The first period of academic year is going on full swing now. So is the Premier League. This year, it is going to be very interesting. Manchester United, one of the greatest clubs in Europe, is going through a transition period. Sir Alex Ferguson, at the helm of the club for 26 years, got retired. David Moyes was inducted as new manager. Don’t know if it’s for this change, but the performance of the team drops significantly this season. It lost to Manchester City miserably by 1-4. It even lost to West Brom at home. Some pundits note the absence of recently retired Paul Scholes as a factor. Among all this, one young guy named Adnan Januzaj is drawing attention from all corners. Recent news suggests that at least five countries are in contention to make him its national.

Taking advantage of situation at Old Trafford, Arsenal and Liverpool are surging ahead. The season did not start well for Aresenal. But, after grabbing the prize signing of Mesut Γ–zil, the team looks completely transformed. They are now playing lovely passing football. Liverpool on the other hand, looks dangerous after return of Luis Suarez from suspension (for his cannibal instinct). Suarez and Sturridge are complementing each other up front and they both are scoring goals. Chelsea’s performance is average even after the return of ‘Happy One’ at Stamford Bridge. It is interesting to see who will have the last laugh at the championship – Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool or Chelsea.

September end also starts new season of hit television shows. I follow comedies like ‘How I met your mother’ and ‘The big bang theory’. I also follow ‘Homeland’ – the multiple Emmy award winning drama series. Note, this year two of the best hit drama series of all time ‘Breaking bad’ and ‘Dexter’ finished their journey. My personal favorite in this genre is ‘Game of thrones’ though. It is based on fantasy world, but definitely not for children. In all these cases, it’s interesting to find people’s reaction on social network. ‘Breaking bad’ final episode was showered tribute while ‘Dexter’ finale seemed to be a tad disappointing. ‘Game of thrones’ caused huge outcry over its penultimate episode of its last season. One must admire the pulse of people, the buzz of social networking. Most of the time, I find my friends’ recommendation pretty good.

There are tons of other good shows. If you want to watch, you just have to select one as per your linking. Let me make one recommendation to you. This year, a new show has started called ‘The blacklist’. I find it really good. Hopefully, it marks the beginning of a grand series. Watch the pilot episode and judge yourself. Watching news of international crisis every now and then, it might be welcoming relief to indulge yourself in some hit television series.

It’s raining again!

Manchester is famous for its rain. There is a standing joke that it always rains in Manchester. If you follow my blog, you will know that we were lucky this year to find many days of sunshine during summer. But, that is gone now. This week, the weather came back to its normal self, drizzling now and then. This week is also the start of new academic year. University campus became busy by the student arrival and registration for the new academic year. Also, students have guests or parents who visit campus as well.

It marks exact one year of my arrival at Manchester. Previous year was even worse. I arrived late and as expected, registration got delayed. I had to visit SSO several times and meet with professors to get necessary information. One of them even cracked a joke –

How do you like the weather? Nice, isn’t it! Consider it your punishment for arriving late. πŸ™‚

But, I wonder why Manchester is so infamous for its weather. I have been to Scottish highland where it rains more. I have also been to other districts in Greater Manchester county, where the weather is colder than Manchester. The problem of Manchester weather is not the amount of rain, but the way it rains. Consider this scenario. You look out of the window to see smoky hazed sunshine. When you come out of the room, it starts drizzling. When you board bus, it stops. After next three stops, it starts drizzling again. Note, I did not mention rain, it just always drizzles!

This kind of moist weather helped massive growth of textile industry during industrial revolution in 18th century. A recent study showed that it is raining more in Manchester than earlier times. It is believed that it is due to clearer unpolluted air. Manchester is surrounded by hills or pennines. West Pennine Moors is situated to the northwest of Manchester. South Pennines covers north and northeast directions. And to the east and south east, there is peak district.

That leaves the south-west direction open for moist air from Atlantic ocean to enter. This moist air forms the cloud and when it meet the pennines, it is forced to go upwards over the pennines. With increase in height, the air becomes cooler. Subsequently, water droplets form and it rains. Due to rain and relatively lower height than its surrounding places, the temperature stays cold, but within tolerable limit. The pennines also block cold air coming from North sea from north and north-east direction.

So, the pennines are the main reason for this irritating constant drizzle. But, we must be thankful to the same pennines to protect Manchester from severe cold wave.

It’s over!

Sorry for taking a month off from blogging. I was very busy writing my dissertation. I finally submitted the dissertation report on this Friday 6th September. Although tiresome and frustrating at times, this is an experience I would remember for days to come.

My project was on an inter-disciplinary problem – to develop a visualizer for scientists to analyze sunspot appearance pattern. I am fortunate being supervised by Dr. John Brooke, who has worked with astrophysicists on solar problems for a long time. I think I did a good job in this dissertation. But, I could not have made it so much better unless my supervisor guided me through.

Several times, I was completely clueless about how to proceed, and he directed me to find alternate ways or think deeper on my hypothesis. He kept encouraging me, saying this is an experience a researcher has to go through. The highs and lows are part and parcel of every project, specially research where there is no guarantee that the actual output would match with expected result.

The project topic is to build a visualizer program which can simulate the actual sunspot appearance pattern. For any simulation, it is imperative for the programmer to understand the physical process. During this project, I learnt many astronomical details regarding solar activities, specially sunspots. The exact details about sunspot appearance is still not known. Official prediction about sunspot appearance in recent times had to be revised multiple times. More interestingly, this year solar activities are supposed to be at its peak. However, solar activities so far have been below average.

The other challenge is to extract information through which we can compare the simulation to the real output. This was the toughest part of the project. I approximated the real dataset to form a model of stochastic resonance. Basic stochastic resonance model operates with three inputs – signal, noise and threshold.

In this case, signal value is lower than the threshold value. So, it alone could not cross the threshold barrier and give any output. But, adding it with noise, the compound signal crosses threshold barrier at times, giving random output, but also adhering to base signal pattern. The reason of choosing this model lies in the pattern of real sunspot appearance.

Sunspots randomly appear on solar surface. But, if the trend of sunspot is analyzed for a long period, it seems they follow a cyclic pattern. For example, if we plot sunspot count with time, the plot forms a sinusoidal pattern with period of about 11 years. That means, the duration between two successive solar maximas and two solar minimas is about 11 years.
It is assumed that this regular pattern is caused by the base solar signal, and the randomness of sunspot appearance is caused by the noise involved in this process. With stochastic resonance model, the simulation works well to replicate approximated real sunspot dataset. Documenting all these into dissertation report is another painstaking task though.

Masters dissertation report demands high standard. To collate everything related to the project in a coherent form is tough, specially with stringent time constraint. I forgot how many times I modified my original writing. It’s always helpful to proof-read the report by somebody else, specially by your supervisor. On the first draft, I got so many comments, that it reminds of Indian roads, where potholes are easier to find than the actual road. πŸ™‚

At the end, you would feel disgusted to look at the same report over and over again, and yet discover so many loopholes. Fortunately, it’s all over for me. The result is due to be announced on November. Hope my report gets good feedback!


Dissertation pressure is mounting up day-by-day. Just one month is left now for the deadline. I am working on my project. But, not all the time. Thanks to reliable internet connection in university student halls, I can often take my mind off with some good movies.

I watch lot of movies through video-sharing free websites. Youtube has many of them. Netflix is offering one month free access. I am quite addicted to it now. I normally watch almost anything, unless it’s too serious. I can watch those too, it’s just that I am not in right frame of mind now, I’d rather some light relief like an action or a comedy!

I have a friend who picks up a director or actor and then surfs through their entire work. It’s crazy! To this day, I am not sure how to tag him – movie-geek or movie-freak!

Interestingly, I watched two films which deal with more serious stuff – relationship. And more interestingly, it’s a particular relationship – brother-sister. Β The first one was ‘People like us’ and the second ‘You can count on me’.

I really enjoyed both movies as I have a sister of my own, may be that’s the reason. My most joyous moments and worst fights that are etched into my memory, are with her only. You can search through Jennifer Lawrence’s interviews how her brothers helped and troubled her throughout. It’s kind of de-facto standard of brother-sister relationship. You can go as far as you can, but you can’t stay away from it.

Speaking of which, so is the internet. Other broadcast mediums are now getting thinner compared to internet pervasiveness. TV stations have now started their pay-for channels in internet. Previously, people used to listen to TV or radio for news. Now, they watch twitter or RSS feeds to get it. It’s quicker and faster that way. In fact, there is an emerging area of e-science which deals with visualization and data mining on free available data on web. It’s an amalgam of social science, computing and many other domains. And, it’s producing unforeseeable results.


This week, I have worked in animation festival 2013 – Animation13. The annual animation festival runs in its 6th year since inception. It is a UK wide festival organized by our School of Computer Science and open to UK school students aged 7 to 19. This year entries are received from 1,583 students (154 schools). From all these entries, 41 students from 24 schools are honored on the award day – Friday 12th July. You can browse the details here.

The day went really well, with greeting of guests at morning, managing key activities at afternoon, helping guests throughout the day etc. Funny thing though, the graduation for the undergrads were going on just a building away – Whitworth Hall. Now, some of student helpers came to street with animation day posters to guide the guests to the venue entrance. Note the venue – Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama! Honestly, it is not that easy to find the building. Although, I admit it is a superb venue considering the auditorium and large theaters. Moreover, parking lot is also not far away.

Anyway, the shirt we were wearing that day are the purple shirt that is used across university and is almost the official student helper signature. We faced all kinds of queries – related to graduation, how to reach to Whitworth Hall, Manchester Museum, restaurants and other university buildings. We even never heard of some of those building names before. I guess, the signboard of animation day didn’t help much to avoid these queries. People just looked at our purple shirt and thought to use us as local google! πŸ™‚

The hot day made the street jobs even worse, specially at the entrance of Oxford Road, due to direct sunlight to your face. Luckily before the start of the day, we had a nice informal group chat, got to know other student helpers well. That came handy to make few adjustments. Keeping our health in mind, we switched our routines after each half an hour to get the street job going.

Let me tell you, managing kids is one of toughest jobs in the world. But, there were enough student helpers around. Few student helpers from the Music and Drama department were also present to set up the presentation systems. Kudos to those folks who presented hands-on activities at the afternoon. Those activities were the real crowd-puller. Even we got fascinated by those activities. There was also an amazing keynote talk by Dr. Gavin Brown. And all of these would not be possible without the superb administration of event committee, under leadership of Toby Howard.

Speaking of presentation systems, Amar Bose, the founder of Bose Corporation, recently passed away. He created the iconic Bose sound systems, which we all dream of owning one. The presentation systems at Matin Harris Centre were also excellent. All kids had a great time. I sincerely believe, childhood is the best period of life. Events like animation festival help kids to dream further. You can check out the winner entries from the official website. Most of these entries are really cool!

Trip to Mam Tor

Along with studies, we have come across many nice people. One such Good Samaritan hosted me and my friend this weekend. The idea was to hike Mam Tor together. Mam Tor is the highest mountain in Peak District and a famous tourist spot. We had been to places very few times, due to academic pressure and lack of personal vehicle. But, we have seen Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in United Kingdom in its snow-capped form, on our trip to Scotland in December. That was quite a sight, although it would be less exciting for someone like me who has seen Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world, in full-moon. You have to see it to believe it! Just Amazing! Naturally, we saw Mam Tor as just a hiking trail. And we were sure with the nice company we had, the hike would be good fun.

Mam Tor

Before travel, me and my friend visited Curry Mile to get our lunch for the day. The food was much fresh and less costly than the super-brand shops. By the time we picked our lunch, our host arrived. He had a nice car which we three got along to Peak District. Except a brief period of busy traffic, the road was smooth. It was easy to understand that we were going towards countryside, just from the change in surroundings with lot of greenery coming in picture. We went past Lyme Park. “Pride and Prejudice” fans might know about this park, currently maintained by the National Trust. On our way up and down, we saw few airplanes sailing in very low altitude. Our host told that this is the route of airplanes flying to and from the Manchester airport. This route is chosen with direction of air flow to maximize air traffic efficiency.

We reached at our destination a little after noon. Many hikers and bikers were already there. After surfing through the nearby village, we decided to hike towards the mountain peak. For the first time after coming in UK, I realized how bad state my fitness is in. I guess, this is the bad effect of spending long hours in front of computer. My friend, who is an asthma patient, was in trouble on the way up. Fortunately, the mountain height was not that much, just 517m. On our way up, we saw people paragliding, taking off from the mountain peak. Once we reach the peak, it was lovely sight to see the valley. the valley was named as Hope Valley. There was Sheffield on one side, Manchester on the other. From the top, one can easily spot white dots among greenery. Those were nothing but sheep grazing happily. The Sun was playing hide-and-seek among the clouds. We saw few trains passing far away. Nice view all around!

The Valley

After resting there for a while, we traveled through ridges in a man-made footpath, made of stones. The stones were laid out and used as footpath to prevent soil erosion from travelers’ walk. There was nice ambiance, with Hi-Hello going around among fellow hikers. Our host chose an unusual path for descend. We hiked through greenery this time on a rugged path. We came across a dormant motorway, destructed by landslide some time ago. We also noticed some mining activity nearby. Once we reached below, we took food from the car and traveled far away to find a quiet place to have our lunch. Interestingly, that place was also a resting place for sheep. We finished our lunch without disturbing the herd. On our way back to Manchester, the conversation was largely absent due to radio commentary of Wimbledon final. Our host dropped us at our accommodation. The day was well spent and it would not be possible without our host. Can’t thank him enough!


Recently, there was a graduate job fair at Armitage Center, Fallowfield. It was a two day event. Lot of companies came to interact with the students. Even before going to the event, we know chances are very less to get something fruitful. In case you follow recent news, you would know immigration is still a matter of huge debate in UK, specially when the election is approaching. First the post-study visa was suspended, then few EU countries were blamed for high immigration, and now the third chapter. Some countries including India are put in high-risk zone. Any traveler from that zone coming into UK needs to deposit a bond of Β£3000 at British Embassy before coming here. UK government is doing what it thinks would be best for its people, so that’s fine. But, an ominous message is received among employers.

We still decided to pay a visit to the fair. Before going, we checked the register of sponsors and identified potential employers that we were interested about. We also checked whether those companies are coming on the first or second day. With hell-ish weather, we arrived at the fair on the second day and found the event well organized. Some companies seemed to be genuinely interested after checking our profile. But at the end, the dreaded question of work permit came up. And though they are listed as official sponsor of work visa, they curtly replied that they would not be able to sponsor us. This is happening not only in the low or mid-size companies. Even bigger brands are avoiding international students. I personally know at least two instances of it.

Best way to have your visa extended is either a PhD admit or entrepreneurship. Few extraordinary people secure PhD admit, and even very few get funded PhD offer in UK. Visa extension on entrepreneurship is quite interesting. In that way, government can get some investment from international students. If it becomes successful, it will create further jobs for local people. But really, if someone has that good entrepreneurial quality, why would he/she want to risk the capital in a foreign market. They can very well set up business in their home country!

Anyway, back to academic world. The result will soon be published for the second semester. We all are pretty tense. Moreover, the project is going on. In all, life is pretty hectic these days. To exacerbate the matter, all kinds of construction/repair work is going on at my accommodation Whitworth Park. In case you want to sleep bit extra on some weekdays, the nice construction workers will volunteer to act as alarm bell. Few of my flatmates regularly flee to library or learning commons to find solace. Probably I have to resort to that as well. So much for the ludicrous rent!

Legen – wait for it – dary

There are host of events going on after exam. Panagea and Whitfest are just over. If you don’t know, Whitfest is the after-exam day-long event in Whitworth Park. People are touring and visiting places as well. A week and half back, I went to Old Trafford to see the Legends match between Manchester United and Real Madrid. This was a charity match organised by Red Heart United and the match raised over Β£800,000. The entire amount will go to Manchester United Foundation, to help fund projects that benefit young people in disadvantaged areas of Greater Manchester.

The first leg was played in Madrid with result 3-2 in favor of Real Madrid. The Brazilian left-back Roberto Carlos played that match, who didn’t play in the second leg. I personally would love to watch him play. But, we were blessed to see the match with this lineup.

United: Van der Sar (van der Gouw 70); Berg (Martin 9), Stam, Johnsen, Irwin; Blackmore (van Nistelrooy 46), Fortune, Scholes, Sharpe (Thornley 51, Blomqvist 87); Yorke, Cole.
Real Madrid: Contreras (Sanchez 62); Salgado (Pavon 69), Helguera, Pavon (McManaman 46), Amavisca; Figo (Vazquez 78), Hierro, Makelele (Sanz 62), Zidane; Morientes, van Nistelrooy (De la Red 46)

For me, the best player in my generation is Zidane. He was the primary reason that I went to the match. We had good seats as well, just in the second row at East End. It is another matter though that the better play happened at Strafford End. Nevertheless, it was thrilling to see the reflexes of Van der Sar, anticipation and tackle of Stam-Hierro-Makalele, vision and skill from Zidane-Figo-Scholes and striking power of Nistelrooy. Rest all, the likes of Yorke-Cole-Salgado-Morientes, played well as well.

Zizou the Magician

Before the match, there was a concert which I personally found boring. Anchors continued to engage the audience and made very nice interaction with the crowd. Specially the conversation between few kids and the anchor was really funny. And then there were priceless expression of those kids, reacting to comments like ‘You look like Scholes, don’t be ashamed, that’s a good thing’ or ‘Josh, is that your sister or girlfriend’! πŸ™‚

The players took over around 2.10 pm. Even in the warm-up, we felt that this was going to be a serious match, not like friendly stuff that we used to see in the past. When the organizers announced the players’ names, the largest cheer was reserved for Niselrooy, Scholes, Zidane and Stam.

Maestros - Figo and Scholes

It should be noted that Niselrooy was the only player in this match, played successfully for both teams in his career. He started the game wearing Real Madrid jersey. In the first half itself, Van der Sar saved at least half-dozen attempts on goal. Zidane-Figo-Niselrooy combo threatened Manchester United defense again and again. In both halves, Figo’s wing play was absolute treat to watch. Scholes and Stam tried their best, but lack of proper strikers made Manchester United second fiddle in the first half.

At the end of first half, the score was 1-0 in favor of Real Madrid with Morientes as the scorer. Second half started with Nistelrooy switching sides from Real Madrid to Manchester United. The match then shifted to even balance. Nistelrooy equalized soon in the second half. But, just few minutes before the end, De la Red scored with a beautiful chip to end the match in favor of Real Madrid with 2-1.

Nistelrooy evaded a tackle from Stam

During the whole match, players seemed to be fit enough to play regular league matches. Scholes is recently retired. Zidane-Figo-Stam played like as they did in their younger days. Zidane and Stam both played full match-duration. Another person who was present at the match is Sir Alex Ferguson, smiling and enjoying the game. He even initiated Mexican wave at the second half. Also in the first half, there are rounds of Mexican wave went around the stadium. After the match, primiership trophy was paraded with huge cheer. With the supporters encouraging players(not in case of McManaman though ;)) and cheering for the teams, we all had a great match. We understood that players like Zidane-Figo-Stam-Van der Sar were, are and will always be Legends. Leaving you with Match Highlights.

Strive for better world

The official exam period is about to end. Apart from few students, others are now rejoicing. Undergrad students will now either be on vacation or internship. But, the university will continue for poor souls like us – the postgraduate students. We, the Masters(Taught) students, have our dissertation deadline in September first week. Basically, we have just three months to complete our dissertation. This is very valuable for all of us, as the dissertation alone has 60 credits out of total course credits of 180. Including the ‘Research Methods’ module, this increases up to 90 credits, half of total course credits.

All students may not do well in exams. But, everyone aims to do well in dissertation. Three primary reasons behind this is –

  1. It is your own dissertation, you chose it yourself.
  2. The problem is there to solve since January, you got plenty of time. In reality it is not, I have started to realize that. And…
  3. It is not boring theory anymore, it is practical. One senior interviewer at Google wrote in his blog that he rejected one postdoc just because the interviewee started his answer with ‘well, if i must do coding’. The point is, learning theory is not worth unless you can apply it practically.

These dissertations are all research projects. Consider the Masters students, PhD-s and Postdoc-s and figure out yourself how many research projects are going on in the university. All these research directly improves the academic value. It improves the university ranking. It also generates lot of revenues and even spin-off companies come out of these projects. Exciting research is going on with Graphene, with the university driving it forward. SpiNNaker is another project which is ranked among top projects to watch out for in recent future. And there are many more…

It is interesting to note that many of these research problems deal with interdisciplinary subjects. Expert collaborations often happen in these projects. Sometimes, we wonder what if someone knows all necessary subjects well. At least, a solid background would help very much even in case of collaboration. Now, most universities acknowledge the importance of flexible courses. Depending on student interest, he/she can choose a subject from Science and another from Arts/Humanities for his/her graduation. Double degrees, if selected judiciously, often help later. There are holistic courses launched like Science One in UBC Canada, where students can experience all science subjects in an integrated format.

Far away from Manchester, a ghastly murder took place in Woolwich. It was a sick murder first. And then using hungry media outlet, murderers preached words of terrorism. Sadly, terrorism is happening through out the world, mostly based on radical religious views. Honestly, I don’t get it. I have come from a country which probably has followers of every religion in the planet, and yet there is a strong secular fabric in its social structure. Thankfully even here, I get open-minded people around me. I have been to Temple, Gurdwara and Church with my friends here in Manchester. Everywhere, I received sincere warmth and each time I came out those places, I felt absolute peace of mind. Life is a bliss and the world is beautiful. Let’s keep it like that!


The exam is over now, at least for me. But, official exam period will continue till 6th June. To be honest, I hated my exam schedule at first. I had two back to back exams on 17th and 20th May. It took me some time to accept it and it was fine at the end. Had the exam pressure gone any longer, I might turn into complete insane character. It is a different matter though that some friends termed me insane long back. πŸ™‚

The Sun is shining over Manchester now-a-days. Events, celebration, barbecue, playing and even revision is being done in open air. European Champions League has just finished. I guess, it all feels well after exam. Too bad for those who are having exams and can’t enjoy all of these now. Hopefully the sunshine will stay beyond 6th June.

Relation between the Sun and Manchester is quite funny, or should I say rain and Manchester! By the grace of Almighty, almost all the time the sky remains cloudy here. Consecutive two days of sunshine is kind of serendipity. I remember one old Facebook post saying ‘saw clear sky today’, only to follow with quick retort – ‘post pictures, or it never happened’. Even the statistical questions at the University ends with – ‘Find out the probability of rain in Manchester’. πŸ˜‰

Anyway, back to celebration. Students like us celebrate in all kinds of crazy ways. Still among all these, there is a certain level of Mancunion spirit imbibed upon us. Be it rain or exams, we love Manchester. The university spirit also echoes into videos like this one, organised and delivered by students. These kind of student videos are created in other universities as well, to showcase their university spirit in a funny but creative manner. Although sometimes, this can culminate into unpleasant situations.

In Oxford University, students shot a Harlem Shake video in the Library which resulted fine for few students, and sacking of the librarian without much of her fault. In Canada’s Queen’s University, one university comic group presented university lifestyle in a satirical manner. This may not go well with die-hard Queeners, but one must understand the real motive behind these kind of videos. Students also need to take permission and precautions before venturing into this kind of activities. Thankfully, we have sensible student community here at Manchester.

Hi! My name is Arnab Ghosh. I am an international student from India, studying masters program here at the University of Manchester.