Disturbing the Universe

David L Clements, science and science fiction


Back to Mauna Kea

I’m on an observing trip to Mauna Kea at the moment. This has been enlivened by the close passage of tropical storm Darby to the island not long after I arrived. All I saw of that was lots of rain and some wind, but my support scientist had a tree fall on his car which has rather cramped his style.

The side effect of the storm was to make observing conditions truly awful. We got no data last night at all, and tonight the telescope is observing targets for other programmes since the conditions are still too bad for what we want to do.

Nevertheless the skies looked pretty good when we got to the summit this evening.


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The UK after the Referendum: All That Is Solid Melts Into Air…..

What a mess we have made (but mostly Cameron, Johnson & Farage)…

Colin Talbot

The EU referendum result came as a shock to just about everyone, including the leaders of the “Leave” campaign (and me).

The aftershocks of this earthquake in British politics are still being felt.

Three of the central antagonists – the Prime Minister David Cameron, the leader of “Leave” Boris Johnson and leader of UKIP Nigel Farage – have all ‘resigned’. The leader of the Opposition is clinging onto office by his fingernails.

These individual dramas and excitements are, however, mere sideshows.

The real tragedy is the way the British constitution has been turned on its head.

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Planck at the Royal Society (with added Brian Cox)

We’re back!

Planck has a stand at the Royal Society Summer Exhibition again. This time we’re showcasing the cosmic microwave background (CMB) and the polarisation work of Planck, that has the promise of revealing hints about the physics behind the Big Bang. It runs all next week so please come along and see us.

We spent the last 2 days setting up our stand, which includes chunks of space hardware, a virtual reality microwave background, images of the sky from radio to far-IR, a 3D printed CMB and much more, along with the chance to make your own models of the Planck sky and of Planck itself.

I’ve been tweeting some of the set up but the most popular tweet I made today (and perhaps ever) was after we had finished, when Prof Brian Cox visited us. I was interviewed about the stand but before that I managed to snap this candid thermal infrared image of him…


I can’t imagine why this is so popular.

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Brexit predicitions: not so good

OK – so I was wrong about Boris taking over the country in the autumn. But then how could anybody have predicted Gove’s backstabbing of his erstwhile brexit colleague?

I guess Gove is a better Shakespearean scholar than Boris – et tu Gove?

Another prediction?

We’re entering fellowship season where, usually, scientists from around the globe apply for long term research positions in the UK. We’re already seeing good candidates saying ‘not this year’ in the wake of brexit, so my next prediction is that the numbers of fellowship applicants will be significantly down on previous years.

Conversely, if you’re in the UK and want to stay, then the competition might not be as fierce this year…

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The BrExit Threat to British Science

Can’t disagree with much here. Things look bleak.

One thing but addressed is the issue of UK scientists who are UK citizens leaving to seek more and more secure funding elsewhere, leading to a new brain drain.

The days of making the UK the best place to do science seem far away…

In the Dark

After a couple of days away dealing with some personal business I’ve now time to make a few comments about the ongoing repercussions following last week’s referendum vote to Leave the European Union.

First of all on the general situation. Legally speaking the referendum decision by itself changes nothing at all. Referendums have no constitutional status in the United Kingdom and are not legally binding. The Prime Minister David Cameron has declined to activate (the now famous) Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which would initiate a two-year negotiated withdrawal, preferring to leave this to whomever succeeds him following his resignation. None of the likely contenders for the unenviable position of next Prime Minister seems keen to pull the trigger very quickly either. The United Kingdom therefore remains a member of the European Union and there is no clear picture of when that might change.

The rest of the European…

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Royal Society Summer Exhibition: Planck stand coming together

My office is increasingly looking like a box store as various bits of the Planck exhibit for next week’s Royal Society Summer Exhibition arrive.

Here’s a couple of pieces for it – some Planck LFI flight spare hardware looking at my 3D printed Cosmic Microwave Background.



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