Cute kids report

March 9, 2011

So how was today’s show at the Select Committee hearing ? The main thing to say is that in fact the genuine young persons were pretty damned cute, in sense B as opposed to sense A – i.e. mentally keen, shrewd. After a bit, it worried me that this was in fact a weakness of the hearing, if they wanted to find out what would make young people more attracted to physical science. These young people were already physics fans. Anyhoo. Here are some bullet point impressions :

  • Kids apparently value active research participation, rather than (just) TV science  programmes. But as I said, these were already fans..
  • I loved the lad who said he was hooked one day in a kind of  epiphany : seeing the glare from a car he suddenly realised those photons had just travelled 8 minutes from the Sun, bounced off the car, and entered his eyeball. Man thats not just physics – thats Zen.
  • Some of them didn’t know UKSA had been created… but one did because “they rejected a lot of people from my school for work experience”
  • Maggie Aderin-Pocock had her kid there … that was so cool.
  • Maggie stressed that some people can communicate and some can’t… she quoted a school who said “we had a physicist come and talk last year and after that fewer people wanted to do physics”
  • Jim Al Khalili said that we want real science not girls in bikinis blowing up caravans
  • Jocelyn and Roger both said that  STFC is now communicating a lot better, and they are trying hard, but – there still aren’t enough scientists on Council; STFC has structural issues; and there are “some crazinesses they still haven’t thought through”.
  • Roger was polite but firm on the issue of whether there was a deliberate overinvestment in astronomy in the past
  • Roger was very concerned about the suggestion that construction might be concentrated into the labs, rather than university groups. Students have to be trained or the instrumentation field will become moribund, he said.
  • Asked if  we have to cut costs to pay for ESO, Roger and Jocelyn said yes, but we already have : we pulled out of AAT; we reduced membership of WHT and cut operating cost of UKIRT; and of course we pulled out of Gemini. Roger said nobody said we’d have to completely close all  Northern Hemisphere  observatories.
  • Finally, when asked how much extra resource was needed to keep those Northern observatories open, Roger said  2-3M. Jocelyn said “a banker’s bonus”.

Well thats what I got. You can still see the video at the CSC website.