Research · Sport · Teaching · Weekends

Week 7: Guy Fawkes Night

As far as PhD work goes, I spent most of the week reading literature on the proof of the existence of dark matter. This may seem trivial, but it is very important to probe the question of why we haven’t observed it in a particle form. There have been dozens of experiments to detect dark matter that have all returned negative results (or their positive ones are highly disputed), so one needs to go back to the assumptions on why we invoke dark matter in the first place. There was also a paper released last week that was brought to my attention about so-called fuzzy dark matter. Here, the dark matter is rather light, but also has an extremely long wavelength, on the order of the size of galaxies (in physics we often talk about particle-wave duality, here is an example). It was a rather interesting read, and I may go into more depth in future.

In my teaching, the students are doing rotations. So a third of the class is doing any one experiment at any one time, which means I take the same experiment three times over. It can get a little tedious after a while, but it means I know the experiment well and can answer questions and mark work very efficiently.

I took a break from my regular evening schedule this week. Instead of football training as is usually the case on Tuesdays, I went to the Gates Internal Symposium, a presentation of research in the Scholars’ Room. There were four presentations, both in review of work completed on in preparation for work to be undertaken. The fields ranged from biology through to sociology, which is one of the things I really like about being part of the Gates community: everybody is doing so many exciting and interesting things, or have intriguing backgrounds and passions. It encourages me to think about topics I wouldn’t otherwise have thought about.

The more unique part of my week was again my weekend. Saturday was  relaxing at first, but I went out to Halfords and then Tesco. I purchased more small items that one normally has around, but need to be bought new when living somewhere new. In this case, it was a bucket, some degreaser, some sponges and some car-wash liquid. It was my intention to clean my bicycle, but time got away from me as I had plans for the evening.

It was, of course, the 5th of November. To non-British people, this may seem like an arbitrary date (unless one has seen the film V for Vendetta). But in Britain, it is celebrated as Guy Fawkes Night, or Bonfire Night. There were going to be fireworks on Midsummer Common, but before that I met up with some other Gates scholars at Cocum, a South Indian restaurant in North Cambridge. I ordered a garlic chicken, with some naan bread, which was rather similar to butter chicken back home. After, we made our way across Jesus Green to Midsummer Common. A couple of us didn’t have bikes, so I wheeled slowly with them. Crowds were filing towards the green. When we got to Victoria Avenue, the road before Midsummer Common, the crowds were thick enough, so everyone in our group who had bikes, except me, chained them up. Paranoid about theft, I kept mine with me, and it served as a seat as the fireworks began shortly after everyone had locked up.

The fireworks lasted several minutes, and were beautiful as fireworks always are. Once they finished, we moved onto the common, against a flow of people moving away from it, because there were bonfires lighting up on the far side of the common. I brought my bike with me through the crowd. We bumped into another group of Gates scholars, and caught up and socialised ever moving closer towards the fires. To the external observer, celebrating a plot to blow up parliament with (explosive) fireworks and fire seems odd, as if he were a hero. The true meaning was opaque to me and a number of non-Brit Gates scholars I talked to; that is, burning of the effigies of hated figures like Guy Fawkes and, in parts of history, Catholics. Now it’s just a bonfire and fireworks night.

After the bonfire, a large group of scholars went out to socialise. As a group, we went to the Maypole and the Brew House, but left both since they were rather packed. In the end, I went with a group of scholars to the Trinity College bar, where we sat around on the couches and socialised through to late. The bar was relaxed, and gave out free sandwiches towards the end of the night. When the bar was closing, a couple of people went out clubbing, but I headed home for bed.

On Sunday, I spent the morning cleaning my bike and Skyping home. It was a clear day outside, which was promising good fortune for the football game that afternoon. But it was not to be. By the time I rode out to the Castle School in North Cambridge, the host of the game, the weather had turned foul and was cold, windy and most of all, raining. The game was against St Edmund’s College, another of the graduate-only colleges (but also admits mature-age undergraduates). We only had a limited warm up; none of us really wanted to be outside, and got started on the tiny pitches at the Castle School. For much of the first half, the game was rather even; most of it was fought in the midfield and the ball didn’t really come my way or go forward. At half time, we were tied 0-0. Come the second half, St Edmund’s scored two goals against the run of play, both from dangerous runs and outnumbering our defence at close range. But for much of the rest of the game, we were on the attack, but only managed 1 goal to end up with a 1-2 loss.

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