university of surrey

Physics professors

This is Professor Jim Al-Khalili introducing world-renowned physicist Professor Sir Roger Penrose, guest speaker at the inaugural Lewis Elton Lecture at the University of Surrey on the 16 February 2012.

Profs Jim Al-Khalili and Sir Roger Penrose

A Penrose space-time diagram on the overhead projector during the lecture


According to currently standard cosmology, the universe started with a Big Bang, immediately followed by a fleeting moment of exponential expansion, called “inflation”. Following this it settled down to a more sedate expansion, but due to what is called “dark energy," it is currently commencing a second period of exponential expansion that is expected to continue indefinitely. In this talk I describe an alternative idea, which argues that this picture provides merely one aeon of a continual succession of such aeons. The Universe never collapses in this model, but the remote future of each aeon becomes, when infinitely scaled down, the big bang of the next. Collisions between supermassive black holes in the aeon previous to ours would, according to my model, provide disturbances that should be just about observable in the cosmic microwave background of our own aeon. In this talk I shall describe evidence indicating that these disturbances may actually be present, and possibly providing us with some hint of what the aeon prior to ours may actually have been like. The talk will be largely free of equations, depending mostly on pictures, but a brief summary of the equations needed for the theory will be provided at the end.

Video: Maneki Neko / Beckoning cat

Someone at work has put a little japanese golden beckoning cat statue in the window of their office. So I made a little video with an iPhone 3GS and the iSupr8  app.

The Maneki Neko (招き猫, literally "Beckoning Cat"; also known as Welcoming Cat, Lucky Cat, Cat Swipe, Money cat, or Fortune Cat; sometimes incorrectly labeled Chinese Lucky Cat) is a common Japanese sculpture, often made of ceramic, which is believed to bring good luck to the owner.

The sculpture depicts a cat (traditionally a calico Japanese Bobtail) beckoning with an upright paw, and is usually displayed—many times at the entrance—in shops, restaurants, pachinko parlors, and other businesses. Some of the sculptures are electric or battery-powered and have a slow-moving paw beckoning. In the design of the sculptures, a raised left paw supposedly attracts money, while a raised right paw protects it.


Sir David Attenborough interviewed by Professor Jim Al-Khalili

Jim Al-Khalili is a Professor of Physics and the Professor of Public Engagement in Science at theUniversity of Surrey. Jim has been a very busy chap. As well as making some excellent programmes about science for the BBC, he has hosted two public interviews at the University this year as part of his “Jim meets...” series, the most recent being with Sir David Attenborough on 27 October.

I was lucky enough to be in the third row of the audience and thoroughly enjoyed listening to the great Sir David - a national treasure for sure. I took a few photos on the night and Jim used this one on his blog, so I thought I’d better link to it.

Campus life: Jim meets Sir David Attenborough


Campus Life photo set added


new page  added to my website with an (ongoing) set of photographs taken at the University of Surrey . I started working here in April and have begun taking pictures around the campus as I go about my business.

As my ‘proper’ camera is usually parked in my bag at my desk, a lot of these are taken with my iPhone. I am currently beguiled by the Hipstamatic app. Its retro-analogue-ness adds some interest to the otherwise often lacklustre iPhone camera.

Campus life: chemical sciences
Campus life: walkways
Campus life: starbucks

I’m posting nearly everything I take at Surrey to this set and there are already 60 images uploaded. If the page starts to creak under the strain, I might limit the number to say the 20 most recent taken, in which case all the rest will always be on

my flicker page for the set