Research · Sport

Week 19: Back in the rhythm of things

For the first time since the end of the Michaelmas term, things have finally started to settle down into a meaningful rhythm again. There are no more visits from home on the near horizon, nor are there any more multi-day trips planned. It’s time to get seriously stuck into some project work.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t interesting things happening beyond that though. On Monday evening, I went to King’s Parade to join the Cambridge protests against the Muslim ban in the US. I went partly to show solidarity but also partly to observe and listen to the kinds of people who would also show up. Some of the chants were easy to get behind, others seemed somewhat undignified. I was particularly annoyed at some participant’s abuse of an anti-Trump conservative who took the the microphone; surely path towards change is to bring on as many diveres voices as possible?

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Later evening, I went to the Gates Movie Night, hosted in St John’s College. We saw Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, the second time I’ve seen the film. I wasn’t disappointed though, in fact, it was better on the second viewing as some of the set up and plot points made a little more sense. More so than the film, I was amazed by the tiered retractable seating at St John’s. I did manage to eat through enough popcorn to make me slightly sick on the late night ride home.

My work progressed well across the week. Previously I’d been troubled by an inconsistency between my results and a previously published work, so I spent the last week away from it taking notes on various other papers. This week, however I returned to it. My results weren’t making sense, so I went through and double checked the calculations, and then went through the lines of code step by step. I couldn’t see anything wrong, so I wrote a separate program to plot what I was seeing and what I expected side by side. After much fiddling trying to get my units to match up, until I finally reached upon the major problem: there was a square root sign missing from my code. That meant that half of the results were invalid, and worse still, some of the results I’d previously thought correct were now invalid too. I looked up how to resubmit the simulations onto servers here in Cambridge, and stayed in the office until midnight on Friday to ensure that all of my simulations started running again.

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There was some other highlights of the week too. On Wednesday through Friday, we had the next few topics in the Cavendish Graduate Seminar series, focusing on neutrino physics and high energy QCD (separately). The lectures are compulsory for high energy physics 1st year PhD students, but I went along willingly. Curiously enough, some of the research discussed in the group started to make a lot more sense after the seminars!

On Thursday evening, I went out with the people from my office to a formal dinner at Pembroke College. It was organised through Matthew, who had been insisting on it since the group dinner at Christ’s College before Christmas. There were five of us; Herschel, Ben B and Giovanna plus Matthew and myself (confusingly there are four ‘Ben’s in our research group, including both of my supervisors). Despite the famed reputation of Pembroke food, our main course consisted of a couscous dish, which I found an odd choice for a formal dinner. It is a food I normally associate more with camping than fine dining. But it went down just fine as did the cheese at the end. After dinner we retired to the graduate parlour at Pembroke for board games and poetry recitals.

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Soon enough, the weekend came around. All week, I had been eager to get back out on my bike, so I decided to ride to Waterbeach, a small town to the north of Cambridge. But to get there, I went via Fenstanton, making a 50 km round trip. The first part of the ride was up the main road, and rather boring. But then I turned onto a narrow country lane, which was fantastic. There was very little traffic and great scenes across the East Anglican farmland. I especially liked the quaint farming village of Conington; it came across as quintessentially English. Eventually, I reached the town of Fen Drayton, and here my route suggested I turn left down a road which read “no through road”. Suspicious, I decided to investigate. The road turned to gravel, and had many, many potholes, but there was no traffic and beautiful views. I later discovered that this was a bird sanctuary, which seemed to make some sense. I continued on, found a main road again, but my route took me around a locked gate onto essentially a mud track into the town of Swavesey. I stopped at a village market in Over for a sausage for lunch, and to watch a little of the local under 10’s football match. My ride home was rough, I rode down what was essentially a farm track, where the road had a crack every couple of meters, so I was pretty shaken by the time I reached Waterbeach for my train home.

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My final engagements for the week were on Sunday. We had an MCR football game against Cambridge Assessment at Queen’s College, but since there was no concurrent JCR game, we had an overabundance of players. Hence I only got to play for one half; the first half. As keeper, I let in a goal from a corner, and I really should have gotten to it better. We managed to equalise before half time, but I left before the game was over to go to brunch, seeing as I now had the time free.

I met Paul at Pembroke College (he is from Homerton), but nobody else was there. We waited to see if anyone else was coming (we later found out there was) but decided there wasn’t and agreed to go and meet Annalise at Trinity College for her brunch there. We met her out the front of the Trinity College Great Gate, and some of her other Trinity friends, before heading inside to collect food and eat under the watchful eye of King Henry VIII. The highlight was the waffles, they tasted so good.

I had to excuse myself early, I had a game of football to referee at Gonville and Caius College. Fortunately for me, the Caius sports grounds are a 2 minute walk out of my front door. It was a cup game between Caius and Fitzwilliam, and a very exciting game to referee. I gave a penalty to Caius midway through the first half because a player was unfairly holding an opponent in the box after a free kick, so Caius went up 1-0. The play was rough for most of the first half, which culminated in one of the Caius players having to be taken off after injuring his knee and it was swelling badly. He ended up getting a taxi to the hospital, and I never found out what else happened to him. He was looked after by a group of girls watching on the sidelines, which resulted in some rather chauvinistic remarks from his team-mates. Fitzwilliam later equalised, sending the game into extra time. It wasn’t until a few minutes to go before Fitz scored a winner, but the game was tense to the last moment. Caius had a free kick with the last seconds of the game, and would have scored but for an excellent save by the Fitz keeper to keep it from going to penalties.

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