e-Matters 6th November 2020

Amongst our membership lies great experience, wisdom, and insight, so rather than stay silent (not a modus to which the Development & Alumni Relations Office subscribes!) we thought we should bring you some thoughts and reflections from our own broad community. These pieces are also featured in our regular e-Matters newsletter. If you would like to sign up to receive e-Matters please contact development.office@chch.ox.ac.uk

Dear Members and Friends,

Undeterred by the vicissitudes of the new lockdown, life at the House continues as best as possible, and junior members are exercising boundless creativity in finding safe ways of maintaining the spirit of community and camaraderie. The space of our beautiful grounds and Meadow allows for social interaction where the 2 metre distance is easy to maintain! 

A huge thank you and much appreciation to members who have contributed to the Covid Student Support Appeal. The total raised has now exceeded £45,000, but more would be welcome: library space has been expanded and invigilation organised, the student marquee in the Masters garden is decorated and heated! We would also appeal for further gifts towards the Law Trove (£10,000 target), which was featured in the most recent e-Matters. These funds are making a real difference now, and you can still support the junior members at:
https://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/alumni/covid-19-student-support-fund
 
The 2020 Commemoration Ball was postponed to 19th June 2021. We still do not know for sure whether we will be able to go ahead, but we are desperate to do so! We hope we will have a better idea in January, at which point we will communicate with ticket holders again. There are some returned alumni tickets available, and a waiting list is still running. Final decisions, and the selling of any remaining tickets, will take place no later than April.
 
This bumper edition of e-Matters brings you an enrichment of news and views, hopefully to lift all of us in these volatile times. Please keep your articles and features coming by sending your contribution to development.office@chch.ox.ac.uk
 
With best wishes from us all,
Mark Coote
Director of Development 

News from the House

Conservation of the Hall and Staircase

Cleaning the picture framesVacuuming the framesPerhaps it is true that every cloud has a silver lining. During lockdown the opportunity was taken to address the conservation cleaning of the Hall portraits and staircase. This was undertaken by Virtu Conservation Housekeeping, who did a fine job, as the photographs show.
 
They cleaned the frames and glazing of approximately 70 paintings in-situ, some stone work, the horizontal ledge above the paintings, carvings, blue leopards, and rectangular painted shield carvings. The objective of the project was to remove settled dust and dirt from the frames and glazing of the paintings. Cleaning also included as much of the reverse sides as possible.
 
Cleaning the ceiling Six paintings were removed from the walls and conservation and re-glazing carried out by a paintings conservator, including the portraits of Gladstone, Locke, and the triple portrait of Fell/Allestree/Dolben.
 
We hope it will not be long before you can return to dine in Hall and see the improvements for yourselves.

The team accessed the ceiling and walls of the stairs via scaffolding and ladders with long extender poles. The removal of settled dust and dirt was carried out using vacuum machines with variable suction. The centre shields were gently dusted with goat’s hair extenders. There was a large amount of settled dirt, and dust, and cobwebs were removed. Not surprisingly there were numerous active spiders. It appears the ceiling may have been lime washed in places, making these areas more fragile, thus very gentle vacuuming was applied.

 

 

Teddy Burn's Interment

Slate memorial plaque to Edward BurnThe Ashes of Edward Burn, Law Tutor at the House from 1954 to 1990, were interred in the Garth on 20th October.

The wonderful slate memorial plaque was carved by the Cardozo Kindersley Workshop in Cambridge, and personally laid in place by Lida Cardozo Kindersley.

There are many other examples of the terrific work of the workshop at Christ Church and Oxford, as illustrated in their book Cutting it in Oxford.

 

 

 

 

 

The Chapter House

Interior of the Chapter House after shop fittings have been removed.With the opening of the new Thatched barn complex and shop in the Meadows, it has meant that the Chapter House, one of the finest rooms in Christ Church can be restored and used a space for music, talks and meetings.

Postacrd of the Chapter House, 1910These pictures show it as it is, as it was in 1910, and the inscriptions on the East wall. The name of the man who set the stone in place was possibly John Daundy.

Before long we hope to be able to install a small organ, a harpsichord, and a piano, with seating for 70-80.

The inscriptions read:
 

Inscription on a wall plaqueLapidem hunc
E. Ruderibus Collegii Wolseiani Gippwicensis
Erutum
Decano et Canonicis Aedis Christi
Supremo Testamento legavit
RICARDUS CANNING A.M.
Eccl[es]iastum de Harkstead et Freston in Agro. Suffolk. Rector
A.D. MDCCLXXXIX
 
 
AN [Chris]TI M
D X X [V] III ET
REGNI HENRICI
OCTAVI REGIS
ANGLIAE XX MENSIS
VERO IUNII X A
POSITUM
PER JOHANNEM [  ]AI L[AP]IDEM

We hope to set the last sentence of the inscriptions as a challenge for our Old Members. If you would like to submit your translations, please email development.office@chch.ox.ac.uk.

 

Life at Christ Church under COVID Conditions

Photograph of JCR President Giulia da CruzGiulia da Cruz, JCR President and a third-year student studying Modern Languages, reflects on her first weeks back in residence at Christ Church after lockdown:

"Michaelmas 2020 was never going to be a normal term. However, after a year abroad and a global pandemic, I couldn’t wait to come back. My new responsibilities as JCR President meant that over the summer we were busy preparing for a ‘Covid-secure’ College which could support an unprecedented number of students both academically and socially."

Click here to continue reading Giulia's blog.

There are two other revealing blogs about college life on the website at present:

Eliza Dean writes about her impressions as a fresher in her first weeks at Christ Church. Click here to read Eliza's blog and Tegan O’Hara (2017), who went down this summer, talks about doing her final Fine Art project last term under COVID conditions. Click here to read Tegan's blog.

 

 

Dr Robin Thompson: COVID-19 Research

Photograph of Dr Robin ThompsonDr Robin Thompson, a Junior Research Fellow at Christ Church, continues to work on mathematical modelling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Research that he conducted back in January, when cases had only been reported in China, highlighted the risk of outbreaks of the novel coronavirus in countries worldwide. That research has just been awarded the Journal of Clinical Medicine’s Outstanding Research Award 2020.

More information can be found here.

 

 

 

Christ Church Cathedral Choir: Livestream of Fauré’s Requiem for All Souls

Members of the Choir photographed in the CloisterA special service from Christ Church Cathedral featuring the Cathedral Choir accompanied by the Wolsey Ensemble was livestreamed on YouTube and can be re-watched here.

The Choir performed the well-known Requiem by Gabriel Fauré as part of a Eucharist for All Souls Day. The Feast of All Souls is the time in the Church’s year when we remember those who have died, and is always a moving service.

Click here to read more about the service and the message from Revd Philippa White, the recently installed Cathedral Precentor.

 

Emily's Wine Blog

Buttery Manager, Emily RobothamRed wines for November – a lighter touch

With the nights drawing close, there’s a change in how food and wine is advertised. Descriptions like ‘hearty’, ‘bold’ and ‘comforting’ are everywhere, from supermarkets to independent retailers; ‘light’, ‘refreshing’ and ‘elegant’ are out. With wine, this seems particularly lazy: the ‘winter warmer’ reds of November and December are suspiciously the same wines as the ‘Summer BBQ’ reds of a few months previous. It all stems from a condescending assumption about the average consumer palate: at high levels of sugar or 14% alcohol (or both), the viscosity of the wine masks the tannin levels. With cheap red wines, you can even blast out the tannins with heat during the winemaking process. When people say all red wine tastes the same, they’re picking up on the common flavour of boiled sweets in all cheap red wine treated by this process.

So, buck the trend! Shun ‘hearty’! Mull your heavy, jammy Merlot and Zinfandel with spices and serve hot on Bonfire Night!

Here are some arguments for a lighter way to drink red wine in Autumn:

Macon rouge: red Burgundy of good value (often £8-£12). Especially recommended (and easy to find in national retailers) is Louis Jadot, a highly respected negociant who also make a decent Beaujolais-Villages.

Austrian red wine: Expect earthy, cardamom flavours with tart red berry fruit. Red wines can be a bit hard to find, but Sainsbury’s and the Wine Society do an excellent own-brand Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch respectively.

Piedmontese red wine: Barbera d’Alba and Dolcetto d’Alba – two grapes of vastly different characters. Barbera is bright berries, low tannins and very easy drinking. Dolcetto is darker, earthier, higher in tannins and better with food. They can both produce excellent wines of reasonable value. They’re increasingly popular in New World plantings, but I haven’t yet tasted any particular non-Italian example that captures their charm. 

 

Dr Sophie Duncan: Searching for Juliet

Photograph of Dr Sophie DuncanDr Sophie Duncan, a fellow in English at Christ Church, authors a new book Searching for Juliet .

Dr Duncan is an expert on Shakespeare in performance and in the broader fields of theatre history. In the book, according to Sceptre, she takes readers from the Renaissance origin story behind Shakespeare’s 13-year-old child bride, to the sexual revolutionary of '60s film and theatre, from the African slave girls named after a fictional teenager to the legacy of the beautiful dead girl trope in everything from Shakespeare to contemporary TV series such as "13 Reasons Why".

Searching for Juliet will be published in Spring 2023.
 

 

News from Alumni

Tunji Adeniyi-Jones (2011)

"The language of dance and performance transcends all cultural boundaries."Tunji read Fine Art at Christ Church and now lives and works in New York. Earlier this year he was selected as one of Forbes “30 under 30” to watch. Artnet news also included him as one of their four “sensational painters” who stole the show at Independent New York 2020.

We are delighted that Tunji has agreed to write for a piece in an edition of e-Matters in the New Year. For now, here is a taster of what is to come:

Tunji Adeniyi-Jones, A Master's Secret (2019). Courtesy of the artist and Nicelle Beachene Gallery.Destinee Ross in Black Voices/Black Microcosm writes: “Tunji Adeniyi-Jones uses figurative painting as a means to explore West African history and its associated mythology. Adeniyi-Jones renders colourful and vibrant bodies that are larger than life, taking inspiration from both his Yoruba heritage and his British upbringing.”

Tunji explains: “I’m really interested in West African history and mythology. I draw a great deal of inspiration from my Yoruba heritage, and I try to incorporate as many of these traditional customs as possible into my work. I’m fascinated by the ways in which longstanding traditions can still bear relevance to the present day, and I want my paintings to be a visual account of this investigation.”

“The figures depicted in my paintings are very alluring and striking. Many of their poses invoke a sense of performance or dance. There are thousands of different dialects spoken across West Africa but one of the most unifying languages is communicated through the body."

Tunji Adeniyi-Jones “Blue Dancer” (2017). Courtesy of the artist and Nicelle Beauchene Gallery."This language of dance and performance transcends all cultural boundaries and my intention is to charge the bodies in my paintings with this same vigour. Equally, one of the most impressive characteristics of any West African sculpture is the physical presence held by each object. Whether life-size or miniature, these sculptures convey a memorable sense of personality and spirit. So my hope is to translate a similar sense of physicality through my work.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

'What's happening in Black British History?' Workshop Series

Photograph of Dr Miranda KaufmannPhotograph of Tilly HadcockChrist Church alumna, Dr Miranda Kaufmann (2001), was one of the conveners of the conference series ‘What’s Happening in Black British History?’ the latest of which, a transnational workshop, was held on 14th October 2020. Matilda Hadcock (2017), history alumna and now member of the Development and Alumni Team attended the workshop and gives a brief overview of some of the topics discussed.

The conference began with five excellent talks on ‘Political Activism and Transnational solidarity’ from international historians, including discussions of the Caribbean labour rebellions of the 1930s; Pan-Africanism and identity in London at the close of the 19th century; and the engagement of British West Indians in West Indies politics and how this stimulated their experiences of being part of the Caribbean diaspora.

The conversation entered a more contemporary political arena following two greatly informative talks on ‘Racism as Structural Violence’ by Shireen Mushtaq with Aiman Iqbal and Arooba Ali, and ‘Black Sections in the Labour Party 1983-7’ by Dr Robin Bunce, which highlighted issues in understandings of anti-racism and the continuing need for increased awareness around structural racism.

A selection of book reviews and recommendations included the children’s book ‘Journeys: The Story of Migration to Britain’ by Dan Lyndon-Cohen, and David Olusoga’s children’s edition, ‘Black and British: A Short, Essential History’. There followed an interesting conversation around the importance of educating children and young people in Black British history, and how this can be brought into the classroom. This felt particularly relevant in the midst of movements to diversify history syllabuses in all stages of education.

Sarah Forbes Bonetta, by Hannah Uzor. Credit: English HeritageThe final part of the day focussed on looking at Black British history through image and aesthetics. The figure Sarah Forbes Bonetta, the West African princess who became a goddaughter of Queen Victoria, was one focus, with regards to the way she is presented in original portraits. This led to explorations of the powerfully poignant portraiture of artists Hannah Uzor and Heather Agyepong. The former has just installed a portrait of Sarah Forbes Bonetta at Osborne House, and the latter’s work ‘Too Many Blackamoors’ will feature in ‘Photo Oxford Festival: A Different Mirror’, exhibiting at St John’s, October to November.

The discussion came to a close with a talk on Josephine Morcashani, a Black British entertainer who toured the stages of Europe and the US at the end of the 19th century, adding yet another (show business) dimension to an already wide-ranging selection of topics.

The conference was a full day of fascinating insights, giving lots of food for thought and plenty of resources to continue delving into Black British history. More information on the conference,the speakers, and the details of the next WHBBH event (25th November 2020) can be found on the Black British History website.

Co-convener Dr Kaufmann’s first book, ‘Black Tudors: The Untold Story’ was published in 2017, and she is currently working on her next book, ‘Heiresses: The Caribbean Marriage Trade.’ A recording of Dr Kaufmann’s talk ‘Black Tudors: Three Untold Stories’, which was part of a Black History Month 2019 series for Gresham College, can be listened to here.

 

Supporting Women's Micro-Enterprises in Africa during COVID-19

Sam Bickersteth (1980), CEO of Opportunity International, and Dr Emma Riley, Junior Research Fellow in Economics at Christ Church, work on a project around women’s access to banking services using new digital technologies, with pilot research done in Ghana.

Ghanian woman using mobile phone for online bankingMany of us are relying on digital connections to sustain our work, finances and social lives during COVID-19 and it’s restrictions (including accessing this e-Matters!), yet over four billion people around the world remain digitally excluded. They are predominantly women, living in rural areas in low-income countries. Many  live in areas that have mobile network coverage and a majority (estimated 80%) have access to a mobile phone but they lack the knowledge and resources to access digital channels effectively. 

Opportunity International, an Oxford based charity, is dedicated to improving access to financial services for people living in poverty.  Through local partnerships, it provides people with access to the essential financial services and training needed for them to build and grow sustainable businesses. The COVID-19 lockdowns, restrictions on activities and uncertainty, has created extreme difficulties for the small scale informal economy, especially for small-scale farmers and micro-enterprise owners.  As the effects of COVID-19 take their toll on local economies, digital financial services can play an important role in supporting micro-entrepreneurs.

Research led by Christ Church’s Emma Riley, in partnership with Opportunity International, is examining whether mobile banking services can assist women entrepreneurs in Ghana in managing their finances amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Mobile banking gives remote access to savings and other financial services using a basic mobile phone, it also facilitates social distancing, allowing fewer trips to the bank and reduced cash handling.

SMS on old mobile phone showing online banking instructionsThe study uses pre-recorded voice messages to provide information on mobile banking to female clients in Ghana.  Across ten voice messages sent weekly, the key features, functions and benefits of mobile banking are highlighted in a way that an illiterate population can easily understand. By randomly assigning female clients to receive these voice messages, we can examine the impact of the messages and understand how mobile banking affects important downstream financial outcomes for these women, such as savings and management of business cash flow, and social distancing behaviours, such as reducing physical trips to the bank.

Opportunity International provides loans, savings, insurance, and training to millions of entrepreneurs supporting their businesses and resilience to threats such as COVID19. 95% of OI’s loan clients are women.   To find out how you can give people the opportunity to work their way out of poverty, please visit www.opportunity.org.uk or contact Sam Bickersteth at sbickersteth@opportunity.org

Sam Bickersteth (1980) has been CEO of Opportunity International since 2019.  He succeeded Edward Fox (1977).  Sam is an Associate at the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment, University of Oxford.

 

Robert Wilton (1991): Poison in Paris

Book cover: Poison in Paris"With flames and smoke billowing around us, and each dragging a Bulgarian railway worker by the scruff of the neck, we launched ourselves out into that arena of noise."
 
Photograph of Robert WiltonFollowing the success of Death and the Dreadnought - the one with the burlesque dancer and the duck pâté sandwich, though not at the same time - Robert Wilton (1991) has a new Edwardian entertainment out: Poison in Paris. Where his previous novels were layered, immersive experiences of periods as diverse as Civil Wars Britain and the French Revolution, this series - drawing on the memoirs of the dissolute and increasingly weary Harry Delamere - are unashamedly page-turning pot-boilers, and thus much closer to the essays he occasionally produced when up at the House.
 
Poison in Paris is available now for your reading pleasure, in magic electron form and proper actual pages. All the glamour of the Orient Express, melodrama, excitement, sinister foreign gentlemen, exotic foreign ladies, bandits, revolutionaries, assassins, other exotic foreign ladies, interruptions to the regular timetable, surprises, disguises, explosions, outrages, breath-taking escapes from death and an unfortunate incident in a Viennese lavatory.

Click here to order Poison in Paris.

 

Amédée Turner (1948): Islam and Democracy

Islam and Democracy: The Voices of Muslims amongst Us is the latest book by Amédée Turner (1948), Former Member of the European Parliament.

Book cover: Islam and Democracy: The Voices of Muslims amongst UsIslam and Democracy has always been a controversial topic. Given the ongoing political events around the globe, particularly Arab Spring in the early 2010s, this topic is now in the spotlight more than ever. Many question whether Islam and Western liberal thoughts share anything in common. While many Muslim scholars argued that Islam share the democratic ideals in Western civilization, non-Muslims have been debating whether the religion is democratic or anti-democratic in nature.

This book, developed in collaboration with the Anglican Observer to the United Nations, presents the work of a team of scholars, researchers and religious leaders in Europe and the USA, who have worked tirelessly for the last six years organising over seventy discussion groups that included members of the local Muslim communities in Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, the United States and Canada. The overall aim of the project is to provide a window on the rich and diverse world of Western Islam, with discussions designed to explore different views rather than finding a common ground.

Click here to order Islam and Democracy: The Voices of Muslims amongst Us.

 

Adrian Leak (1957): The Golden Calves of Jeroboam

Book cover: The Golden Calves of JeroboamLike his previously published volumes (Nebuchadnezzar’s Marmalade Pot  and Archbishop Benson’s Humming Top already in London Library), The Golden Calves of Jeroboam is a collection of reflections upon the Christian life in a secular world.

Rowan Williams (former Canon of Christ Church and Archbishop of Canterbury) writes: ‘Adrian Leak weaves together an assortment of brief and stylishly clear pastoral sermons and meditations. He also gives us a gallery – or iconostasis - of vivid pen-portraits, introducing us to a rich assortment of historical figures, some well-known and some not so well-known.  A beautiful, surprising, welcome book. Its spiritual consistency and theological acuteness make it a compendium of Anglican wisdom.’
 
Adrian Leak is an Anglican priest, now retired. He has contributed articles on Church history to the Church Times, Theology, Country Life and History Today.

Click here to order The Golden Calves of Jeroboam.

 

Is Christ Church the first Oxford College to be reproduced on a 3D printer?

Jackie Holderness, Education Officer at Christ Church Cathedral

3D printed model of Christ ChurchA few years ago, a totally blind ten year old pupil came to Christ Church with his classmates and teacher. As Education officer at Christ Church Cathedral, I meet and work with pupils from a wide range of schools. A typical visit involves all the senses but mainly sight. This young man’s needs meant that I had to focus on the other senses. The visit went very well but it made me realise that a scale model, robust enough to be handled and with sufficient detail, would have given him, literally, a ‘feel’ for the site. A tactile model would have made a huge difference to his educational experience.

I tried, in vain, to find someone in-house who could make us a wooden model. Intrigued by what I had seen of 3D printing, I approached the University IT department and was helpfully directed to the The Oxford Robotics and Additive Manufacturing Society (OxRAM), the first University Society in the UK for these innovative areas. 

Three members of OxRAM, were involved: Former OXRaM President,  Dr Po Chan, (aka Johnny) of St Catherine's College; Sneha Ramshankar of Pembroke College and current President of OxRAM; and Okorafor Ikeagwu of Wycliffe Hall, who is studying Theology.

I met with the students who listened very carefully and quickly understood what was required. Together, convinced of the educational and sensory potential of such a model, they used Google Street and In Shape to design the 3D printing programme, which they then printed over many weeks and months.

3D printing equipmentThe 3D printing process is slow. For example, it took over nine hours just to ‘print’ the pieces in Tom Quad. The machine itself is not large and must be quite robust because Po Chan used to leave it printing overnight. To create the colour of stone, the plastic ‘string’ was mixed with wood chippings.

Because the students gave their time freely and generously, in and around their own studies, the only costs incurred were the materials which were kindly reimbursed by the Friends of Christ Church Cathedral.

The model is well designed, in discrete sections, which can be re-joined using magnets, embedded in the pieces. It offers a detailed, to-scale replica of the Christ Church site and will enable us to share more easily how the architectural elements fit together, and how they have evolved over the course of thirteen centuries.

Christ Church is built upon the priory founded in Anglo-Saxon times, by the Princess Frideswide, who is now the patron saint of both our city and our University. What I have found particularly thrilling is the idea that an institution, founded in the 8th century, has now been captured by 21st century, cutting- edge technology.

When the medieval monks rebuilt the church and spire in the 12th century, the stone masons used the latest technology available to them, little knowing that the fruit of their labours would, 900 years later,  be 'printed' in three dimensions! The architect, Christopher Wren, would have been entranced to see the 3D printer in action. He used to make intricate models of his own buildings, including St Paul’s Cathedral, the Sheldonian Theatre and Tom Tower.

The final outcome combines great beauty as well as a remarkable technological achievement, to provide a faithful representation of the College as it is today. 

This project has helped to raise disability awareness and support young visitors to Christ Church, sighted and unsighted. It will be useful for any pupils with special educational needs and may help pupils with autism to understand the layout of the site before they experience it for real.

The project evidences collaboration between a student Society in the University (student volunteers) and an Education programme, for the benefit of school pupils (the University students of the future).

Image of Po Chand and 3D model of Christ ChurchThe OXRAM Society members have said they have learned a great deal during the course of the project, and it is to be hoped that they have acquired many transferable skills which will serve them well in their careers.

Meanwhile, in this time of Covid-19 lock down, the 3D model has already started to prove immensely valuable. It is now a key element in a new educational experience, we are now offering, called the ‘Pop Up Cathedral’, which we are taking into schools.

Children are always fascinated by the world in miniature, from Legoland to Bekonscott model village, from Warhammer to doll’s houses.

They are amazed to find out how the buildings, have been filmed by drones, recreated on a computer screen (2D) and then reproduced in extruded plastic (photocopied in 3D).

Finally, they are especially thrilled to discover that Alice in Wonderland lived in the Deanery and the Great Hall was the inspiration for the Hall at Hogwarts!

In a recent ‘Pop Up Cathedral’ workshop, where there were six interactive ‘stations’, the table with the 3D model was rated as the most interesting by many of the pupils. It certainly triggered some excellent questions and stimulated a great deal of discussion.

Sadly, the pandemic has meant that we have had to postpone holding a  formal 'launch' to celebrate the OXRAM students’ extraordinary achievement, but -one day- it is to be hoped that the University may be able to give the students the recognition they deserve. In the meantime, the children and the Education team at Christ Church can only express our heartfelt thanks to them all.

 

Stargazing with Professor Roger Davies

The Leonid meteors appear to come from the direction of the Lion’s head (or sickle) part of the constellation of Leo that will rise at midnight on November 17th. (Credit https://earthsky.org/tonight/radiant-point-for-leonid-meteor-shower)As October turns to November the clocks have gone back and the nights are lengthening. By 6pm it is dark and in November and December you can spot four planets through the night. 

Jupiter and Saturn are visible together low in the southern sky in the early evening before setting in the SW at about 8pm. Watch them night after night through November & December - they get closer together on the sky and by December 21st, when you’ll catch them low in the early evening western twilight, they’ll be only 0.1 degrees apart - just 1/5 of the diameter of the full Moon. This is the closest conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn since 1623! The next conjunction between these gas giant planets is October 31, 2040 – so let’s hope for clear skies!

Mars, despite being passed opposition, is still splendid, bright and orange-red, seen in the constellation of Pisces rising in the early evening and in the sky almost the whole night.

Venus, the brightest planet, can be seen in the eastern sky an hour before sunrise which, in early November is about 7am. Early risers viewing Venus can ponder whether the discovery, reported in September, of phosphene molecules in the atmosphere of Venus, in quantities vastly greater than expected, is evidence of bacterial life; an indication that we have much to learn about atmospheric chemistry, or just a mistake in the data handling as has recently been reported. (see https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/10/venus-might-not-have-much-phosphine-dampening-hopes-for-life/)

In mid-November the Earth passes through the debris left by Comet Tempel-Tuttle which gives rise to the Leonid meteor shower. The comet has a period of 32 years, we expect it to re-appear in 2031. Meteors are grain-of-sand sized specks of debris that burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere producing long trails that persist for just a second or two. We expect a maximum of about 10 meteors per hour at the peak of the shower in the hours after midnight on the 17th November, although meteors from the shower will be seen for a few days around the 17th.

The meteors will appear to be coming from the sickle part of the constellation Leo, as shown in the figure. Leo rises at midnight on Nov 17th when the Moon is just two days old so the sky will be dark which, weather permitting, will make for a good display of the Leonids this year.

 

2020 Nobel Prize in Physics

Illustrations by Niklas Elmehed of Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel, and Andrea Ghez. Copyright Nobel Media.

Earlier in October astronomers celebrated the award of the 2020 Nobel Prize for Physics for work on black holes to Sir Roger Penrose, Professor Reinhard Genzel & Professor Andrea Ghez. It was particularly exciting for Oxford University scientists to see our colleague in mathematics, Roger Penrose, recognised for demonstrating that Einstein’s general theory of relativity predicted the formation of black holes. That work was a carried out in the 1960s shortly after the discovery of enormously luminous radio galaxies and quasars. The greatest puzzle surrounding quasars was how they are able to generate prodigious amounts of energy (1040 Watts) from within a volume as small as the Solar System. The prime candidate for how to do this turned out to be the energy released as material falls onto a black hole. After decades of work using Hubble Space Telescope and the largest telescopes on the ground, astronomers deduced that almost all galaxies contain a `supermassive’ black hole between one million and ten billion times the mass of the Sun at their centre. These are essentially dead quasars. By monitoring the positions and motions of the stars orbiting around the centre of our Milky Way over more than two decades Genzel & Ghez showed that there is indeed such a beast; a black hole with mass four million times that of the Sun, at the heart of our own galaxy. It was for this work that they were awarded the other half of the Nobel Prize. When Penrose's paper was published in 1965 the measurements made by Genzel & Ghez were completely impossible.

:  In 2019 an international team of radio astronomers led by Professor Heino Falcke at Radbaud University in Nijmegen in the Netherlands used a global array of radio telescopes, `The Event Horizon Telescope’, to make this image of the shadow of a black hole in the centre of one of nearest radio galaxies. Credit: EHT Two developments in technology made their discovery possible. First imaging infrared detectors, now used in heat sensing cameras, made it possible to see through the obscuring dust that keeps the Galactic Centre hidden from us at visible wavelengths. The second technology involves sharpening the images of stars which are blurred as the light rays from them pass through the atmosphere – this is what gives rise to stars twinkling but it distorts all the pictures we take from the ground. Without this image sharpening technology, the stars in the centre of the Milky Way would be blurred together and it would not be possible to measure their individual positions and speeds – essential to measure the mass of the black hole. As is the case in many areas of science, new discoveries follow the application of new technologies and methods to old problems.

 

Other News

Women 40th Onllne Celebrations

Women 40th pin bageWe would love to hear from all our alumnae about their experiences at the House, and aim to create a collage of photos, images and snippets, and an archive of written reminiscences, for everyone to enjoy at the September 2021 weekend. We cannot promise to return anything sent in so please only send copies to the Development Office at the address below, or digital copies to development.office@chch.ox.ac.uk

We will be thanking those who contribute by sending out a special 40th Anniversary lapel badge in return.

 

40th Anniversary Silk Scarves

Mandy with Women 40th ScarfA reminder that our limited-edition 40th Anniversary silk scarf can be ordered through the new online shop. To visit the shop please click here. 

 

 

 

Poem for the Fornight

MCMLXXXVI 
By David McKinstry (2004)

An Elegy on the Closure of a Railway Station (dedicated to John Betjeman)
 
The entrance front of Broadgate
Could be Paris, maybe Rome,
But the twin roofs of the platform
Are the greenhouse back at home
 
And as they came from Willesden
On the puffing NLR,
The tomatoes and lobelias
Didn't seem so very far
 
The directors came in frockcoats
And the clerks in bowler hats,
But then their drip dry poly-blends
Replaced kid gloves and spats
 
And clerks and underwriters
And whelk stall at the station,
All died with fixed-comission-charge
And the seep of privitisation
 
Oh sunset days of Kensal Rise
No more the line provides,
A working day of ten-til-four
A maid, to help your wives
 
While Broadgate served the suburbs
The whole world seemed to smile,
With gardens half an acre
And a city one square mile
 
But going home from Broadgate
When the diesel throbbed its last,
You read in evening papers
Your shares in British Gas

 

All members of the House are welcome to submit poetry. If you would like your poetry considered for feedback from the judges of our poetry competition, then please send your poems to development.office@chch.ox.ac.ukA poem will be selected every fortnight from St Frideswide's Well and the poet will receive feedback via email. Poems will also be featured on our website.

Alumni Photography

We encourage all alumni and friends to submit photographs to us inspired by the poems featured on our Alumni Poetry Page. Poems and photographs will be collected together in the coming months and will eventually form an online exhibition celebrating alumni creative work. 

To submit your photograph please: