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Michael Rapley

Aging hobby?

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I've wondered this too - I'm 16, and I have been contemplating starting a little observing club at school, where I would bring my scope once or twice a week, and do some solar observing while letting others have a look. I think that more young people would be interested if they just knew more about it. I came to start astronomy along a lucky and obscure route - I started (and still am) and aviation fan, and this followed on to spaceflight, which led to astronomy. I got a little input from my Dad who showed me the ISS and the major constellations in the hazy past - I guess it all added up. So, basically, there seem to be very few routes a typical yougster can take to get to astronomy.

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Probably two-thirds of the people who come here are over forty and two have been over eighty. However, there are some young people as well - ie under thirty. I do like that. I have a regular group of Dutch postgrads who used to belong to a variation of the scouting movement. Now that they are older they work as adult helpers and astronomy is a big feature of what they offer to kids.

It is simply untrue that young people are not interested. I have had lots of experience as a teacher and once you get them anywhere near a telescope they are very interested indeed. One of the craziest, least academic children I ever taught (and his mother was another!!) bumped into me on a campsite once and was riveted by what I showed him. He went and got his mates and they were all absolute stars. What was really touching was way this very 'difficult' boy helped his little brother to get to the eyepiece and cover one eye, etc.

Astronomy brings out the best in people.

Olly

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I think that astronomy as a hobby is in good shape, even though many people don't start astronomy as a serious hobby until they are adults. As others as have noted, kids and teenagers often have competing interests.

As much as possible, young people should be introduced to astronomy, so that they can start young if they want, but also so that, as adults, they can remember these early introductions and think "That was cool; now I have the time and money to get into that!"

To back up the first sentence of this post, compare the variety of telescopes available and number of telescope sales to, say, thirty years ago.

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I'd agree with the people who've said 'give them the opportunity and they're fascinated'.

As an example, we had friends down to stay with us from London over the Spring Bank Holiday. Their 13 yr old spent the first two days desperate for the clouds to go so that we could roll the roof off my obs and get the scope out. Thankfully it cleared up on the Sunday night and despite it being late we rolled the roof (he LOVED that!) and then got Saturn (even cooler than the roof!), some globs, the Ring etc. He loved it - and he's a normal (not a bit geeky) teenager. (His Mum and Dad spent hours out there with us too!)

Over recent months I've had similar experience with our friends' two teenage girls, cousin's children, and our nieces and nephews.

My feeling is that its about opportunity and bit of knowledge to get them going. I've got a couple of cheap scopes that are currently out on loan to those who've shown interest - I must admit to enjoying hearing their excited reports as much as actually looking through scopes myself!!

Helen

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I happen to have a slight bias though, as i study this stuff at university anyway.

My interest in astronomy as a kid led me to study physics and maths at university.

I'm taking a Masters degree in Physics with Astrophysics, it's hard work, but i find it really fulfilling.

Next year, grades permitting, I'll be starting a two year project modelling the structure and evolution of Earth-like exoplanets under the supervision of a professor, with the chance to publish in an astrophysics journal at the end. Can't wait! :D

Good luck, and have fun!

I totally agree with you, astronomy and physics in general is humbling, it really puts things into perspective, and they instil in me a deep appreciation for what we have on this small world.

I agree as well.

I used to feel the same way, but the elegance and simplicity in maxwells equations,

I am very biased, but I love Einstein's equation, G = 8*pi*T.

or the downright absurdity of quantum physics has really started to excite me this year.

A fantastic complement to standard courses and texts is the book Lectures on Quantum Theory: Mathematical and Structural Foundations by Chris Isham,

Lectures on Quantum Theory: Mathematical and Structural Foundations: Amazon.co.uk: C.J. Isham: Books.

It must be a sign i'm beyond saving, lol

Yup!

Edited by George Jones

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I am very biased, but I love Einstein's equation, G = 8*pi*T.

A fantastic compliment to standard courses and texts is the book Lectures on Quantum Theory: Mathematical and Structural Foundations by Chris Isham,

Lectures on Quantum Theory: Mathematical and Structural Foundations: Amazon.co.uk: C.J. Isham: Books.

I've encountered one or two aspects of general relativity, but we've mainly focused on special relativity until now. It's something we cover next year, and i'm quite looking forward to it!

I also have level 3 quantum mechanics next year, which looks brutal, lol, i'll be sure to include your recommendation in my search for a liferaft/textbook.

cheers!

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I've encountered one or two aspects of general relativity, but we've mainly focused on special relativity until now. It's something we cover next year, and i'm quite looking forward to it!

I also have level 3 quantum mechanics next year, which looks brutal, lol, i'll be sure to include your recommendation in my search for a liferaft/textbook.

cheers!

Can I ask where you study and what kind of grades you were accepted with?

Back on topic, it'll be interesting to see if the newly opened UK Space Agency will increase the number of people interested in Astronomy and careers related to Space. Although I suppose it depends on how well it makes itself known to the general public.

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Can I ask where you study and what kind of grades you were accepted with?

Back on topic, it'll be interesting to see if the newly opened UK Space Agency will increase the number of people interested in Astronomy and careers related to Space. Although I suppose it depends on how well it makes itself known to the general public.

I study at Exeter university, I was accepted with an offer of ABB. They're fairly flexible though. The Bsc course had lower entry requirements than Mphys, i forget what it was but i know a couple of guys who got in with C's. There's also a couple of people who got in with a 1 year 'Access' course.

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I'm 51 and got back into astronomy 15 years ago. As with many of my generation, it was the Apollo programme that sparked our interest in space. At that age I was very much an armchair (or more like school chair) astronomer.

It was the archetypal mid-life crisis (massive haemorrhage + redundancy x 2 + heart attack) that re-ignited my interest in some of the pursuits of my youth. I'm not re-living my youth - I'm simply picking up where I left off! (I've also got back into model making and prog rock, but I've passed on the flares, long hair, all night parties, pot smoking and sexual promiscuity).

When I was young there simply weren't the range of science/technology-based hobbies that were within the financial reach of most children that there are today. With cheap technology and the ready access to the latest science and technology information I'm not surprised that there are fewer 'young' people taking up the hobby - there are so many more things to choose from.

Edited by michaelmorris

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As with many of my generation, it was the Apollo programme that sparked our interest in space. At that age I was very much an armchair (or more like school chair) astronomer.

The Apollo programme influenced me as well. Just before I started school, my mother got my a picture book about rockets, which led to my interest in astronomy, which led to ...

While in high school, I used money made from odd jobs to buy a pair of 10x50 bins, which I used for many years, until I lost them in a move.

I've encountered one or two aspects of general relativity, but we've mainly focused on special relativity until now. It's something we cover next year, and i'm quite looking forward to it!

I am glad that courses like this get offered more often now. Unfortunately, there was no general relativity course available for me to take when I was a student. Over the years, I have worked (somewhat) hard at learning the technical aspects of GR.

I also have level 3 quantum mechanics next year, which looks brutal, lol, i'll be sure to include your recommendation in my search for a liferaft/textbook.

The book for which I gave a link in post #56 is based on course given at Imperial College, gives a good in-depth look at some of the more puzzling aspects of quantum theory, but does not treat any of the topics (time-independent and time-dependent perturbation theory, identical particles, scattering theory) in your level 3 quantum mechanics course. A detailed pdf table of contents is at

LECTURES ON QUANTUM THEORY.

A book that might be useful for your course is Quantum Mechanics: Concepts and Applications by Nouredine Zettili,

Quantum Mechanics: Concepts and Applications: Amazon.co.uk: Nouredine Zettili: Books.

From the blurb on its back cover:

Second Edition takes an innovative approach to quantum mechanics by seamlessly combining the ingredients of both a textbook and a problem-solving book. ... The text contains many worked examples and numerous comprehensive problems with step-by-step solutions designed to help the reader master the machinery of quantum mechanics.
The two-volume set

Quantum Mechanics: v.1: Vol 1 A Wiley-Interscience publication: Amazon.co.uk: Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, Bernard Diu, Frank Laloe: Books

Quantum Mechanics: v.2: Vol 2 A Wiley-Interscience publication: Amazon.co.uk: Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, Bernard Diu, Frank Laloe: Books

might also be useful. My wife and I took quantum mechanics courses at different Canadian universities, and we both made extensive use of this set.

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For me it comes from Dad - Dad was always interested in everything and anything. He and his brother started the metal detector craze by building them in a shed years ago - mostly to help my Uncle in his writing about the English Civil War and battlefield exploration/archealogy - everytime he was out people started asking what he was doing, was he looking for mines etc :p

Later on Dad built a 40' long boat, in his younger days he had raced at the Isle of Man. All of this rubbed off on me. My Dad was a genius and my Uncle doubly so who coinvented some specialised plastics and wrote on topics as diverse as the natura world, English History, the Romans in Britain and piano and harpsichord restoration and playing technique.

Dad always had an enquiring mind, was always reading and I suppose it rubbed off on me. I have two boys of my own now and have always worked hard to stimulate their interests. My eldest is the more practical while my youngest is the theorotician who can baffle me with discussions on nuclear valency, quantum foam and electro magnetic flux (he's 12 by the way and just sat his GCSE paper scoing a grade 1 :D ).

I think its easy to suggest Astro doesnt have young people and I suppose it probably doesn't in volumes of youngsters but then astro gear is relatively expensive and requires patience which stops a lot of younger people. Young people (and we are all guilty of being young once :evil6: ) tend to lack both patience and the cash.

My youngest is starting to develop an interest in astronomy while my eldest has a good mechical turn of mind and some of those hands in my guides and tutorials are actually his because like me he likes to take things to bits.

I try, just as my own Dad did with me, to expose them to all sorts of interesting things and hope that as they get older some of it rubs off and maybe ignites a half forgotten spark of interest.

With me I had a scope aged 12-13 but it couldnt compete at the time with makeup, fashion etc but it planted a seed for future action.

Marketing people call this 'brand implantation for future action' ( and its why you see toys carrying adult brands like toy hoovers with an Electrolux logo or Toy drills with a Bosch Logo).

In the same way I try and create a small spark which I hope one day will ignite into a passion. Astro is only one of my hobbies - in my time I have done photography, car mechanics, shooting (pistol, rifle and shotgun in every variety), Judo, fencing, history, antiques, stamp collecting, art, pottery and plenty of others too.

I also do stuff to try and get some interest from younger people like doing public outreach (Guildford AS did one recently which I showed up at) and it hopefully gives other youngsters a spark of interest but I have done that in other hobbies as well.

Depressingly about a year ago I had an offer to tour every youth club in Surrey but I just couldnt find enough other astronomers to come with me and had to abandon it in the end.

Another poster suggested light pollution may be another reason and I would agree with that - its hard for an interest to appear in anything if you dont ever get to see it. I mean if you could never see an XBox and didndt know wnayone who had one then I doubt they would have much of a following.

Its easy by the way to believe that all youth is full of empty headed young things with the X Factor on their mind. 200 years ago the bane of modern life was the novel and young people were castigated for giving up on the social arts to sit and read books. Every older generation has its issues with its young and probably going back a few thousand years cave men were probably bemoaning the fact that the young were playing with fire rather than getting on with something serious :)

o is thgere fewer young people interested ? I dont tink there were many young people doing astro back when I started to get serious about it 30 years ago. I was the baby of the club back then and most of the members were considerably older than me.

I think so long as every one of us is enthusiastic about the hobby and welcoming to younger people as and when they show up we can do little wrong and you never know what the next generarion will acheive.

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I'm 42 and just getting serious. It was really my 10 year old son taking a real interest that prompted me to start to read and observe again. The natural progression from this is the emptying of the bank account :D

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This winter i'll be taking my scope to the local park at night in the hope that some of the locals decide to check out what i'm doing.

This is exactly how my partner got information on what telescope to buy me for my birthday!

He decided to pop into the ASDA up the road from work after working late and there some people gathering with a range of different telescopes in the car park. He said he was so impressed with them that he went over and asked to have look and it's all led on from there! Here i am at 22 with my first (serious) telescope.

I do remember being at Secondary School, probably year 7/8 and having a big, blow up domed planetarium visit our school. We basically had a tour of the night sky and someone there to answer any questions we may have had.

This is all well and good but i think children/teenagers need to see the real thing to appreciate it.

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Awww - thats was how I got my first decent scope as well by the way - boyfriend years ago when I was 21 (ish) got it as a present for me. He chose well - with the scope at any rate :D

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I'm right here. From my perspective, quite a few people seem interested but hesitant to get actively involved, thanks to stereotyping. The other factor is the idea that you need to be a scope to get into the whole thing, wheras I have great fun with the binos and a few books about what I'm seeing. I don't think our generation are as "superficial" as some of the posts here make out, altough that "Super Sweet 16" on TV and "The Guardian" don't really help the cause. It's an interesting topic, certainly. And people really seemed to enjoy the Astronomically-involved section of ouy GCSE course the other year. I don't go shouting about my hobby though. Perhaps I'm part of the problem.

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