July 2, 2012

We are all preparing ourselves mentally, of course, for the Great Higgs Announcement on Wednesday. For those who wish to know the answer so far – have we found the Higgs or not – the answer is here. V.pithy.  If you want to know what that nice Mr Willetts thinks, try the STFC version. If you want the Bluffers Guide, try the Ben Gilliland version.

But there are deeper mysteries than the Higgs Boson ! Why is this hard hatted worker so calm in the face of a flying saucer over Edinburgh ? Or is it a kind of decapitated Dalek ? ROE entries not allowed of course.


Aparently we HAVE found the Higgs. Woohee !

Also, we could have saved a few billion because you can BUY one here.

Wommers was rather good on Beeb Four I thought. If I heard correctly, he seemed to say that now we have done that, its dark matter and dark energy next. Roll on Euclid ! And Boulby ?

First Clues

May 19, 2010

This week at IVOA my head is mostly full of VO-style astrogeekery, and astrogeek politics of course, but I am still trying to watch UK events. The new Science Minister has given a briefing for science reporters. It has a few clues for us. You can read reports of what he said at the Beeb, at the Nature blog, and at the New Scientist S Word blog. There is a particularly thorough analysis by Mark Henderson at Times Online. For your convenience, here are a few bullet points :

  • Times are tough, don’t expect good news
  • His argument in Cabinet will be that spending on science is investment not a drain
  • He made only motherhood statements about blue skies research…
  • … but was at least explicitly sceptical about “impact” in REF
  • He is clearly keen on the space push …
  • … but cynical about UKSA to date
  • Climate change is real
  • Henderson says he likes the Nurse-style elite funding agenda … but this really isn’t clear to me
  • No Research Council re-organisation plans

None of this tells us what his attitude to astronomy or particle physics might be. Its not clear that “Blue Skies Research” includes “Dark Skies Research”. Although it could mean “anything not immediately useful”, you could easily restrict it to “things that aren’t useful yet” and so exclude things that obviously will never be useful. Note that although he is clearly sceptical of naive mechanical impact stuff, his argument for science is still rooted in its economic value.

By the way, does anybody remember that before the election the Lib Dems said they would plug holes in STFC by (a) cancelling the Share Services Centre, and (b) cancelling STFC Science and Society Spend ? Well, a few more pennies wouldn’t hurt.

Meet The New Boss

May 14, 2010

I just saw a tweet from Lord Drayson that said “helping my children with their homework now I have a bit more time”. I imagine his garden will get spruced up too.

So now there is a new Government, all our troubles will be over right ? The Problem of UK Physics Will Be Solved ! Hmmm. Thinks. Remembers last time there was a Conservative Government. Astronomy budget plummeted year on year. Ahh. Any jobs in America ?

But actually there seems to be a mood of cautious optimism reverberating through the scientific blogosphere and  twitterscape. The new Boss of BIS is the man who should have been Chancellor, the eminently sensible Vince Cable – and the new Minister for Universities and Science is David “Two Brains” Willets. His appointment was warmly welcomed by BBC News, by Times Online , by New Scientist, and by Research Fortnight. Today the New Scientist S-Word blog had the first interview with Willetts.

I guess its early days, but he seems to be making sensible noises so far. Thinks blue skies research is important,  isn’t keen on the “impact” agenda, and says we need a “stable framework”.

Sounds pretty sensible for science in general…. but it doesn’t follow, I’m afraid, that the fortunes of astronomy and particle physics will reverse. I don’t think our problem has been that Paul Drayson thought astronomy was rubbish.

Anyway. About five hours sleep then I am off to Canada for the twice yearly IVOA shindig.