Sunrise on Research

Winner of #TechniciansMakeitHappen photo competition announced

Sunrise on Research

Sunrise above the clouds at Mount Wilson Observatory in California marks First Light on a new automated solar telescope. The image shows a new robotic mount installed at the top of the observatory 60-foot tower, where two telescopes capture light from the Sun. The telescope on the right houses a camera using intelligent machine vision to guide the mount following the movement of the Sun. The telescope on the left transmits sunlight along an optical fibre into a solar spectrometer in the observing room below. The system measures solar oscillations – sound waves that pass through the very core of the Sun and reveal the secrets of its deep interior that would otherwise be hidden behind the bright solar surface.

A scientist has won a national photography competition celebrating the UK’s 1.5 million technicians. Steven Hale from the University of Birmingham has been named overall winner of #TechniciansMakeitHappen.

The winning image captures a sunrise over the world-famous Mt Wilson Observatory in Los Angeles. Steven, who works on cutting-edge robotic telescopes like the one in his picture will receive £1000, as well as career mentorship from industry experts.

The competition was launched last year by The Gatsby Foundation to encourage more young people to consider a career as a technician, as over 70,000 roles go unfilled each year in the UK. More than 300 photos were entered into the competition, showcasing the amazing things technicians build, make and create – from space equipment to sports kit, concerts and cars.

Steve Hale, University of Birmingham, said:

“I am delighted to have been selected as the overall winner of #TechniciansMakeitHappen. There’s often very little recognition of the people working behind the scenes to build new technology or help make ground-breaking discoveries. I think campaigns like #TechniciansMakeitHappen are incredibly important to raise the public profile of technicians and showcase the diverse and exciting opportunities for young people who choose a technical career.”

The competition was judged earlier this month by an esteemed panel, including Jez Brooks at tech giant IBM and photographer Leonora Saunders, whose work has featured in national publications like the Guardian and The Sunday Times.

Leonora Saunders, said:

“This image captured a stunning dawn that contrasted effectively with some impressive technology. This was a great ‘point of view’ shot that conveys the progressive and exciting work of a technician through an inspirational vista.”

Jez Brooks, IBM Early Professionals Manager, Apprentice Scheme Leader, UK Foundation, said:

“This competition has been an excellent opportunity to showcase the breadth of fascinating, intriguing – and even beautiful things that technicians make happen. In my role at IBM, I am focused on inspiring the next generation of IT professionals and technicians. The variety shown in the entries to the #TechniciansMakeitHappen photo competition demonstrates that a career as a technician is diverse, challenging and never dull!”

Highly commended in the competition were Craig Lapsley (Univeristy of Glasgow) and Steven Spaull (University of Exeter) for their inventive images capturing life in the lab.

As part of the campaign, more than 25 industry leaders have pledged their support including the BBC, Openreach, Royal Air Force, Mercedes AMG and Siemens. Compelling case studies, photographs and artefacts are touring the UK to encourage more people to think technician.

To find out more, visit http://technicians.org.uk/news/win-with-techniciansmakeithappen/.

About Gatsby Charitable Foundation Trust

The Gatsby Charitable Foundation was established by David Sainsbury in 1967 and acts as an enabler for projects, developing, overseeing and, in some cases, delivering activities across a small number of focus areas where we believe charitable funding can achieve significant impact.

A key ambition of Gatsby is to strengthen intermediate science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills within the UK workforce. We aim to achieve this by enhancing the status of technicians through the development of clear routes into technician roles. For further information please visit: www.gatsby.org.uk.

About the University of Birmingham

The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 5,000 international students from over 150 countries.

Google Drive FUSE filesystem on Fedora

Google Drive FUSE filesystem on Fedora

We are going to build google-drive-ocamlfuse from source, a FUSE (filesystem in userspace) backed by Google Drive written in OCaml by Alessandro Strada. It lets you mount your Google Drive on Linux as a filesystem, a service that Google has yet to make available.

What is OCaml?

OCaml is a general purpose programming language with an emphasis on expressiveness and safety. Developed for more than 20 years at Inria by a group of leading researchers, it has an advanced type system that helps catch your mistakes without getting in your way. It’s used in environments where a single mistake can cost millions and speed matters, is supported by an active community, and has a rich set of libraries and development tools.

Alessandro makes available .deb packages for Ubuntu, and there are details on using OPAM to install for other distributions. OPAM is an OCaml package manager. OPAM is not available in the standard Fedora repositories, and rather than manually installing and configuring yet another package manager, it would seem simpler to just build the three required ocaml packages from source. Below are details on all the Fedora dependencies and commands for building google-drive-ocamlfuse. This has been tested and confirmed working on Fedora 25.

First we need to install gapi-ocaml, a simple, unofficial, OCaml client for Google Services, and also all of the required Fedora dependencies.

# dnf install ocaml ocaml-ocamldoc ocaml-findlib ocaml-cryptokit-devel ocaml-curl-devel ocaml-extlib-devel ocaml-ocamlnet-devel ocaml-xmlm-devel ocaml-yojson-devel
$ git clone https://github.com/astrada/gapi-ocaml.git
$ cd gapi-ocaml
$ ocaml setup.ml -configure
$ ocaml setup.ml -build
# ocaml setup.ml -install

Now we need the ocaml binding for FUSE which enables you to write your own multithreaded, efficient userspace filesystems using the ocaml programming language. We also need a couple more Fedora dependencies.

# dnf install ocaml-camlidl-devel fuse-devel
$ git clone https://github.com/astrada/ocamlfuse.git
$ cd ocamlfuse
$ ocaml setup.ml -configure
$ ocaml setup.ml -build
# ocaml setup.ml -install

Finally we can install google-drive-ocamlfuse, and yet more Fedora dependencies.

# dnf install ocaml-sqlite-devel ocaml-biniou-devel ocaml-easy-format-devel zlib-devel
$ git clone https://github.com/astrada/google-drive-ocamlfuse.git
$ cd google-drive-ocamlfuse
$ ocaml setup.ml -configure
$ ocaml setup.ml -build
# ocaml setup.ml -install

google-drive-ocamlfuse should now be ready to use and authorise against your Google account following the standard authorisation instructions!

Sunrise on Research

Sunrise on Research

Sunrise on Research

Sunrise above the clouds at Mount Wilson Observatory in California marks First Light on a new automated solar telescope. The image shows a new robotic mount installed at the top of the observatory 60-foot tower, where two telescopes capture light from the Sun. The telescope on the right houses a camera using intelligent machine vision to guide the mount following the movement of the Sun. The telescope on the left transmits sunlight along an optical fibre into a solar spectrometer in the observing room below. The system measures solar oscillations – sound waves that pass through the very core of the Sun and reveal the secrets of its deep interior that would otherwise be hidden behind the bright solar surface.

The above photo is featured in the 2016 Images of Research competition by the University of Birmingham Graduate School. The exhibition runs from 22nd November until 30th November in the Aston Webb Building. There will be a second exhibition during the Arts and Science Festival in March 2017.

The El Sol installation

BiSON – Sounds of the Sun

The Sun rings like a bell. The central frequency of the sound is far below human hearing, just 0.003 Hz. The sounds you hear as part of this work have been increased in speed by 100,000 times bringing the sound up to 300 Hz and into the range of our hearing. Of course, it is impossible to directly hear the sounds through the vacuum of space. Instead, the Birmingham Solar Oscillations Network (BiSON) at the University of Birmingham, UK, captures the data by making very precise measurements of how the oscillations cause tiny changes in the colour of the light emitted from the Sun. Measuring the oscillations allows exciting discoveries to be made about the internal structure of the Sun using a technique known as helioseismology, in the same way a geophysicist studies the Earth using seismic methods.

The first audio file is produced from 20 years of raw solar data, captured from the beginning of 1995 to the end of 2014. Playing at 2.5 kHz produces a 100,000 times speed up with a resulting audio file of just over 1 hour and 22 minutes.

The second audio file is the same as the previous one, but it has been filtered to contain only the solar oscillation band, i.e., 2 mHz — 5 mHz filtered with a 48 dB per octave roll-off band-pass (200 Hz — 500 Hz after speed-up).

The filtered version of the audio was recently used by Swarovski as a soundscape of the Sun for their El Sol installation, a scale model of the Sun made from 2,880 precision cut crystals, at the Design Miami fair in 2015.

Here is a BibTeX entry for citations:

@misc{epapers2090,
  author = {{Hale}, S.~J.}, 
  title = {BiSON - Sounds of the Sun},
  publisher = {Birmingham Solar Oscillations Network},
  year = 2015,
  month = december,
  url = {http://epapers.bham.ac.uk/2090/}
}
The El Sol installation

Ten ways Engineering and Physical Sciences helps deliver Christmas

The El Sol installation

The El Sol installation

Professor Andy Schofield, Head of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences and Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, selected the recent “El Sol” art-science installation as one of the “Ten ways Engineering and Physical Sciences helps deliver Christmas” in his seasonal message.

Jewellery fashion takes a new leap this Christmas; Swarovski recently collaborated with physicists from Birmingham to create a soundscape of the sun for their El Sol installation, a scale model of the sun made from 2,880 precision cut crystals.

Full article is available here.

BiSON data quality from 1995 to 2015.

Performance of the Birmingham Solar-Oscillations Network (BiSON)

BiSON data quality from 1995 to 2015.

BiSON data quality from 1995 to 2015.

The Birmingham Solar-Oscillations Network (BiSON) has been operating with a full complement of six stations since 1992. Over 20 years later, we look back on the network history. The meta-data from the sites have been analysed to assess performance in terms of site insolation, with a brief look at the challenges that have been encountered over the years. We explain how the international community can gain easy access to the ever-growing dataset produced by the network, and finally look to the future of the network and the potential impact of nearly 25 years of technology miniaturisation.

Published in Solar Physics on 2015 December 7.

All BiSON data used in this article are freely available here.

#opendata #openscience #openaccess

The El Sol installation

Swarovski collaborate with University of Birmingham physicists

The El Sol installation

The El Sol installation

Luxury crystal glass designers and manufacturers, Swarovski, have collaborated with researchers from the Birmingham Solar Oscillations Network (BiSON) project in the School of Physics and Astronomy to develop a soundscape inspired by the sun.

For the last decade Swarovski has partnered with Design Miami to create a unique installation. This year Fernando Romero Enterprise (FR-EE), the Mexico City-based global architecture and design practice, created an installation that explores man’s relationship with the sun.

Entitled El Sol, the installation is a vast geodesic structure, designed to scale, one billion times smaller than the sun and is comprised of 2,880 precision-cut Swarovski crystals. It is accompanied by a soundscape developed by the University of Birmingham.

The track, provided by the decades-long BiSON project, is the “sound” of the sun made up of acoustic waves formed from decades of data captured by spectrometers observing the sun since the 1970’s. The sun rings like a bell, with the central frequency of this sound being far below human hearing at 0.003 Hz. The sounds visitors will hear have been increased in speed by 100,000 times, bringing it up to 300 Hz and into the range of human hearing.

BiSON consists of a network of six remote solar observatories monitoring low-degree solar oscillation modes. It is operated by the High Resolution Optical Spectroscopy group of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Birmingham. BiSON captures data from the sun by making very precise measurements of how its oscillations cause tiny changes in the colour of the light emitted from the sun. Measuring the oscillations allows discoveries to be made about the internal structure using a technique known as helioseismology.

Full article is available here.

Validation of solar-cycle changes in low-degree helioseismic parameters from the Birmingham Solar-Oscillations Network

We present a new and up-to-date analysis of the solar low-degree p-mode parameter shifts from the Birmingham Solar-Oscillations Network over the past 22 years, up to the end of 2014. We aim to demonstrate that they are not dominated by changes in the asymmetry of the resonant peak profiles of the modes and that the previously published results on the solar-cycle variations of mode parameters are reliable. We compare the results obtained using a conventional maximum-likelihood estimation algorithm and a new one based on the Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) technique, both taking into account mode asymmetry. We assess the reliability of the solar-cycle trends seen in the data by applying the same analysis to artificially generated spectra. We find that the two methods are in good agreement. Both methods accurately reproduce the input frequency shifts in the artificial data and underestimate the amplitude and width changes by a small amount, around 10 per cent. We confirm earlier findings that the frequency and line width are positively correlated, and the mode amplitude anticorrelated, with the level of solar activity, with the energy supplied to the modes remaining essentially unchanged. For the mode asymmetry the correlation with activity is marginal, but the MCMC algorithm gives more robust results than the MLE (Maximum-Likelihood Estimate). The magnitude of the parameter shifts is consistent with earlier work. There is no evidence that the frequency changes we see arise from changes in the asymmetry, which would need to be much larger than those observed in order to give the observed frequency shift.

Published in MNRAS on 2015 October 28.