Ouch! My brain! XRM 2016 Day 1

by e_e_evans PhD student

If how well a conference is going were to be judged by the number of pages I’ve filled in the first day only XRM 2016 is doing rather well (18 pages!)

Got out of bed very much feeling like an undergrad in halls again, not least because I’m staying in a room in Keble College and had breakfast in their Great Hall (I think petite pans are the signature breakfast roll of academic institutions from one end of the country to the other). Bright sunshine and pretty architecture certainly make for a pleasant walk even when you know you’re going to be inside all day.

As a geologist and not an X-ray scientist by trade I feared that coming to a conference billed as “X-ray Microscopy” (of which X-ray tomography is only a tiny part of XRM) might leave me in over my head.

Well, yes and no.

Talks today ranged from overviews of several research facilities and new scanning components to direct applications. Talks on applications included an summary of an on going study hunting for why Alzheimer’s Disease develops and how; using sandpaper to enhance imaging (no really); and my personal favourite, a talk on what the structure of dinosaur teeth can tell us about their diet and evolutionary path (answer: a lot!)

But the title of this is “Ouch! My brain!” and for good reason. The science of X-ray microscopy, which seems to me to be three parts physics to one part algebra to two parts geometry, did go over my head at times so to dilute my shame here are the definitions of some words or vocabulary I had to look up later:

Microphages: In there more common recent usage, a microphage is a white blood cell in a vertebrate immune system.
Dark field X-ray: X-ray signals produced by scattering caused by porous structure within a material. These signals are dependant on the orientation of the sample in the case of materials showing anisotropy.
Spherical harmonics: mathematical functions applied to coordinates on a sphere surface. Handy for when you’re dealing with points on the surface of the Earth (which is more or less spherical in an oblate spheroid kind of a way).
Coloured X-rays: Bands of particular X-ray energies similar to how different colours of light are confined to certain wavelengths. Useful for detective chemical composition of a sample.
Ptychography: err… something about diffraction patterns and… yeah I’ve got no Earthly clue. Questions for someone tomorrow.

Despite attending the conference alone I did a surprisingly large amount of chatting to folks today, mainly because I set myself the goal that if I saw anything that a colleague might be interested in or relate to their work I should make enquiries.

I may submit something to the conference blog before the week’s out but for now, further updates will be here (including pictures hopefully when I work out how to get them off my phone).

Roll on Day 2… but right now I need sleep!