Disturbing the Universe

David L Clements, science and science fiction

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Science for Fiction 2017

We’re back!

The Imperial College & Science Fiction Foundation workshop for writers to meet and talk to scientists is back for another year.

The dates are 5-6 July, starting after lunch on the 5th and running all day on the 6th. There’s a meeting of the London Fannish Circle (The Tun) that evening so I we can all get the con ‘dead dog’ experience there.

The cost will be £30 to cover catering. Some financial support is available via the Science Fiction Foundation if necessary. Overnight accommodation, if you need it, would be extra.

Details of subjects to be covered are still being sorted out – and will in part be determined by what writers are after – but it will certainly include astronomy, physics and biology, possibly all mixed together in some cases.

If you are interested drop me an email at d dot clements at imperial dot ac dot uk. Please include any specific requests for subjects to be covered, and if you have any dietary restrictions that would affect what we order for lunch and tea.

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Ten Years of the European Research Council

Peter is not alone in looking at opportunities outside the UK in the wake of Brexit.

In the Dark

This little video reminded me that we’re coming up to the tenth anniversary of the founding of the European Research Council (ERC).

In my opinion the ERC has been an outstanding success that has revitalized science across the continent and here in the United Kingdom. Sadly the UK government has decided that the United Kingdom will play no further part in ERC-funded schemes or any other programme funded by the EU.  The participation of UK scientists has already started to diminish and when it dries up completely there will be a significant loss of research income, especially for fundamental science. Most physics & astronomy departments in the UK will lose 20-30% of their research income. Most also have a similar fraction of staff who are EU nationals, many of whom will leave because of the UK government’s shocking refusal to guarantee their right to remain. I find it sad beyond…

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Welcome SkyeEnt!

Over the last several years we’ve been helping our friends on Skye to plant trees on their croft. The whole 6 acres are now planted but we still have to do infill to replace trees that haven’t made it – thanks to weather and deer depredations for example – but it’s fantastic to see the woodland develop.

Places we planted now look like real copses or stands of trees!

And now one of our friends has started blogging about it all.

You can see it all at:



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Freedom of Movement isn’t the problem – The problem is in the way the UK fails use the available controls

We were lied into an unnecessary Brexit by politicians too ignorant, lazy or corrupt to look at the alternatives.


Myth Buster – Debunking the horror stories surrounding the EU Freedom of Movement directive. 

 Currently Theresa May has made stopping FoM a red-line issue even at the expense of the UK’s membership of the Single Market.


 One of the four freedoms enjoyed by EU citizens is the free movement of workers. This includes the rights of movement and residence for workers, the rights of entry and residence for family members, and the right to work in another Member State and be treated on an equal footing with nationals of that Member State. Restrictions apply in some countries for citizens of Member States that have recently acceded to the EU.

There appears to be 4 major arguments in favour of stopping EU migrants exercising this freedom to come and work in the UK. It is my intention to debunk each of these arguments as plainly false.

Claim 1 – “Inability…

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Cosmic Sculpture: The Earth

The latest in my series of projects getting UG students to render various astrophysical objects as 3D models has produced another nice result.

Alongside the previous 3D model of Cosmic Microwave Background Anisotropies, which can be found here, we now have a topographic model of the Earth!

This is the Earth without oceans, so you can see all the fascinating subsurface topography like continental plates and mid-oceanic ridges. And since this is one an actual sphere there are no distortions resulting from the projection that is used. Europe thus is at its actual size ie. utterly tiny compared to Africa.

Good luck with the 3D printer files – let me know here of any issues experienced in printing them.


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A Year in Words

2016 has been a pretty miserable year on many counts, but there were some notable highlights for me personally on the writing front:

Three publications:

An Industrial Growth in the Jan/Feb 2016 Analog

Ashlines in the NESFA Press anthology Conspiracy!

Disturbed Universes, a collection of my short stories published by NewCon Press

Disturbed Universes includes An Industrial Growth, in case you missed the Analog issue where it was published. Click the links above if you want to buy copies!

I also got some good reviews:

‘a good read’ from Tangent Online and ‘action and a great deal of tension’ from Locus for An Industrial Growth

Conspiracy! was described as ‘a fine collection of truthy literature’ by Amazing Stories.

8/10 from Starburst for Disturbed Universes, and a ‘consistently entertaining… highly recommended’ from the BSFA’s Vector.

In other news I was a Guest of Honour at the 2016 British National SF Convention, which is where Disturbed Universes was launched. This was great fun, if rather exhausting in retrospect.

For 2017 I already have one publication in the pipeline, a story in the excellent new Scottish SF magazine Shoreline of Infinity. This should be out in time for the 2017 Eastern, and I will be doing a reading there. More news as we have it!

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Hertfordshire: the ‘your papers please’ university

I just sent the following to colleagues at the University of Hertfordshire, the University that wants to see the passport of anybody visiting.

I doubt it will do any good in the short term, but if more bad press accrues, and if they lose more visiting speakers and external examiners, maybe sense will prevail in the long term.

One must draw a line somewhere, and this is mine.

Dear Colleagues,
As I’m sure you are aware there has been much discussion about the University of Hertfordshire’s requirement that visiting speakers must present a copy of their passport before being allowed to talk. This has been discussed in the THES, in blogs, on twitter and has even reached the hallowed halls of Mumsnet. In none of these venues has the University of Hertfordshire looked even sensible. One blogger has gone so far as to suggest Hertfordshire should go to the top of the league for silliest university.

Since no seminar speaker is paid to speak, the question of right to work is not an issue. Instead, my understanding is that the justification for demanding a passport is to ‘ensure we know who is on campus’. This would seem to suggest that anybody stepping onto the grounds for whatever reason will have their passport demanded. People attending a TAG meeting at Hertfordshire, as I have done, will thus be subject to this demand, as would anybody attending a conference. Presumably, parents picking their offspring up for the vacation or members of the public attending an open day will also be subject to a demand for their papers, and that’s before we get to the milkman and whoever is dropping off parcels from DHL this week.

There is also significant fraction of the UK population (17% according to the last census) who do not have passports at all. Are they banned from the campus? This might include many of your own students.

This is surely bureaucratic paranoia over-reaching itself, and it is bringing significant reputational damage to the University of Hertfordshire and, I’m afraid, to those who work there.

I have been approached by XXX to act as an external examiner for [redacted]. I had been looking forward to this, but, while Hertfordshire continues to support this unreasonable and unworkable passport policy – something I believe is antithetical to the whole concept of a university – I sadly conclude I must withdraw as an external examiner as an act of protest.

I will also encourage my colleagues to avoid a campus where ‘your papers please’ is the first demand made of anybody visiting.

Yours sincerely,