For those who don’t remember him, Artie Aardvark is my research group’s mascot. He’s a curious fellow who likes to tag along to astronomical conferences and the like, so it was only natural that he tagged along with me last week. I’ll let him tell you all about it!
Last week was super-duper exciting, as Yvette finally took me on a new adventure! We were off to Lommel, Belgium for the annual Dutch astronomers’ conference which is known as the NAC. I was a little confused on the train ride over why were going to Belgium for a Dutch astronomers’ conference, but the astronomers told me that northern Belgium is an area called Flanders where they speak Dutch with a funny accent. (I guess some of them claim Flemish is a separate language but don’t ask me for details- I’m an aardvark, not a language expert!) This year they were organizing the conference, so we took a train and bus to Lommel just across the border.
I visited NAC last year and was excited to visit it again because you get to learn a lot of different kinds of science while here. This is because the conference covers all the topics in astronomy Dutch astronomers are working on, and it’s so small that there is only one session the entire time, which means I get to learn about a whole bunch of different topics. My favorite talks were on dwarf galaxies and extrasolar planets that orbit other stars- it was really cool to see how many different things in the universe people spend a lot of time thinking about!
Here I am waiting for a session to start, checking out the arXiv website where astronomers and physicists post their latest papers every day, which is great as you don’t even have to pay to read them. By the way, Arxiv is pronounced “archive” because the X in the middle is supposed to be the Greek letter “chi”- scientists think puns like that are really funny.
After the sessions, though, it was time to party! The conference was inside a Center Parcs hotel, a chain of holiday villages in Europe that Yvette says is probably similar to a cruise ship except you don’t go anywhere. This was great for me because I like exploring all sorts of different new activities, and there were a lot to try out!
For example, in this picture I am keeping track of the scores for those who were bowling… alas the lack of opposable thumbs made it hard to hold the bowling ball myself…
And I got to practice some of my pool shots- just call me Artie Oakley!
Yvette said the best part about the Center Parcs location though was that it had a giant indoor water park and one afternoon of the conference was set aside just to enjoy it! Unfortunately I forgot my swimming trunks so I didn’t go in to try the water slides, and instead I spent some time exploring the indoor jungle area. It felt an awful lot like home, and I was on the lookout for some tasty bugs to try!
All in all NAC was very fun and it was great to see all the friends I made last year again. Hopefully I will see them again next year!