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From baronial estate to science campus

by Ted Welch Sat May 17th, 2014 at 03:40:16 PM EST

Near me in Nice is Valrose park and chateau, which used to be owned by Paul von Derwies, the financial advisor to Tsar Alexander II, who made Derwies a baron. But, it's suggested, the established aristocrats in Nice didn't accept the new baron, so he built this spendid place above Nice - and them.

But it's now the base of the university of Nice Sophia Antipolis and the home of the science faculty.


I thought I had explored the grounds, but, when researching online, I found a photo of a small lake which I'd never seen.

The next time I went back I looked a bit more thoroughly and found a partly hidden area with lake, little bridges (some sadly decaying) and huts with statues, even mock Greek ruins.

This was clearly the area that Queen Victoria liked to stroll around:

 The Tsar visited too, but might not have been too happy about all these students:

Though a young member of staff I'd met had told me that I could go into the chateau itself, I was hesitant to do so, the Harrow campus of Westminster University has had security guards for years. I needed to overcome my very English need to avoid potentially embarrassing situations.

But I saw a poster about an academic conference on "cell signaling" and that day was the last day so I thought the worst they could do would be to say no, so decided to try.

There was a woman at a table just inside the entrance, I gave a nod and walked by as if I was a regular attendee and entered the conference. It was in what had been the baron's huge private concert hall, where it was question-time following a presentation.

From the theatre there was a magnificent staircase which I took up to the next level.

At the top another woman asked me if I was in the conference. I said I was a friend of one of the professors - which was only being a bit generous with the truth - and it satisfied her.

I entered an impressive salon and the traiteur was about to tell me the reception wasn't ready yet, but first I got in my: "It's magnificent" and he said "It certainly is" and let me get on with my photos, his female assistant apologising for getting into my photos. I assured her it helped by adding a human scale.

I'm sure I could have joined in the reception itself and might have done had it been about history or philosophy rather than "cell signaling". But I'd overcome my hesitation about intruding and I'd got my photos of this relic of Nice's 19th century attraction for the international aristocracy and nouveau-riche.

Art students come to enjoy the capmpus and draw the classical statues:

Despite my lack of comprehension of the current topic, I was glad that this had become a bastion of Enlightenment values and home to students of science. According to Nice-Matin one of the researchers here had been involved in the recent discovery of gravitational waves. You can't get much more cutting-edge than that:

If confirmed, the detection by physicists of primordial gravitational waves created in the first moments after the big bang, reported on Monday, will go down in the annals of science as a fundamental breakthrough in our understanding of how the universe began.


http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/03/21/gravitational-waves-discovery-gives-nobel-prize-committee-another-headache/

Coming up - Explain your PH D in 3 minutes


The 3 Minute Thesis is based on a concept developed by the University of Queensland, where PhD students compete to deliver the best research presentation in just 3 minutes (and one slide). The competition has now gone global

I wonder if the gravity waves guys could do that !

What next ? The thesis as tweet ?

They'll think about it later:

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Ha, I am visiting Nice, Sophia-Antipolis the coming days.
by das monde on Sat May 17th, 2014 at 04:08:33 PM EST
Now you know how to get at the buffet lunch.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun May 18th, 2014 at 02:02:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The science department is lucky that this nice building is not in the town centre. If it were, it would have gone to the most important part of the university, the administration, as happens in Italy.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Mon May 19th, 2014 at 05:43:39 AM EST
Some of the researchers here had been involved in the recent discovery of gravity waves. You can't get much more cutting-edge than that.
That's not a "discovery" and it doesn't refer to gravitational waves which would have warranted the "can't get more cutting-edge than that".
For the different concept in general relativity, see gravitational wave.
It's still cool, if underappreciated, physics.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 19th, 2014 at 09:09:31 AM EST
Thanks, careless of me, but this kind of diary takes SO long to do. I'd seen in Nice-Matin that one of the university researchers had been involved in the process of trying to detect them, and those things relating to Nice Uni came up in a google search. I thought it was odd, but too tired to check and now can't seem to find anything specific.

It might have been this guy, from some earlier work:


The astrophysical gravitational wave stochastic background

T. Regimbau

UMR ARTEMIS, CNRS, University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis, Observatoire de la Co^te d'Azur, BP
4229, 06304, Nice Cedex 4, France; regimbau@oca.eu

 Received 2010 Febrary 14; accepted 2010 September 7

Abstract A gravitational wave stochastic background of astrophysical origin may have resulted from the superposition of a large number of unresolved sources since the beginning of stellar activity. Its detection would put very strong constrains on the physical properties of compact objects, the initial mass function or the star formation history. On the other hand, it could be a 'noise' that would mask the stochastic background of cosmo- logical origin. We review the main astrophysical processes able to produce a stochastic background and discuss how it may differ from the primordial contribution by its statisti- cal properties. Current detection methods are also presented.

http://arxiv.org/pdf/1101.2762.pdf



Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Mon May 19th, 2014 at 05:08:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Coming up - Explain your PH D in 3 minutes
What do people think about that? I'm all for popularization, but I'm more of the Feynman school of science appreciation:
Hell, if I could explain it to the average person, it wouldn't have been worth the Nobel prize.


A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 19th, 2014 at 09:13:09 AM EST
What next ? The thesis as tweet?
Yes, actually, that's not far off. Just last year:
Researchers will be given the opportunity to present her/his research in 10 minutes to an audience of researchers from various scientific fields and lay people. Your presentation should convey your research in the most attractive, entertaining and comprehendible way possible. Take part in the first annual EURAXESS Science Slam in your network community in September 2013!
There is a growing trend of making science funding dependent on X-Factor-like stunts to pique the interest of wealthy patrons. As the state is successfully shrunk and drowned in a bathtub, the science funding situation is bound to get quite serious.



A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 19th, 2014 at 09:19:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It might be a useful exercise in specifying the focus of the thesis. After all, the average person doesn't have to understand it.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon May 19th, 2014 at 09:43:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am for it, I think it would do both society and most PhDs good to learn a 3 minute version (and use normal speed). Honestly, I think I can sum up most of my friends research in less than that. Maybe it won't explain the stuff the scientist thinks is most interesting about the research, but it should put the science into a societal frame of reference.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Mon May 19th, 2014 at 10:17:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think I can sum up most of my friends research in less than that
In what academic fields?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 19th, 2014 at 10:39:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See also: lolmythesis
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed May 21st, 2014 at 04:08:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Define "explain". What level of understanding do you expect after the explanation?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon May 19th, 2014 at 10:30:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the case at hand, which is Feynman's Nobel Prize, he himself could "explain" it to his satisfaction in
an adaptation for the general reader of four lectures
Definitely not 3 minutes.
It is unusual for a popular science book in the level of mathematical detail it goes into, actually allowing the reader to solve simple optics problems, as might be found in an actual textbook. But unlike in a typical textbook, the mathematics is taught in very simple terms, with no attempt to solve problems efficiently, use standard terminology, or facilitate further advancement in the field.
Because, you know, Feynman was convinced there was no point in trying to "explain" quantum mechanics without complex numbers.
Complex numbers are taught, for instance, by asking the reader to imagine that there are tiny clocks attached to subatomic particles.
I don't know whether it work for "the average person", because when I read the book I was no longer an "educated layman".

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 19th, 2014 at 10:36:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Um, wikilink.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 19th, 2014 at 10:40:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's easy. "I got elected promising hope". "I bombed Cambodia". Some of them are more like an SMS than a tweet.

Oh, he meant the Nobel prize in physics...

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Mon May 19th, 2014 at 10:46:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A tweet is an SMS, that's where the 140-character limit comes from.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 19th, 2014 at 10:52:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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