SKA final for definite actually for real type decision

May 25, 2012

So the news is out : the SKA site decision has finally been made. It was on Beeb TV , with Pallab Ghosh meandering around Jodders, triffic fun. The official SKA announcement is here and the South African Minister’s statement is here. Wommers emitted a tweet announcing that he needed a beer, so it must have been hard work in the closing stages.

They have gone for a dual-site solution. Some have suggested that this a political compromise, which could be seen as weak or as eminently sensible, depending on your point of view. Others have worried that a dual site solution will increase cost and complexity. Yet others (eg Pallab Ghosh in a tweet) have suggested that basically the Australians have been thrown a bone, with most of the antennae being located in SA.

I think these are all wrong. Whatever the actual reasoning was behind the decision, the result is that the project will build two complementary telescopes, building on the technology leads already taken by the two hosts. South Africa will build a long-baseline high resolution single pixel type array, aiming at small deep fields. Most of the cosmologists willl love this. Oz will build a lower resolution wide field array, with beam forming and focal plane arrays, aimed at the maximum possible mapping speed for large areas. Well Jeez, that sounds like a good plan. The antennae ? Well, they are all coming from China anyway. (They are building their own low frequency array by the way…)

The only danger is that this arrangement will devolve into two distinct projects, or that one collapses while the other gets the money. But as long as the partners are determined to stick together…

So. Anyhoo. From the SCIENCE point of view, this looks to me like a GOOD PLAN.

Phil Charles fallout

March 18, 2010

Nature News has a very interesting update on the continuing Phil Charles story. Here is a precis :

  • Phil Charles has been re-instated and publicly declared innocent of all charges.
  • …but the NRF has still not said … err… what the charges were. (Here is last week’s press release.)
  • Phil Charles is is not allowed to discuss these charges
  • The NRF say the charges were definitely nothing to do with location of the MeerKAT HQ site. No sirree. Purely to do with unauthorised circulation of confidential documents…
  • Michael Feast states this actually refers to an email that Charles forwarded to colleagues
  • That email concerned …  the location of the MeerKAT HQ site
  • Royal Society of South Africa has called for “public inquiry into this damaging incident”

So if Phil was hoping to settle down to a quiet life he might be disappointed.

Update Friday : the Department of Science Technology issued this press release. It explains that although last week’s NRF press release seemed to say “the judge says you was not guilty, but we know where you live , see”, actually this was just an “unintended ambiguity”.

Phil Charles latest

March 12, 2010

A wee birdy just told me that as of 30 minutes ago, Phil Charles was cleared of all charges.

Haven’t seen an official announcement yet….

Evening update : The Nature news team have been quick off the mark. They have a story already. As you will see there, it is still officially completely unclear what Phil Charles was actually accused of. But maybe we will find out by Monday…

Midnight update : Here is the NRF announcement. Possibly a tad petulant and stunningly unspecific.