Something Fresh

December 6, 2011

Almost escaped from teaching. Maybe Ye Olde Blogge can Arise Again. But what, but what, is burning to be said ? Here is a shortlist.

(1) The title is for Professor Smail. First ever Blandings novel. But people have sent me emails saying “we cannot live by Wodehouse alone” so better stop there.

(2) The NOAO consultation has proceeded apace. The latest issue of their newsletter summarises the results  which seem to be that (a) we are relatively cheap really; (b) 4m telescopes will still do some groovy stuff; (c) we need 4m telescopes to train more astronomers. All true, but I can’t see this sort of stuff gripping the likes of Michelle Turner-Overdrive or whatever her name is.

(3) Meanwhile an AURA review into how to run Gemini  recommends it just gets swallered up by NOAO. Luckily the Yookay isn’t involved any more, so there is no need for us to splutter. Leave that to the Canadians.

(4) A new age of optimism dawns ! Wommers jetting around the world making positive noises, kissing people’s hands, and shaking babies. (Shum mishtake ? Ed). THES had an interview  and STFC had its own Hello John  news item. Better than a Dear John letter I suppose. But I drift. No sooner was JW in place than SKA leapt into the future .

(5) Presumably SKA will happen sometime after the lost decade. This economy stuff is a tad depressing what? Watched the Fred Goodwin show on the Beeb last night. Then I noticed that I am in possession of a cheque from ABN Amro, the toxic bank which RBS cleverly bought just before the dam burst. Better cash it quick.

Much of the world of finance seems like vapourware. Credit default swaps ? How did anybody think they were doing anything real ? But the effects are real and scary. Merkel and Sarkozy are proposing, as far as I understand, to make Keynesian economics illegal from now on. Wuh ? Now every day our futures lurch from side to side as “the markets” respond wildly. This is nuts. Like some crazy machine with the feedback loops all wrong. I reckon the economy needs a spot of systems engineering. We need to turn on some damping Cap’n ! Can we get someone from the ATC or RAL to take over ?

All I need now is guest posts expanding the above shortlisted items. Then I can go and do me christmas shoppin.

Dinner at the Drones

May 10, 2008

On Friday afternoon I gave a talk to the Royal Astronomical Society on big astronomical surveys and the sociological changes they are driving.. It pluggged UKIRT/UKIDSS, WFAU and CASU, and AstroGrid. I am proud to report these are all STFC Band 4 projects !! Woo hee. Keep going guys. The talk involved a live demo of both the WFCAM Science Archive and AstroGrid and went really well. (Many thanks to Mike Read, Mark Holliman, and Nigel Hambly for last minute server kicking.)

During the day there was a specialist meeting on the 42m Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), with fine opening reviews by Jason Pyromaniac and Captain Hook. Of course this used to be the 100m Overwhelmingly Large Telescope (OWL). I look forward to the day (2009 ?) when it gets descoped to 25m and renamed the FBT (Fairly Big Telescope). Some of the science cases are starting to look rather groovy. My favourite is the proposed CODEX instrument, which would take high resolution spectra of distant quasars. All been done before, you say ? Ah yes but they claim that over a period of twenty years, we should be able to see the Lyman-alpha forest move … i.e. we will actually directly detect the expansion of the Universe. Corr.

After my talk I got invited to the RAS Dining Club. Many years ago when I was a student I assumed the Dining Club was a sort of Astronomical Freemason thing – a secret club within the club where all the decisions got taken. Maybe that was true then, but it sure ain’t now, as about two thirds of the membership is retired anyway. It was like finding myself in a PG Wodehouse story. Dinner was at the Athenaeum, where somebody had to find me a tie. Luckily the Club keeps an emergency tie in a special wooden box. Conversation was deafening and at the end every guest had to tell a funny story. I felt sure that at any moment we would all start throwing bread rolls at Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright.

I didn’t tell the gorilla joke.