The BBC news website currently has on its front page an article called "Astronomers hopeful of detecting extra-terrestrial life". The article quotes the the president of the UK's Royal Society and Astronomer Royal, Lord Rees. I quote from the article:
"Lord Rees, the president of the Royal Society and Astronomer Royal, said such a discovery would be a moment which would change humanity."
He said: "Technology has advanced so that for the very first time we can actually have the realistic hope of detecting planets no bigger than the earth orbiting other stars.
"(We'll be able to learn) whether they have continents and oceans, learning what type of atmosphere they have.
"Although it is a long shot to be able to learn more about any life of them, then it's tremendous progress to be able to get some sort of image of another planet, rather like the earth orbiting another star."If it wasn't so depressing I would be laughing. The UK's STFC has decided not to fund the UKIRT Planet Finder (UPF) and as a consequence withdraw funding from UKIRT. The UPF would have allowed the UK to detect these earth-sized planets and allow the country a chance to lead the world in this research. All good words from Lord Rees but I wonder whether he knows his own government and the council set up to fund this type of research aren't interested? Talk about rubbing salt into the wounds...
PS. For those interested in news of Pam, she had surgery on Friday 22nd and is currently in the critical care ward in Cedars-Sinai, LA. I spoke to her this evening (and have been in touch with her family and friends) and she is doing well. She has been particularly appreciative of the support from friends and colleagues of mine. You know who you are and I also want to add my thanks because it has meant a lot to both of us.