Archive for INAM2019

Breakthroughs, Beermats and the Bending of Light

Posted in Biographical, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on September 6, 2019 by telescoper

I found out on the way home from Armagh yesterday that this year’s Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics (worth $3,000,000) has been awarded to the team behind the Event Horizon Telescope which was featured in newspaper and magazines around the world in April this year and which I blogged about here. There are 347 members of the team so it amounts to an average of less than $9000 per person, but let me offer them all my sincerest congratulations!

Coincidentally, just before my talk at INAM2019 yesterday I noticed that the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium stocks these items:

I’m not sure they are intended to be used as beer mats but that’s what they look like! Anyway, I picked one up and showed it at the end of my talk. I was talking about the 1919 eclipse expeditions, which I have done rather a lot these days, and finished up by mentioning that the events of a hundred years ago ushered in a century of developments in relativistic astrophysics, including gravitational lensing, gravitational waves and of course the Event Horizon Telescope.

If you’re interested here are the slides I used for this (short) talk:

Advertisements

Who uses LinkedIn?

Posted in Science Politics, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on September 5, 2019 by telescoper

We had a talk at INAM2019 yesterday about the Astronomical Science Group of Ireland which is about to be re-launched with a new website. One of the main reasons for doing this is that Ireland recently joined the European Southern Observatory and in order to capitalize on its involvement it is important to persuade the Irish government to invest in the resources needed (especially postdocs, etc) to do as much science as possible using ESO facilities. At the moment there isn’t a very well organized lobby for astronomy in Ireland.

One of the suggestions made yesterday was that astronomers in Ireland should join LinkedIn in order to raise their profile individually and collectively.

I am not, and have never been, on LinkedIn and this is the first time I’ve ever even thought of joining it (though I do from time to time receive emails from people I don’t know asking me to). I’ve always thought it was for more businessy types. I don’t know of any astronomers (or scientists generally) who use it either, but that may be just because I’m not on it and wouldn’t know either way.

I just thought therefore, that I might invite any readers of this blog – whether astronomers or not – if they use LinkedIn to please comment on its usefulness or otherwise using the box below. Please also comment on whether you think it would help astronomers in Ireland organize in the manner envisaged.

Across the Border

Posted in Biographical, Politics with tags , , on September 5, 2019 by telescoper

I’ve got a bit of time to spare between breakfast and the start of a new day of talks at INAM2019 so I thought I’d rattle off a short travelblog.

I went straight to Armagh Observatory and Planetarium from the bus station when I arrived yesterday so had to check in to my hotel after the end of the day’s session. I had reserved a room online (and brought the confirmation with me) so I thought that would just take a few minutes. Unfortunately the hotel had lost the booking so had to start again, which took quite a while. However, to make up for the inconvenience they put me in an `Executive Room’ with a balcony. It is indeed quite luxurious and I now wish I were staying for more than one night. Sadly, however, I have to get the bus back to Dublin this evening as I have lots to do tomorrow.

On the trip up here the main thing I noticed after crossing the border into Northern Ireland was the number of Union flags on display on telegraph poles, lampposts and buildings. I learned from a booklet in the conference pack that the Orange Order was founded in County Armagh and there are obviously strong unionist sentiments around. Flags and sashes and regalia as symbols of national and/or religious identity seem to mean a lot to some people. I find it all rather baffling.

Among the more trivial things I noticed were a change in typeface for the road signs, the fact that roads are numbered as in Great Britain (e.g. `A28′) rather than in Ireland, and that post boxes here are red rather than green. Oh, and Tayto crisps are different here too..

Of course yesterday was a big day in the United Kingdom Parliament, with Boris Johnson suffering yet another humiliation as a cross-party bill was put through the House of Commons attempting to stop a `No Deal’ Brexit. Johnson then attempted to call a General Election but failed to secure sufficient votes, Jeremy Corbyn refusing to support the motion unless and until the No-Deal Bill becomes law.

I don’t know where these shenanigans will lead, but it seems to me that humiliating Boris Johnson is a good thing in itself so I watched the events last night in my hotel room with some satisfaction. Of course if there is a General Election, a new Parliament could repeal the `No Deal’ Act anyway, so in the long run this could all amount to very little.

I’m still eligible to vote in a UK General Election but there is one soon I really don’t know what I’ll do.

The Road to Armagh for INAM 2019

Posted in Biographical, Talks and Reviews with tags , , on September 4, 2019 by telescoper

In a week of firsts I now find myself for the first time in Armagh for my first ever Irish National Astronomy Meeting, INAM 2019. Unfortunately I can’t stay for the whole meeting as I have things to do in Maynooth on Friday, but I’m looking forward to the next day and a half.

By the way, I got here from Maynooth by bus, via Dublin. There is a direct service from Busáras in central Dublin to Armagh, which takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes. The bus carries on from there to Derry.

I may post a few updates from the meeting about the science talks. Mine is not until tomorrow afternoon so I can relax and enjoy the presentations before then.

Here’s a picture of the auditorium. Garret Cotter from Oxford is talking about Gamma Ray Astronomy..