Astronomical Isolation

So what will the euro-zone veto fuss do to astronomy ? Anything ?

I have just been checking for new service data on a ESO-VLT project I have. My student is doing stuff with ESA Herschel data. Lots of us are glowing happily and emailing our Italian and French friends because Euclid got selected. I just submitted another Euro-VO FP7 proposal with a variety of European chums. At project meetings, being “Europe” as opposed to “the UK” is often crucial. The Americans take us much more seriously. Hey, we are all European astronomers now. Aren’t we ?

Joining ESO was a difficult debate in the UK. Many UK astronomers have always felt more comfortable with our US and Australian friends. They speak our language (more or less), and have a kind of rugged and ambitious approach that we like. On the other hand, our French and Italian friends sometimes seem more, you know, sophisticated. In other words we are typical Brits. We can’t decide if we are cultured Europeans or part of some grand Brittanic gung ho civilisation. Even as I write, my instincts are mostly with ESO and ESA, but I am also part of a lobby thats just dying to be part of LSST.

Right now, European politicians and newspapers seem to be saying “thank goodness ! We never liked them anyway !” Are our European astronomy chums secretly irritated with us all this time ? I should point out that neither ESO nor ESA are anything to do with the EU. They are independent treaty organisations. Nothing structural or automatic ensues from the Eurozone situation. But it does make you wonder what they think of us..

8 Responses to Astronomical Isolation

  1. I think we chaps on the Continent could always differentiate between John Barrow and Katie Price. And UK astronomers can differentiate between ESO and Eurotrash. (Most of the stuff on Eurotrash was real, but most of it was not typical for the Continent.)

    What is Europe? Consider this chart.
    (Note that it includes neither ESO nor the EBU (European Broadcasting Union, responsible for the Eurovision Song Contest (formerly the Grand-Prix Eurovision de la Chanson Européenne).)

    Just don’t mention the war.
    Only Lemmy is allowed to do that.

    It’s all a matter of perspective. Once at Dover the ferries couldn’t make it to Calais because of the fog, so someone put up a sign: “Europe closed”.

  2. andyxl says:

    Phillip I love the chart. Well of course I love “Don’t Mention the War” as well, but that goes without saying.

  3. John Cleese was actually involved in a programme called “Don’t Mention the War”, which was a vehicle for promoting understanding, learning which prejudices are false etc. So, young people would spend some time abroad—say, working for a gay barber in Berlin—and then write an essay about their experiences.

  4. Martin E. says:

    I’ve always thought what a success ESO and ESA have been in creating a euro-wide class of scientists who think of themselves as European, at least when they are doing science. When I was a lad attending my first Euro astronomy meetings the coffee breaks were full of little language groups; now folks all mix up a lot, as everyone works with someone from a different country. Seems like progress to me. But I suppose I have a bias.

    • ian smail says:

      i agree, you still see little national cliques at conferences/meetings, but i think they are fewer than they used to be.

      in part this comes about because we are mostly competing nationally for funding (with the exception of ERCs), so it makes more sense to collaborate internationally than nationally.

  5. David Cameron says:

    I hereby veto this blog post.

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