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Archive for October, 2009

A week ago, ESA initiated a call for applicants to participate in a simulated round-trip mission to the Red Planet, which will involve being inside a sealed facility for more than 500 days performing what I presume are relatively uncreative tasks that require plenty of concentration. Some further descriptive content has appeared on their website today, full of delicious tidbits:

…an international crew of six will simulate a 520-day round-trip to Mars, including a 30-day stay on the martian surface. In reality, they will live and work in a sealed facility in Moscow, Russia, to investigate the psychological and medical aspects of a long-duration space mission.

The crew will follow a programme designed to simulate a 250-day journey to Mars, a 30-day surface exploration phase and 240 days travelling back to Earth.

Certainly not my cup of tea, but it does tickle the imagination! The Call for Candidates and related documents are available here. Completed and signed application forms should be sent to Mars500@esa.int. The deadline for applications is 5 November 2009, however only citizens of nations participating in the ESA ELIPS programme are eligible.

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A quick post to celebrate Duncan’s forging outward: his new blog is Well-bred Insolence, covering extrasolar planets, astrobiology and I expect some politics too, because frankly you can’t keep the Scots out of it. The amusing byline is ‘Forming Planets… and Opinions,’ and the blog is sure to attract a good readership before long—so get over there!

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Because I spend insufficiently little time feeling as though I’m still an undergraduate, may I politely agitate for others to follow the advice of Chris Bertram:

Those of you working in higher education in the UK already know about the barbarous proposal to make future support for research depend on a government assessment of its “impact” – in other worlds whether there’s a tangible payoff in terms of economic growth or social policy.

My colleague James Ladyman has launched a petition on the No.10 website to tell Gordon Brown what we think of the idea. If you’re British, even if you don’t live in the UK any more, pop over and sign it.

Something similar has been mentioned by Andy, just in reference to the UK’s main science council. To pass broader comment, I am uncertain of the efficacy of these petitions. I hypothesise that the UK government acts only on those that are i) highly supported; and ii) of purely symbolic value. For instance, the recent public apology issued posthumously to Alan Turing is both terrifically sensible and completely uncourageous. I am unaware of an initiative requiring the expenditure of political captial that has seen fruition through these petitions, but I acknowledge that, if my hypothesis stems from cynicism, it could be that I have selectively ignored counterexamples. On the one hand, I hope that’s wrong, but on the other, it would be nice if it were true.

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I must admit that smartphones have impacted my consciousness quite severely in the last few weeks.  Things came to a head when a friend shared the link to this wonderful new phone on Facebook…check it out before the jump…

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