Rich queries and Particle Physicians

May 18, 2011

Roy W wants me to write about science at the IVOA meeting rather than tourism. Well, what we do is all in the service of science, but its not itself science, and the impact is slow and indirect, so its kinda hard. But there are some really promising things. Having finished Table Access Protocol (TAP), the first apps actually using it are now appearing, so instead of just doing simple-minded RA/Dec/radius conesearches, you can do rich SDSS/UKIDSS style queries. The new version of Topcat speaks TAP. People are going to love this. Also the ObsCore Data Model is done, so likewise when you are searching for data resources, you can do something a bit more structured than “give me a list of conesearch services containing the string XQBLARG”. In general, the Data Model world seems to be zooming ahead now, after taking so many years to get going !

Meanwhile, everybody seems happy with VOEvent 2.0, and like VO Event 1.x I am sure it is going to be used in the real world. But you can tell us all about that Roy.

If there is any problem with this IVOA meeting its that it all seems a bit smooth somehow. We need some kind of playful critical agent provocateur. Roy ! Why aren’t you here ??!!

In other news, I just followed a Twitter link from La Crowther to a transcript of the Parliamentary Liaison Committee’s session quizzing the Prime Minister. Questions 23-27 are about science. Its a bit depressing. Earlier on, Cameron’s answers often seem cogent and knowedgeable, whether you agree with him or not, but on Science he becomes rather vague and broad brush, and of course pleads the fifth hides behind the Haldane Principle as usual. When confronted with the claim that particle physics funding has fallen to half its 2004 value, he says “By complete chance, I met a particle physician last night…” But what is worrying is what he claims the “particle physician” told him :

He said that one of the challenges for highly specialised areas of science is that they have to make their applications and bids relevant. They cannot expect to get money just because what they propose is in an important area, they have to prove the worth of what they are doing. I think that is the case for all science funding.

There doesn’t seem to be any grey here. Prove your worth or you are out Jim.