HAMNET Report 11th July 2021

Southgate Amateur Radio News reports that Australia’s ABC News has an excellent article on the benefits of amateur radio in old age – which says:

[Amateur Radio] comes with all the benefits of social media but without ‘any of the downsides’ — and one of Australia’s oldest ham radio enthusiasts says it is also the perfect hobby for retirees looking to stay mentally sharp.

West Australian-based Norman Gomm took to ham radio over forty years ago and now aged 82 has no intention of signing off just yet.

As one of Australia’s estimated 10,500 licensed ham radio operators, Mr Gomm is also the president of the Bunbury Radio Club. He says it is rare that a day goes by without him spending at least a couple of hours in his purpose-built ‘ham shack’.

“I find it’s very good for me,” Mr Gomm told the ABC amid a dazzling display of flashing lights and crackling radio static. “I’m 82 years of age and you need to keep your mind working actively all the time,” he said.

“Ham radio requires a lot of cognitive skills and a lot of understanding technology, so I find that’s very good for keeping me active.”

Operating under the call sign of Victor Kilo Six Golf Oscar Mike, Mr Gomm is able to converse with fellow ham radio enthusiasts “in just about any country on earth” depending on the time of day using an internationally recognised phonetic alphabet.

“We’re bound by regulation not to say naughty things over the radio waves. and we have a code of conduct which makes us behave relatively politely to each other,” Mr Gomm said. “It’s just a general ethic among ham radio people that you behave well to each other. “So it’s got all the plusses of social media and none of the downsides.”

And the topic mostly discussed among ham radio operators? “The weather mainly,” Mr Gomm said, with a dry laugh.

“On the international frequencies, the conversation tends to be a bit limited so we stick to topics like the weather and discussing equipment, but the thrill of it lies in making contact with someone on the other side of the planet.”

Thanks to Graham VK4BB for that information.

For those of you obsessed, like me, with time and its progression, ScienceNews reports this week that an atomic clock that could transform deep-space travel has successfully completed its first test run in space.

NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock, which launched on a satellite in June 2019, outperformed all other clocks in space during its first year in orbit around Earth. The clock, DSAC for short, was at least 10 times more stable than clocks on GPS satellites, which makes it reliable enough for futuristic space navigation schemes, researchers report online June 30th in Nature.

To navigate the solar system today, space probes listen for signals from antennas on Earth and then bounce those signals back. Ultraprecise, refrigerator-sized atomic clocks on the ground measure that round trip time — which can take hours — to pinpoint a spacecraft’s location.

A future spacecraft carrying a toaster oven–sized DSAC could simply measure how long it takes a signal from Earth to arrive and calculate its own position. Untethering deep-space navigation from Earth could someday enable self-driving spaceships or GPS-like navigation systems on other planets.

DSAC is so stable because it keeps time using electrically charged atoms, or ions, rather than neutral atoms, says Eric Burt, a physicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Bottling ions within electric fields prevents those atoms from bumping into the walls of their container. Such interactions cause the neutral atoms in GPS satellite clocks to lose their rhythm.

By comparing DSAC with the U.S. Naval Observatory’s hydrogen maser “master clock” on the ground, the researchers found that the space clock drifted about 26 picoseconds, or trillionths of a second, over the course of a day. That’s comparable to ground-based atomic clocks currently used for deep-space navigation, says DSAC principal investigator Todd Ely, also at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Reporting on how science museums reinvented themselves to survive the pandemic, Emily Anthes says that, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to spiral out of control in March 2020, science museums around the world were abruptly forced to close. In a matter of days, ticket revenue vanished. “It was an existential crisis,” says Christofer Nelson, president and CEO of the Association of Science and Technology Centres, or ASTC, in Washington, D.C. “The fundamental business, operational, staffing, and community service model of these organizations just went away overnight. And the question was ‘What do we do next?’ ”

The weeks and months that followed were excruciatingly difficult for science museums, which lost more than $600 million in revenue in just the first six months of the pandemic, the ASTC estimates. Many museums and science centres were forced to adopt deep cost-cutting measures; some laying off more than half of their employees.

Few science museums had substantial endowments to pull from, so they scrambled for support. They launched new campaigns for donations, applied for government loans and sought grants and support from community organizations or corporations.

As they tried to make ends meet, they also realized they had to reinvent their programmes if they wanted to survive. Over the last year, they have launched a diverse array of exhibits and offerings that are not tied to their physical buildings, and they have helped educate the public about COVID-19. Some museums have even found creative ways to meet serious community needs, providing everything from child care to fresh food.

Along the way, these institutions have redefined what modern science museums can be and how they engage with the world beyond their walls. Though many museums are in various phases of reopening, their experience over the last year may leave a lasting legacy.

Emily goes on to describe a wide variety of ways in which museums have taken themselves to the public, rather than the other way round, in an effort to keep themselves relevant, and to guarantee a future, a future when we hope there will be no more levels of lockdown and social isolation.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.