Thursday, 14 July 2011
What the hell I'm actually doing these days
No, I haven't forgotten to do a blog series about the conference in America. It was utterly wonderful - here's my Galaxy Zoo blogpost about it - but I seem instead of blogging to be finishing up work neatly, researching astronomy history, trying to get my head around maths, whizzing around doing various talks, daydreaming, procrastinating, puffin watching, trying to stay in touch with friends, and hiding from my duties in ridiculous and ancient computer games. Sorry!
I said finishing up things at work? Yes - I'll be leaving my charity in about five weeks or so. I've got a place at Queen Mary University to do MSc Astrophysics! After my undergraduate degree, and not passing the teaching course, I spent many years vowing never to do postgraduate anything. Deep down I didn't think I was clever enough. However, I've changed my mind. The initial trigger was realising that the research I'm doing really needs me to have a deeper understanding of scientific research and how to read a journal. The main reason, now, is that the conference opened my curiosity and confidence like a bursting dam. There's nothing more encouraging than finding you actually understand professional talks and posters, that people are happy to answer your questions - and then to be told by several strangers, "You ought to do a PhD, you ask very good questions." Pardon the pun, but I'm over the moon. It was odd to get the offer by e-mail on a Sunday morning. I have a picture in my mind of a zombified admissions team slouched red-eyed over their desks on a Saturday night, fuelled with fourteen cups of that milkless sugarless corrosive caffeine that professional astronomers call coffee.
In other words, if you don't feel confident about something, maybe you can do it after all. I hope other people who've been disappointed in other aspects of their education will get another chance, as I have.
As for the talks, I recently went to Aberystwyth - a delightful experience because Mark and Sam were such lovely hosts, and a strange, nostalgic one because I lived in Aberystwyth for a few weeks when I was nine. I recognised nothing - not even the street I'd lived on - except the seafront and Constitution Hill. Skeptic speakers, Aberystwyth may be a long way away but I seriously recommend you go there.
My next Skeptics in the Pub talks will be in Winchester (August 25th) and Skeptics on the Fringe in Edinburgh (11th August)! Look what an amazing picture Ash Pryce made - even though Michael keeping that close an eye on me and the fact that my chin has decided to take up half my face are both amusingly disturbing.
Hope to see you at one of these. Cardiff Skeptics is also on Monday, and we've got a fantastic team lined up for a chaotic evening of science comedy.