Yesterday was my birthday so now I'm officially one year older than I was the day before (although, in reality, only one day). Being 28 doesn't mean much in it's self but it does mark 10 years since I left home, and that, not my age is what makes me feel a bit old. I also get fewer presents each year, reaching a record low of one yesterday, but the new Wii Starwars game is not released until next month, and that will make it up to two.
For a birthday treat we traveled down to Jodrel Bank Observatory to see the Lovell Telescope.
It's HUGE!! I mean, I knew it was big as it is the third largest movable radio telescope in the world, but standing (almost) underneath it really brought home how large it was. Talking of huge scientific instruments, while on holiday last month we visited CERN and the Large Hadron Collider on France/Swiss border which is so big you can't see it. All 27km of it is underground and unless you are lucky or well connected enough to get a tour of the tunnels themselves, you can't really grasp the size of it. We only "got" how big it was when we discovered we were camped near one side of the circle and it took us half an hour to drive across it to the visitors centre. It was definitely worth the detour of a couple of hundred km to see as much as we did, but I don't count the visitors centre and the museum as the LHC or CERN as I didn't really see either (except the outside of large buildings).
CERN dwarfs the Lovell Telescope of course, but at least we got to see it close up and see it working (or at least moving). While we were there it tipped from horizontal to vertical, changing it's character and presence in the landscape dramatically. I got a little bit giddy and excited with it all and got carried away explaining quasars to Shona who wasn't as interested as I thought she should have been. I also took the photo above of me, Seren and the Bad Astronomy book for the BA Blog to show where the book had been.
We also saw a 3D film about traveling to Mars in the visitors centre. It was a bit crap. The 3D was pretty poor as nothing seemed to come "out" of the screen. All the depth was "behind" the screen as if we were looking out a window. The science wasn't presented very well either as the elevation on the 3D maps of Mars they used had been massively exaggerated. This meant that Olypus Mons looked hundreds of km high and Valles Marineris was a huge gash in side of the planet. I know it is actually a huge gash in the planet's side but although it is up to 7km deep, if you were standing on one side, in most places the other side would be over the horizon of the bottom of the canyon.
Oh, and the space ship on which we were "traveling" was alternatively show with and without it's drive section. Bad continuity.
The we had hot chocolates and cakes in the cafe and drove home just in time to get stuck in rush hour traffic. So it was a good birthday in all. Thank you to everyone who said happy birthday on Facebook!
One Hundred Push Up update - 34 so far. It's the pre-week 3 exhaustion test tomorrow so I'll see how far I've actually progressed. It should be 40-43ish.