Archive for BBC Stargazing Live

Stargazing Live on Sussex University Campus – Tonight!

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on March 18, 2015 by telescoper

Just a quick post to advertise the fact that the BBC Television series Stargazing Live will be broadcast in the evenings this week from Wednesday 18th to Friday 20th March, 2015. The programme is hosted by Professor Brian Cox and Dara O Briain and will be beamed to you (or at least to those of you who have television sets) from Jodrell Bank, which is near Manchester (in the Midlands).

Closer to home, at least for those of you whose home is closer to mine than it is to Jodrell Bank, the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Sussex will be running a series of astronomical activities (including planetarium shows, observing sessions and lectures) for all ages to coincide with the programme tonight (i.e. Wednesday 18th March). This also takes place within One World Week at the University of Sussex, which gives it added interest for both staff and students. There’s nothing like astronomy to make you aware of our shared existence on this little planet…

There are two sessions this evening. One is from 6pm to 7.30pm and the other from 8pm to 9.30pm. You can find full details of both sessions here, but here’s a taster of the menu for the earlier session:

stargazing

It’s lovely and sunny on Sussex University campus as I write this, and the forecast is good for this evening too. Might we be able to get a glimpse of the Aurorae that lit up the skies over Britain last night? I can’t promise that, but there’s a chance! Sadly the forecast for Friday’s partial solar eclipse is not so good, but we live in hope.

Anyway, wherever you are and whatever you do this evening, here’s wishing you Happy Stargazing!

The Unknown Citizen

Posted in Poetry, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , on January 20, 2012 by telescoper

I thought of this poem when I was moaning the other day about the widespread use of the term “Citizen Science” to describe, e.g., the admirable activities of the Zooniverse. One aspect of their work, planethunters, employs enthusiastic amateurs volunteers from the general public to search for signs of exoplanets, for example, with a notable success during the recent series BBC Stargazing Live.

The problem I have with using the term “Citizen Science” is that it logically excludes those of us who happen to be professional scientists; we are citizens too! At least I hope we are…

Not that I’m pedantic or anything.

I like the word amateur which is derived from the latin verb amare (“to love”) and hence properly means someone who does a task out of love, rather than for money. I’d agree, though, that this has acquired negative connotations of amateurishness (i.e. “unprofessional”) so is probably unsuitable for modern use. But what other word would be better? I just had a look at my thesaurus and it suggests, e.g. “votary”, “layperson” and even “groupie” although I don’t think the latter will catch on!

Anyway, as you will see,  none of this has really got anything to do with the poem, which I’m just posting because the word “Citizen” made me remember it. Apologies for the small font size, but I wanted to ensure that the line breaks didn’t get messed up.


(To JS/07/M/378 This Marble Monument Is Erected by the State)

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a saint,
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn’t a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Installment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace; when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation.
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their education.
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

by W.H. Auden (1907-1973)