Thursday, 31 July 2008

Hello BBC!

Since posting this link about the One Geology lecture in Jan I'm delighted to see it make the headlines of the BBC science/nature in July. Perhaps we really are getting somewhere?

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Flight Patterns

In the space of two days last week I had two unexpected conversations about GPS and flying.

The first was about GPS assisted incursions into air space. Good old GPS is so easy to use: an inexperienced, private navigator simply pops in a waypoint for Brest and off they fly. In a straight line. Straight into Heathrow airspace.

Since GPS has been used by private pilots incursions into airspace have rocketed.

And the second one was at a party on Saturday where, over a glass of wine, I discovered that the chap I was talking to worked for QinetiQ on air flight patterns. We had a lovely chat (boring to everyone else around us!) about air pressures. I hadn't realised that each airport sets it's barometric pressure to a certain amount and broadcasts this for all planes in that area. And once over a certain height all pilots switch to 1013mB for flying. Once you're that high absolute position doesn't matter but relative position (to everything else in the air) is critical and its essential that they're all on the same settings. Makes sense when you think about it.

Eurocontrol has introduced GPS, in the differential mode, for landing but only for those airports where surveying has taken place.

I love parties where you learn things. I recall a New Year's Eve Party in Cape Town recently where I fell into conversation with someone about SAP and production systems. Lock me up someone. rolleyes

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

There's Hope Yet

Who knows, with a role model like this I may still yet become Dr Adams. wink

Sunday, 20 July 2008

TP5547 with tworedboots

My friend, otherwise known as tworedboots, dragged me out geocaching today. Well, not dragged necessarily but I've always been a bit wary of something which relies totally on GPS positioning and not good old fashioned map reading. It seems so much like cheating rolleyes

Anyway, after a swift find of the cache we headed off to locate the trig pillar at Pynes Hill. Piece of cake since I had a 1:25 000 OS map on which it was clearly marked. I got the right side of the fence, which GPS doesn't give you, but annoyingly Sarah found it first with her GPS. It was so hidden in brambles and nettles that none of us could see it. However Sarah was convinced her GPS was right and eventually spied it through the overgrowth before I did. Give me some humble pie please redface

I crawled into the nettles to find it but still only got to within 2 metres of it. I was too caught up in brambles with my hair/jeans/jumper to get any closer!

Anyway, all blogged here. Now I must be getting truly sad. To not only bag a trig pillar but to write about it.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Double the Difference Galileo Style

The first report that double differencing has been done on Galileo signals. I think we may be getting somewhere.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Beating the Retreat

I went to Rutherford Appleton Laboratory on Thursday visiting the astronomers of HMNAO. Had a really useful time catching up on all things astronomical. I was particularly tickled by a chat between two of them when one of them stated "ah yes, Steve, you are far further out than me". On explanation I was told that Don only does planet orbits whereas Steve is interested in stars - the 'way out' guy. I am so local, Mrs Terrestrial as I am.

Had an interesting chat about orbit modelling and how it is impossible to obtain a perfect answer when you work with datasets of varying quality and time span. For example, Don was trying to model the orbits of Uranus using datasets which were (a) high quality, but only 6 months' worth and (b) low quality but over a long period. Both datasets are vital but you have to know how to use/weight them. Ah, now there's the connudrum and depending how you weight, and which long/short wavelengths you choose, it can completely alter the answer.

Met with their RAL boss at lunchtime who is keen on telescope pointing. So that kick-started a discussion about deviation of the vertical, Hawaii and Tristan da Cunha. So I shared my salad with a planetary modeller; a stellar guru and a telescope pointer. Makes for a fun lunch. wink And we honestly didn't mention Patrick Moore too much...

That evening attended the ceremony of Beating the Retreat at the Denison Barracks, Hertimage, Newbury [42 Royal Engineering Unit and Royal School of Military Survey]. I've been there many times with the RN 'Long Course' studying GPS and least squares but this time was pure pleasure. Well, pleasure with a lot of networking and catching up with old colleagues.

My favourite old friend though was not where I expected it. The last time I saw it, it was proudly perched in the middle of the bar area but they have been moved to a corner between and ladies and gents toilets. Such salubrious surroundings!

I think it's a Cooke's theodolite but not sure which one. Anyone know?

As ever, I am immensely impressed by Beating the Retreat. How the band plays and moves in strictly choreographed moves is a wonder. Perhaps it's dead easy and you just follow the person in front but, ahem, what if you are the one in front? The band of the Royal Engineers were great.

After a sensibly early night I headed off to Worcester on Friday to attend the 2008 graduation of the survey school.

Was delighted to see 24 students graduate with an NVQ Level 3 Spatial Data Managment - well done! My only disappointment was that there was only one female amongst them all. Where are all the women?

Again, a great chance to catch up with friends and colleagues, in particular contacts from the Institute of Civil Engineers who are on the road to getting a Royal Charter. Well done them.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

On Tour

Well, it's not exciting, but interesting non-the-less.

Off to Rutherford Appleton Laboratories tomorrow to see a staff member. Should be good especially if I get a look around. However, I'm there to talk all things astronomy so may not get much tourism in.

After this am at the Royal School of Military Survey, Hermitage, for Beating the Retreat. As this is with my RICS Geomatics Chair head on I am being accompanied by Rob Mahoney, an old RICS friend and most knowlegable Geo person. Should be great fun, especially if the rain holds off. Looking forward to catching up with some old colleagues there.

On Friday travel to Worcester for the Survey School for The Survey Assocation 'Introduction to Surveying' course graduation. Again, lots of contacts will be there and an opportunity to welcome lots of keen (I hope) people to the wonderful world of Geomatics.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Honey, I Shrunk a Planet

Having recently taken over responsibility for a group of astronomers at work, I'm a bit more attuned to celestial nuggets of information. So to find that Mercury has shrunk a bit, well not just a bit but to the tune of 1.5km over its 'history' (whatever that may be) was of interest. That would certainly put your reference frame realisations into a bit of a spin wouldn't it?

Talking with my new team makes me realise how local I am. I thought the fact that I deal with global data gave me a wider outlook than, say, my Ordnance Survey colleagues who 'only' do the UK. However dealing with astronomers who are into quasars and the celestial sphere makes me feel terribly parochial!