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SKA Telescope Site Debate Not Over Yet

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the where's-that-stupid-fat-lady dept.

Australia 78

angry tapir writes "Although earlier reports claimed that a scientific panel recommended South Africa over Australia as the best site for the proposed Square Kilometre Array, the SKA board of directors is still debating which country will host the enormous US$2.1-billion radio telescope. The scientific panel only recommended South Africa by a narrow margin earlier this month."

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GNU Zealand... (1, Funny)

linatux (63153) | more than 2 years ago | (#39469851)

If only we could get reasonable internet access

It's a 50-year research program (5, Insightful)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39469903)

Whatever decision they made will have a lasting effect for the next 50 years

They should not make the decision based on any other criteria but for the best of this program itself

Political correctness has no place in Science research

Re:It's a 50-year research program (1)

Rie Beam (632299) | more than 2 years ago | (#39469953)

If I had mods points right now, you'd have 'em.

Re:It's a 50-year research program (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39470253)

Thank god ey?

Re:It's a 50-year research program (5, Informative)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 2 years ago | (#39470051)

Political correctness has no place in Science research

What makes you think that political correctness has anything to do with the decision? Apparently the scientific board didn't have an "enormous preference for one over the other". According to a article linked in TFA [nature.com] :

Since 2006, South Africa has competed against a joint bid from Australia and New Zealand to host the project. The South African site has some compelling advantages: construction costs are lower, and it sits at a higher altitude. But the Australian site would be cheaper to insure, and is less likely to be encroached on by future development. The margin in favour of the winner was extremely narrow, the source says.

It looks like they were making the decision on very practical concerns. They are weighing the cheaper initial costs verses the running costs and practicalities over time. I can see no reason to complain about the process. The idea that political correctness had a part merely because South Africa is the favourite is in itself a form a political correctness.

Re:It's a 50-year research program (0)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39470187)

You can deny it all you want, but we have eyes

We can see how much political correctness has influenced the psyche of the Europeans

While it does *NOT* mean that the so-called "Panel" made their decision based on PC alone - the suspicion is unfortunately, unavoidable

As I say, this research will last for 50 years. By the time it ends, it would be year 2070+

I am no fortune teller, I can't see the future

Maybe by that time SA will be more advance than AU, or maybe not

Nevertheless, I'm sticking to my original statement - Whatever decision they want to make, make it according to one criteria, and ONE CRITERIA ONLY -

What is best for the program, which will last for the next 50 years

Re:It's a 50-year research program (4, Insightful)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 2 years ago | (#39470449)

Nevertheless, I'm sticking to my original statement - Whatever decision they want to make, make it according to one criteria, and ONE CRITERIA ONLY -

What is best for the program, which will last for the next 50 years

Fair enough, but I shall stick to my assertion that this is exactly what the SKA board is doing.

You say that we all have eyes, but I cannot see any evidence of political correctness going on here. You say that political correctness has influenced the psyche of the Europeans, and yet I don't know of any multi-billion dollar project that has been unduly influenced by such things. And even if they had, the SKA member countries include Australia, Canada, India, China, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK and the USA which should be a diverse enough group to rise above the PC level.

While it does *NOT* mean that the so-called "Panel" made their decision based on PC alone - the suspicion is unfortunately, unavoidable.

It is only unavoidable if you base your opinion on your pre-conceived prejudices rather than looking at the facts. And what is with calling the SKA panel a so-called "Panel"? Is there something about the make-up of the Square Kilometre Array organisation that you are not telling us? Perhaps you have more "unavoidable suspicions" ready to rock the world of astronomy!

Re:It's a 50-year research program (2)

broekema (1025095) | more than 2 years ago | (#39472341)

the SKA member countries include Australia, Canada, India, China, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK and the USA

The SKA organization currently consist of Australia, Canada, China, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. Other countries do participate in the development programs.

Re:It's a 50-year research program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39472609)

I happen to agree with this...
There is a lot of anti-South African sentiment which stems largely from a perception of Africa as a dark, war torn continent waiting to implode at any moment, which is completely redicilous. South Africa has just hosted the Football World Cup without a hitch including the construction of massive infrastructure projects. In addition the MeerKAT (South Africa's path finder array) is a fantastic demonstration of what SA is capable of. In many ways it is ahead of its Australian counterpart (ASKAP) at a fraction of the cost. And besides all the racist white South Africans have emigrated to west Australia, what better reason not to build it there!

Re:It's a 50-year research program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39473755)

There is a lot of anti-South African sentiment which stems largely from a perception of Africa as a dark, war torn continent waiting to implode at any moment, which is completely redicilous.

Uhh, it is, minus a few very select nations which seem to maintain control, but are, in reality, still as susceptible to sudden change as the rest of the continent. Africa is not stable. It is mostly poverty-level people living in huts on the savannah in grossly over-populated regions that cannot sustain themselves with renewable crops, and those living by the ocean tend to overfish causing massive variations in the fishing population.

Oh, and they're all vastly under-educated. Am I missing anything?

Re:It's a 50-year research program (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 2 years ago | (#39472767)

Perhaps they've hired some skilled negotiators to play the two governments against each other for the best deal? Corporations do this sort of thing all the time when deciding where to situate their operations, Holden (GM) just got $250M to keep their factories here for a few more years.

Re:It's a 50-year research program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39478685)

Considering that $250m and the millions spent on that failed world cup bid, if Australia doesnt get it because its a bit cheaper in africa [suggesting our government didnt try damn near hard enough to win the project] as someone who made the pilgrimage to parkes and tidbinbilla as a kid i'll be pretty disapointed and disgusted as this is the kind of international project that matters, not some autoplant that will need to move to china in 5 years, or another stupid sports event [and one that we had no chance of winning the first place].

Re:It's a 50-year research program (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 2 years ago | (#39480871)

I agree.

Made my first pilgrimage to parkes and tidbinbilla as a kid, in the late sixties around the time of the moon landings :)

Re:It's a 50-year research program (5, Interesting)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#39470317)

Apparently Australia already proved they can provide a lower noise-floor and it is technically the best option. It just costs a bit more and noone can get the "feel good" factor they get from giving money to African nations.

Re:It's a 50-year research program (4, Interesting)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 2 years ago | (#39470523)

It just costs a bit more and noone can get the "feel good" factor they get from giving money to African nations.

I cited my quote about the pros and cons considered by the SKA board for each country. Perhaps you can cite your quote about this "feel good" factor to which you refer. Otherwise I shall just have to assume that you are filling in the blanks with your own biases like Taco Cowboy did.

Re:It's a 50-year research program (3, Insightful)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#39471239)

If Aus/NZ has a technically better (lower noise, larger area etc) proposal, what other factors should be taken into account by the scientific panel?

Re:It's a 50-year research program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39471499)

It's not clear that it's technically better, in that the African site is at a higher altitude. However, another non-technical factor to be taken into account is cost, in that the African site will be cheaper to build. Other possible non-technical factors that should be taken into account are site accessibility, available labor, political stability, and utilities.

dom

Re:It's a 50-year research program (3, Insightful)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 2 years ago | (#39471779)

If Aus/NZ has a technically better (lower noise, larger area etc) proposal, what other factors should be taken into account by the scientific panel?

Did you even read the part that I quoted? It lists some of the factors that were considered. Yes, there are some non-scientific things on the list, but scientists are not so insular from the realities of the world that they cannot consider cost, access etc. Do you really believe that a scientific panel would not consider things like the cost to build the site, but would actually be more guided by what you described as the "feel good" factor they get from giving money to African nations?

I notice that you forgot to include any citation for your "feel good" factor claim too. You probably should try backing up your claim that the Australian site is "apparently" technically better too, and preferably neither citation should be from the Australian camp either.

As the anonymous coward (dom) pointed out, and as was also stated in my quote, the South African site "sits at a higher altitude" than the Australian site. There is not a huge advantage of one site over the other. We know that this is true, because it is exactly what the panel said! I think that I will take their word for this over your "apparently it is technically better" remark.

Re:It's a 50-year research program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39480307)

What difference does altitude make to a radio telescope?

Re:It's a 50-year research program (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39481739)

What difference does altitude make to a radio telescope?

If you need to ask that question, it means that you do have a lot to learn about SA

Of course, for SA's sake, higher altitude makes _all_ the difference !

It's an open secret that SA's ruling party ANC is in danger of being controlled by the faction that represents the younger generation - the faction which wants to turn SA into yet another Zimbabwe, with its anti-White, anti-Asian, anti-Everybody point of view

That's why, for SA's sake, they have to find any excuse, _any_ excuse at all, to state their case

Higher altitude for radio telescope does make a difference if there are noticeable ambience noise in the surrounding area

But we are talking here about two places - one in SA and the other in AU - that supposed to be very low on radio frequency noises

It's up to you to believe the proposals from the PC camp - the cheaper cost + higher altitude - or those who can view things with a more holistic approach

Re:It's a 50-year research program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39471837)

Speaking from a Brussels perspective, the South Africans are trying harder. They send the minister for Technology here often and she works hard to promote it. Her message is very simple, as she told me, Africa is a place for cutting edge science.

Australia? One scientist and a couple of aboriginal artists, once, for a couple of days in an obscure corner of the European parliament. Their message was that Australia has the best science and support for the SA bid is just 'sentiment' 'emotion'. This is their case, as laid out in brochures etc.

I find something disturbing about that. I'm also concerned that support for SA is interpreted as 'political correctness' the underlying assumptions of that are also not pleasant.

Re:It's a 50-year research program (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39472381)

Speaking from a Brussels perspective, the South Africans are trying harder. They send the minister for Technology here often and she works hard to promote it. Her message is very simple, as she told me, Africa is a place for cutting edge science

Australia? One scientist and a couple of aboriginal artists, once, for a couple of days in an obscure corner of the European parliament

The SA tried harder, and the AU didn't try enough ... In other words, you are saying that the SKA panel made their decision on the basis of SALES PITCH?

Oh, what a notion !!

Re:It's a 50-year research program (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39472683)

The SA tried harder, and the AU didn't try enough ... In other words, you are saying that the SKA panel made their decision on the basis of SALES PITCH?

Oh, what a notion !!

It may be a sales pitch, but perhaps it is also an ongoing indication of the prestige that the country assigns to that project and the effort they are willing to put in to make sure that any problems they have in the project will be addressed at a high level and priority.

Re:It's a 50-year research program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39472733)

No, I am not saying that at all. The fact that the South Africans send a MINISTER on several visits shows a political commitment that Australia has just not shown. If you think this is just a 'sales pitch' then, well, welcome to how politics works. The success of the SA approach can be shown in the recent Written Declaration in the European Parliament on promoting radio astronomy etc.

The Australian case of saying publicly that support for SA is just 'emotion' and so on is backfiring as it has undertones of science is for the white man that some MEPS have found distasteful.

My view, and although I am not a scientist but a journalist, is that ultmately there will be two SKA's on OZ and SA, linked together.

Re:It's a 50-year research program (1)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 2 years ago | (#39480111)

My view, and although I am not a scientist but a journalist, is that ultmately there will be two SKA's on OZ and SA, linked together.

I was thinking of posting this as a suggestion (not that anyone is likely to listen to me) - in the long run this would provide orders of magnitude better resolution, double the flexibility and better compensation for atmospherics and light pollution.

Having said that, the point in one of the earlier comments about the probability of encroachment in SA due to nearby population growth gave me some concern.

Re:It's a 50-year research program (1)

Occams (2422082) | more than 2 years ago | (#39480257)

It is not intended that the facility will all be located entirely in the country of South Africa, but all over the war-torn African continent, Australia is an entire continent, as well as a very stable, safe and modern country. The decision should be based on risk management grounds.

Re:It's a 50-year research program (5, Insightful)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39470117)

I sort of agree, but have this to add - From the article, the scientific panel had "no enormous preference for one over the other". To me, it means that both sites are good, fit the needs of the SKA and would work well. While I haven't read the recommendations in all their lengthy glory, I sort of get the feeling that both locations are well suited to the needs.

Given that, it is actually political correctness that comes down to the final choice being made. You are absolutely right in the fact that this is a 50 year project. If both geographic locations fit the needs, then the final choice will rely on what political aspects of the locations can cause problems somewhere in the next fifty years. Will both countries be politically stable for the next half century? Will there be religious stability, will there be stability in infrastructure, are political relations with all the SKA members likely to stay on friendly terms?

Given the large financial investment in the SKA, you really need to ensure the place you build it will be the best overall location, not just the one that has a fraction better INSERT SOMETHING that makes the scientics go "Ooohhhh" just that little touch longer. They need to be able to use the facilities for the entire length of the project in the best possible means. Having a location that is 0.12% better in terms of measurable 3 doesn't mean that much if the folks running the show have to be evacuated due to a political influence, or they run out of electricity, or some other potentially foreseeable event occurs.

re: contact / porque no los dos? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39470953)

why build one when you can have two at twice the price?

(If the people making the decision can't decide which one is best, then why not build both? seriously. you're doubling the chances to succeed, and you'll get all the benefits of both locations.)

Re: contact / porque no los dos? (2)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39471153)

why build one when you can have two at twice the price?

Because this isn't a Jodie Foster movie based on a book by Carl Sagan, and because in the scientific world we generally have to make do with less money than we want and do twice as much with it. Secondly, because you are not doubling the chances to succeed. To use a car analogy, you don't need two cars to drive you from here to the shops, in fact you can't drive both cars there. Whether the SKA is in Australia or in South Africa doesn't mean that we would get "twice as much data" or "twice as good" data. We would get the same data twice, which is a terrific waste of money.

Re: contact / porque no los dos? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39472005)

We would get the same data twice, which is a terrific waste of money.

Actually, this isn't true. If you look at the same patch of sky with two telescopes, and sum the images together, the noise averages out, and you get a better image. sqrt(2) times better, in fact.

Re: contact / porque no los dos? (2)

PhunkySchtuff (208108) | more than 2 years ago | (#39472545)

This is exactly what the SKA are going to do.
Look up http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Very_Long_Baseline_Interferometry [wikipedia.org]
It does mean though that there has to be a an incredibly fast, low-latency and reliable data connection between all the elements in the array for it to be of any use though.

Re: contact / porque no los dos? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39472645)

I know about VLBI, and it's not quite the same thing. If you combine the signals from separate telescopes coherently, as in VLBI, the noise in the image goes as 1/n, where n is the number of telescopes. If you just form separate images with separate telescopes, then add the images together incoherently, the noise goes as 1/sqrt(n). So, in exchange for the extra effort required to phase up the separate telescopes for VLBI, you get a bigger reduction in the noise.

You don't actually need a low-latency connection between the array elements, though. You can record the data on a flash drive and send it by carrier pigeon if you like. (Though obviously this is far from optimal.)

Re: contact / porque no los dos? (2)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 2 years ago | (#39472819)

Given the petabytes of data that will pour from SKA, the carrier pigeon would have to carry one hell of a lot of flash drives.

Re: contact / porque no los dos? (1)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 2 years ago | (#39480131)

Coincidentally, I recall a story from SA a year or two ago where some geeks proved that the throughput by carrier pigeon between two points was better than their ISP. :D Latency, of course, sucked.

Re: contact / porque no los dos? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39472081)

LOL. Then scale down the expectations. Build two little ones and expand one (or both) later if you get additional funding.

And yes, you do double the chances to succeed if the worry is that you've picked a site where the locals will try to sabotage the project. To use a car analogy: If we drive on separate roads, then the odds of us both getting flat tires are half of what they would be with only one car and one road.

Re:It's a 50-year research program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39470893)

Conversely:

Whatever decision they make will have absolutely no impact on the actual scientific research; therefore, the decision should ONLY be based upon external factors (e.g. which location is safest from random nutjobs fuxing with the equipment? Which location will give the most auxiliary benefit to the rest of the world (by pumping $X into that location's economy)?)

p.s. I have no idea what the issues being debated are, but I can be 100% sure they have nothing to do with the science.

Re:It's a 50-year research program (1)

jekewa (751500) | more than 2 years ago | (#39473543)

Political correctness has no place in Science research

Surely you meant this to refer to politics and not to making sure we're saying nice things, right?

A matter of safety (5, Funny)

TWX (665546) | more than 2 years ago | (#39469887)

I guess it comes down the safety and political stability for the long term.

In South Africa there have been problems with rural people being murdered, and while their political change appears to have by-and-large completed, no guarantee.

In Australia, their government appears stable, but they've had some issues with censorship and excessive searching of people at their ports, plus one runs the risk of running afoul of biker gangs, and having to be avenged by a lone cop driving the last of the V8 interceptors. Then there's the problem of who runs Barter Town and breaking deals and facing wheels...

Re:A matter of safety (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39470195)

As someone that ACTUALLY lives in Australia i can tell by reading this that you either don’t live here and have a tiny fraction of an idea about what goes on here OR you do live here and have you head in the sand.

Bikie gangs are so irrelevant I live close to where they are meant to be and I am same because they are suck a non-event that the papers blow out of proportion because they finally have something to write about.

Stability 1
Australia is the model of stability, there are only 21~2 million of us on this massive island so space is not a problem considering we only live on the coast and the SKA would be constructed in the middle of the continent.
Stability 2
The political system is very stable with a change of government occurring so smoothly if no one knew there was an election no one would notice, because both major parties are so alike it allows for the smooth running of day to day business.
Stability 3
GFC ... of that thing that really didn't affect us because we have an economy that is the envy of the rest of the world.

Re:A matter of safety (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39470251)

Seems someone completely missed the movie references. The seriousness of GP's comment ends at the word "ports", FYI.

Re:A matter of safety (4, Informative)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#39470337)

woosh... you live in Australia but you've never seen Mad Max? You're not an Australian then.

Re:A matter of safety (2)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 2 years ago | (#39471749)

In fairness, he probably tried but couldn't understand the cop/driver's strange accent.

Re:A matter of safety (2)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#39471797)

These movies do have a rather complex and hard to follow plot too. There was all this driving going on in The Road Warrior, for example. Very perplexing.

Re:A matter of safety (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39473359)

All those mutants in shoulderpads driving around in a big circle can make the viewer very dizzy too.

I've got a confession to make... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39472831)

I'm an Australian, and I've never seen Mad Max.

Dunno why, I've just never gotten around to it.

I've seen Mad Max 2, and Mad Max 3, though. #2 was much better than #3 IMHO.

Re:A matter of safety (3, Insightful)

MiG82au (2594721) | more than 2 years ago | (#39471879)

As an Australian, you embarrass me.

Re:A matter of safety (1)

CoopersPale (444672) | more than 2 years ago | (#39472227)

Same here.
Hope he was drunk while writing that rant

Re:A matter of safety (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39472839)

Quite hard to drink enough of that pisswater the Aussies call beer to get drunk.

Re:A matter of safety (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39520545)

I bet this guy has only ever drunk Fosters.

Re:A matter of safety (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39475617)

I think [wikipedia.org] he meant [wikipedia.org] this. [wikipedia.org]

Re:A matter of safety (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#39471063)

plus one runs the risk of running afoul of biker gangs, and having to be avenged by a lone cop driving the last of the V8 interceptors. Then there's the problem of who runs Barter Town and breaking deals and facing wheels...

Less known, but on the plus side... God will not interfere with SKA; failing that, the churches would pay.

Re:A matter of safety (2)

fermion (181285) | more than 2 years ago | (#39471531)

Much of the problems in Africa, as far as I can tell from talking to the people from the continent, is that the profits from resource extraction are not shared with the people. For instance nigerians tell me that the oil money is not, as it is in the US, used to set up public infrastructure, but to enrich certain people. Obviously this telescope is going to utilize the local natural resources(the land, the spectrum, the sky, and if the riches produced are not shared with the people, then trouble will ensue. This is pretty much anywhere. It seems, however, there is some public projects that have worked with the people and are safe and succesful, so it could happen. Certainly Africa has been base for many research projects.

The only issue with Australia is the weather. There big concentration of scopes seems to be on the coast. I know Australia does get some severe weather, and living on the coast I know what severe weather can do. That in itself might make the Africa location a better fit. Plus the fact that Africa might be closer to resources.

Re:A matter of safety (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39471815)

Both sites are inland, a long way from any severe coastal weather. But weather doesn't make much difference to (low-frequency) radio astronomy, anyway. The only time you worry about it is when the wind is strong enough to blow over the telescope.

Re:A matter of safety (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39476713)

. For instance nigerians tell me that the oil money is not, as it is in the US, used to set up public infrastructure, but to enrich certain people.

Hello good friend. I have Oil Profits from Nigeria and I need to get them to the USA. I am in need of your good help to make the transfer complete. For this I will gladly give to you 10% of the large sum of money I have from the Oil Profits!

Re:A matter of safety (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39471559)

Yes, but even in the dystopian post apocalyptic future Australia still has cops and they are still well resourced with supercharged V8s. I thought cops were already extinct in Jberg today and last seen they were driving a hatchback of some sign full of tampons so they could stop bleeding in gun shoot outs.

  Australia has a reasonably modern communications network. Homing pigeons are faster than the telco network in south Africa.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8248056.stm

Re:A matter of safety (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39471561)

Actually, Mad Max has moved to Africa [smh.com.au] so that's no longer an issue in Australia.

Choose the most US friendly country. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39469901)

I go with Australia. Much of the code we use is written there. And they have wallabys. South America seems like a bunch of tin pot dictators (Brazil excepted, of course).

Re:Choose the most US friendly country. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39470069)

South Africa, not South America. South Africa is a country, South America is a continent. I'd Imagine it would be much more difficult to build a telescope which spans multiple countries (regulation-wise)

Re:Choose the most US friendly country. (2)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#39470151)

South Africa, not South America. South Africa is a country, South America is a continent. I'd Imagine it would be much more difficult to build a telescope which spans multiple countries (regulation-wise)

South America is an urban legend - it doesn't really exist. I read it on Snopes.

Re:Choose the most US friendly country. (1)

grim-one (1312413) | more than 2 years ago | (#39470075)

South America seems like a bunch of tin pot dictators (Brazil excepted, of course).

Either you jest or you didn't read the summary very well.

No news (2)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 2 years ago | (#39469957)

How does anything in this new story conflict with the earlier /. story? To quote the original summary:

A scientific panel has narrowly recommended South Africa over Australia as the best site for the proposed Square Kilometre Array (SKA), an enormous US$2.1-billion radio telescope. While the project's member states have yet to make a final decision on where the telescope will go, the odds are now that the African bid will ultimately win out against the joint bid from Australia and New Zealand to host the project.

So to summarise the summary, the scientific panel recommended South Africa by a narrow margin, but the member states are still to make a final decision.

But this new story says that the the scientific panel recommended South Africa by a narrow margin, but the board of directors is still to make a final decision.

This is simply a dupe. Actually, that is not quite true. It is probably more accurate to say that it is simply a dupe. A dupe, simply.

In other SKA related news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39470111)

I guess The Mighty Mighty Bosstones has been around for nearly 20 years already.

Re:In other SKA related news (1)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 2 years ago | (#39480183)

+1 for you - so far you're the only one who has made a ska reference! :D I was thinking about something on the lines of "Weren't the Beatles inspired by ska?" - but didn't come up with anything funny enough to post by itself.

The obvious decision (1)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#39470143)

Build it across both. The increased distance between the extreme ends of the telescope will give you a larger virtual dish (which is the whole point of the telescope) and the increase in lines of longitude mean that you get longer to observe something.

Re:The obvious decision (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39471853)

You get the best possible virtual dish by have a central concentration of antennas, with gradually wider-spaced ones as you move out. (The term astronomers use for this is "u-v coverage".) See here [sciencelearn.org.nz] for an example: the Australian bid would have most of the antennas in Western Australia, with a handful scattered across the rest of the continent and New Zealand. Similarly, the South African bid would have most of the antennas in-country, but with a few scattered northwards across the rest of the continent.

Fascinitating (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39470157)

...Patrick Stewart voice

And then reality set in.

$2.1 billion to a scientific project in South Africa? Didn't I get an email about a South African prince needing some help transferring money to this project?

Re:Fascinitating (3, Interesting)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 2 years ago | (#39471393)

A scientific project in South Africa?
South Africa has mining experts, heavy engineering, defence experts, past nuclear experts, good computing and maths backgrounds.
They built their own nuclear reactors, nuclear weapons, bio/chem weapons and did well with very complex aerospace upgrades.
Australia has a research reactor, a few universities with hand me down computers and still needs direct guidance from UK and US intelligence/contractors for complex projects.
Staff would always be an issue in Australia - getting the right people out of the cities is really, really expensive.

Re:Fascinitating (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39471917)

A good way to compare these countries, given that we're talking about a radio astronomy project, is to look at their radio astronomy facilities. Trimble & Ceja [harvard.edu] did a study of the citation rates of papers based on data from different telescopes (as a measure of how significant the rest of the world thinks the results from those telescopes are). Numbers 2 and 3 are the Australia Telescope Compact Array and the Parkes Radio Telescope, also in Australia. (Number 1, by a large margin, is the Very Large Array in the US.) There's only one South African radio telescope, and it's lumped under "Other".

It's also a bit surprising that you cite South Africa's strengths in mining (when Australia is China's primary source of raw materials), heavy engineering (Australia's shipyards are busier than South Africa's) and defence (Australia is collaborating on the JSF). It's particularly amusing when you say that Australian universities have a few hand-me-down computers - presumably like the Pawsey Centre [itnews.com.au] , which is on the top500 supercomputer list - and that's only stage 1, with 7% of the final installed capacity. And what's it being used for? Radio astronomy.

The only cogent point in your post is Australia's limited nuclear experience - which would be really relevant if the SKA were nuclear-powered. (Hint: it's not.)

Re:Fascinitating (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39478847)

CSIRO, Parkes, Honeysuckle Creek, Australia has made a fairly decent contribution to science specifically in relation to Radio Astronomy.

The main problem is that Australia's current government is already working on getting FTTH across the country and probably are not taking the bid as seriously as they should have, assuming that it should be an obvious choice without appreciating that technically speaking both sites are much of a muchness [as per the report] and that while the Australia is a continent that [if you wanted to forget about the genocide of the aboriginal population] has never really had a good war, and South Africa is a small nation on the bottom of tip of a continent that is currently engaged in multiple civil wars, is trumped by the SA government taking the bid seriously.

Jamaica.... (2)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 2 years ago | (#39470193)

Jamaica wouldn't work.

It's too hot.

Re:Jamaica.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39471821)

But SKA come from Jamaica mon.

Re:Jamaica.... (1)

havana9 (101033) | more than 2 years ago | (#39472549)

They're now on Rocksteady and Reggae projects now.

Australia! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39470221)

Australia. So I have a reason to go there for research.

Thanks,
Future researcher

I Know a Place with Nothing Important There (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 2 years ago | (#39471427)

I humbly submit Prairie Chapel Ranch at Crawford Texas, U.S.A. There's nothing there worth more than the advancement of man's understanding of the universe. And It would even raise property values!

moD up (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39471459)

believe thEir

YUO FAIL IT!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39471605)

have an IrC client and was taken over where it belongs,

Difference in price of labour is a huge factor (1)

fezzzz (1774514) | more than 2 years ago | (#39472099)

It seems as if many people simply disregard the cost of labour is Australia vs the cost of labour in Africa.

In South Africa, the labour law states that the minimum salary per month is around R1000.
In Australia, their labour law states that the minimum salary per week is 570 Australian dollars, which translates to around R19 000 per month.

Perhaps many Australians are 20x more efficient than South Africans, but there is simply no way that it will be cost effective to build a massive radio telescope in Australia
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