The Dynamic Universe

After the recent car crash I’m pleased to report that I’ve finally got used to driving again, albeit with a heightened degree of caution, which is no bad thing.

When you come within inches of having a very serious accident it puts a different perspective on life.  Different from that “seismic” change when I retired, in some ways more immediate in the here and now, as opposed to the medium/long term impact of stopping work.

As a result yesterday Debbie and I were very busy buying ourselves badminton rackets, shuttlecocks and associated sportswear including possibly the lighter trainers for playing in that I’ve ever owned.  This stemmed from Emma’s boyfriend Josh who visited her last weekend and who took her to the local leisure centre we belong to that is normally reserved for swims and sauna, with a weekly aquafit thrown in, to play badminton.

Josh I believe plays for a local league in Suffolk and offered to teach a rather nervous Emma to play with his spare racket.  Now Debbie used to play when she was 21 years old with colleagues in Companies House but hasn’t played since and I could detect a spark of interest in playing again.  Funnily enough I used to play myself, although I played more squash with Dino of Squad 29 fame in my late twenties.

Interest piqued we bit the bullet and splashed out just under £200 for the kit for both of us, it would have been more if it hadn’t been for the 10% Defence Discount Service!  Next MondayDebbie will be the first to play Emma at 5pm with my role limited to that of chauffeur and scorekeeper, judging by her mood over breakfast this morning I think she is both nervous and excited at the prospect!

Later yesterday I decided to go on my own to the Abergavenny Astronomy Society which I became a member of for the princely sum of £10 about a month ago.  Member pay £1 at each meeting in addition but can bring guests for £2 on an ad hoc basis and Debbie accompanied me once to hear a talk about quasars while Emma has been a couple of times to listen to a talk about general astronomy and trans-Neptunian objects (TNO)!

Where I partook of a very rare pint of Guinness…

Last night’s meeting held upstairs in a private room in the King’s Head hotel/pub started at 7.30pm but I went alone to listen to Professor Andy Newsam talk about “The Dynamic Universe”.  Andy was quite a character having blonde hair tied back in a long ponytail but his credentials as Prof of Astronomy Education & Engagement at the Astrophysics Research Institute in Liverpool reinforced my impression that he was a brilliant speaker.

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The main thrust of his 90 minute presentation, peppered with numerous audience questions which he answered brilliantly, was that the universe is not static but constantly evolving at differing speeds and that astronomers today are focussed on the most extreme changeable events which requires a different technology and approach.

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The Liverpool John Moores university has built the Liverpool Telescope (LT) in La Palma in the Canary Islands at the top ridge of the volcano far above most of the surrounding clouds.  It runs as a lights out facility with robotic remote operation, is highly fault tolerant and rapid to reposition in only 20 seconds.

Apart from academics, schools and amateur astronomers can “bid” for viewing access and it is designed to capture changes in the visible cosmos quickly a so many changes are transient in nature such as near-earth objects (NEO), gravitational waves, exoplanets, supermassive black holes and colliding neutron stars!

His enthusiasm and knowledge for his subject was undoubted and it turned out to be a very busy tonight with over 20 people crammed into all available seats in the small room.   Sadly most appeared older than me at nearly 58, which was a shame as in his role as space ambassador he gives lots of talks to schoolchildren and students but his audience was very knowledgeable about astrophysics, more so than myself despite having a Master’s degree, albeit from 34 years ago!

This is what i find so fascinating about living here in Abergavenny, it never fails to amaze me about the thirst for knowledge of the locals and their interest in such esoteric subjects.  I find it really uplifting to be reconnecting with the topic to be honest and makes me feel right at home living here.  🙂

 

The Dynamic Universe

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