Monday, 6 April 2009

A backyard view: II

The last year has not been a good one for just about everyone due to the severe worldwide economic crisis. British astronomy has not been immune although the current funding crisis appears to be unrelated to the recession, more a chapter of mismanagement in the relevant research council. It's been difficult to keep up with all of the developments being so isolated out here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean but nevertheless everyone working here has been very nervous about their futures.

Although I'm no cosmologist so certainly won't attempt to explain the science, there has been a very recent casualty of the crisis in the UK: the CLOVER project. This would have been world-beating science and hopefully would have answered some of the most fundamental questions in modern astrophysics and cosmology, specifically the existence of gravitational waves in the early universe predicted by cosmological inflation.

What has struck many, and an issue that we have been aware of for some time now over here in our small part of the Pacific, is how UK-only funded projects are so vulnerable to cuts and closure by the UK funding agencies. It seems to be the highest irony that good science is more susceptible to be thrown into the trash by the UK if it's a UK project. The reason for this, of course, is that if there are agreements with international partners then closing a project is much harder to do. Our observatory is funded almost exclusively by the UK, so I'm sure you can understand why people here are nervous.

Both Andy and Peter have blogged about the recent problems. Andy had a guest blogger write "Over for Clover" and Peter wrote "Clover and Out" (among other posts). The comments in both posts are interesting reading as well.

Hence the reason I've been practising my photography. Firstly, it's a release from the stress of having an uncertain future and secondly, if I practise enough, perhaps I can become professional and earn my living that way! Seriously, becoming a pro is not something I'll do, I'm nowhere near talented enough, but taking pictures does seem to release a little tension.

So, I'm subjecting you to more photos from the backyard. They were taken this evening after the first really sunny day I can remember for ages so tried to capture the colours of the few clouds that were around at sunset. Oh, and the moon was up as well.

I really like the last one. Not that it's a particularly good photo or anything, it just looks as though it was painted. Perhaps that's my next hobby?


Keera Ann Fox said...

I love the cloud photos! The color and shape of the cloud in the top one appeals most to me, but yes, the bottom one does look like the sky on one of those old naval battle paintings. I'm always impressed by how oil painters recreate clouds.

The frustration and disappointment must be enormous for UK astronomers. Stupid financial crisis.

Zuzana said...

The photographs are stunning! I was actually thinking if you have ever been considering becoming a professional photographer while seeing the pictures below. Then I read this post and saw these amazing photographs.;) I think you have a future in that, if you ask me.;))
Sorry for all the trouble; you know how much I can relate to what you are talking about, being a scientist myself.
Luckily, my position seemed to have been secured for another 6 years.

Tom said...

Keera - I know what you mean. One of my interests is military history yet have never blogged about it. In particular, naval history interests me more than anything, especially as I was very close to joining the Royal Navy as a teenager.

You have it spot on though, the clouds are just like those seen in paintings of battles from the 17th century right up to the early 20th century. I didn't realise it at the time, but you really hit the nail on the head as to why I like that photo!

Protege - I'll swap you your 6 years with our 3. The problem is, our 3 years is agreed but given recent news I'm no longer confident that's the case anymore.


Keera Ann Fox said...

The last time I saw something like that in person I believe was in a museum on Jersey. Some paintings there reminded me of the American Revolution, except that standing on Jersey, it was the redcoats who were the heroes. :-)