopefully be able to carry on with the software work, as well as help with some of the research and development for a hardware upgrade we're hoping to carry out in another couple of years.

Other than research I spend time reading, relaxing, getting out to see the sites in Kyoto, and catching up with friends here and overseas. I play soccer and go running occasionally here at the lab, and try to do a bit of travel when time allows.

March 08, 2006

Train Collision

Another travel-first. Caught the shinkansen from Kyoto up to the lab this evening. Just as we were pulling out of Nagoya the driver threw the emergency brake. Apparently a passenger came running up to the train a couple of seconds after we took off and launched full speed into the side. We had to wait a few minutes while the station staff checked for dents in the door. Both passenger and train seemed okay, but they refused to let the guy on. He didn't look very happy as we cruised past. Wonder if he'll get a refund?