Back in December last year, I was lucky enough to be among the participants at the 2009 .astronomy conference in Leiden. Instead of conference proceedings, I made a video of the week because it seemed to embody the spirit .astronomy. And after all, who ever reads conference proceedings….
I am not a drinker. It is true. I very rarely drink mid-week but whilst in the Netherlands at the marvellous .astronomy conference, I drank rather a lot. I’m not saying an excessive amount in any one sitting, that would just be antisocial. I reserve that sort of behaviour for family occasions.
The Netherlands is very close to Belgium and therefore very close to potent supply of fine beer, served in comedic glasses. Every night, I tried very hard to have just one small beer. I have to say that had some of the most interesting science conversations over a quiet beer. One night something significant happened. A good friend of mine, Douglas Pierce-Price, made the quite brilliant suggestion that a glass of port would finish the evening off nicely. Which it did.
The following night was the conference dinner. I was quite amazed by the number of sex shops that we passed on the way there. We had to ask for directions underneath a lamp post, directly outside one with cheeky slogans. Well, we didn’t have to but we did. The dinner was in an architecturally reclaimed warehouse type building, which is now a classy restaurant. The beef was a bit rare but we were on the Continent.
When we were asked for our selection of coffee Douglas and I cheekily asked the waiter for some port. We were pleasantly surprised to be presented with a knowledgeable chap who chatted palatably niceties of a nutty tawny or a fruity ruby. We plumbed for one of each.
This was a very popular decision and about half of the other attendees followed suit and grabbed a manly glass of the crimson gold. Chris Lintott promised me a port hangover if .astronomy were to go to Oxford!
On Friday night we flew back to Cardiff airport where we were met by a sign that made me a little worried. Did people often take to port a little too freely when abroad?
I’ve just returned from Leiden (its in the Netherlands – which incidentally, is not the same as Holland). I was attending a conference called “.astronomy” (or “dotastronomy” because people and web browsers often don’t notice the little full stop), which was hosted by the very generous and capable staff of the Lorentz Centre. The venue was excellent, providing us with our own offices for the week, meeting rooms, very fast (and easy of access) wireless internet, and cheeky but friendly staff.
The philosophy of .astronomy is using new media (which mostly, but not exclusively, means the internet) to ‘do’ astronomy. That’s not just astronomy research but also astronomy outreach/education. The first conference was the genius idea of Rob Simpson (of orbiting frog fame) and has been further developed by a team of cheeky helpers.
I’ve only recently come to respect Twitter as a medium for news updates on a massive scale. This week really cemented the concept for me, as a fast, and mostly reliable way to let everyone at the conference know what was going on as it happened. Using the hash tag system (where you include in your tweet # followed by the tag name, in our case #dotastro) we could find out about what magic the various working groups were up to, interesting quotes and points from the talks, directions to pubs, and whenever someone said something inappropriate. Continue reading →