4 June 2010 (Friday) - Fermi & Gemini

Up with the lark as usual, and for once not ironing. Instead I was frantically PowerPoint-ing. We’d known for some time that tonight’s planned speaker at the astro club was unable to come, and so a few weeks ago I’d offered to put on something I’d originally done three years ago. But it turned out that there was a proper speaker available who had a proper subject for the evening, so my talk wasn’t needed.

Last night I had a phone call from the club’s secretary. Seeing as it doesn’t get dark until very late, maybe we’d be better off having a second speaker rather than a telescope session. And seeing as I’d offered to do something, perhaps I might like to do that talk.

I was only too happy to oblige, and spent yesterday evening dusting off my talk on the Fermi Paradox. And woke very early this morning in a panic realising all the things I’d left out of the talk. After all, the Kepler mission has been launched in the meantime, and that probably would have quite a bearing on what I had to say. Oh, I hate last minute rushes. Normally when I’m speaking, the thing is prepared months in advance.

Meanwhile back in reality, having got the top box onto the car, I got the rear seats out this morning before work. The car is now in “Summer Mode”, - not much good if I need to take people anywhere, but as good as it can be for transporting large amounts of luggage. I’m still not convinced that I wouldn’t be better off with a pick-up truck, or even a camper van. In fact, I’ve half a mind to see how much it would cost to hire a camper for one of the weekend camps, just to see how I’d get on with the thing.

All I needed to do was to visit a certain barn and get the camping gear, and I would be set for the next few months. And that’s what I did straight after work. The car is now full of tents and stuff. I also found a load of beer I’d forgotten about, but couldn’t find any gas cookers. Oh well – we have essentials, if not luxuries.

And then to Woodchurch for astro club. As always I found myself sitting outside, waiting for Jason to arrive with the keys. We tried a different chair layout tonight – with chairs in staggered curves rather than rows. Much less formal, and seemed to be liked by the punters. As it was a lovely evening we got the solar scope out. Normally looking at the Sun through a telescope is a very stupid thing to do, but IF you have a proper solar scope, it can be done. I’d never used a solar scope before, and following the expert advice I got to see a solar prominence.

The main talk of the evening was on the Gemini program. Something about which I knew next to nothing. It was a really good talk, given by a speaker who was not only incredibly knowledgeable on the subject, but was also a very good speaker. Why is it that I always find myself giving talks after someone’s just given an excellent presentation, and feeling very conscious that I have been set a standard?

I hawked the raffle as always, and we (more than) covered the cost of the hall hire. And then it was my turn to talk. I must admit that I was rather nervous about speaking this evening. Normally I’m quite happy to stand up and jabber on, but tonight we were being visited by a delegation from the Canterbury astro club. Real astro-bods(!) But, what the hell – I launched into my subject with gusto: the Fermi paradox.

The Fermi paradox is a quite straightforward question, originally posed by Enrico Fermi some sixty years ago: “The size and age of the universe suggest that many technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilizations ought to exist. However, this hypothesis seems inconsistent with the lack of observational evidence to support it.” Or, in layman’s terms, “it stands to reason that there are aliens. But where are they?

I wittered on for about fifteen minutes, with the audience laughing far more than would be expected for a lecture on such a dull subject, and I ended up by explaining the Fermi paradox. Or that is I gave my explanation. As I said, the entire subject of aliens can only be guesswork, and I challenged the audience to come up with their own explanations.

As we were packing up, the people from the Canterbury astro club approached me and asked if I might speak at their club meetings. They liked what they saw tonight…

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations matey.
    I am hoping you will be giving a talk when I am over so that I can see you in action.
    You can talk out of ...oops....I mean, about, Uranus all you like.
    I shall look forward to it.