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.

The Race into Space (1971 collectors cards)

The Race into Space

The complete 1971 set of 'the Race into Space' collectors cards in the original album

My mum was clearing out her attic recently so I got to trawl through a load of stuff I’ve kept from childhood. I was delighted to come across this album, and to find that all the collectors cards were still in situ - over 40 years later. I still remember making my mum buy loads of Brooke Bond PG Tips tea  so I could collect what to the 8 year old me were mesmerising images of our not too distant future…

This was so very early on in the era of space exploration. Neil Armstrong had only walked on the moon two years before, and the space shuttle was still in the earliest stages of planning. The page below shows what was envisioned then. Notice that the booster for the orbiter shuttle was itself a piloted craft which, having launched the orbiter, would have flown home. Very different to what finally flew, but somewhat reminiscent of the 747 that transported the retired shuttle recently, for example.

The Race into Space
Space Shuttle Discovery DC Fly-Over (201204170006HQ)

Space Shuttle Discovery DC Fly-Over, photograph courtesy of Nasa

But the pages that filled me with the most wonder were the confident predictions about moon bases and manned flights to Mars. Sadly, 40 years later, these scenarios remain as speculative as they were in 1971.

The Race into Space

Moon Base and Lunar Shuttle

You can read more about the many different kinds of Brooke Bond picture cards here. Below is a selection of pages from the Race into Space, and you can see more here, if you feel like a retro-rocket ride back to the dawn of human spaceflight.

London black cab in a collision on the A3 [photo]

On my way to work this morning I saw this accident involving a London black cab and a Transit van near Coombe Lane on the A3  in Kingston. Nobody seemed hurt but the cab was pretty spectacularly totalled. The police had shut two lanes causing a massive tailback on the London-bound carriageway of the A3.

So quite early in the day I had my entry for my daily photo journal in the bag.

London black cab in a collision on the A3

Reciprocal linking: 2 sites featuring me (a country torn distant son)

This week I came across a couple of websites featuring my work, Analog: Radio: Transmissionand Flying HighThe first is a site called Analog: Radio: Transmission. The aim of this blog is to draw attention to the relentless technological advancement of 21st Century civilisation. The author states that  the overriding theme “is to show our unyielding tendency towards progress, no matter what the cost. Like a child obsessed with what’s behind the only door that is locked in the creepy house or an adults temptation to press the ‘big red button’, we seem to just have to tinker and look to see what might happen.”

My video ‘Button’ has been used in this entry, and I think it is entirely appropriate and illustrates the theme of the site well.

Kudos toDr Analog.

The second site is a Hungarian website called Flying High (or possibly flying is good). In a section on seaplanes, they’ve featured a video I made of a seaplane flight over San Francisco. Also featured is one of my old paintings.

To my shame, I’ve had to use Google Translate to decipher what is being said, although I know enough to know that it’s a very poor translation. However, I’m going to leave it uncorrected at the end of this post, because, well, I’m lazy, and it has the feeling of certain random, automatic poetic quality that is quite Hungarian in its own way, and emulates the original.

flotsam and jetsam

Flotsam and jetsam


Divided our country into the distance, the son of painter and designer living in London Kiss élménygyűjtéshez Nicholas travels. Globe-trotting, two years ago, one inevitably beleült float planes, even the Golden Gate Bridge and is no longer in operation Alcatraz prison island city of San Francisco. The good old DHC-2 Beaver is still wandering the city center, the in-flight music and  sometimes a bit annoying is returned to the well-off and off when working on engines rumbling voice.

The video should start after a full screen zoom.

Since 1947 the company's operating base in Sausalito since 1994 in the six-way transport of two DeHavilland Canada, that the Beaver is on duty.The Netra also enroll early, as the domain of their seaplane in San Francisco Seaplane Tours and proclaim themselves as such even if they have found the Google search engine. The sightseeing service on the two prices can be found. Shorter 25-minute tour of $160 per person, a 10 minute tour is $50 more expensive. Would be better off if you just add the official video of Nicholas video who is interested in, compare them to other video can be found under the company reported a link under Tour info.

Miklos Kiss goodbye to a picture, find out more about the suggested link for an interview and of course his own side, where even more pictures waiting for visitors.

Finally, plus service announcements, as I write this, we are reluctant public video seaplane sightseeing trips or any other matter not only of our country torn distant son.


Why my Giant Sequoias video is getting a lot of hits

I noticed recently that the video I made of the Giant Sequoia trees at Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park was getting way more hits (like thousands more) than any of the other videos I have on YouTube. Thanks to the new Insight tools YouTube provide, I was able to figure out why quite easily.

The insight tools are now accessible underneath each video, and provide an easy way to check stats about viewers. I was pleased to discover that the video had been embedded on the National Park Reservations and Yosemite Blog sites. As Yosemite is such a hugely popular destination, these websites (particularly the former) must be visited by many folk, and as a consequence, my video is getting a lot of additional hits.

Yosemite is a beautiful and awesome place and it was one of my life’s ambitions to go visit.  Happily, I got to spend a few days there in June 2009 on a road trip around California, and it was more wonderful than I could have ever imagined.

Some photos I took in Yosemite

And here’s a fantastic old film by the National Park Service: