Archive for February 14, 2012

The SKA Propaganda Machine

Posted in Astrohype, Science Politics, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on February 14, 2012 by telescoper

I’m a big fan of the Square Kilometre Array, a proposed new radio telescope that will revolutionize our understanding of many aspects of astrophysics.

I’m somewhat less keen on the intense lobbying being carried out on behalf of Australian astronomers in advance of the decision whether to site it in Australia or South Africa. The campaign is being orchestrated by a PR organization called Ogilvy and Mather who are making full use of social media to promote the Australian case.

Last week I was invited by email to attend a “webinar” (whatever that is) about the SKA, an invitation that I quietly ignored. Today I got a follow-up email from a person described as a “Digital Analyst” offering me the chance to “interview Dr Brian Boyle or Dr Lisa Harvey Smith”. They also sent me the following “infographic” (i.e. a picture) showing the case for siting the SKA in Australia, which they thought would be of interest to “my blog readers”.

Well, you can call me old-fashioned but I think there’s something a bit distasteful about engaging a glorified ad agency to lobby on behalf of one party in a discussion that should be resolved on purely scientific grounds. I wonder how much it cost, for a start, but I’d also have hoped scientists would be above that sort of thing anyway. Sign of the times, I suppose.

Anyway, even if the digital analysts at Ogilvy will be happy that I’ve shown their infographic, perhaps they might now realize that spin can work in two different ways…


My Funny Valentines

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2012 by telescoper

I’m not really into all this St Valentine’s Day nonsense (meaning: “I never get any cards”), but at least it provides me with an excuse to post three versions of the great Rogers & Hart ballad  My Funny Valentine.

The first is by the great Miles Davis Quintet featuring Miles Davis on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on tenor sax, Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter bass and Tony Williams on drums. This was recorded live in Milan on October 11th 1964. There’s a slight distortion in the sound in the form of a pre-echo, which is a bit eery, but I still think it’s a marvellous performance.

And if Miles Davis isn’t your cup of tea, here is something completely different. It’s by Julie London, but very late in her career in 1981 when she was 55. Her voice was much smoother in her heyday in the 1960s, but I love the smokey sound of this very characterful rendition. By ear I’d say the bass player on this is Ray Brown and the guitar is Barney Kessel, both of whom (like Julie London herself) are no longer with us.

Last one up is a miracle of joint improvisation between the great Bill Evans on piano and Jim Hall on guitar, the sort of music that mere mortals can only dream of…