Artie Aardvark Observes Oxford

Once again we turn to the lovely Artie Aardvark for his observations, this time for the LOFAR TKP meeting that took place in Oxford earlier this month. Take it away, Artie!

I was very excited to visit Oxford ever since I first heard that there was going to be a meeting here about transient observations using LOFAR! Oxford is a very special, very old place, and the university has been here since the 12th century. While in Oxford I even got to stay at one of the old colleges where students still study and live today, called Keble College. It was very pretty!

Staying at a college also meant I got to eat every morning in the big dining hall, which looked like something straight out of Harry Potter.  Breakfast was of course a full English breakfast spread, which wasn’t quite as good as ants but still quite tasty.

And it was a good thing my tummy was full, because there were a lot of important meetings and lectures to sit through!  The most exciting thing for me to learn was a few weeks ago it was decided that the Square Kilometer Array- also known as the SKA, the next generation radio telescope- has had its site announced and will be split jointly between Australia and South Africa.  Wow!  This makes me very excited because radio astronomers have spent years guessing where it would be, and I have friends in both Australia and South Africa so I am glad everyone is happy!

After the meetings though, it was time to explore Oxford…

Now the coolest thing to me about Oxford is when you wander around a bit you keep running into the beginnings of all sorts of grand ideas, and you can’t even begin to imagine all the amazing conversations and intellectuals the gargoyles have seen here over the centuries. (I asked a few nice ones, of course, but they swore me to secrecy.) Take this plaque for example- here I was just wandering down the street, and I discover this is where the famous scientists Boyle and Hooke lived!  Oxford is just filled with little bits of history like that…

There was also the Natural History Museum where many famous old things are kept, like the first dinosaur bones and the dodo bird that makes an appearance in Alice and Wonderland. (The building could use a renovation though- priceless treasures and the ceiling leaks in several places so they capture the drips with buckets! -Y)

I didn’t go in  because Yvette didn’t think I would like it, though I wasn’t sure why because I’m curious about a lot of things, and…

Wha… you barbarian philistines!  Great uncle Arnold, speak to me!!!

Clearly the Oxford Natural History Museum is from an older time, where civilized people took all sorts of things from all over the world in a manner that wouldn’t be allowed today.  Hmph!

Anyway, after waiting for Yvette outside the museum I decided to go take a rest just outside the famous Radcliffe Camera of the Oxford Library- I unfortunately couldn’t go in, as only students can do that.  I saw quite a lot of them around Oxford while visiting though, and you could spot them because it was final exams time and Oxford students are required to dress up in suits and formal attire to take them.  That sounded very uncomfortable to me, but they also have a tradition whereby you wear a carnation to your exam and the color depends on the one you’re taking- white for first year, pink for second, and red for when you finish- which was convenient as you could know how serious someone’s exams were.  And why there were so many very drunk students partying in the streets with red carnations in their lapels in the evenings…

Yvette says by the way that she must be getting old, this was the first time she went to a university and was struck by how young even the red carnation students looked.  I told her to not be silly, nothing less than a few hundred years old counts as old in a place like Oxford.

So hooray, Oxford was a very big adventure!  I really loved the city, though if you ask me you should steer clear of the Africa section in the Natural History Museum.

5 responses to “Artie Aardvark Observes Oxford

  1. Such a great place to be. Thanks for sharing!
    Sorry, didn’t get how the site of SKA, the next generation radio telescope, can be split jointly between Australia and South Africa.

    • Yvette Cendes

      Hi! In short radio covers a LOT of frequency range, so they’re splitting it up so the higher frequency array will be placed in South Africa and the lower will be in Australia. Sounds silly because you need a lot more infrastructure that way of course but it comes down to politics- both countries offered a LOT of support/funding if the SKA would be built in their country but wouldn’t give as much if it was elsewhere, and they were both great sites/bids so why not build at both?

      Hope that answers your question!

  2. For a moment there I thought you went to Hoogwarts Artie.

    You and Alex should meet one day.

    • Yvette Cendes

      Hogwarts would have been fun too- next time! And yes it would be fun to meet Alex someday, I always like making new friends… -Artie

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