Physics In Flames

I hate to keep bashing our STFC chums, but I can’t resist this. Old Chum Mike Watson has been improving the STFC logo. Compare old and new …


Old STFC logo


New STFC logo

By the way, the PM petition to reverse the cuts has now broken the 10,000 barrier, and its number 22 on the list.

7 Responses to Physics In Flames

  1. Rob says:

    and change facilities to fatalities?

  2. Dan says:

    Senior managers at STFC say that the government wants a better return for UK plc on its science investment. This might be a smoke screen for cockups and other factors. But it might not. Perhaps they are right and there is a Gordon Brown-inspired policy shift – bringing the end of an era of blue sky astronomy.

    So, what is the return on astronomy? What’s the message the politicians need to hear? The Save Astronomy website lists facilities and projects that will be hit ( and jobs that go with these). Serious points, but anyone on civvy street might ask, so what? So, while we still have time to make the case, why do we astronomy?

  3. andyxl says:

    Dan – STFC bosses are absolutely correct that Government want a better return for UK PLC, and both Astronomy and Particle Physics are finding that a hard battle. Its not a smokescreen. However this is nothing new. Its been the same pressure since 1979; Big Science has been slowly eroded. We have to keep repeating the case that Astronomy does have value for the economy as well as cultural value.

    Thats not the immediate cause of the current crisis, but it is the backdrop.

  4. Dave says:

    The proximate cause of this mess, Diamond, is a facility essentially for biologists. And yet synchrotrons were invented by particle physicists for particle physics. The next big medical imaging technology is likely to be ‘terraherz’ waves. This is a waveband whose use was pioneered by astronomers, many of them in the UK, though with the current cuts we may well piss away the lead this has given us. And the World Wide Web was invented at CERN.

    Big science pays back big in the end,even the Tories admitted that in the Major era, but not in easily predictable ways on politically useful timescales. This is the real problem while we’re still working within the New Labour targets culture that Brown has established. But UK plc will be poorer in the long term without the results of blue skies research. It’s just difficult to say in what way it will be poorer.

  5. andyxl says:

    All good points Dave. Maybe I wouldn’t overplay the Web thing though. It was invented at CERN, but not by CERN, and not by a particle physicist, and not for particle physics. To be honest, Tim Berners Lee could have been working at any large technical organisation which needed a document management system. Politicans aint completely dumb so I wouldn’t oversell the “Web invented by particle physicists” thing. Synchrotrons and terahertz imaging on the other hand .. spot on. I can feel that Faraday quote coming on any moment…

  6. Another anonymous physicist says:

    I have it on good authority that the whole thing is a stitch up between Mason, Onions and an un-named senior permanent civil servant in DIUS. Ministers have been blissfully unaware of this, until now…

  7. andyxl says:

    Dear anonymous – we all have strong feelings, and we are often puzzled about many aspects of recent events, but please do be careful not to stray over the line into defamatory statements. Although this feels like a private conversation between us on this blog, its actually in a public arena. Its not an email exchange. What you say above doesn’t quite cross that line, but it gets close…

    Maybe more importantly, I don’t think that there is a “this whole thing”. There is a nexus of interacting things that have converged on a crisis. I don’t know O’Nions, but have known Keith for years. I wouldn’t necessarily make the same management judgements, but I have no doubts about his integrity, or about his powers of analysis.

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