This is the blog of Ant Miller, senior research manager and dilettante geek at large at the BBC.
I wail moan and cuss about the challenges and fun to be found here.
These are my personal opinions, and not those of my employer. Or anyone else here for that matter.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Comet watching (nearly)

Originally uploaded by meeware1.
Last night we returned to Herstmonceux to see the comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (73P) from the observatory science centre.
We only just made it for 8pm, and then we had a little explore around and met up with Pete and Ali, who'd come up from Eastborne in Pete's Frazer Nash- a very fun way to travel! We had a lecture from Dr Brian Hunter of Queens University Canada, who works at the Castle next door, about comets in general and this one in particular. And then in the lowering gloom, we were told that the telescopes were working (including the one with the moving floor!), and we could go and take a look.
However, sadly the weather was closing in a tiny bit, and high altitude ice crytals were making viewing of the comet unlikely. Indeed, once back outside there was a beautiful and very obvious halo around the moon, never a good signfor an astronomer.
So rather than see the comet we saw Jupiter and Saturn and the Moon through the various instruments, but this was perhaps a bonus. Large planets display a most alluring amount of detail when seen through these large telescopes- Jupiter's bands and moons, and Saturn's rings were all clearly visible, at a range of brigtnesses and resolutions. In spite of the fact that most of the kit at Herstmonceux had not been designed for visual use (most were designed with complex scientific analysis of light in mind, or accurate measurement of angular distance) the evening proved quite magical.
For me the highhlight was to be in the dome of the 26inch Thompson Telescope as the floor descended at the conclusion of viewing- the wood panel walls slid smoothly upward with the scope itself as we and all the other viewers sank back down to floor level- a quite bizarre and dreamlike end to a very weird and wonderful evening.
Many many thanks to the staff and volunteers for a great evening. We'll be back for the meteor barbeque!

Monday, May 08, 2006

A mighty erection!

Steps added, Sunday the 7th
Originally uploaded by meeware1.
Blimey didn't I have a very hands on break! Shortly after popping the rejuvenated (and now very healthy) throttle body back into Lottie, I was given the go ahead to build the first bit of decking in our garden. This is a very big deal. Gardening is a stress point in our marriage- a topic which can raise ructions like no other. In essence I am a 'strip it all back, and rebuild totally' heavy lifting hardlandscaping gardener, whereas Rowan likes plants and living things and see's little need to blitz the place and go through a year with the garden looking like day four of the Somme.

Therefore getting the go ahead to build a deck is a major development. Also it indicates that at least tacitly, she is beginning to forgive me for nearly killing her when a set of shelves I put up fell down... on her. So, a few weeks back we hurtled back from a weekend in Whitstable (foggy, but good fish) to get the wood from the Brighton Wood Recycling centre and to host a night of jolly mead fueled japes with Jen and Monkey. Monkey stayed around the next day (with his mighty power tool collection) to help me get the frame done. Over the next few days I decked it, and we put up trellis, and yesterday I finished the steps, so here at my flickr page is the set of images abot building the deck.

Massive massive thanks to Monkey for his inestimable help, and constant good humour and can do willingness.

Next step, getting a massive deck outside the kitchen to dine on, and break the linearity of the garden by introducing a meanderings sense of adventure in the journey. Like I've half a chance!