Any views expressed anywhere in this site are entirely my own and resemblance to the views of my employer are purely coincidental.
In my spare time, I've been working on a website called WhenShallWe.com. An early version is now public but I plan to make incremental improvements to it.
WhenShallWe is designed to be useful if you're trying to arrange to meet a group of people but it's hard to pick a day because people are busy. The web site maintains a list of which people can make which days so that the organiser can easily see which day is best
|About Jon Levell|
I am a geek who potters around Winchester, UK. I work for IBM UK at their beautiful Hursley Development Labs as a software engineer (this is my personal webpage and has nothing to do with my employer - any opinions presented here are solely my responsibility).
I do have a blog but it is updated very sporadically.
My girlfriend, Em, has her own website but since going back to uni she's far too busy to update it much - or at least she should be!
I haven't always been professionally interested in computers - in a former existance I spent eight years studying physics.
During my PhD I studied Non-commutative Gauge Theories and co-authored two papers:
I studied particle physics, i.e. studying what goes on deep inside the atoms that make up us and everything around us. These atoms are made of protons, neutrons (which are themselves made of quark and gluons) and electrons. These quarks, electrons and gluons (as well as photons, which are "particles" of light) are broadly speaking the objects we study. Astonishingly accurate predictions can be made which are tested throughly by smashing together electrons (or protons) in huge underground laboratories called particle accelerators and examining the remnants of the collisions
There is a theory called superstring theory, for which there is as yet no evidence aside from its intrinsic mathematical beauty except that nobody has yet disproved it. This theory talks about matter on a tiny scale, on a scale much, much smaller than the size of an electron, which is why it is so hard to test and either verify or disprove. The fundamental idea of this theory is that instead of thinking of particles as like points (which in some sense we currently do) instead particles are vibrations in tiny, tiny strings. A strange idea but from this you can obtain some of the equations that are are the core of mathematic physics (General Relativity and gauge theory).
If string theory were true then under certain circumstances these strings would line up. If this happens then space would no longer be the same in all directions and this might have implications for physics at a scale slightly bigger than the tiny scale of string theory. It is these implications that some researchers (including me) are examining.
One accusation often levelled at particle physics is that it has little to do with the "real" world. Attached to that accusation is normally the associated question, "Why should we be giving you tax-payers money?". Well it is indeed very far removed from everyday life and certainly papers published today won't save any lives or even speed up computers tomorrow. But technology is built on pure science, it is impossible to tell today what advances will come in 50 or 100 years time from any breakthroughs in understanding our world that we might make.
There has been an element of science that has been far removed from everyday life for a long time, when Michael Faraday was doing early experiments with electricity, he had connected a frog's leg up to a little dynamo and showed the then prime-minister Robert Peel (in another version of this story he was talking to Gladstone, the chancellor) that he could make the frog's leg spasm. When asked "But what use is it?", he replied, "Why sir, there is the probability that you may soon be able to tax it.". A remark that turned out to be remarkably prescient
Immediately after the electron had been discovered in 1898 by Thompson, few people would have predicted the impact that this tiny ghostly particle would have on our lives through electronics, in fact, even amongst the staff at the Cavendish laboratory in Cambridge (where the discovery was made), there was a common toast: "To the electron -- may it never be of use to anyone."
Your local university will probably have days dedicated to letting the public know about physics (if not, why not?) and if they have a particle physics group then that might be a good place to start. Alternatively, the Particle Physics in the UK website has lots of links to sites both in the UK and abroad.