Issue Two: Summer 2003 Welcome to the second (summer) issue of the Departmental Newsletter which now has a name. Barrie Jones suggested that we name it after a former OU Physics Student magazine 'Focus' and so, reviving a tradition, and since it gives us a 'focus' for departmental news and information, the name seems most appropriate. So without further ado into 'Focus' where the results of several internal meetings are reviewed. Special articles include a very informative review of their research by David Broadhurst and Sven Braeutigam and tales from South Africa by Ben Eves. Next issue will appear towards Xmas so enjoy the long summer nights as they get shorter ...... Nigel Mason Head of Department’s column Summer is one of those periods that highlight the special nature of the Open University Physics and Astronomy Department. There are, of course, all the usual pleasures and responsibilities of holidays and conferences, but just when academics elsewhere are finishing their exam boards and freeing themselves from student focussed work, at least until the A-level results are published, OU academics are looking forward to summer-time Residential Schools and the chance to find out at first hand how the students are getting on with the courses. Residential Schools also provide a greatly valued opportunity to meet again with AL colleagues, new and old, and to learn what has been happening in the host universities over the past twelve months. This year those summer meetings will be especially valuable. Members of staff are always seeking ways of improving the courses and the student experience, but this year has seen more emphasis than ever on increasing the proportion of students who, having registered on a course, remain active students of that course right up to the end - including the final exam. The comments that students make at Residential Schools, and the collective wisdom that emerges in July and August from conversations with both staff and students, can have a powerful effect on course improvements that only become apparent a year or so later. Although student demand for Physics and Astronomy courses is as strong as ever, the sad fact is that retention on some of our courses has been slowly declining. This is widely thought to be an almost inevitable consequence of the pace and intensity of modern life. OU students, most of whom have full-time jobs as well as family and other commitments, are increasingly time-poor, even though they may be knowledge-hungry. For them, striking the right balance between home, family, work, leisure and OU study is a difficult challenge. It is therefore particularly important that we should do all we can to make clear to students both the benefits and the costs of OU study. I’m thinking here not of the money cost - the OU has always been a bargain in those terms - but rather the cost in terms of time and effort. Already this year the staff of the Physics and Astronomy Department have been modifying courses and publicity materials to smooth still further the path that leads from registration to examination, and to make even clearer the level of commitment our courses demand. Students are also being provided, for the first time in many cases, with information about the adverse financial consequences for the Department when they fail to sit their exams. However, there is always scope for further improvement and it is during the summer, when contact between staff and students is easiest, that new ideas are most likely to be generated and new initiatives spawned. Stuart Freake, in his role as Director of Teaching has already been involved in a number of meetings about the improvement of retention, and will doubtless be involved in many more before the year is out. Stuart is plentifully supplied with statistics about recruitment and dropout, but like all of us he is well aware that there are ‘lies, damn lies and statistics’. However, he is also aware that in addition to ‘stats’ and ‘untruths’ there are ‘things I heard at Residential School’, and that the last of these can, when properly considered, be the most valuable of all in ensuring that our policies and practices are best suited to the needs of our students. A happy, enjoyable and successful summer to you all. Robert Lambourne Head of Department 30th June 2003 Message from Director of Research TIMES of CHANGE! As you are aware the last few months have seen a major review of research within the university and the continued development of a research strategy. The review and unfolding strategy is aimed at ensuring that the Open University will be competitive in the future RAE exercise. This requires some fundamental revision of the way in which we conduct research and how it is supported at Departmental, Faculty and University level. Changes not all will find easy nor agree with. Personally I welcome the opportunity to embrace change believing that the OU has been slow to recognize the need for change and the harsher more competitive nature of Higher Education and research in the UK. Other Universities began their reviews and began to make plans for the next RAE over a year ago, swiftly digesting the consequences of their 2001 RAE scores and taking action to invest in their developing areas and deciding how they would fit into the new emerging hierarchy of UK HE Research. The OU has been slow to tackle issues and determine its future course of action. The last six months have consequently seen a lot of talk and paper flying around but to my point of view not yet enough action and there are I am afraid too many areas where the new realities have to be recognized. However these critics should not be laid at Physics and Astronomy which at its recent staff meeting demonstrated that it was ready to play a full role in the necessary transformations. That the department should unanimously agree a new research strategy (see below) so quickly is testimony to the solidarity and camaraderie of the Department. The new strategy calls for all staff judged to be research active to submit once a year a research plan which will benchmark their plans and allow timetabling to be arranged so as to allow staff to fulfil those aims (this follows a document circulated some years ago by Andy Norton while DOR). Thus in the next session it will be possible to request time for the preparation (and conduct) of major research programmes. For the RAE (and more urgently for the likely internal audit) it will be necessary to collate more information on research grants received, papers published and conference talks given, all of which should be reported in this Newsletter. However we will also need to record our failures (e.g. grants applied for and not gained) thus in future the DOR is asked to keep copies of ALL grant applications and I thank those of you who have already passed copies of grants received and applications made to Yvonne. If you have not done so could I ask you to do so asap. Next year we will face our first Department budget cut as the Faculty seeks to rearrange our finances. However some of these cuts are more reorganisational for example with parts of the seminar programme now being arranged through the ‘Interdisciplinary Centre of Astrobiology’ and the ‘Centre for Atomic and Molecular Engineering’ which will have their own budgets. Perhaps the most direct loss will be in grants to attend meetings etc. In the past these have been rather generous (at least in relation to UCL where the Department gave staff no support!). There are several schemes for supporting both students and staff at conferences and for arranging bilateral scientific exchanges, the latter bringing income that may be counted towards RAE. Thus I would urge staff to explore alternative funding mechanisms to support conference travel and research collaborations, for example the Royal Society supports conference attendance; the Institute of Physics and Royal Society of Chemistry student travel. Likewise there are a myriad of schemes for linking researchers in different countries for single or multiple visits. Having reviewed OU research applications (and support) it is obvious we are not as active as some other places in seeking such small grants. Therefore I will compile a list of possible sources of collaboration funding. However I would remind physicists that the EPSRC supports such visits and even conferences with small grants often being decided in the office if two referees are supportive (one of which you nominate). My experience is that referees are nearly always supportive of small grants (even if they are for multiple trips and the sums are a few thousand!). Likewise the British Council is an often neglected source of funding providing grants for multiple visits over one or two years. To many this may sound like I am telling you how to ‘suck eggs’ but it is clear from the records that the OU in general is not good at applying for small grants, tending to put its faith in large (and more completive) grants and relying on internal funds for ‘small scale’ support. Internal funds will become more restrictive over the next few years and certainly more targeted to areas with a strategic goal, perhaps applying formulae that are active elsewhere where the university only provides matching funding for staff/students who gain support externally. This said as DOR I will still call for requests for support for the forthcoming year to be drawn from the Departmental grant. Finally amidst these events we have much to celebrate! We have had new grant success with Sean being awarded a major PPARC grant and I have been fortunate to gain European funding that will see the OU the co-ordinator of 4 major research programmes bringing staff and a large number of visitors to the Department. Jonathan Underwood has arrived as a new lecturer and already is demonstrating that he will be an excellent addition to our research and teaching. We have recruited four high quality PhD students with a fifth to be appointed. Three postdoctoral students are arriving to add to the research vitality of the Department. And…. We can look forward to hosting QuAMP, the UK’s major conference in Quantum, Atomic, Molecular and Plasma Physics September 7 -12, 2003, with the National Astronomy Meeting (NAM) to follow next March, both of which will give the Department and OU valuable exposure! WASP, the project to search for extrasolar planets, is about to go live and we are purchasing a second camera to double our input into this exciting programme. The first of the new physics labs is about to be opened with construction of the others beginning in September when the New Centre of Atomic and Molecular Engineering (AME) will also be launched, joining the Interdisciplinary Centre for Astrobiology (ICA) as a focal point for Departmental and OU research. Thus, all in all, perhaps it hasn’t been such a bad few months after all, but there is still more to be done…. Centre of Atomic and Molecular Engineering to be known as ‘AME’ Following the meeting on June 25th at which some 30 academic staff attended it was decided that such a Centre would be established. Co-ordination of activities would be initially directed by Professor N St J Braithwaite (Materials Engineering); Professor N J Mason (Physics and Astronomy) and Professor D E G Shuker (Chemistry). These people will form the Steering Committee and will meet regularly to discuss how to develop the research activities of the Centre, facilities and co-ordination activities (including visitors and seminar programme). At a meeting of the Steering Committee on July 1st they drew up the following as an introduction to the aims, objectives and procedures for a Centre of ATOMIC AND MOLECULAR ENGINEERING (AME). Aims: To bring people together from different disciplines, with common interests and common goals, to manipulate and probe matter at the atomic and molecular level. This will include the study of: Physical and chemical processing at the nanoscale The interaction of electrical plasmas with surfaces Electron and photon induced processes at the molecular level and Physical and chemical modification of single biological molecules Actions: To achieve these aims we will: Encourage the crossing of traditional boundaries in the promotion of interdisciplinary research and training Become the focus for international collaborations in areas of Atomic and Molecular Engineering Seek to influence the development of Atomic and Molecular Engineering through both academic research and industrial application Develop our resource base through shared facilities and collaborative bids to external agencies Organise symposia and seminars to facilitate the exchange of ideas Participants: These will include staff from the Departments of Applied Mathematics, Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Materials Engineering and Physics and Astronomy. Members of the Centre will: Be actively engaged in research and communication of its results Seek to secure national and international funding Attract high quality visiting scientists, research fellows and postgraduate students Generate intellectual property Explore ways to enhance their research through collaboration with industry and business The Centre will be formally established through the creation of a Website and announcement at the national EPSRC-funded conference on Quantum, Atomic, Molecular and Plasma Physics (QuAMP) to be held at the Open University September 7-12, 2003. A Seminar programme will begin fortnightly from Tuesday September 30, 2003. Each seminar will be followed by a meeting to discuss research focus, funding opportunities, research strategy. PHYSICS AND ASTRONOMY RESEARCH STRATEGY 2003 (-8) In preparing for the last RAE, the Department developed a detailed Research Plan setting out agreed ‘Guidelines’ and ‘Actions’. That plan also included specific ‘Targets’ for an average submitted academic relating to numbers of refereed publications, external grant income over a five year period, numbers of research students and PDRAs, and numbers of visiting fellows and/or established external collaborations. The Department will need to develop a similarly detailed plan in preparation for the next research assessment - once its rules are known. The academic staff of the Department (joined by two Professors of Applied Maths) met to discuss research strategy on June 3rd at Cofferidge Close, Stony Stratford. The following points are put forward as a summary of that meeting and were discussed at the Departmental meeting on Thursday, June 12th. Henceforth these points should be adopted as the basis for a research strategy for the Department of Physics and Astronomy. 1. The Department of Physics and Astronomy believes the maintenance and development of a strong research portfolio is essential to the ability to provide high quality and up-to-date teaching in Physics and Astronomy within the Open University programme. 2. In view of the proposals of the Robert’s report on research assessment in higher education in the UK, the Department of Physics and Astronomy will seek to ensure that its staff shall be assessed at RQA level under the anticipated Physical Sciences panel. 3. Submissions for RQA should be within the sub-panel responsible for Physics (or both the physics sub-panel and Astronomy, if separate panels are established in each of those areas). 4. Physics and Astronomy based research should form the strongest strategic alliances both within and outside the Open University to maximise its RQA standing. 5. Given the requirement to submit 80% of research staff, the role of Staff tutors should be clarified with the University. The ability of staff tutors to pursue scholarship (if not active research) must however be maintained. 6. That in order to strengthen its research portfolio (and maintain the ability to fulfil current teaching strands) the Department of Physics and Astronomy will require the appointment of further academic staff. This should include the active recruitment of young researchers capable of obtaining personal research fellowships. Postgraduate and PDRA numbers must likewise be raised by attracting external funds and seeking to attract international candidates. 7. That Departmental staff will seek to further strengthen the support of research through increased applications to national and international funding bodies while also seeking to diversify the sources of funding. 8. That the Department will, in conjunction with the Faculty and the University, seek to raise the profile of its research both nationally and internationally through playing an active role in the new Interdisciplinary Centres, hosting national and international meetings (subject to adequate provision of resources) and by supporting/encouraging its staff to serve on governmental, funding and scientific bodies. 9. That in pursuit of research excellence the Department will review the allocation of teaching and administrative duties with the aim of enabling staff to increase their chances of achieving funding success and developing high quality research for inclusion in RQA. 10. That in accordance with the criteria for Institutional Assessment proposed under the Robert’s report the Department of Physics and Astronomy will: (i) (ii) (iii) (iv) Define a detailed research strategy for period 2004-7 (and beyond). Put in place/confirm its procedures for training research students and for the development of PDRAs and newly appointed lecturers. Pursue an equal opportunities programme and Demonstrate its continued dissemination of knowledge through Public Understanding of Science activities, the development of physics and astronomy teaching, and through interaction with non-HEFCE bodies including business. European Funding Success Increasingly research is being developed as part of larger researcher teams be it national or international. This style of research has long been the pattern for astronomy, space science and nuclear and particle physics but has taken longer to penetrate to us lab boys (and girls!). The advent of the EU as a major research funding partner has led to the development of new research collaborations across Europe (and increasingly with other countries) with Framework VI programme being the largest, richest and most ambitious yet. Since December 2003 bids for Framework VI funding have been actively pursued though the slow refereeing procedure has not led to any clear outcomes yet. As a prequel to Framework VI I led three consortia in a bid for funding to underpin future Framework VI programmes and I am delighted to say all three have been successful and will, with the ongoing Framework V programme EPIC (Electron and Positron Induced Chemistry), mean that the OU will be the coordinator of much of Europe’s research in electron research. Briefly the new programmes may be summarized as follows: COST Action Physics P9; Radiation damage (RADAM) Consortia to investigate radiation damage in biomolecules including DNA. The consortia involve physicists, chemists and biologists. The programme will run for three years from November 2003. ESF Network Collisions in Atom Traps (CATS) A Network that involves over a dozen of Europe’s leading cold atom groups to study the interaction of cold atoms to form molecules; the comparison of cold atoms in optical lattices with solid state phenomena and the collisions of cold targets with electrons, photons and ions. The OU research will see the restoration of the cold atom lab and the commencement of studies to form ultracold plasmas (that is superposition of cold ions and meV electrons). A three year programme to start in September. ESF Programme on Electron Induced Processing (EIPAM) A major programme to study how electrons may be used to manipulate atoms and molecules on surfaces and induced chemical processing. It will be the first time that the Scanning Tunnel microscopy community and electron physics community will work together in a common programme. This is to last 5 years starting in early 2004. All of these programmes will bring visitors and students to the OU and the new laboratories, so expect a packed seminar series! Indeed already our hosting visitors this year has led to considerable success. Professor Hyuck Cho from Korea, who visited in January, has obtained a large grant from his national research agency to collaborate with us on the RADAM project and invites my PDRAs and Students to go to Korea. Professor Dusan Skalny (visitor in February) will collaborate on EIPAM and through him we have recruited Eva Vasekova as a new PhD student. Professor Y Itikawa (visitor in June) has obtained sponsorship for an EU Japan workshop on Semiconductor technology which myself and Professor Braithwaite are co-organizing in Stockholm on July 21-22. Nigel Mason July 2003 New courses from the Physics and Astronomy Department Stuart Freake, Director of Teaching [This is an edited version of an article that appeared in the Spring 2003 edition of the Fusion newsletter] “Go away and think more radically about proposals for new courses!” That was the message from Steve Swithenby, Dean of Science when the Faculty considered proposals for new and revised courses for 2006. The reason is clear: the OU is not meeting its targets for student numbers and so the Higher Education Funding Council is likely to claw back part of the OU’s grant. To restore the grant we need to attract more students – and that means producing different types of courses that appeal to students who aren’t currently studying with the OU. Simply producing more of the same types of physics and astronomy courses won’t do the trick – they would provide more choice for students, but we would end up with fewer students per course and consequent reductions in ‘efficiency’. Even attracting additional students to physics and astronomy courses from other areas of science or from other faculties doesn’t help the OU as a whole. We need to open up ‘new markets’ for courses. Before considering how we might do that, let’s look at where we stand now with physics and astronomy at the OU. The table shows the current array of courses. Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 S103 Discovering Science S207 The Physical World SM355 Quantum Mechanics SXR103 Practising Science SXR207 Physics by Experiment SMT356 Electromagnetism S151 Maths for Scientists S282 Astronomy S357 Space, Time and Cosmology S194 Introducing Astronomy S283 Planetary Science S381 The Energetic Universe S196 Planets: an Introduction SXR208 Observing the Universe SMXR355 QM: expts, apps, sims S197 How the Universe works SMXR356 EM: expts, apps, sims SXP390 Project Course: Radiation and Matter MST121 Using Mathematics MS221 Exploring Mathematics MST207 Mathematical Methods MST322 Mathematical Methods and Fluid Mechanics The two new courses that will appear in 2004 are shown in italics. SXR208 is a 10point residential school course that will be based at an observatory in Majorca. It will be piloted for two weeks in September 2004, and in subsequent years it will be presented both in March and September. SXP390 is a 30-point course that will be required for students aiming for the Physical Science degree. Students will tackle a literature-based project, and there will be topics related to each of the Level 3 P&A courses. We will be replacing SMT356 with a new electromagnetism course in 2006 and we hope to rewrite the Quantum Mechanics course for 2007 (- we had intended the new courses to come out in 2004 and 2005, but the OU’s financial situation caused a two-year postponement). We also hope to revise the cosmology block of S357 for 2005/6. If all of this goes ahead, then in 2007 all of our physics and astronomy courses will date from 2000 or later. Also in the pipeline is an updating of S194, including a replacement for the Images of the Cosmos book, probably for 2005. In addition, MST207 is currently being revised to become MST209 in 2005, and its residential school will become a separate residential school course MSXR209, and a new applied maths / theoretical physics course MS324 Waves, Diffusion and Variational Principles will be introduced in 2005. Now this array of courses provides more than enough points for a named degree in Physical Science, or in Natural Sciences with Physics. So if we add more courses to attract additional students, then we need to be aiming at different markets, and we are probably talking about students who wouldn’t necessarily contemplate doing a degree in physics or astronomy. They may want to study one or two courses for professional development. They may want something that provides some of the physics underpinning for an area in which they have a general interest. Among suggestions that have been made for new courses are: * Applications of computing in physics/science. This would develop skills with use of computer algebra and mathematical modelling software in the context of investigating real physics problems. * 'The digital Universe' - a course at level 1 or level 2 where the computer takes the pain out of the mathematics by providing simulations, but there is a strong emphasis on the physics principles underpinning the simulations. * The science of science fiction. * History/philosophy of science/physics/astronomy - written to appeal to arts students as well as scientists. * The science of business, or the physics of business. This would teach modelling and analysis skills that are normally taught in a science context, and highlight parallels between business and science problems where a scientific approach can assist in developing a business solution. Probably at level 1. * Forensic science, or science and law. This could provide the science required to understand modern forensic techniques, and could be used for professional development of people in the legal profession. * Physics for health science. There may be a need to teach some basic physics to health service workers. This could fit in with the OU's developing links with the NHS. * Physics (or science) for archaeology. This could appeal to amateur archaeologists, English Heritage members, the audience for TV programmes related to archaeology. * Physics of sport. * Space science. A level 3 course that could discuss propulsion systems, orbits, communications, measuring techniques, etc. * Environmental science – possible areas include weather, or climate change. So far I’ve only mentioned undergraduate courses. What about the Science MSc programme? At present the module with the largest physics content is S809 Medical Imaging, which is essentially a medical physics course. There is a proposal for another medical physics module, on radiotherapy, and if these two modules were combined with the project module it could provide at attractive medical physics MSc. There is also a proposal to produce a couple of astronomy and planetary science modules; one of these would be concerned with observational astronomy and the other with life in the Universe. Advantages of augmenting the MSc programme are that it will bring in new students to the University and also will provide a route for OU graduates to continue their studies. The Science Faculty in now engaged in a strategic review of its curriculum, and this should be completed by early autumn. Decisions will then be taken about new courses for 2006. Of course, producing and presenting courses in new areas might well necessitate the discontinuation of some of our existing courses, and possibilities for decommitment will also be considered in the strategic review. So what sort of physics and astronomy courses do you think that we should be producing in the next few years? What courses would attract new students to the OU? Should we discontinue some of our existing courses? We’d welcome your views – either by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or regular mail (Dr Stuart Freake, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA). ***STOP PRESS*** This week it was decided that we should produce a 10-point Level 1 short course to capitalize on interest aroused by the arrival of Beagle 2 on Mars in December 2003. We now have to put together a course team and to decide whether the main emphasis of the course should be on astrobiology and the search for life on other planets or on launchers, interplanetary flight, experimental techniques, etc. It’s going to be a real challenge to get the course ready for the end of this year! Ongoing attempts to decode quantum field theory By David Broadhurst During the last year or so, I have had the opportunity of research trips to Boston, Paris, Vienna, Kloster Banz, and Osaka, thanks largely to the generosity of my hosts. I spent a month at Boston University, where Dirk Kreimer and I tried to make further progress on the notable all-orders summation of Feynman diagrams that we had achieved in . In the non-abelian sector of quantum chromodynamics this appears to require the development of a Galois theory for a non-unique factorization domain whose primitives (analogous to the primes among the integers) are the skeleton diagrams of quantum field theory. Such a program is so ambitious that no-one could reasonably promise a "deliverable" in the foreseeable future. Fortunately, our patience is almost as great as the challenge. Watch this space, but please don't hold your breath. Increasingly, I seem to interact with mathematicians of distinction. At the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques, near Paris, I discussed aspects of quantum field with Alain Connes and Maxim Kontsevich. Kontsevich had made a conjecture on the enumeration of varieties in finite number fields. This was motivated by much more demanding analytical work that Kreimer and I had done in quantum field theory. I confidently expected the Kontsevich conjecture to fail, but felt that it should hold with graphs with less than 14 edges. The conjecture rather surprised graph theorists and combinatoricists, who discovered, by exhaustion (an accurate word, in this case) that it is true for all graphs with less than 13 edges, but then ran out of computational steam. Next, on general grounds, it was proven that a counterexample must exist, yet no-one can yet say at what number of edges this will occur. I strongly intuit that at least one of three highly nonplanar graphs with 14 edges will turn out to be the first stumbling block. However, the best efforts of computational combinatoricists seem to be powerless to handle these 3 graphs, so the matter is still intriguingly open. In Vienna, I spent 3 weeks at the Erwin Schroedinger Institute participating in a workshop on the interface between number theory and quantum field theory. This is a very hospitable working environment: there is a program of expert visitors, a light seminar schedule, and an almost semi-infinite line of blackboards, as in the best cartoons on the work of mathematical physicists. Here I took an interesting idea from the work of Herbert Gangl and Don Zagier which produces multiple zeta values from graphs in a manner which is far simpler than that of quantum field theory, yet may also give a diagnostic for the order of perturbation theory at which the period of a new motive appears. Yet, here again, even the toy model becomes apparently too hard to analyze before one gets to 14 edges, where Kreimer and I had found evidence to suggest that the counterterms of quantum field theory outgrow reducibility to multiple zeta values. However, I have learnt not to despair: if one finds that toy models become as intractable as the real thing, just where one looks to learn an answer, then it probably means that they are realistic toys. I was invited to give a talk at the leading biennial workshop on radiative corrections, held in 2002 at Kloster Banz, in Upper Franconia. The organisers of RadCor2002 were very keen that I give a talk, yet I had repeatedly told them that since the last workshop I had made little progress on what I really wanted to achieve. Their reaction was that I should talk about what I had been unable to do, since presumably the entire community was also unable to do it. My talk was entitled "Six Scandals in Quantum Field Theory". For the published proceedings I chose the scandal closest to my present concerns and was able to organize it into a form where much more is now known than previously, yet much less is known than one needs to know . I told the referee that I insisted on the first word of the abstract, which you may read, for amusement at least, at http://arXiv.org/abs/hep-ph/0211194 The visit of pure pleasure was to the University of Osaka, for their symposium on Zeta Functions, Topology and Quantum Physics, in March 2003. While several of the other speakers had worked in two of these areas, the organizers were mindful that my work covers all three, and were relying on me to give a keynote address. In the event, this was very easy to do, since there was much technical progress to comment on, achieved by workers who have studied some of the more tractable aspects of multiple zeta values. While their roles in quantum field are still as challenging as when I found the first example, back in the 1980s, it was refreshing to see how much effort has subsequently been expended into making sense of the patterns that I discovered from my later work in quantum field theory with Kreimer, and then with my mathematical coworkers, Borwein, Bradley, Lisonek and Bailey. I have agreed to contribute a chapter to book on this subject . As an extra bonus, I made friends with Andrzej Schinzel, a number theorist in the grand tradition, who wrote his first paper, with Sierpinski, almost 50 years ago, and helped him prove a nice little lemma to round off a work that he had had on his books for several decades. Alongside my open-ended work, on the deep structure of quantum field theory, whose fruits are both uncertain and still maturing, I maintained activity on problems which, while still difficult, offer more immediate prospect of success. Andrei Kataev visited me from Moscow and we wrote a paper that gave a good account of the uncanny similarity of radiative corrections for deepinelastic scattering off polarized and unpolarized targets, by studying at an allorders summation of a subset of terms . Kataev has reported on this at several conferences. A joint paper with my coworker David Bailey, and three of his students at Berkeley, was presented by Bailey at SuperComputing 2002 and was selected to appear in the proceedings . (This seems to be some sort of achievement, or at least the organisers claim it to be so.) Our paper serves to remind the community just how empirical mathematics itself has had to become, to accommodate structure revealed by quantum field theory. Indeed there is even a journal  devoted to experimental mathematics. It was also gratifying to read a detailed and complimentary MathSciNet review of a large work that I had written with my coworkers at Simon Fraser University . The reviewer concluded as follows: "This paper is an invitation to a very rich field of mathematics and a review can only touch on some of its content." It was good to see how just how much of our efforts at taming multiple zeta values had been appreciated. Certainly this was most detailed review that I have received from MathSciNet. In conclusion, I have written in some detail, since Nigel Mason asked for something that gives the flavour of my research. I hope that I have done justice to the essential point: research is work on questions to which you do not yet know the answers; the more interesting the questions, the harder it may be to find the answers. Back in the 1990s, I tackled problems that were thought by others to be too hard at the time. Now I see that a dozen of my papers from that period attract 1,200 citations. I should like to think that some of my present struggles will be similarly rewarded by their usefulness to others, in time to come. But there is absolutely no guarantee of that. If there were, my activity could not properly be called research.  Exact solutions of Dyson-Schwinger equations for iterated one-loop integrals and propagator-coupling duality, D.J. Broadhurst and D. Kreimer, Nucl. Phys. B600 (2001) 403-422  Where do the tedious products of zetas come from? D.J. Broadhurst, Nucl. Phys. Proc. Suppl. 116 (2003) 432-436  Polylogarithms in quantum field theory, D J Broadhurst, to appear in Zeta Functions, Topology and Quantum Physics, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2004  Bjorken unpolarized and polarized sum rules: comparative analysis of large N expansions, D.J. Broadhurst, A.L. Kataev, Phys. Lett. B544 (2002) 154-160  High Performance Computing Meets Experimental Mathematics, D.H. Bailey, D. Broadhurst, Y. Hida, S. Li and B. Thompson, SC2002 proceedings, http://www.computer.org/proceedings/sc/1524/15240004abs.htm  Central Binomial Sums, Multiple Clausen Values and Zeta Values, J.M. Borwein, D.J. Broadhurst, J. Kamnitzer, Experimental Math. 10 (2001) 25-34  Special values of multiple polylogarithms, J.M. Borwein, D.M. Bradley, D.J. Broadhurst, P. Lisonek, Trans. Amer. Math. Soc. 353 (2001) 907--941; MathSciNet review: 1 709 772 Let’s Shop by Sven Braeutigam You are standing by a series of shelves holding bottles of soft drinks. In front of you are three choices of Oasis fruit drink, Coca Cola, and the supermarket’s own-label lemonade. Leaning back to gain a fuller picture of the consumer items on sale, you scratch your head, an area a little way up behind the right ear. You might ask what this is to do with Physics. Well, researchers, who have been studying consumer behaviour for a long time, have recently turned to neuroscience. A particular interest in neuroscience is to unravel the neural processing underlying human action. Billions of nerve cells communicate with each other each millisecond, and one believes this communication ultimately leads to conscious behaviour. Fortunately for researchers, neural communication is accompanied by electrical currents, which in turn cause magnetic fields. These fields, once generated in the brain, propagate through tissue and skull relatively unperturbed, making it possible to study some aspects of neural communication non-invasively. The field strength associated with neural activity is extremely small, typically one part in one thousand million of the Earth’s geomagnetic field. An instrument which has the needed sensitivity is the Superconducting QUantum Interference Device SQUID. The device operates at the cryogenic temperature of liquid helium. It converts tiny changes in the magnetic field into a voltage which can be further processed. The magnetic flux is inductively coupled into the SQUID via a pickup coil which connects the device to the experiment. A state-of-the-art system is the VectorviewTM of Helsinki University of Technology. It consists of a helmet-shaped array of 102 pairs of orthogonal, first-order planar pickup coils (Figure, left). A first-order sensor is strongly sensitive to near-fields, but relatively insensitive to far-fields. Thus, the outputs of each pair of sensors are most sensitive to the tangential current flow in the region directly below the detectors. We took our subjects to Helsinki on an 18-minute virtual tour of a supermarket. During regular pauses in the tour, our subjects were asked to make a choice between 3 different brands and products, such as jams, cereals, beers, and soft drinks. A questionnaire completed by the subjects after experimentation allowed us to work out the salience or relative familiarity of a product. High salience signifies that a brand can be easily distinguished from its competitors, and low salience means that a brand is less distinct from its rivals. Choosing among different brands of related products is facilitated by a characteristic sequence of neural stages. Within the first 300 milliseconds or so, incoming (brand) information is stored in visual cortex (back of the brain), and matched against previous memories (left side of the brain). These initial stages are not dependent on salience. Between, 400 and 1000 milliseconds, brand choices activate language areas of the brain when salience is low; and activate right parietal cortices (Figure, right) when salience is high. The latter finding is particularly interesting as the right parietal has been conjectured as one of the sites of integration of mental processes (mapping the outside world onto the internal representation), as well as one of the sites of decision making in the brain. Thus, this brain region may be important when we decide which brand we favour. Beyond the local supermarket, we believe that our findings could go on to reveal the neural mechanisms underlying conscious decisions individuals make when it comes to important choices, such as a partner or career. Observing run at the SAAO 1.9m, 15th – 27th June By Ben Eves (and Carole Haswell) Having just returned from my first observing run I felt I should share the experience with the rest of the Department, to give some insight into the life of an observational astronomer, complete with pictures. The Journey begins with our arrival in Cape Town set at the base of Devils Peak part of the Table Mountain Range. You feel as though you are still in England, many of the road signs are the same as ours, they drive on the left, and the vast majority speaks fluent English. Then you glance out of the window to see Ibis, Egrets, Storks, and Red-Knobbed Coots feeding in the river that runs past the SAAO compound, and realise you aren’t in Milton Keynes anymore. The compound itself is a collection of Colonial houses and two domes set in a wooded enclosure, but we had little time to take this in as we are whisked into the transport to the Observatory at Sutherland, only a four hour drive away. On leaving CT we journey up into, and through, the mountains, it is a region of towering cliffs with Great Black Eagles above, and Chacma Baboons on the roadside. As we travel further inland the strata of the rock changes orientation and you get a feel for the motions of the Earth that formed this range. Every now and then the mountains open up to reveal the vineyards that provide the fine South African wines that grace the shelves of Tesco. There are grape sellers on the roadside and each vineyard has a store bordering the road, selling the produce direct, but we must press on, we still have a long way to go. We reach a plateau and the mountains are left behind, we are now in hill country. Its red rock and scrub as far as the eye can see. We finally reach the observatory in the late afternoon, just in time for our evening meal, the food is tasty enough, plentiful and mainly mutton based, just what I need for the coming week of nocturnal living. The views from the site can only be described as breathtaking. The sunset sets the sky aflame over the mountains to the East promising good weather and clear nights. On the plateau above us we see the setting rays glint off the dome of the South African Large Telescope, SALT. As the sun goes down we see springbok feeding on the low bushes and Dassies moving across the rocks. The observatory has both in abundance, and the little Dassies or Rock Hyrax to give them their proper name are the kin of elephants. Before retiring for the night I pop out to “take the air” and am greeted by the most amazing sight, the sky is ablaze with stars, set like diamonds in the band of the milkyway. I am later to be shown the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, hazy blobs to the South of the milkyway, the Southern Cross, the Celestial South Pole, the False Cross (the cause of many shipwrecks) and the constellation of Scorpius with our primary target held in its claws. The first day of the run proper is spent in the company of the magical Stephen Potter (he went to school with J. K. Rawling, hmmmmm, a connection methinks) our support astronomer. We spend the afternoon setting up the spectroscope, change the grating, angle the grating such that we are centred on the correct wavelength for our observations, focus the instrument and perform a sequence of “Dome Flats”, exposures of an illuminated white screen on the inside of the observatory. These flats are for the purpose of calibrating our observations and so are vital. We then retire to the canteen, where we meet Fred Marang who is the Duty Astronomer for our run, and our companion in the warm room of the dome, on these long winter nights. We have now entered the “routine”. Back to the dome to take exposures of the sky, again for calibration, and then onto our targets. Our primary target is possibly a new microquasar, a type of black hole binary, we are trying to measure the orbital period of the system and classify the companion, which we believe to be a K type star. During the run we saw some short period variation in our absorption lines and in our Hemission, on time scales of minutes this leads us to shorter exposures to investigate this phenomenon, could it be outflowing material, a wind from the companion or possibly material in the jets, characteristic of a microquasar. Only accurate reduction and analysis back at the OU will tell. We stay on our primary target for the majority of each night taking arc lamp exposures every twenty minutes or so for our wavelength calibration. Each night we take six, ten minute exposure of our secondary target a new intermediate polar, a cataclysmic variable (CV) with the accretion disk truncated by the white dwarfs magnetic field, again we are attempting to tie down the period of this object. The object has a approximate period of either six or nine hours and so we take three exposures each of 693seconds ( the white dwarf spin period), to remove variation due to the white dwarf spinning, in the first half of the night and then another three exposures five to six hours later, this should allow us to identify the period. Finally we switch to our end of night object RZ Gru, a southern CV that has been sadly neglected for over twenty years. The period of this object is uncertain at 0.36 days, so we intend to do better, and constrain this once and for all. A trailed spectrogram (shown below) produced towards the end of the run showed large amplitude variation in H, the breaks in the data represent different nights, leading us to believe that we have obtain observations that will give us the period of RZ Gru very accurately. Each night we follow this order of objects as well as obtaining comparison spectra of known stars, after all you can never have too much data, either of your objects or for calibration purposes. We were able to obtain excellent data on five of our seven nights, in photometric conditions, and useful data on the remaining two nights even though the seeing was bad and we had patchy cloud. All in all an extremely successful run and an experience I shall never forget. By the way we took the long way home and went to see this little chap. ANNULAR ECLIPSE AT SUNRISE 31 MAY 2003 - 'A 1-IN-10 CHANCE' By Barrie Jones Seeing the annular eclipse of 31 May was an unlikely bonus at the end of a short holiday to north-west Scotland. The eclipse was soon after sunrise, and I had estimated that there was about a 1-in-10 chance of seeing it. But we did, from Durness, along with the hundreds of other people who had gathered at this small community. There was a bit of cirrus, and haze that was so thick towards the horizon that the annular phase was only just visible, but as it ended the Sun (and Moon) moved into a clearer area of sky, and it was a very beautiful, crimson sight. Patrick Moore and 'Queen' guitarist Brian May were not far away, along with a 'Sky at Night' TV crew, and had a comparably good view. Others were not so lucky, as captured by the tabloid headline 'Mist it?' Nigel Mason's party saw mist, but we helped them drown their sorrows when we met in Inverness. If you missed the 31 May annular eclipse then your next chance in the UK is 23 July 2093, when we will all be quite old. Moreover, the Sun will be high up, so it will be not be particularly spectacular. I would only bother to travel to an annular eclipse if it were at sunrise or sunset. The next best opportunity is 15 January 2010, when you will be able to choose between central Africa at sunrise or eastern China at sunset. The 31 May annular eclipse, near sunrise. Picture by Ross Bennie & Morven McLean Departmental Arrival and Departures and visitors Arrivals. Dr Dagmar Mayr is joining Nigel Mason as an EU funded postdoctoral fellow. A graduate of the Institute for Ion Physics, University of Innsbruck her diploma thesis was entitled “Volatile Organic Compounds in Human Breath: Measurements Using Proton-Transfer-Reaction Mass-Spectrometry with High Time Resolution”, Her PhD thesis was entitled “Aroma Analysis and Quality Control of Food Using Highly Sensitive Analytical Methods”. While at the OU she will be involved in two research programmes. The first will continue her graduate studies to investigate food preservation using ozone as a germicidal agent. The second area of research will be the study of electron interactions with biological molecules. Will Clarkson will be joining us as a postdoc for two years starting in November. He's currently finishing his PhD in Southampton (supervised by Phil Charles), and will be working on the wide area search for planets (WASP) and outbursts in black hole binaries. Will has broad interests in education and astrobiology. John Tanner, a current part-time PhD student, will be transferring to a full-time studentship. He is working with Sean Ryan on the chemical composition of stars formed early in the evolution of the Galactic disc, after the first generation of stars the halo but prior to the bulk of star formation in the Milky Way. Amanda Smith, an OU graduate, will be working with Carole Haswell. She will unravel the mysteries of some of the thousands of new variable stars discovered by Dave Lott in his thesis work, and will work on any suitable new outbursting Xray transients. We welcome Rob Mundin back to the Department after his leave of absence. Miss Eva Vasekova will be joining the department as a PhD student in October 2003. She will be working with Nigel Mason and Nick Braithwaite (Oxford Research unit, Materials Engineering) on the experimental study of technological plasmas. Technological plasmas are used to manufacture the semiconductor chips that underpin the modern world information society. However there is now a strong and growing economic and environmental incentive to improve on the traditional methods of plasma reactor and process design since most of the feed gases currently used in the semiconductor industry are greenhouse gases and under the Kyoto Protocol should be phased out in the next decade. Therefore in the last five years US and Japanese research communities have been developing joint academic/industrial research programmes to understand and model the properties and mechanisms of technological plasmas. In contrast the European Research Area has to date failed to organise a similar co-ordinated research programme. However in 2003 a EU /Japan research collaboration coordinated in part by Nigel and Nick is to begin to study the collisional and reactive processes occurring in technological plasmas that underpin in this important (and wealth creating) area of scientific research. The project will develop detailed physico-chemical models that will provide, in a comprehensive manner, a methodology for designing the next generation of commercial technological plasma equipment. Part of this project will involve exchange of staff between UK and Japan, allowing Eva to work in Japan Eva is from Slovakia, where she has graduated with a first class degree in Plasma Physics, being taught in part by Professor Dusan Skalny, who visited the Department in February. Departures. Bart Willems will be leaving in the summer to go to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. The work he will be doing is an extension of his OU research on compact binary populations and tidal interactions in close binaries, with possible new applications involving gravitational wave astronomy. Stephen Brotton will also be leaving in the summer to take up a post at NASA in the USA. Institute of Physics Quantum Electronics and Photonics PhD Prize Dr Yinqi Fen, a student of Professor Allan Solomon, was awarded a “highly commended” for theses examined in 2001. RECENT PUBLICATIONS Robin Barnard 1. "RX J0042.3+4115: a stellar mass black hole binary identified in M31" R Barnard, JP Osborne, U Kolb, KN Borozdin, 2003, A&A in press, astro-ph/0304503 2. "Physical changes during Z-track movement in Sco X-1 on the flaring branch" R Barnard, MJ Church and M Balucinska-Church, 2003, A&A in press, astro-ph/0305466 Sven Braeutigam “Endogenous context for visual processing of human S Braeutigam & SJ Swithenby, 2003, NeuroReport 14: in print faces and other objects” Barrie Jones 1. “Professors predict - space travel and extraterrestrial life” BW Jones, 2002, Ozone Science Supplement, February 2002, 12-13 2. “Exoplanets” BW Jones, 2002, Orbit, March-May 2002, 2-4 3. “The orbits of terrestrial planets in the habitable zones of known exoplanetary systems” BW Jones, PN Sleep, 2002, Proceedings of the 4th Annual ROE Workshop, 2001, 'Techniques for the detection of planets and life beyond the Solar System', paper 26 4. “The stability of the orbits of Earth-mass planets in the habitable zone of 47 Ursae Majoris” BWJones, PN Sleep, 2002, Astronomy & Astrophysics, 393, 1015-1026 5. “Distance learning materials: creation and delivery” Astronomy, ed T J Mahony, pub IAC Tenerife Spain BW Jones, 2003, Communicating 6. “Vermin of the skies” BW Jones, 2003, Popular Astronomy, 50, 2, 19-21 7. “The orbits of terrestrial planets in the habitable zones of known exoplanetary systems” BW Jones, PN Sleep, 2003, 'Scientific Frontiers in Research on Extrasolar Planets', ASP Conference Series, 294, 225-230 8. “The search for extraterrestrial intelligence” BW Jones, 2003, Physics Education, 38, 8-13 9. “Earth-mass planets in exoplanetary systems” BW Jones, 2003, Astronomy & Geophysics, 44, 2.10-2.14 10. “The stability of the orbits of Earth-mass planets in and near the habitable zones of known exoplanetary systems” BW Jones, DR Underwood, PN Sleep, 2003, to appear in 'Towards Other Earths', ESA special publication SP-539 11. “Extrasolar 'Earths' in habitable zones - targets of opportunity” BW Jones, DR Underwood, PN Sleep, 2003, to appear in 'Extrasolar Planets: Today and Tomorroe', XIXth IAP Colloquium Nigel Mason 1. “Electron Scattering from Atoms, Molecules, Nuclei and Bulk Matter” CT Whelan and NJ Mason, 2003, Plenum Press 2. “Electron Driven process: Scientific Challenges and Technological opportunities” NJ Mason in “Electron Scattering from Atoms, Molecules, Nuclei and Bulk Matter” ed by CT Whelan and NJ Mason, 2003, Plenum Press, 179-190 3. “Laboratory Studies of Astrophysical molecules; A New apparatus” A Dawes, NJ Mason, P Tegeder and P Holtom in “Electron Scattering from Atoms, Molecules, Nuclei and Bulk Matter” ed by CT Whelan and NJ Mason, 2003, Plenum Press 329- 344 4. “The electronic states of isoxazole studied by VUV absorption, electron energy loss spectroscopies and ab initio multi-reference configuration interaction calculations” IC Walker, MH Palmer, J Delwiche, SV Hoffman, P LVieira, NJ Mason, MF Guest, M-J HubinFranskin, J Heinsch and A Giuliani, 2003, J. Chem. Phys, submitted 5. “Electron Scattering from Ozone. What do we know?” NJ Mason, 2003, Physica Scripta, 68 C37-43 6. “Single bubble Sonoluminescence; ‘The star in the jar’” SM Webb and NJ Mason, 2003, Euro J Phys, submitted for publication 7. “VUV photoabsorption of hexafluoropropene” S Eden and P Limão-Vieira, SV Hoffmann and NJ Mason, 2003, Chem Phys Lett, submitted for publication 8. “Low energy (0-18eV) electron stimulated desorption from condensed SF5CF3” R Balog, P Limão-Vieira, C Konig, I Bald, NJ Mason and E Illenberger, 2003, Chem Phys Lett, submitted for publication 9. “On the valence shell electronic spectroscopy of 2-vinyl furan and its relationship with the linear polyenes” A Giuliani, IC Walker, J Delwiche, SV Hoffman, P LVieira, NJ Mason, C Kech and M-J Hubin-Franskin, 2003, J. Chem Phys, submitted for publication 10. “Absolute photo-absorption cross sections and electronic state spectroscopy of selected fluorinated hydrocarbons relevant to the plasma processing industry” P Limão-Vieira, S Eden and N J Mason, 2002, R Radiation Physics and Chemistry 68 187- 92 11. “Electron and photon induced processes in SF5CF3” P Limão-Vieira, P A Kendall, S Eden, N J Mason, J Heinesch, M-J Hubin-Franskin, J Delwiche and A Giuliani, 2003, Radiation Physics and Chemistry 68 193-7 12. “Electronic State spectroscopy of acetaldehyde, CH3CHO by high resolution VUV photoabsorption” P Limao Vieira , S Eden, N J Mason and S V Hoffmann, 2003, Chem. Phys. Lett, 376 737-47 GRANT NEWS PPARC has awarded a grant of 142k pounds to a collaborative project led by Sean Ryan (P&A) and Co-Investigator Maurizio Salaris (Liverpool John Moores University). The grant will fund a Post-Doctoral Research Associate to work with Sean at the OU for three years, and to further develop the collaboration between the OU and LJMU during that time. The project will exploit data which Sean and his collaborators have obtained on 4 m- and 8 m-class telescopes over the last year, and which they expect to expand upon in forthcoming allocations. The study will focus on a class of stars which no-one has yet seen, the so-called Population III stars. These are firstgeneration stars that formed from gas that had not then experienced any enrichment in heavy elements since the completion of Big Bang nucleosynthesis. Such objects, though rare, were responsible for the first production of heavy elements seen in stars in the Milky Way, and hence can be studied through the elemental abundances seen in the oldest stars in the Galaxy. The project will measure the abundances of key elements observed in very lowmetallicity stars, and compute low-metallicity stellar-evolution models to reveal how much of the observed surface chemical pattern is self-enriched, how much comes from external pollution, and how much is inherited from Population III. We will then examine the inferred Population III abundances in the context of models of early star formation in pre-Galactic environments. The role of the PDRA will be to contribute to both the abundance analysis and stellar-evolution modelling. Sean will be responsible for leading the observational and analytical aspects of the project, with Maurizio brings theoretical expertise to the collaboration. The grant is for 142k over 3 years. This funding stream includes contributions to the OU of 40k as overhead, 11k as computing equipment and consumables, and 6k as secretarial support. CONFERENCES/SEMINARS/WORKSHOPS ATTENDED Robin Barnard The National Astronomy Meeting, Dublin Castle, 7-11 April The first Constellation-X Workshop, Columbia University, New York, 4-8 May Barrie Jones EXOPLANETS AT NAM03 IN DUBLIN I organised this 90-minute session, which consisted of a series of review talks outlining the history of the search for exoplanets, the methods currently being used to find them, and the properties of the known exoplanets. At present just over 100 exoplanets have been discovered, but we are probably on the edge of a flood of new discoveries. All the confirmed exoplanets are much more massive than the Earth, and more like our giant planets in composition - rich in hydrogen, helium, or water. Earth-mass planets could be discovered now by gravitational microlensing, and by other techniques in a few years time Nigel Mason I have been invited to give several presentations at international meetings including: A plenary talk at the Iberian Meeting on Atomic and Molecular Physics part of the Centennial meeting of the Spanish Institute of Physics and Royal society of Chemistry. This meeting had no less than 9 Nobel laureates speaking and the largest conference dinner I have ever been to with a sit down meal for 1200! I am also an invited speaker at: The International Conference on Atomic, Electronic and Photonic Collisions in Stockholm, Sweden The Electron Molecule Symposium in Prague, Czech Republic The EU -Japan Symposium on Plasma Processing also held in Stockholm Sweden I gave a talk on Molecular spectroscopy in the interstellar medium at NAM 2003 in Dublin. A plenary talk at the Ion storage ring conference in Aarhus Denmark and seminars in both the university of Cologne and Freie University Berlin as well as to the applied Maths Department at the OU . I have also given three local talks. One to the British Association local members and two school talks. One to Ousedale School in Newport Pagnell (as part of their annual Astronomy day); the other was at a meeting of the Head of sciences in the Haylesbury schools group held at Bedford school. I think we should do more to link with local schools !