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Friday, 28 June 2013

Simulations, Svalbard and the Solar System

It's been a busy couple of weeks of inspiring science! I've had a couple of days wow-ing other people with talks and tours of the things we know and I've been working here and been amazed, inspired and slightly concerned about some of the things we don't.

Physicist Cait Percy working for TWDK. Photo by TWDK, all rights reserved.
Cait Percy in our London office.
Photo ©TWDK.
Most of the last week or two has been spent exploring dreams, parallel universes, how much life there really is in the oceans and the questions to which radio astronomy may soon provide the answers. I spent a lovely afternoon pondering the Universe and trying to decide if we were all just part of a very large computer simulation and whether we'd know if we were. Almost everyone I've chatted to this week has had some variation of the above brought up in conversation for discussion so I really feel I've been doing my bit to share my passion for science.


ESA spacecraft Mars Express in orbit around Mars
Mars Express has had ten very successful years in orbit around Mars. Image credit: ESA
This month contained the 10 year anniversary of the European Space Agency's Mars Express mission so I'll be writing a special blog post for the occasion after interviewing Olivier Witasse, the project scientist on the mission. I've also been continuing my tour around the solar system and discovering the unanswered questions about the Earth's magnetic field and Aurora (better know as the Northern or Southern Lights). This has led to chatting with Professor Betty Lanchester about the work that the University of Southampton Space Environment Physics Group is doing to discover some of the driving mechanisms using the ASK instrument in Svalbard, Sweden, now calibrated and ready to start the real science - from the causes of thin auroral arcs to the remaining questions about the ionosphere. I've also been investigating the upcoming ESA Swarm satellite mission which is delving deep into the Earth's magnetic field to answer questions about the fact that the terrestrial magnetic field is slowly weakening (do we need to worry? Is this a precursor to a magnetic field reversal? Will we be left vulnerable to the solar wind?) and our wandering magnetic poles. But unfortunately you're going to have to wait for TWDK's main site to go live before you can discover the full scope of these questions (but you might hear about one or two in this blog over the next few weeks)! [If you want to help us get the site ready for launch, get in touch!]

This week, we've also gone full steam ahead on planning some projects to try to get TWDK started on reaching it's full potential. I've been thinking up ideas of how to expand into audio and video formats so watch this space for updates on how you can help!

If you'd like to get involved with any of the above then send us an email, or if you just want to be part of the group looking oddly at some questions in science that we can't answer then follow us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. And don't forget to sign up to our newsletter to get the latest mysteries and updates sent straight to your inbox!