A Blast from a Past Texas Symposium 

I got into my office in Maynooth a little late this morning as I was moving some things into my new flat, the keys to which I duly received yesterday. I didn’t move in last night as I had already paid for last night’s accommodation in St Patrick’s College, as well as breakfast, so thought it was silly to waste my last night there.

It turned out to be a good decision. Breakfast is served in Putin Pugin Hall and on Thursdays the seminarians get a cooked breakfast. Normally guests are only entitled to a continental breakfast but since this was my last morning the friendly lady in charge said I could help myself to the full Irish. I have to say that the staff at St Patrick’s have been absolutely lovely – very friendly and helpful – so I was a little sad leaving, but it will be nice to settle into my own place.

Anyway, duly checked out, I came into the Department of Theoretical Physics and made myself a cup of tea. While I was waiting for the kettle I looked in the pile of books in the staff room and found this:

This is the proceedings of the 15th Texas Symposium on Relativistic Astrophysics, which was held in Brighton in December 1990 (just after I had left Sussex University for Queen Mary, London).  I did go back to Brighton from London for this, but actually don’t remember that much about it!  Twenty seven years is a long time!

Anyway, these meetings  are held every other year, sometimes in association with other meetings, e.g. the CERN-ESO Symposium in the case above, and there’s one going on right now, the 29th Texas Symposium in Cape Town, South Africa.



14 Responses to “A Blast from a Past Texas Symposium ”

  1. Bryn Jones Says:

    Why was the Texas Symposium on Relativistic Astrophysics held in Sussex, not in Texas?

    • telescoper Says:

      It texas too long to get there.

    • Seriously, because the first one was in Texas. Then, quasars were a big topic and the Kerr metric—-wasn’t, although it was announced there. Sometimes one needs time to tell what is important. There was an anniversary meeting in 2013, again in Dallas. Some people were there both in 1963 and 2013 (Rindler (who has been in Dallas since then), Penrose, Kerr); I wasn’t even conceived in December 2013.

      1963 was a long time ago. The Beatles hadn’t even been on the Ed Sullivan show yet.

      • Bryn Jones Says:

        Yes, I had understood that the series took its name from the first meeting’s location, but I’ve wondered why they didn’t have a different name for about half the time they’ve been going.

      • What does the “half” refer to?

      • I mean I’ve wondered for half the time they’ve been going why the name still referred to the original location. I’m not old enough to have wondered about it for the entire length they’ve been going (though I may look old enough to have done).

      • OK. I thought that the “half” referred to the time they had been going, not the time you had been wondering about it. 🙂

        I think that this is relatively common. The Rencontres de Moriond (apparently they very recently revamped the website) haven’t been in Moriond for a while. When I started going, they were in Bourg St. Maurice (at Les Arcs) and are now at La Thuile (across the border in Italy). Les Houches is still at Les Houches, though.

      • I’ve wondered the same thing about the Moriond conferences.

      • I think the idea is that it denotes a tradition. Although the Texas conferences vary more widely than the Moriond ones (because each time it is put on by a different group and different locations means little overlap in attendance), in both cases the structure is always similar and one knows what one signs up for. It is a good example of brand recognition.

        A while back, I reviewed the proceedings of a Les Houches school. Certainly the reputation of these schools was one factor encouraging me to actually read a proceedings volume cover to cover (something I have done for only a few such volumes, though of course for all which I have reviewed).

      • Bryn Jones Says:


        A very small number of conference proceedings are edited so well that the volume is worth reading as much in entirety as time allows.

      • Another such volume is Origins of the Expanding Universe which our host attended and blogged about (though his contribution is not in the proceedings).

  2. “there’s one going on right now, the 29th Texas Symposium in Cape Town, South Africa”

    I was there and had a wonderful time. 😀

    True, there were a) more observations and b) less cosmology than usual, but—and this is one of the attractions—the emphasis varies from meeting to meeting, both because the local organizers influence the topics and because there is not that much overlap in those attending (as opposed to the Moriond cosmology meetings, say, where the usual suspects attend every year). One of the purposes of such a meeting is to get an idea of what is going on in areas where one isn’t an expert. Another reason, of course, is for personal interaction. In this sense, a conference is like a mediaeval pilgrimage: there is a goal, but the journey (i.e. the unplanned things that happen before, during, and after it) is just as if not more important.

    The next one will be in Portsmouth December 15–20 2019 (allowing the winner(s) of the Nobel Prize to avoid having to miss one of the meetings). 🙂

    • There is now an official announcement for the one in Portsmouth. It seems that the tradition (1988–2008) of having every other one in North America has now been broken; the last one there was the special 50th-anniversary symposium in 2013; the last regular one 2008 in Vancouver (the last in the USA 2004 in Stanford).

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