Some news

Royal Observatory Edinburgh

One reason things have been quite quiet here is that I’ve taken on a new role at work. I’ve just started as Head of the Institute for Astronomy, which is part of the School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, but is based at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh (right).

As you can imagine, it’s taking up quite a bit of my time. I haven’t really had much time to think about possible blog posts, let alone write any. I’m also helping to organise the UK Exoplanet Community Meeting, which is in Edinburgh and starts on Monday, and am trying to prepare the first section of an updated Astrophysics course, which I have to start teaching a week on Monday.

So, a rather busy time and will probably remain so for quite some time. I may still find time to write some posts, but it will probably be rather sporadic.

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31 Responses to Some news

  1. Echoing VV, congratulations. As someone who has argued with you for over a decade, let me just add that I hope you do continue posting more often than you predict here.

    Best regards

  2. russellseitz says:


  3. congrats! the exoplanet stuff must be fascinating and so lively now thanks to JWST. Good time to commit your efforts on things outside our atmosphere. I think if you keep posting here about climate change, you run the risk of slipping into the role of alarmist and that would be disconcerting. I have successfully flipped into Dikran’s camp of the non-alarmed and am enjoying the relief that naturally comes with relaxing into climate change and turning off the climate alarm bells.

    We harvested our seedless grapes this past week and are busy converting them to raisins. Our two little girls will eat every green grape we set out, but moderation in all things is the mantra on that.

    Still watching all our seeded grapes, hoping that we will begin harvesting those next week and start on our grape/apple cider production. We finished last year’s cider last month. That was the first year our cider had lasted this long. Not sure why.

    Another beautiful day in the PNW, but it’s going to be too hot for the next 48 hours and we are supposed to get winds from the east that will probably expand the forest fires up in the Goat Rocks Wilderness, 50 miles to the east of us. We are getting more smoke from those fires than I need right now. I think back down in the 70s on Monday, so that will be nice. I would welcome a good solid rain to knock down the fires and to dampen the forest a bit generally. I figure what we need is a 1/2 inch over a 24 hr period. Or maybe 1 inch over 48 hrs and we will be in good shape. I hope all of the folks here are also enjoying the end of summer weather. This last summer/early fall season is really great in my opinion.

    I did see this methane news story: “satellites recorded images of methane plumes at the Ku-Maloob-Zaap oil field cluster in the Gulf of Mexico during six days between Aug 5 and Aug 29, said Itziar Irakulis-Loitxate, a scientist from the Polytechnic University of Valencia.

    During these days, some 44,064 tons of methane were released into the atmosphere from the Zaap oil field in another “ultraemission”, Irakulis-Loitxate estimated. This is equivalent to 3.7 million tons of CO2.”

    The scale of these things is hard for the average citizen to grasp, but I think 3.7 million tons of CO2 or 44,064 tons of methane are really that much in the big picture. Plus, this is not some scary tipping point source, it’s thought to be arising from old infrastructure owned by Pemex. Plus, methane is a flow gas, not a stock emission, so that’s another good reason to shrug off this story about an “ultraemission.” Reuters will do anything to sell papers and gin up fears about global warming. Pretty sad, really.

    Please keep us informed about our prospects on any exoplanets. Look for something with oceans of water. That’s our kind of planet!



  4. I see what you did there, Russell. well done!

  5. Mal Adapted says:

    Congratulations on your new post, Ken! This must be an exciting time to be an astronomer.

  6. dikranmarsupial says:


  7. dikranmarsupial says:

    I should add, posts about exoplanets would be great if they would be easier!

  8. Dave_Geologist says:

    Congratulations, ATTP.

  9. izen says:

    Congratulations, anything on the climate on exoplanets would be of interest…

  10. Bob Loblaw says:

    What bad thing did you do to deserve that punishment?

    Er, I mean, congratulations on the new position and responsibility. From my memories of my days in academia, September was always a very busy time with return to classes, new students, grant applications due, etc. This must surely add to it.

    Maintaining quality on the blog posts is more important than maintaining quantity!

  11. angech says:

    Congratulations as well.
    Hope the site keeps going.
    If you want someone to do the occasional post?
    More than happy to help.
    Might need moderation at times*.

    Seriously well done and I hope everything goes well personally and academically for you.

  12. wmconnolley says:

    Congratulations. I guess that means you’re going to have continue to be sensible 🙂

  13. That’s brilliant. Congrats Ken!

  14. WMC,
    Well, trying to be 🙂

    Thanks. Watched Frozen Planet 2 last night. Really impressive.

  15. Joshua says:

    I can tell my grandchildren I knew you when….

  16. Bob,

    What bad thing did you do to deserve that punishment?

    There’s an element of that 🙂

    Knew me when I was still a blogger?


  17. Chubbs says:

    Congratulations! Guessing effective communications are important in your new position.

  18. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Maybe it’s an American turn of phrase?

  19. Joshua says:

    And maybe it’s like that whole “don’t try to communicate nuance over the Internet” thingy.

    Just a teasing way of saying congratulations!

  20. Congratulations, of course, 2U2!

    Your overall thoughts on the big universal picture are most welcome …

    From the Carte du Ciel to Gaia and Euclid

    “With its wide sky coverage and its catalogues of billions of stars and galaxies, the scientific value of data collected by the mission goes beyond the scope of cosmology. This database will provide the worldwide astronomical community with abundant sources and targets for the James Webb Space Telescope and Atacama Large Millimeter Array, as well as future missions such as the European Extremely Large
    Telescope, Thirty Meter Telescope, Square Kilometer Array, and the Vera C. Rubin Observatory.

    Oh and the one equation that I hate the most … the Drake equation.

    Seven conjectures in one equation even! But it needs an eight conjecture … the probability that any two civilizations would exist at the roughly the same time and roughly the same location. And a ninth conjecture … that any chemical rocket based civilization (e. g. Earth for the foreseeable future) would waste eons of materials, money, space and time to reach even a few light years outside their own solar system in a more than one way operation.

  21. russellseitz says:

    The Drake Equation is always with us.

    Who needs seven conjectures when “With four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk.”

    John von Neumann
    Attributed to John von Neumann by Enrico Fermi, as quoted by Freeman Dyson : Nature _427_ ; 297 (22 January 2004)

    With nine you can get to intelligent aliens, and thirty-eight have on occasion yielded apocalyptic predictions “robust” enough for the cover of Foreign Affairs.

  22. Willard says:

    > The Drake Equation is always with us

    Please stop reminding us Canucks, Russell:

  23. dikranmarsupial says:

    Russell – but they need to be complex parameters

  24. Doesn’t look like an elephant, more like an amoeba.

  25. dikranmarsupial says:

    According to von Neumann you need six parameters for a completely photorealistic elephant, but people rarely mention the full context for the quote.

  26. dikranmarsupial says:

    To be fair it is more like an elephant than a spherical (or point-mass) cow is like a cow.

  27. In the last day, I determined that I can duplicate the AMO climate index with a single parameter. Two parameters if an additional harmonic is counted. This isn’t the multi-decadal aspect of AMO either, but the fine structure — the stuff that everyone considers to be noise.

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