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for astronomers:

Discovery and Depth

“…the current situation calls for bold leadership and tough decisions and not merely the proverbial rearrangement of the chairs in the dining hall of the Costa Concordia as it approached the Isola del Giglio.”14 Kulkarni (2011)


  1. #1 Bernard Kelly
    February 14, 2012

    Is that a fancier way of saying “rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic”?

  2. #2 Scott H.
    February 14, 2012

    Is that a fancier way of saying “rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic”?

    Certainly more contemporary.

  3. #3 Michael Richmond
    February 14, 2012

    My reading of Section 8 from this paper:

    1.) fund these items:
    a) massively multiplexed spectrographs on existing telescopes (reference to a project at CalTech)
    b) telescopes to explore transient sky (reference to project at CalTech)
    c) projects in extrasolar planets

    2.) cut unspecified programs

    3.) move all funding for dark energy research to DOE

    One might sum it up as “cut lots of money, but not for the projects at CalTech, and play a shell game by moving lots of research to another federal budget category.”

    Did I miss something?

  4. #4 Steinn Sigurdsson
    February 14, 2012

    @Richmond – that is not how you spell Caltech 😉

  5. #5 bph
    February 14, 2012

    1) What is striking in the recommendations of Sec. 8 is that there is no mention of GSMT.

    2) Moving the LSST to the DoE makes a weird kind of sense because:
    a) The NSF does not have the resources to backstop the project when it runs over budget.
    b) The DoE is heavily involved already (SLAC, LLNL and Brookhaven are all doing work on it.)
    c) The DoE is building up a decent amount of experience running large surveys.

    Maybe a) does not matter? The DoE will backstop it anyway and the NSF participation just means that the data will be available to people who are interested in something besides measuring w = -1 +/- 0.00001?

  6. #6 Steinn Sigurdsson
    February 14, 2012

    we also have to know w’ = 0.00000000000 +/- 1

    I mean it CAN’T just be a boring cosmological constant…

  7. #7 FuturePostdoc
    February 14, 2012

    Come on Shri, tell us how you really feel. Are dark energy (and particle astrophysics?) pork barrel astro to give particle physicists something to do, with US particle physics shutting down (and the greatest LHC dreams over)?

  8. #8 Ben
    February 17, 2012

    Shri may have some legitimate points but his self interest gets in the way of presenting or advocating them.

    It is odd to read derogation of DE projects along with praise for transients (LSST) and massively multiplexed spectroscopy (BigBOSS, which he actually names as a good thing for its astrophysical applications).

    Punting on dark energy science and handing it over to physicists at DoE is a bad idea. The reason is that a DE experiment delivers data that could be very useful for astrophysics outside DE (galaxy evolution, for example), but only if astrophysicists participate in the design. If only DE is considered in the instrument or survey design, it is inevitably optimized to yield the crappiest possible data on the largest number of targets (eg lowest S/N spectrum sufficient to measure a redshift, no stable flux calibration, etc).

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