Disturbing the Universe

David L Clements, science and science fiction


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Professional Disagreement Over Galaxies Escalates Into Bullying And Harassment

Kopitiam Bot

(Source: www.forbes.com)

NASA, ESA, and J. Lotz (STScI)

Look out into the distant Universe as far as you possibly can, and you’ll come to the earliest galaxies we’ve ever observed. The Hubble Frontier Fields program was designed to make exactly these kind of faint, deep observations, and an incredible amount of science has come of it. One of the most spectacular effects is that of gravitational lensing, where a large foreground mass, like a galaxy cluster, bends and magnifies the starlight from background objects even more distant than the cluster. The Hubble Frontier Fields program imaged many such clusters, enabling us to find some of the galaxies behind them: candidates for the deepest, most distant galaxies ever seen in the entire Universe.

ALMA (ESO/NRAO/NAOJ), L. Calçada (ESO), Y. Hezaveh et al.

Because these background, ultra-distant galaxies are so faint, however, despite the magnification, they’re often swamped by the light coming…

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Unprofessional Astronomy – arXiv:1711.02090

In the Dark

It is essential to the way that science works that existing published results are challenged by independent scrutiny and by confrontation with rival analysis. New facts and new theoretical explanations are often established through this form of critical dialogue. More often than not this process of claim and counter-claim is carried out in a collegiate spirit because all parties are mindful that this kind of debate is part and parcel of the scientific method. To behave otherwise as a scientist is unprofessional.

Regrettably, however, sometimes scientists overstep the mark and engage in behaviour which falls short of this expectation, particularly when it is by a senior scientist directed towards a junior colleague because then unnecessarily aggressive criticism can take on the mantle of bullying.

Today I saw a paper on the arXiv by Bouwens et al. that contains criticism of a previous paper by Livermore et al. (2017) (arXiv version

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My Helsinki Worldcon Programme

If you want to see me at Worldcon, here are the items I’m on!

Obsolete Science Ideas

Wednesday 15:00 – 16:00, 102 (Messukeskus)

Many obsolete science ideas have had long lives in SF long after scientists have moved on – the panelists discuss their favorite obsolete science ideas that refuse to die in science fiction!

 

Signing: David Clements

10th August: 1100-1200.
Location: Signing area

The Long Term Future of the Universe & How to Avoid It

Thursday 15:00 – 16:00, Rauhanasema (Messukeskus)

Cosmology and astrophysics now have a fairly good set of predictions for the long term future of the universe and none of them look good for life as we know it. Whether it is the end of the stelliferous epoch, the Big Rip, proton decay or the end of the false vacuum, the universe in tens of billions of years will not be as we know it. This panel will combine scientists & SF writers to look at different long term futures and how life might be able to survive them.

 

The War on Science

Friday 15:00 – 16:00, 208 (Messukeskus)

Many scientists feel that some politicians and members of the public are turning their backs on inconvenient results and choosing to ignore empirical evidence. From climate change to GM food, from anti-vaccers to pollution why is this and what can be done? Is the age of scientific knowledge coming to an end?

 

Tall Technical Tales

Saturday 19:00 – 20:00, 203a (Messukeskus)

Like most things, science doesn’t progress smoothly and seamlessly, instead it moves in a series of bumps and jumps. He we celebrate the bumps with amusing stories from the front line of science where things didn’t go exactly as they were planned. Bring your own stories to add to the mix!

 

Morality of Generation Ships

Sunday 14:00 – 15:00, 206 (Messukeskus)

Is it moral to send a group of colonists away on a generation ship to colonise a distant world, knowing that the children and grandchildren who will be born on board that ship (and on the destination planet when it is reached) will not have had a say in the choice? They will be forced to continue the mission, and try and make a life on a possibly unsuitable planet, whilst the people who were willing to take on those risks for their descendants will be long dead and not have to live with the decision.


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Science for Fiction 2017

For the benefit of those attending, and to make those of you not coming along jealous, here is the draft timetable for this year’s event.

See some of you there soon!

Wednesday 5th July

2pm Arrive, meet and greet

2:15 The Square Kilometre Array and the Epoch of Reionization: Emma Chapman

3:15 Tea

3:45 Titan and Cassini: Ingo Mueller-Wodarg

4:45 Discussion

5:15 Pub then dinner

Thursday 6th July

10:15 Gather

10:30 Ending the Universe: Arttu Rajante

11:30 Coffee

12:00 Visiting Mars – Sanjeev Gupta

12:30 Mars VR Demonstration & discussion

1:15 Lunch

2:30 Extremophiles and Synthetic Biology: Robert Weinzierl

3:30 Tea

4:00 Forming Stars & Planets: Tom Haworth

5:00 Discussion

6:00 The One Tun London pub meet (optional)


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Science for Fiction 2017

We’re back!

The Imperial College & Science Fiction Foundation workshop for writers to meet and talk to scientists is back for another year.

The dates are 5-6 July, starting after lunch on the 5th and running all day on the 6th. There’s a meeting of the London Fannish Circle (The Tun) that evening so I we can all get the con ‘dead dog’ experience there.

The cost will be £30 to cover catering. Some financial support is available via the Science Fiction Foundation if necessary. Overnight accommodation, if you need it, would be extra.

Details of subjects to be covered are still being sorted out – and will in part be determined by what writers are after – but it will certainly include astronomy, physics and biology, possibly all mixed together in some cases.

If you are interested drop me an email at d dot clements at imperial dot ac dot uk. Please include any specific requests for subjects to be covered, and if you have any dietary restrictions that would affect what we order for lunch and tea.


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Ten Years of the European Research Council

Peter is not alone in looking at opportunities outside the UK in the wake of Brexit.

In the Dark

This little video reminded me that we’re coming up to the tenth anniversary of the founding of the European Research Council (ERC).

In my opinion the ERC has been an outstanding success that has revitalized science across the continent and here in the United Kingdom. Sadly the UK government has decided that the United Kingdom will play no further part in ERC-funded schemes or any other programme funded by the EU.  The participation of UK scientists has already started to diminish and when it dries up completely there will be a significant loss of research income, especially for fundamental science. Most physics & astronomy departments in the UK will lose 20-30% of their research income. Most also have a similar fraction of staff who are EU nationals, many of whom will leave because of the UK government’s shocking refusal to guarantee their right to remain. I find it sad beyond…

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Welcome SkyeEnt!

Over the last several years we’ve been helping our friends on Skye to plant trees on their croft. The whole 6 acres are now planted but we still have to do infill to replace trees that haven’t made it – thanks to weather and deer depredations for example – but it’s fantastic to see the woodland develop.

Places we planted now look like real copses or stands of trees!

And now one of our friends has started blogging about it all.

You can see it all at:

skyeent.wordpress.com