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Nov 15 2014

Landing on a comet

There was a striking contrast in the office on Friday between the former practicing scientists and the developers, with an open data background, who were bemoaning the slowness with which results were being reported by the ESA team looking after the Rosetta orbiter and the Philae lander.

As I pointed out, many years ago I sat in an instrument hutch at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory trying to work out what the hell was going on with my experiment downstairs, behind an interlocked door, being flooded with a beam of invisible neutrons. It was possible that I was discovering new and important science. But on the other hand it was also possible that the goniometer third from the left on my sample changer was up to its usual tricks and had failed to move when instructed. We couldn’t tell from the frankly inadequate early nineties video feed. The only way to find out was to wait for the experiment to finish and go and eyeball the damn thing.

Goniometer number 3 had failed, again.

Peter, who did his PhD at CERN, replied – “what he said!”

2 comments

  1. jane fleming

    Ah the weariness of the scientist too close to the fire. Everyone not scientists are cheering in the background. Locals had firework display, there were tears in the back of beyond. “The only way to find out was to wait for the experiment to finish” but that wasnt the point to the viewer, a object had landed on a comet.Marvelous

  2. Ian Hopkinson

    I am really excited by Rosetta and Philae, I’m just pragmatic about recalcitrant bits of scientific hardware!

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