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Submission + - Faculty to Grads: Go Work 80 Hour Weeks! (

Ian Paul Freeley writes: Controversy has erupted after a departmental email from faculty to astrophysics graduate students was leaked. Key tips for success in grad school include, 'However, if you informally canvass the faculty (those people for whose jobs you came here to train), most will tell you that they worked 80-100 hours/week in graduate school. No one told us to work those hours, but we enjoyed what we were doing enough to want to do so...If you find yourself thinking about astronomy and wanting to work on your research most of your waking hours, then academic research may in fact be the best career choice for you.'
Blogosphere reaction has ranged from disappointed to concern for the mental health of the students. It also seems that such a culture coupled with the poor job prospects for academics is continuing to drive talent away from the field.
This has been recognized as a problem for over 15 years in the Astronomy community, but little seems to have changed. Any tips for those of us looking to instigate culture change and promote healthy work-life balance?

Comment Re:Hire two more astronomers. (Score 1) 97

That's for undergraduate Astronomy *majors*--they are getting jobs, but not as Astronomers. Of course, most Art History majors don't go on to be Art Historians either--but many of us would hope that a degree in astronomy would be more like a degree in engineering than a humanities degree.

Comment Re:Star photo (Score 2, Informative) 131

Well, it's time to hire Mythbusters to settle this. Maybe its both. If the struts were that big of a problem, then couldn't they use a flat lens-plate(s) to hold the secondary mirror instead?

Astronomers hate putting lenses into their optical systems--there is always some light lost to reflection off the glass surface. The VLT is an 8 meter diameter telescope, so supporting a giant lens above the telescope would be a major engineering issue. This isn't really a problem you can solve by adding a new lens or tweaking the secondary support structure--it's a fundamental feature caused by the wave nature of light. Anytime light passes through an aperture, it creates a diffraction pattern.

Comment Re:Star photo (Score 3, Informative) 131

Why do star photos have crosses over bigger stars?

Refraction flares caused by the crystalline pattern of molecules in the glass of the lenses.

Um, no. The spikes are caused by the diffraction of light around the struts supporting the secondary mirror in the telescope. The wave nature of light ensures that no matter how large you build your telescope, you cannot focues stars to a perfect point.

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