Recently I’ve been fighting off depression and it’s made me take stock of what I do quite a lot. Sometimes it’s necessary for me to stop what I’m doing and often it’s because I’ve looked at what I’m doing and become a bit confused. When ever I do this I end up looking at what I’m doing and asking “How is this me?”. It seems like a silly question sometimes, but life is consistantly changing, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse, so it’s necessary now and again to stop and define what things really mean.
Who am I? I think it’s safe to sat that what you do and how you act defines you, so I shall pick a few things on what I do and how I act to try and define myself.
How is this me? I’ve always felt that everything has a reason that can be understood. When told that the universe has been created I always ponder if this was true, how was it created? What where it’s initial ingredients? How can you set off a system with a few simple rules to create such a complex system? What are these rules and can they be replicated. I’ve always felt that this is part of me, and the more I understand of how the world we live in works, the more I see that it’s important to find a place in it.
I always want to understand why something has happened, how something has gone wrong. These in some ways drive me to do things. As I’ve struggled recently with the depression I feel that I’ve been losing this drive a bit and become too accepting of facts and not questioning things enough. This is me.
Linux and OSS
How is this me? While the idea of financial gain is nice, it somehow seems unnerving. In the land of software, it sometimes seems as if it has got to a point of being all about financial gain, and not what can be done.
Linux and OSS are not just about freedom, they are about being able to push what you can do and do it faster, more intelligently to save effort. A lot of proprietry software seems to think that the software is the important factor, but it’s what the user can do with it that’s more important. If a piece of software can’t do something I need to do, then why shouldn’t I be able to add that functionality? If I needed that functionality chances are someone else will do someday to, so I can give that back to the people who originally made the software. While this doesn’t make me monetarily better off, somewhere it will make someones life easier. This is a net saving in frustration and seems to be worth far more than a few pounds extra at the end of the month.
Linux is also about a community, and more of life should be about this. I have found that the UK Ubuntu community is made up of some of the nice, most helpful people I’ve talked too. Some of whome I have started to regard as friends, and hope to make that so once Uni has finished by taking part more and giving more back to those who have given me so much. Much of the philosophy of this I try and take forward to other parts of my life, not just software.
How is this me? It’s one of the things that makes me stop and look at the world. Sometimes days can get so busy with repetitive, thoughtless tasks that I don’t stop, look or think. When I’m out with a camera I’m always looking, at the way the grass bends with the wind, the way the sun shines across the waves in the bay, the orange glow of the sun rising behind Port Talbot. Small things that seem to be more interesting when you think about what they are, how they happen and what it all really means. Somehow being behind a camera really makes me look enough to appreciate these things the way they should be.
Friends, past and present
Life is incredibly short on cosmological timescales. People come and go, but everyone you meet leaves a mark on you somehow. People I used to be close to have slowly moved away, some people I haven’t seen in a long time. Some friendships are worth more to me than others, but all are individually valuable. These people in a way have formed who am I, what I believe is rightor wrong and what I feel is important in the world. In many ways, bits of everyone I have met are me.
My future wife
In many ways she has shaped the current me more than a lot of other factors, and that isn’t a bad thing. I have known people I would give up a lot to help, but she is the one person I would give up everything for. She is the reason I look forward to a settled married life. There’s no need for piles of money in that future, just enough to get by and her by my side. In a way she is the little piece of the world I have been looking for, and feel like I’ve almost found somewhere I want to be.
There are many other things that are me, but these few I currently feel are the most prominant. So now, people of the interweb, I challenge you to find out just who are you?
One of my modules has recently involved writing a set of monte carlo models. I’d heard of these mystical things before, but never implimented one myself (or understood the statistics behind them). I’ve become fairly interested in how these things work now, but one thing I didn’t understand was how the number of random numbers you use affected the final result. This seemed like a fairly easy thing to calclate and graph, so I bodged som outputs into my code, wrote a short python script to do a few hundred runs and see what came out the other end.
What came out, I really wasn’t expecting. I assumed the uncertainty (or variance) would decrease as an exponential curve as you incresed the iterations, what really occurs can be seen in the graph below.
That horrible wiggly bit at the beggining was completley unexpected. I am now wondering if it’s a sign that my data hasn’t been thermalized properly.
Any one out there with any experience of this want to comment?
(Hopefully people on the Ubuntu planet will excuse this slightly off topic wander…)
This is my final term in University (hooray!) so that means final year project time. Being worth a lot of marks, I’m quite excited to say that the work I’m doing will be feeding into the KATRIN experiment. Why is this exciting? Well, it’s fundamental physics which will help shape our view of how the universe formed, and ultimatley may lead to technological advances in future years.
So what is KATRIN? The Karlsruhe Tritium Neutrino experiment will hopefully find the mass of the neutrinos. Neutrinos are tiny, uncharged subatomic particles, which until recently where believed to have no mass at all. We know that there are three types of neutrinos, those associated with electrons, those associated with muons and those associated with tauons. These three types of neutrinos are commonly called flavours and each one may have a slightly different mass. Since they have no charge, neutrinos don’t interact very much with other particles, this makes detecting neutrinos very difficult. There have been some experiments designed to detect neutrinos, such as Super-Kamiokandi in Japan, which are essentially enormous lakes of water, deep underground surrounded by light detecting sensors (photomultiplier tubes and CCD’s I’d imagine). When a neutrino interacts with one of the water molecules, a tiny flash of light is emitted and is recorded by the equipment surrounding it.
Back to KATRIN, the reason we’d like to know the mass of the neutrino is manyfold. The first reason, as normal in science, is because it’s a question that currently has no answer. The second reason is that there are countless numbers of neutrinos in the universe, the only known particle more numerous that neutrinos are probably photons (tiny packets of light), because of this, neutrinos make up a small, but possibly significant amount of the mass of the universe. If we know the mass of the various neutrino flavours then we can improve our models of how our universe came into being. The question of how the universe came into being is enormously complex to answer, and the more information we know about the particles that currently make up our universe, the better idea we get of what the universe was like a few seconds after it began.
To understand my small role in the KATRIN experiment we now need to understand how it works. What will happen in the KATRIN equipment is a gas of Tritium will be passed into the machine. Tritium decays into an isotope of Helium (Helium-3), an electron and an electron neutrino. The energies of the Helium-3 and the electron can be measured, then by using simple conservation laws we can calculate the neutrino mass. My part in this is quite small, the gas passing into the machine needs to be of a known purity. They will need to know how much other stuff is in the gas with the Tritium. This can be done using a technique known as Raman Spectroscopy.
In Raman Spectroscopy, you fire a laser at a sample (be it a gas, liquid or solid) and the individual photons that make up the light collide with the atoms in the sample. Most of these atoms bounce off with the same energy they started with from the laser, but a small fraction bounce off with a smaller energy. Using some filters and a spectrometer we can measure these energies and each different substance will have a different spectrum or “fingerprint” if you like.
Before we can find the spectrums fingerprint, the spectrometer has to be calibrated to remove all the patterns and noise from the various components inside it. That is my job. A small part of an incredibly large, complex and amazing experiment.
More will come when I figure out how to do this.
Well, lets look at the targets:
- Be up everyday by 8am – Fail Got up at 9, which is better anyway
- Go for a walk every day – Pass
- Regain my work ethic and concentration by sitting at my desk and working for at least half an hour before a break – Fail, still in the habit of 6 lines and stare at the screen for 45 minutes
- Take a decent photograph every day next week (Mon -> Sun) -Fail, got a picture but not very good, see below.
We shall try this again today, which has certainly started better anyway!
Over the past couple of months I’ve found myself becoming sluggish, and very slow at completing various tasks. This all reached a peak when I found myself unable to sleep a lot of the time so just over a week ago I went to the doctors. Since then I’ve been diagnosed with depression and put on some anti-depressents to try and alleviate things a bit.
The problem I have now is that I have lost my work ethic because of the past few months of lethargicness. I’ve now also found it relativley difficult to actually get out of bed in the mornings. In order to try and rectify this I am giving myself a couple of challenges.
- Be up everyday by 8am
- Go for a walk every day
- Regain my work ethic and concentration by sitting at my desk and working for at least half an hour before a break
- Take a decent photograph every day next week (Mon -> Sun)
As far as I’m concerned, 1 and 3 will be the most difficult, however they’re the most important in that list as it stands. Each day I’ll try and post a progress report, and my photo of the day.
So, the third epic astrophotography adventure was this evening. The first night, I had lots of frames of black, no stars at all. The second night was done by means of cheating, and I haven’t yet sorted the photos…. the third night and……
But more exciting than the moon (taken with a blue filter in case you where wondering…)
Yup, Jupiter and 3 moons. A bit out of focus, but you can just about see them. A bit more practice and I might get a nice shot!!!
All of these images where converted out of RAW using FOSS. I’ll blog a bit more about the set up on a later date.
A little test, http://swan.ac.uk/ doesn’t work for me but http://www.swan.ac.uk/ does. The same occurs with http://swansea.ac.uk/ and http://www.swansea.ac.uk/ . Me thinks someone’s not set them up fully……