Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Accessing articles

So this isn't really a post, I just wanted to put this here in case anyone is ever looking to access a journal article using Uppsala University's credentials. For some reason it's hard to find information about how this works on the UU website (for me at least). Say you have an article that you've found on a journal's website, like this one:

You'll notice if you click this (from home, I'm not sure about from a UU connection) that you don't have access to the full article. To gain access you can use UU's proxy, by inserting "" (without the quotes, obviously) after the .com but before the /, like so:

Now you'll see that if you click the link it takes you to your UU login page. If you log in, it will return you to the article page, now with full access. There is a full list of databases supported by this feature on, but it's pretty long and I've not yet encountered an article that I haven't been able to access in this way. Happy reading!

Friday, 19 June 2015

Summertime, and the living's easy (or at least easier)

Well, I have survived exams. Sorry about the long break since the last post, but I was a bit (or rather a lot) distracted by trying to finish up everything to end the year. I actually didn't quite manage; I have a few assignments I still need to do, as well as a 3 credit project, so I've got some work to do over the summer. Luckily, as I've said before, the Swedish are very relaxed about deadlines, so I just need to finish this stuff up "before September" because my teacher/supervisor is leaving Uppsala that month.

The project I'm doing is actually part of the initial Introduction to the Physics Master Programme course that every master student does in the first semester. I'm using it to build up a bit of a foundational knowledge base that should help me for my thesis. I'm not totally sure where I'm going to do my thesis yet (it's very easy to go abroad for a thesis from UU, you just need to sort out the details yourself), but I'm hoping to get a project relating to the AdS/CFT correspondence. So far I only have experience on one side of the duality which is also what my little project will be about (large-N gauge theories), but I'll get some exposure to the string theory side next semester from the string theory courses, which I'm planning on taking.

A nice summer shot of Ångström.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Exam time

So it is once again time for exams. Actually this semester I only have one exam (for Gravitation and Cosmology), but I do have a ton of assignments that I'm buried under at the same time. This means posts are a little less frequent, sorry about that! My exam is on the 29th of May, which means after that I'm more or less free for the summer (barring leftover assignments that will still need done). The almost 3 month summer is definitely a benefit of studying in Uppsala!

With June almost around the corner, the evenings are starting to get lighter again. It's definitely still light outside at 10pm by now, so soon it'll be hard to get to sleep on time! When you're looking for housing in Uppsala, good quality blinds or curtains are a big bonus if you can find them. As for me, I'm thinking about making some sort of curtain out of duct tape. Well, if I ever find the time!

This is also around the time when people are thinking about what to do next year: projects, summer work, etc. I got two pretty interesting emails in this vein this week. One was a reminder that the physics department are starting an exchange program with São Paulo, which would be a very cool opportunity for a semester abroad! The other was about Nordita's Master Class 2015. Nordita, the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics, are putting on a series of lectures on theoretical physics this August that are specifically aimed at master students. The dates clash with my family holiday this summer, but it would be an interesting chance for incoming theory students to get some "hands-on" experience experience before the program begins! 

Friday, 1 May 2015

Valborg and bike theft

So yesterday was Valborg (aka Walpurgis Eve, aka Sista April) here in Sweden. As it turns out, this is a pretty big deal here in Uppsala. So much so that people come from Stockholm to join in the celebrations! Apparently the actual holiday has to do with saying goodbye to the winter and welcoming in the spring, but realistically it's just an excuse to have a huge party all across the city.

One of the big events of the day is the river rafting. Teams of about 3-5 people make rafts out of Styrofoam and ride on them in front of as many spectators as can fit along the river. There is a big rush in the morning to get a spot near one of the little waterfalls, where many rafts capsize. All of the rafts were built outside Ångström the week before which was an event in itself: there were big party tents set up with a temporary pub and other activities surrounding the building of the rafts. For the big event there were also stalls all along the river selling food, balloons, sunglasses, and all sorts of other things.

A Game of Thrones themed raft sailing on the river

Monday, 20 April 2015

Free food + more at Ångströmlaboratoriet

Well, the sun is finally coming back to Uppsala! I couldn't believe it yesterday when it was still beautiful and sunny outside, and I checked my watch and it was 19:00! It's getting me excited for the actual summer time. Last weekend I also caught a rare glimpse of the sun in the Netherlands, where I had gone to visit for a belated Easter with my family and for my girlfriend's birthday.

This past week was another research lunch, this time hosted by the Nuclear Physics division. Research lunches are great events that the physics department puts on once per month. Each lunch is hosted by a different research division (they are all listed on the left side of the department's homepage). Basically researchers from the hosting division come and share a free lunch with bachelor and master students in physics. This is a great chance to meet potential project or thesis supervisors. Typically there is also a 5 minute introduction about what the division does, and each researcher talks for about 1 minute about their own research.

I really like the lunches because I like to hear about what all is going on at the university, and I often use them to ask about academic careers in general. There are always international people present who may have done PhDs and post-docs in various countries, so it's nice for me to get a bit of a handle on what my next steps will be. Also, it's a free meal, so everyone is always happy to go, whether they're interested in that division or not!

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Easter time!

As most people probably know, there was a solar eclipse about two weeks ago visible from Northern Europe. It was quite cloudy in Uppsala, which meant anyone who had bought special viewing glasses was disappointed. However, the clouds did provide enough protection to look at the sun for a short time without hurting yourself, and I did get a few good looks at the eclipse. I was actually in class while it was happening, but the nice thing about being in physics is that your teachers are likely to also be interested in this sort of thing, so we had a break during the lecture to go check it out.

My brother Callum got this shot through the clouds in Maastricht.
This is pretty much what it looked like in Uppsala too.
In other moon-related news, it's Easter this weekend (the date of Easter is based on the lunar cycle)! Good Friday and Easter Monday are both holidays in Sweden, so that makes for a nice long weekend. A lot of students seem to also have the entire next week free, but I still have class, albeit only for four hours. I was planning on going back to Amsterdam for the break, but I waited too long and flights got super expensive, so I decided I'm going to go next weekend instead.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Aurora in Uppsala!

It's been a sunny and beautiful weekend here in Uppsala, made even better by the fact that my girlfriend Lisette came to visit! I also had to renew my passport at the Canadian embassy in Stockholm (which was conveniently only a 5 minute walk from Central Station) so we did a bit of shopping and had a drink in Stockholm as well, which was nice. This coming week is basically a studying week for me as I have my Mathematical Methods of Physics exam on Monday, just before the new term starts.

Last night there was a big geomagnetic storm which resulted in visible Northern Lights pretty far south, and they were definitely visible from Uppsala! I didn't manage to get any photos from my phone, but my friend Davide managed to snap this photo with his iPhone:
Definitely not professional quality, but not bad for a phone picture!
[View on Instagram]

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The same, yet different

I had kind of a strange experience yesterday. I was biking to class, which is a pretty routine thing for me, and all of a sudden I got the feeling of being lost. Now if you know me you'll know that I'm terrible with directions, but come on. I've been living at my new place for about 3 weeks now and I bike to Ångström pretty much every day. I should know where I'm going. And yet, somehow, I just didn't recognize the street properly. I wasn't lost, of course, and once I got over my brief confusion I continued on my way to class. It wasn't until I saw a cloud of dust blowing around in the Ångström parking lot that I realized what was different: the streets were dry.

I know this may not sound like much of a revelation, but this was the first time I had seen my path to school without it being damp or snowy. It's been sunny and warm the past few days, so I'm going to go ahead and get my hopes up that this is a sign of winter ending. That, and the fact that even if I have class until 17.00 these days it's still light outside when I get home, which is a novelty after the darkness!

But enough about the weather. The class I was cycling to yesterday (and today) was the last component in my Quantum Field Theory course: a crash course on the Higgs boson! I had actually done something similar to this before, but that was before I had the tools to really appreciate what exactly I was doing.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Missed deadline

I've said before that I would try to post every 2 weeks, and if you check the dates you'll see that I missed last week's post, but luckily I have a good reason: I was in Canada! One of my best friends was getting married and I went back for about a week for the wedding and to catch up with friends (it had been about 2.5 years since I was last home). When I got back to Uppsala I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of snow and relative warmth compared to a week ago.

The clock is ticking!
There is no break right now (in fact there aren't really any official breaks at all during the year, but that's another story), so I had to miss some class. Actually quite a lot of class, since I have Quantum Field Theory every day, and Mathematical Methods doesn't have very many lectures so missing even one (or in my case two) is a big deal. I also have an assignment due today for QFT about the material I missed, so the stress is on.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

To infinity and beyond!

Homelessness averted! Since my last post I have successfully managed to secure myself a new place to live. I'll be moving to an area of Uppsala called Eriksberg, which is quite a bit closer to Ångstöm than my current location in Gränby: my commute will go from about 5.5km down to about 3km! Woohoo! I don't honestly know whether I got my place from Blocket or Studentboet (see the helpful links), but it is definitely second hand, which as I mentioned before is the easiest type of housing to get.

There's been a lot more snow this week. It's not overly deep but because it has been coming down more or less constantly it's very hard for them to keep the paths clear, making biking a nightmare. I fell once, but I was going slow and landed on my feet so no big deal. I have been taking the bus to and from Ångström though because it hasn't been worth the trouble to bike the past few days.

So, I don't normally just share cool stuff on the blog but I thought this was worth it. I saw this video today on reddit and I wanted to post it. It's a video (as in, a compilation of actual photographs, not CGI) taken by the Cassini spacecraft approaching Saturn, with bonus fly-bys of a few moons. I'm seriously blown away at how detailed these images are, and just in general by the fact that we as a species are capable of pulling things like this off.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

On the hunt

I'm back in Uppsala! I've had the first couple of lectures of the new term and it looks like it's going to be a good one. For this period I've got Mathematical Methods of Physics II and Quantum Field Theory. This selection is interesting because it shows how different the various courses can be at UU. While both courses are 10 ECTs, QFT has about 36 lectures, 5 or 6 homework assignments, and no exam, whereas FMMII (the abbreviation for mathematical methods) has only 15 lectures and an exam, with homework assignments optional. This has no bearing on how easy or hard either course will be, it's just an illustration of the variety of course styles that are available here.

Just imagine me on my bike, with the back end swinging
wildly, but definitely looking just as awesome.
There is some serious snow here now (not too deep, but it's not going anywhere any time soon) with the roads covered in hard packed snow and ice. I was thinking about getting a bus pass, but after a few days back I'm getting used to biking in it, so I might just save myself the money. I bought my bike used and the tires have basically no grip, so I can't brake hard, but I can do my own cycling version of Tokyo Drift, which makes me feel like one of the cool kids. Also, since I bike through a park on my way to Ångström, the snow makes the commute pretty beautiful.

So around the time that I wrote my last post, I got the news that I have to move out of my current room by the end of February. This came as a bit of a shock as I had previously been told that the room would be available to me until the summer, if not this time next year. However, it seems that my roommates/landlords have decided to move, so I need to as well.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Back to the grindstone

... Well, sort of. As I mentioned in my last post I have an unusually long break this year, with classes not resuming until January 19th. So I'm writing this post from Amsterdam! However, just because I'm on holiday doesn't mean I don't have coursework to do, so don't be too jealous.

My (left) and my girlfriend's (right) bikes
My (left) and my girlfriend's (right) bikes. Don't be fooled
by this awkward perspective, mine is bigger, I promise.
From what I hear the relatively warm weather we were having before I left Uppsala is now more or less gone, and I notice that the next few days on the forecast call for snow, with the temperature to dip down to -10C on Sunday. The combination of snow and cold will make for some uncomfortable cycling conditions, I'm sure, so this seems like a good time to talk about getting around Uppsala.

The best way to get around is without a doubt by bike. Living in Amsterdam had already changed me into a cyclist, so I was thrilled to see that cycling is also very popular in Uppsala. The city is well equipped with bike paths, and it is small enough that almost everything is within comfortable (less than 30 minutes) biking distance. Uppsala isn't exactly hilly, but it's not totally flat either, so I'd recommend a bike that has at least a few gears. Mine is a 3-speed, and that works just fine. There are used bikes for sale on various Facebook groups/pages (Buy and Sell Items, Buy & Sell in Uppsala, Buy / Sell a bike in Uppsala), and at the Saturday market on Vaksala Torget. For reference, I paid 700kr for mine, and bought it through Facebook.