Building on Our Space Science Heritage. (the Physics of the Universe)

By Halliday, Ian | New Statesman (1996), May 20, 2002 | Go to article overview

Building on Our Space Science Heritage. (the Physics of the Universe)


Halliday, Ian, New Statesman (1996)


Like all of my generation, I remember the mixture of threat and exhilaration which greeted the launch of Sputnik in 1957. As a first-year undergraduate, I measured the orbit from the roof of the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh. Eleven years later, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

Forty-five years on, space may have lost its initial frisson of newness. But as a scientist, I can only look back in wonder at what has been achieved technologically in space, building science laboratories which have changed radically our perceptions of the universe and our place in it, and creating a global communications and entertainment industry.

We can now observe the universe through X-rays using the great observatories XMM-Newton and Chandra. They study the most violent events in the universe around black holes. Soon the Planck-Herschel space observatory will measure in exquisite detail the photons which have reached us from the beginning of the universe. The joint American-European Hubble Space Telescope has revolutionised astronomy with its sharp, even pristine, pictures in normal light. Satellites like SOHO stare relentlessly at the sun with its gigantic magnetic storms. Others such as Cluster measure the effects of these storms as they impact on Earth's upper atmosphere, affecting communications and creating Aurora alike.

I hope this supplement will show that, for scientists, space is still a magical place in which there are unique intellectual and technological challenges to extend the boundaries of human knowledge, as well as continuing to deliver huge economic and social benefits, and that UK scientists working with the UK space industry can lead in exploiting some of these opportunities.

Three hundred years ago, Isaac Newton saw how gravity controls the sun and planets. In 1918, Einstein pulled this into his beautiful general theory of relativity, which has taunted quantum theorists ever since. He predicted that just as accelerating electrical charges radiate light or photons, so accelerating masses would radiate gravitational radiation. Given that the universe is driven by gravity, Newton foresaw that the clearest view of the universe would probably be through a gravitational wave telescope. Building such a telescope is now conceivable. Will it be the 21st century's analogue of Galileo's telescope?

On the surface of Earth, we struggle to build such a telescope. There are 300m to 3km systems across Europe and the United States. They will "hear" the first faint signals in gravitational radiation in the next five-ten years. The technology is a mixture of laser physics, mirror technologies and ingenuity of suspension. However, to see properly the gravitational universe, we need to move to space and construct five million kilometre scale systems positioning three satellites to micron accuracy. On the basis of a technological revolution, we can achieve a revolutionary view of the universe. Given the UK tradition of Newton, Eddington and Hawking and the current high technological skills resident in UK universities, the UK must surely play a big role in this major intellectual, experimental and technological challenge.

Sputnik opened up a new frontier in exploration as opposed to observation from afar. Should the UK be involved in the exploration of the planets? Again, given the history of exploration and adventure shown by our predecessors, it is perhaps surprising that the UK has not been more aggressive in this area.

The European Space Agency would like to start a new high-profile programme in planetary exploration. Beagle 2 has shown that, with ambition and enterprise, the UK can lead in developing the technology to explore the possible existence of life on Mars.

The UK is an important European player in space science. There are major opportunities all around. Can we support our scientists at a level where they can compete on a global scale, and enable them to match their giant predecessors who made the first 45 years of space such a breathtaking adventure? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Building on Our Space Science Heritage. (the Physics of the Universe)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.