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30/7/2022 - Learning Physics through Coding

Starting to accelerate with our A-level Physics through coding course. I got somewhat bogged down but we're on target to complete by mid-Sept. Nathan is looking at including an exercise introducing Fourier Analysis. A little beyond A-level but a sound activity for keener stundets esp. if they are looking to read Physics or Engineering. Sample of Chapter 2 - adding drag to a freefall program - missing images of program running.. sample



19/6/2022 - Coding Conversations

A couple of interesting conversations last week on the merits of learning physics through coding. One was with a chap who took an earier version of my 'Python Coding for Physicists' enrichment course whilst studying A-levels. Now a post-doc astrophysicist he is still a heavy user of python and was kindly enthusiastic about the merits of introducing this pre-university

Later I attended a meeting with the Head of a large university physics department which went in a similar vein.

Myself and my eldest are developing a carefully documented course to roll out as a 1-2 term enichment course for A-level students.

Shown is Nathan's simulation of the evolution of a many-body gravitational system with a large central mass.

Likely to add some non-animated problems as well, such as superposition of waves and Fourier transforms. I think we're onto a winner here.

... nuff of this, back to writing Infrasound Analyser dcumentation


16/5/2022 - ᚼ Hagal (Hail) Rune in Blue Spinel

The first cut of a new design. This is what I was originally going for with my 'Apostate' cut. The frosted facets form the Hagal rune. This is the original Scandinavian - Younger Futhark glyph with the longer vertical lines.

No retouching, colour modification nor dust spot removal. I neglected to clean all the epoxy off the girdle before shooting, this has been rectified.


24/4/2022 - Tacking with the Wind

We have moved the school science projects to a new site, schoolphysicsprojects.org, where we will continue to develop school/home science research projects with interested collaborators. Here we are about to start a significant new project in particle astrophysics whilst continuing to promote an international amateur infrasound network.

Outside of such pro bono work I have decided on a change of tack for the next year. Feeling that I now have some experience in infrasound I intend developing real-time infrasound signal processing, possibly involving the use of FPGAs for FFT analysis. I am however especially interested in machine learning systems to characteurise low frequency sound signals. Some of the more obvious applications include; medical, defence, geological, meteor, and environmental monitoring systems.


28/3/2022 - Science on Stage - Prague 2022

Exhausting but had a wonderful time. After working in isolation for many years I was amazed to see the innovation and enthusasm of over 200 displayed science education projects - all freely available to use, improve and collaborate on. Truly humbling and put my owns efforts to shame. The UK delegation had very strong primary science projects. Jasper the Spider by Jules Pottle was delightful - a children's science story book by a biologist. I have bought a copy to read to my sons - they may be 14/17/19 but they're bloody well sitting on the bed to listen to it.

The stands of the Ukrainian delegates were set up, with blue and yellow flags and written summaries - though at least one lady had made it to Prague.

Then came the final awards ceremony. Given the quality of the other participants I was extremely confident of not having to stand up - I'm not good at that sort of thing. However .. the Czech Society of Physics awarded us a medal! I was very embarrassed, humbled and unusually tongue-tied. Wish Nathan and Saul could have come.

I'm hoping that this small publicity will encourage others to take on these projects - esp. the Infrasound monitor which has potential for students to undertake and publish original science and to form national and international networks.

science on stage, Prague
science on stage, Prague

Next to me is another UK award winner, Emma Crisell. Her primary school project on Food for the 21st Century - Making a Difference is absolutely wonderful combining gardening, ecology, hydroponics, soil science and food waste. I was really struck by her demonstration of soil loss between planted and bare soil.


6/3/2022 - Displaying Projects at European Science Teaching Festival

War permitting, I will be displaying the Infrasound and Aurora Monitoring Projects at the 2022 'Science on Stage Festival' SONS_2022 in Prague at the end of this month as part of the delegation kindly picked by the UK's ASE.

science on stage, Prague


6/2/2022 - One for my Semitic Chums

video works best in HD btw

A quick and not very good impression of my latest. A Star of David cut in the rather rare Lithium Niobate- this may well be the only one presently available worldwide :-). Rather pleased, the video does not do it justice - in sunlight this material explodes into a riot of colour.

Star of David - Gemstone - Lithium Niobate

Not easy to do, getting the frosting this even is tricky whilst the Niobate was an absolute sod to polish. I nearly gave up - unfortunately giving up is something I find difficult - this is a characteur flaw. Probably took about 40 hours all told. I'm afraid this is likely to be rather expensive if I do sell it, my better half is coverting though am open to offers.

10.76mm wide x 5.76 deep, 8.30 ct.


30/1/2022 - Fortran vs Python

One of my sons has been coding a prime number generator using the ancient Sieve of Eratosthenes algorithm in python. This and conversations about programming languages led me to a speed-test of this numerically intensive task in python vs. Fortran. Specifically python3.9+numpy, gfortran11, nVidia's nvFortran, and Intel Fortran.

A program was developed first in Fortran, then translated to python attempting to maintain the same data-types and loop methodology,- download. The timings exclude disc writes of results to focus exclusively on the computation time. No significant attempt was made to optimise the algorithm.

Code was run on a Linux-64 system with a quad core i5 processor at 3.4 GHz with 8Gb memory. Timings shown are seconds to determine the approx 50 million primes in the range 2 --> 109.


Optimisation gFortran-11 nvFortran-21.7 Ifort-2021.5
-O0 13.5s 14.8s 15.2s
-O1 12.0s 13.4s 14.7s
-O2 11.9s 12.0s 12.0s
-O3 11.8s 12.0s 12.0s

python3.9 + numpy
not pre-compiled 509s
pre-compiled 510s

Timings are the average of 3 runs.

I may try and see if GPU offloading with nvfortran and OpenAcc has any effect.

For a sensible considered piece see Dan Elton's Why physicists still use Fortran.


17/1/2022 - Tonga Volcanic Eruption

Nathan, my brainy eldest has performed a detailed analysis of the Infrasound signals which we believe originated at Tonga. His report may be be seen (here)

Tonga Eruption - Infrasound


15/1/2022 - Tonga Volcanic Eruption - possible Infrasound Detection

We have spotted an unusually large, peculiar Infrasound pulse ~19:45 - 20:45 UTC which may be the subsea volcanic eruption near Tonga today. Still processing but given the approx 13 hour travel times this appears to correlate. Remarkable - see Infrasound project page.

Infrasound pulse detected by two different sensor rigs corresponding to ~13hr travel time Tonga to UK.

Tonga Eruption - Infrasound
Tonga Eruption


3/1/2022 - Fun in LaTeX

Aside from decorating and enjoying time wi t'family I have been working on our 'Learning physics through Coding' course. For each program we intend having background notes and additional exercises for the keener souls. Rather than simply hammering together a host of mismatched pictures found elesewhere we have been cooking them up in LaTeX tikzpicture package- which is nice though time-consuming.

I am trying distill some 25+ years experience in teaching A-level physics into this course.
Physics of FreeFall
As an example the start of the freefall and fluid drag background notes may be of interest (link)