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So, last week was the Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM) of the Astronomical Society of Australia. It's a big national conference, analogous to the National Astronomy Meeting (NAM) in the UK, only a big smaller as there aren't quite as many astronomers here. It was an interesting meeting with talks on very diverse topics including an outreach session with updates on the plans for the IYA in Australia. This year (conveniently) it happened to be in Perth, just across the river at UWA. Although there were some really great talks, there were times when I still couldn't keep my eyes open. This was always a problem at uni anyway, falling asleep in 9am lectures was an unfortunate side-effect of doing the astronomy experiments and having been on the roof in the freezing cold until ridiculous hours of the morning (not normal student behaviour, I'll admit, but I never said I was normal). So why do I still do it now?! Nevermind, it could be worse - at least I didn't snore. Well, I don't think I did...

After the conference ended, the organisers (I say organisers, but it seemed that Andre was doing pretty much everything himself!) ran a trip out to visit the nearby observatories. First stop was the Perth Observatory, relocated to the Perth hills in the 60s when light pollution got too bad. They have quite a few working research telescopes up there and an exhibition of historical bits and pieces. They run public viewing nights and publish the Western Australian Astronomy Almanac which contains heaps of useful information. Then we went to the Gravity Discovery Centre at Gingin where there is a visitor centre, the leaning tower of Gingin, the Australian International Gravitational Research Centre which runs the AIGO detector, and the Gingin Observatory which is set up purely to run public observing sessions. It was a fun day out, but it was long and I was glad to get home at the end of it!

Having been here for two months, I went climbing on Saturday. I got fed up of not having anyone to climb with so I put an ad up on the notice board. Well, it's amazing how much strength your muscles can lose in two months. It's not that I've been doing nothing, I'm cycling over 100km a week to and from work, but I haven't used those particular muscles very much recently. Before I left the UK I was climbing at least once a week, often more than that if I could. On Saturday I was trying to climb at the level I had been at in the UK and it just wasn't working. My arms got tired way too quickly and I started falling off, not being able to pull myself up when needed. It was very frustrating. Still, the only way to improve is to keep trying, so I'll be back up there this weekend.

On Sunday I visited the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition that has been on the Esplanade since I arrived. I haven't seemed to have time to visit before now, but I figured I better see it soon as it's moving on in a week or two. It was worth the trip. A lot of the models are fixed and don't work, but there are quite a few you can play with and even a "build your own bridge" exhibit. It was fun to see a lot of his machines made real - I've read a book on some of his work and the sheer amount of stuff the guy did is pretty amazing. What was really fun was seeing the kids playing with the models and actually working out what was going on. They all seemed to be having a really good time, I didn't see a single surly teenager (but may be there is a selection effect going on here (it's possible that the teenagers were so surly that their parents decided it wasn't worth forcing them to go...).

I've been reading Touching the Void again. I didn't bring many books with me (assuming my stuff would be here fairly soon...) so I went to a bookshop the other day. I borrowed this one from a friend ages ago and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I figured it was time I got my own copy. Trouble is, every time I start reading a book like this I remember what it feels like to be out in the open, camping wild in the mountains (admittedly though, I've never attempted anything quite that big), and I wonder why on earth I sit in front of a computer all day....

Posted by Megan on Monday 14th Jul 2008 (09:33 UTC) | Add a comment | Permalink


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