Recent additions to the bookshelf

One of the advantages of this past year has been a commute from the south of London to the center of the city daily that meant I had between 1 1/2 and 2 hours sitting or standing while waiting to get where I was going. Sometimes that went to reading academic papers for my masters, but a lot of the time it went to recreational reading. Add that to the fact that I got a library card as soon as I could(making this the sixth city on the third continent where I have paid library fines) and I was able to get through quite a few books. Well, considering that I was in school at the time.

The highlight list includes:

That’s not a fully complete list, but those are most of the books I remember. Well, there’s also a bunch of classic science fiction books, but I’ll talk about those later

And its done (pretty much)

So I am (semi) officially done with my Masters. Research is done, my thesis has been turned in and I have defended it. While my results still have to be ratified by the college(pretty much a formality) I can say that I have a Masters by Research in Bio, Nano and X-Ray Photonics from the Physics department of King’s College London. Bit of a mouthful, I know.

And so with that done it is time to move on to the next phase of my life. As soon as I know what that is, so will anyone actually still reading this blog(I’d assume there is maybe one of you at this point)

Until later people

Not dead, missing or abandoned

Just working on getting this thesis done as well as I possibly can for my Masters. After its done expect a bunch of rants about the evils of Visual Studio, my love of Python, Numpy, iPython, Matplotlib, Mayavi2 and \LaTeX.

Oh, and musings about my slow but steady infatuation with judo.

In the meantime Wish me luck, 2 \frac{1}{2} weeks  until I’m done.

Aah, beaten to it(another Wire post)

There was meant to be a follow up to my post on The Wire where I would discuss what a version of that show looking at Africa would look like. However I’ve been slow about writing these things and so fellow African geek aflakete pointed me to this post on Brown Man’s Burden that beat me to the punch. Hence I’ll just quote him

I think an interesting show, similar to the Wire, could be made about economic development and foreign aid. It would document NGOs, the World Bank, bureaucrats, politicians, big foundations and academics in their efforts to distribute aid and stimulate economic growth.

The key would be to show how the self-interest of each of these groups both helps and hinders the process of growth, and to convey how complicated stimulating growth and poverty alleviation is.

Obviously the man is a genius since we both had the exact same idea. Except he’s faster at writing these things out than I have been recently. Its still a great idea though, and it’ll provide a convenient launching pad for my next post on this topic. Sooner rather than later people, don’t worry.

Why I will miss The Wire

Some of you have heard of The Wire, a crime show that ran for 5 seasons on HBO and recently came to a close. Actually if you are a regular reader you probably have heard of it. I tend to run in those kinds of circles.

For those of you who haven’t heard of it, the link above will cover all the details if you are interested. In short though, it is a show that primarily operates from the point of view of the police and criminals in the city of Baltimore, Maryland and then uses that point of view to examine the cracks in the American dream in its inner cities and former industrial towns in a manner that is nothing short of remarkable. Personally I believe it is one of the best written television shows I have ever seen.

What makes this show great in my eyes, and most likely one of the same things that prevented it from achieving the kind of mass acclaim it deserves, is the way it has continually avoided overly simple and neat explanations of problems in favour of the kind of nuanced view that is rarely see in either real life or fiction.

In their world, there are multiple instances when the question of who is good, who is evil and what actions are appropriate is left to the audience instead of being explicitly spelled out for them to an accompanying soundtrack. Even more impressive though, social problems aren’t solved by 30 second simple fixes that involve one person’s removal or miraculous change of character. Instead we are shown the overlapping circles of dysfunction in the police, the media, the political system, local businesses, the school system and the streets themselves and how each enables and reenforces the other. Most of the people we spend time around are hemmed in my these systems and forced to choose between a series of very limited options, each with its own set of consequences. Some choose well, most choose badly, although again the question of which is the right choice is left to the judgement of the viewer a majority of the time.

For the most part, people who talk about this stuff tend to assume that their audience lacks the attention span necessary to digest a multifaceted view of life and therefore are only capable of dealing in terms of overly simplistic narratives with all the lines clearly sketched in for them and there is no hint of complexity, underlying issues, overlapping causes or anything else that might actually require them to assume the people they are being told about live lives every bit as complicated as theirs, if not more so.

In a lot of ways, The Wire’s insistance on a nuanced look at a world usually dominated by simplistic narratives and a complete lack of empathy reminded me a lot of the larger conversation about Africa. A lot of the time instead of a proper look at the mix of factors that cause things to be the way they are in my part of the world, a simple narrative of ‘vampire states’ or something equally inane to cover a much wider range of issues.

Anyway, that minor rant aside, I’m going to miss this show. It was 5 seasons of memorable characters and the kind of writing that draws you in regardless of whether or not you want to be drawn in.

How did it take me so long to notice this?

Proof that I’ve been neglecting my blogroll to a degree, I missed this TED talk.

Its by Dr. Neil Turok, a Physicist at Cambridge and founder of AIMS(African institute of Mathematical Sciences) which is a school in South Africa that brings together students from all over the continent for a 9 month postgraduate course to learn advanced mathematical and computer skills.

The talk is very, very much worth listening to. And I’m wondering if they’ll have use for a certain Ghanaian physicist in a few years time. This is one of those jobs I’d be more than happy to settle into.

the story so far…….

As usual, there has been a bit of a time lag in my blogging. I’m working on getting more regular at this people. Until then please forgive the absences. I assure you I am actually working (most of)the time I am not here.

Anyway, as far as school goes. I am almost done with the lectures segment of my course. Although to, be honest, their idea of lectures has mainly involved getting us to read and figure out stuff on our own as much as possible and get back to them when extra direction is needed. My research project has been picked though, so I shall be working on nothing else from about the end of march until the end of September when I turn in and defend my thesis.

As for what its about, well, I shall be using the finite difference time domain method to determine the electromagnetic field distribution in the vicinity of silver and gold nanoparticles and find the localized surface plasmon resonances of a range of nanostructures(copied almost directly from the proposal I was given. The links will help explain it but basically I shall be using a FORTRAN program developed as someone’s Phd to run some simulations. I may end up making some modifications to the code too, depending on how things go.

As for Judo, I went for my first competition this weekend At the University of Sheffield International Student Teams competition. The ‘A’ team from my club came in second and our women won the drinking challenge later that night. I didn’t do so well. I fought in the ‘C’ team in the weight class above mine against predominantly better competition. And I made some mistakes I shouldn’t have. Hence I got, thrashed. Still, I have a feeling I shall not be repeating those mistakes again. And, barring any surprise schoolwork, I’ll be fighting in another competition this weekend at my proper weight class against less seasoned opposition. I’ll let you know how that goes. And hopefully I’ll have pictures.

Until then people………….