Knotted nature

The final publication of my PhD was accepted into Nature Physics and was also selected as the front cover article. My contribution to this publication was in setting up and running the experiment alongside optimising the experiment parameters and processing the data.

In a nutshell, the result of the paper is the first demonstration of isolated knotted optical vortices in a laser beam. This means that we were able to engineer the light in the beam such that it circulated in the pattern of a knot.

The experiment’s success derived from combining two very separate domains: knot theory and holography.

Red haze

Just came across this whilst looking through some old photos. It’s an image from my undergraduate project. It was made using a Spatial Light Modulator – a device which is essentially a programmable hologram. By using a computer I could make laser light reflecting from it form whatever shapes I wanted.

As you can see I was incredibly creative and made some triangles and ellipses…

Norfolk & Chance

Through various parties pulling out, the team that eventually took part was “Norfolk & Chance”, consisting of Anne, David and myself.

Another great weekend this year (with weather to match). Norfolk & Chance made their way around the entire course in 11 hours. We covered most of Edinburgh and some of the Pentlands with kayaking, running, abseiling, swimming and cycling, with the last making up the majority of the day. Looking forward to next year already!

My unwilling new hairdo

During the Edinburgh Rat Race this year we arrived at a checkpoint in the “Nut House Barbers”. One of the team was required to have their head partially shaved in order to pass. Anne – no, david – no. It was always going to be me…

That night I shaved all my hair off. I was sporting a very aerodynamic look as we set off on the main part of the race on Sunday.

Lossiemouth half-marathon


Lossiemouth half-marathon, originally uploaded by jellykev.

Done in 1 hour 26 minutes and 40 seconds! That’s 5 minutes and 47 seconds off my previous time. Dan put in the exact same time. I trailed him for the first ten miles but fought my way back to bring us shoulder to shoulder. I wonder if the Rome marathon in four weeks can separate us?

It was a perfect day for racing. No wind, no clouds and a lot of sunshine. Let’s hope we’re as lucky in Rome…

Rat Race

Okay, more racing related material – surprised? On Saturday 15th June Mark, Shona and myself embarked on the prologue of the Rat Race – a three hour run around the streets of Edinburgh dotted with ‘challenges’ – wheelchair rugby, racing bikes with no brakes, carrying sand-bags up chutes etc. We sprinted to the finish line at 10pm having covered around 18 miles. Upon finishing we were awarded with pasta, carrot cake and a map. The map was for the real event. We managed to stay awake until just after mdnight, marking out half of the course for Sunday. After a bowl of Shreddies I crawled into bed for a few hours sleep.

5:30am. Up, shower, race clothes, race number, back-pack, harness, climbing helmet, compas, whistle, head-torch, Shreddies (again) and then into the taxi. By 7am we were standing outisde Edinburgh castle about to begin. Before we could mount our bikes we had to complete a short ‘warm-up’ run down to Princes Street Gardens, back up to the castle, back down then onto the bikes. We did pretty well in the run, getting to the bikes fairly early. Running the bikes out of the gardens, the excitement was building. Out and off with quite some speed we made our way through the streets. The first surprise was a long stair section. Mark made it down with bumpy ease. I made it half way down before chickening out. Realising that we would be out for at least ten hours, we began to slow.

The next task was an abseil into a quarry – in which some ‘locals’ were having an impromptu rave. Once some ratracers were down on the ground it made for an interesting mix of people. One member from each team was to comlpete the abseil. Shona made it look easy as Mark and I scrambled down the side of the quarry.

[From here on in the description is going to get a bit sketchy – it really is too much for me to type it all – but here’s roughly how the rest of it went…]

Back on the bikes and a short cycle later we were hitting golf balls at Braid Hills Golf Club. In order to progress we were required to hit a ball about 100 yards. Mark was over in two, I got lucky and hit that wonderful sweet spot on my first swing and Shona… well… let’s just say that golf is a frustrating game.

The next stage was a long cycle up over and down the Pentland hills. We all found going up hard, we had to walk the majority of it. Coming down was fantastic! I gave my bike a good hammering (and it gave me a few scares in return). After a lot more cycling we arrived at Roslin Chapel for a 10K trail run involving a bit of orienteering. I have to apologise to Mark and Shona for marking one of the bloody checkpoints in wrong grid on the map… sorry guys. Towards the end of the run we donned our climbing gear to traverse the underside of a bridge spanning a gorge.

More running. More cyling. Lots of water. Then Musselburgh for kayaking. I found this very difficult. It may have been that it was now 5:30pm or it may have just been really hard. We had to begin by carrying the kayaks ~100m to the water! They’re certainly not as light as they look. Shona and I jumped in one (with myself getting very wet feet in the process) and Mark took the single. 3K later we were back on land with very sore arms. Carrying the kayaks back took quite some effort. Being too late for some of the checkpoints, we headed to the race finish. I was empty. The final few miles dragged on and on. Hungry and dehydrated I fixed my gaze on Mark and kept pedaling. We walked at slow pace into Princes Street Gardens (compare with how we left) to be confronted with the ‘lard wall’. This was a sloped wall of linoleum pasted in butter and mashed bananas. Beyond this was the finishing line.

I thought, “it can’t be that slippy”. I took a few steps back, launched myself. Flump. Hmmm. Maybe some team effort required here. With me standing on Mark’s shoulders, Shona climbed up. She then pulled me up, Mark following close behind. Running down to the finish was a huge moment of relief. After twelve hours of rat racing it was over. Phew.

Isle of Man

I spent my easter weekend on the Isle of Man. I have never visited before. My first impressions were of an Island that is lucky with its weather and has a very high number of very fast cars. I wonder if the speed limits differ from that of the rest of the UK? Anyway, I should get to the point. The point of the journey was to have fun. The mechanism that we chose to obtain this fun was a running festival. That’s right, we chose a festival based around physical endurance with the aim of having fun.

Due to slight injury I only took part in one of the three races scheduled. During the 10K road race, I had a sports massage. During the hill race I had a nice walk and took pictures of my team members running. The 5K road relay, I ran. I am happy to say that I now appear to be injury free. All in all, it was a great weekend and we will most definitely be returning next year.