Monday, 18 October 2010
The approaching storm
The shot was taken in the morning (actually, at dawn as you may have guessed) with a large shower approaching but is it a sign of things to come? The UK government is set to announce the results of its comprehensive spending review (CSR) on Wednesday and it is not looking good for science. Peter Coles and Andy Lawrence have both been writing posts about this on their blogs, the latest are "Astronomy Cuts Rumour Mill" and "Place your bets". It is very difficult to predict the eventual outcome although I think most people expect the UK will have to give up something very big and prestigious and there's little doubt our current excellent reputation in science will be damaged - if it hasn't already.
The double whammy is the recent announcement by Her Majesty's Government that student fees for university tuition costs will no longer be capped and could rise as high as £12,000 per year, a sum simply unaffordable for most students. Although many in the US education system may argue that it's how higher education works in the US and it's just fine, families in the US know these costs ahead of time and often start saving for college education as soon as a child is born and of course wages in the US are generally higher making these costs a little more affordable. What do UK families do now when they find out next year a college education for their son or daughter is just too expensive?
Couple these two together: the very real possibility of a brain drain from the UK and unaffordable higher education, I suspect the UK is looking at a lost generation of talented scientists and engineers. Of course, those bankers who helped get us into this mess to start with will have their bonuses to spend on their children's education, so that's alright then.
On another note, the approaching storm picture might also be appropriate for another reason - there's a good chance the summit of Mauna Kea will experience its first snowfall of the season tonight. It's not likely to be heavy, maybe just a dusting and if it does happen will likely melt during the day. The summit webcams are a good place to watch the snow if it happens.