A very cool union of Astrophysics and Particle Physics


A new discovery by the IceCube is discussed in this

BBC link to the article in Nature

Besides being a very cool (pun intended) way of using the environment without misusing the environment (a big hunk of ice captures neutrinos) the discovery also raised new question about the origins of cosmic rays. To most astronomers, cosmic rays are a nuisance. They interfere with my data, creating spikes and tracks across images, which I then have to remove
(they also create hype in the UFO field as some people are determined to show these are evidence of alien spacecraft). Scientifically, it is vital to learn more about their origin as we worry about astronaut and satellite safety). These ‘little’ bursts of light may only last a few seconds but can do a lot of damage. In this article they show that the cosmic rays do not originate from gamma-ray bursts and hence most likely originate in supermassive black holes.

Of course there sample size is only 8, and possibly the neutrinos they fail to detect in these 8 events may be undetectable. But as it stands, this cool piece of particle physics is opening a new understanding of the streaks in my data.


Astronomy, astronauts, and the president

11 jobs that are hard to get


So 50 jobs a year appear in astronomy? Not too sure about that one. Seems a little high to me. I wonder how many of those were real job, and not just 2 year soft money positions somewhere. We have a real problem in science with this. If we assume that a retired professor’s position will be replaced, then each professor should only ever have 1 PhD student. An average professor will put through 30-40 PhD students in a career, so that means 29-39 students must get a job in a research institute. Sounds unlikely.

So what is the solution? More research money in industry might work, and leads to the bonus of making companies more efficient. But this poses a second question- why should the tax layer fund PhDs if the students are just going to go into industry. More money in education, and a stricter selection of grad student might work. But this leads to the accusation of throwing good money after bad.

In general education is always good. So I recommend that students pursue a PhD because they love science, not because they think it’ll be good for their career or will lead to a job. If money is your chief concern, better to stay clear of research. Or aim to become president instead.