PROFILE the tests of the bending of light by the gravitational The new RAS e fi ld of the Sun. To understand this possibility better, President I needed to study general relativity. I set myself a discusses painting, problem which I believed had not been solved in the literature: to calculate the effect of a passing gravi- gravitational waves tational wave on the polarization of an electromag- and losing his netic wave – and my interest in gravitational waves voice. and the problem of detecting them was launched. What does the discovery of gravitational waves mean? It is a remarkable turning point in astronomy. Up until September 2015, more or less everything we knew about the universe was derived from electro- magnetic observations. Since the last quarter of the 20th century, though, many of the problems in understanding the universe have been to do with its gravitational content, not its heat content. So opening the gravitational sector for observations is vital. Who has been the biggest inu fl ence on your career? What do you hope to achieve as RAS President? I have worked under some impressive scientic fi lead - The President must support the RAS staff in ers and with high-quality engineers. But without my maintaining the Society and its activities, but just father’s example I would not have chosen the career as important is to prepare the RAS for change – to I have had. He grew up poor and had little education meet new challenges and to be more relevant for its beyond school, and yet he developed an interest in members. As Brexit takes hold it is not leather and mammalian skin which led easy to foresee all the complications “I was proud when the to more than 30 refereed publications. that may result from our withdrawal Birmingham Group There was always a microscope on our from the EU. The RAS must be active had a role in dis cover dining table and for years I supposed in the public debates about funding, ing gravitational waves” every family had one. His persever- especially for astronomy and geophys- ance, energy and interest in everything ics which sometimes have links to economic growth around him shaped my view of the world. that are complex and long term. What is your greatest achievement so far? When and why did you join the RAS? In 1995, I moved to the University of Birmingham As a student at school I was fortunate to go to several and was given the opportunity to set up research lectures at the Royal Institution and so I had a vague activities in a subject area of my choice. I chose to idea what learned societies provided for their mem- start a gravitational wave group and hired some bers and for the public. I joined the RAS in 1974 and excellent scientists who now lead it. I was very proud was able to benet fi from the RAS Ordinary Meetings, when the Birmingham Group played a signic fi ant especially from talks on subjects outside my own. role in the discovery of gravitational waves. What drew you to astronomy? What is your biggest mistake? Like many growing up after the second world war, I In the early 1980s, I was asked to give a public talk was fascinated by radio technology. The excitement but developed a sore throat the day before. Rather of soldering a handful of components together and than let the organizers down, I struggled through, then hearing radio stations from across the globe is my voice becoming weaker and weaker. That was a difc fi ult to explain to generations used to easy inter - mistake for the organizers and a bigger mistake for net access. But it was a magical experience. One day me: I couldn’t speak for two years and needed three I found a book, Radio Astronomy for Amateurs, which operations and intensive speech therapy to recover. led to an interest in astronomy and physics. What do you do for fun? How did you come to work on gravitational waves? I paint portraits. The human face is incredibly impor- After obtaining my PhD in X-ray Astronomy, I was tant in terms of culture, communication and our evo- asked to contribute to the HIPPARCOS mission lution. I find it fantastically challenging and, in the 5 that ESA was starting. I realized that the angular to 10 hours needed to complete a portrait, my mind is CONTACT DETAILS precision of the stellar position measurements from completely engaged on a different set of issues from Prof. Mike Cruise is President of the RAS 2018–20; email@example.com HIPPARCOS would be comparable to the accuracy of my normal duties. It is amazingly therapeutic. ● A&G • June 2018 • Vol. 59 • aandg.org 3.43 Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/astrogeo/article-abstract/59/3/3.43/4995441 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 20 June 2018
Astronomy & Geophysics – Oxford University Press
Published: Jun 1, 2018
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