XRM 2016 conference day 3: “Hay Jude” parody songs

by e_e_evans PhD student

“Day 3 in the XRM-house, the delegates are in Lecture room 1, singing.”

That is a thing that actually happened. In celebration of 3 of the founding members of the XRM conference who are also X-ray microscopy pioneers, Professors Schmal, Kirz and Burge, a lyric-swap of The Beatles No. 1 sing-a-long song was sung. Who say’s science conferences are dry affairs? (Granted, I think some people were a bit bemused and/or embarrassed by it but my time as a young worker has helped me embrace silliness such as that when I used to be among the embarrassed group).

Today was a half day but no less packed. Session one saw talks on studying art using microprobes; chemical mapping of low concentration elements in the tests of foraminiferas; and a talk on scanning theory and reconstruction that I would probably appreciated more had I had the right background in X-ray physics.

The second set of talks I attended discussed improvements to 4D tomography reconstruction (where the 4th dimension in this case is time). Once again freeware is on offer to try out the techniques back in the lab and I have been assured by the presenter that although the maths is complex (he showed us all the equations) it’s easier to use.

Today I presented my poster which is always heartening but quite tiring too. I like chatting over my work in that sort of situation because it gives me ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of before. It’s a bit of a problem in one sense though, I end up coming back with even more ideas that either would add directly to my work or would be really exciting to do.

In my free afternoon I mooched about, firstly, around a bookshop (they seem to call to me like a dog whistle). I always find that different cities have different types of things in their charity shops. Oxford, I predicted, would have a good selection of academic related texts (not necessarily textbooks, just notable works relevant to the field). To my delight I am now the proud owner of a very good condition copy of Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott. Another future blog post may be a review of said book. Books are one of the few things I have a genuine weakness for buying. Luckily charity shop books are always at a discount which is great for people who have to weight up buying food vs. books.

My second stop was the Oxford Natural History museum which I really enjoyed. I know I’ll have to go back again when I’m less brain dead from X-ray science as I didn’t do my usual amount of reading of signs. It’s a very beautiful building both inside and out, especially the stone pillars inside that are all made of different rocks from the British Isles complete with chiselled labels. Once again, photos will be forthcoming.

My only complaint is the frequent use of wet preserved specimens next to fossils in displays to show modern similar species. I’ve got better with spirit collections over the years (a biology classroom with a resident half-eviscerated rabbit in formaldehyde will do that) but most of them were invertebrates today and things like slugs and leaches make my skin crawl. The dinosaur skeletons are terrific and I really liked the “you can touch” style displays of rocks, fossils and even a stuffed black bear.

Notebook page count for today: 18

Time for bed, said Zebedee.