• Member Since 28th Oct, 2012
  • offline last seen 6 hours ago


Particle Physics and Pony Fiction Experimentalist

More Blog Posts365


State of the Science Communicator · 12:14am Jan 28th, 2019

Apologies for not posting so much over the last two months. I have not been so active on Fimfiction for a while for various reasons. The past year has been difficult in more than one way. But I am hoping to be more active for 2019.

It seems a good time to reflect on what I am doing.

My ‘day job’ has changed a bit since I first joined this site in 2012. For a while I was working on a variety of fun science projects, installing sensors in underground tunnels to search for a correlation between groundwater flow and the geomagnetic field… Trying to build the ultimate super-precise calibration magnetometer for a Fermilab experiment… Searching for dark matter…

However none of my crazy ideas, or indeed the crazy ideas of other people that I ended up working on, made fast enough progress to get sustained funding. Getting funding for physics research is not getting any easier. For the last few years I have been working on R&D for the ATLAS experiment – a big project at CERN, which has steady funding, as having invested however-many millions to-date, the funding agencies are not going to pull out so soon. This is the High Energy Frontier of physics. Which is exciting. Except I am in a huge collaboration with an awful lot of very smart people, many of whom have been working on this one experiment for twenty years or more. I am a newcomer still struggling to pick up all the jargon, and there’s only so many exciting things to do. I end up with jobs like writing code to interface with component databases.

However I now have more time to spend on one of the more fun parts of my job—science outreach and public engagement. I run an open day and festival stall, enthusing to young children about the fundamental building blocks of the universe, and playing with Lego and Minecraft. Fortunately my boss is very supportive of this, which gives me access to a budget to buy new science toys, and the freedom to develop new activities. The less exciting side to it is the paperwork – logging every event we do with estimated audience numbers and impact assessment.

Since every science outreach thing I do has to be reported, I decided to add writing pony stories to that. I gave a talk about writing fan fiction at a Public Engagement with Research conference back in July, which then got me a brief mention in our staff magazine:

In the months after this, I have often met new people to find they remember me as that guy who writes My Little Pony science stories. If I was a serious academic I would be concerned about not being taken seriously. Fortunately (or not) I have now reached a point in my career where I have given up hope of being taken seriously. I am a sort of zombie professor, who never got tenure, but has been around so long that the university can’t get rid of me so easily. Which is not such a bad place to be.

Since writing science pony stories is the thing that got me most notice within the university last year, I want to keep doing this. I am also thinking about other ideas for Science Communication with Ponies… It would be great to do something which would appeal to both the fandom and also young children… If I can do it with Lego and Minecraft, why not ponies? I’m not exactly sure what is the best way, but we will see where this goes…

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
Comments ( 10 )

What would be the effect if it was possible to only slightly modify a simple computer game, to demonstrate everything from quantum particle reactions, through solar systems and evolution of civilisations, right out to the universe, such that any given part only existed when you were looking at it and ceased to exist when noon one observed it?

Elite Classic?

What about the news that giant lasers are being built in order to pump enough energy into space time so that virtual particles become real, but its also been declared that highly concentrated light has a gravitational field, meaning a powerful enough laser cuts off at a given energy level because it makes black holes, so giving a hard quantize level to the maximum power, which would be even better if that limit was the Planck mass?

For the same reason, you cant get to the speed of light because you get squeezed so hard as you approach it, you fall into your own event horizon?

The punctuation characters used in the Gutenberg moveable typeset press as a way of seeing how AI learns about overall language?

Rarity and Twilight get their orders for the latest punch card controlled devices confused, so Rarity gets the computer and ends up using for the accounts, and Twilight gets the Jaquard loom and ends up using it for weaving magical spells etc?

Would the FSC be capable of regularly producing nano blackholes which would lead to advancements in containment and resonant stabilisation due to them being the ultimate waste disposal, energy generators etc?


ionic speakers are really impressive, but its been a lot of years since I saw the article how to build your own in the electronics mag.

Maybe something about teh death by high voltage and noone wants to wind their own isolating transformer these days or something?

They had a guy playing Brony songs on tesla coils last BronyCon.

I am glad that you are okay. Sorry about your personal problems and the death of your father. I am sad to learn that you will not receive tenure:

Many politicians want to abolish tenure because it renders professors immune to political pressure. Imagine what would happen to Jordan College of Oxford without the protection of tenure. :scootangel: My personal philosophy is that we should have tenure for protecting Science from politics and religion, but it should be hard to get because it should be hard to remove.

Strangely enough I do have a story outline somewhere involving Twilight and Rarity building a mechanical computer. I'll have to see if I can find where I put it.

I think I need one of those now.

I say I 'didn't get tenure' as that's something people can understand. However "Tenure" is not actually a clearly defined process in British universities. In the US it is usually a well-understood system with set criteria you need to meet to receive it. Here it is much more complicated and messy, this means unscrupulous senior academics and other followers of the dark arts can abuse the system, but we do have much stronger protection against dismissal than most universities. I have learnt this over the last year while doing trade union casework. Maybe one day I will try to write a blog post in which Twilight Sparkle explains Statute XII of the University of Oxford.


I forgot that your ways are not our ways. I hope that one cannot fire the Professors in Jordan College of Oxford for investigating Dust. :twilightsheepish:

That sounds like an awesome job! A perfect mix of the cutting edge, outreach, and coding!

Login or register to comment
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!