What was the point?

In the last few months I have heard more people asking "what is the point of astronomy?" I don't think this is a growing trend; I'm just more aware that people are asking the question. I won't attempt to answer that particular question here, but it made me think of a related question that some people may be asking: "What was the point of the Division for Planetary Science meeting?".

So what was the point? Most obviously we've (I include you the reader) got to hear all the latest scientific results from a whole range of space missions, ground-based observations and simulations. These have been tremendously exciting, especially in this eventful year with so many fantastic results. But, in many ways, a conference isn't just about listening to academic papers and reading press releases. Some of the benefit comes from the ideas that are sparked in the audience and the discussions that flow from the talks, posters, tea/coffee breaks or even at the pub in the evenings.

Conferences, like DPS2005, allow old friends to meet up and new contacts to be made that may never have happened otherwise. For instance, I overheard two postdocs - one from Scandanavia and the other working at NASA - sharing their simulation ideas excitedly in front of a laptop. That excitement about science, and the rush of ideas that come from a new perspective on a problem, is something I think is important. Of course, not all the discussions will lead to anything, but some of them will. That, in my view, is the point.

Stuart was at the Division for Planetary Sciences 2005 meeting in Cambridge, UK.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Saturday 10th Sep 2005 (15:20 UTC) | Permalink
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