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Colloquium speaker

Shri Kulkarni

Title: "There is more room sideways"

Astronomy Spring Colloquia May 1 , 2012 Tuesday, 4:30pm-5:30pm, Peyton Hall auditorium:



Astronomy has been and is continuing to enjoy a golden phase. The light

gathering power of  successive generations of both ground- and space-based 

telescopes has steadily increased and thereby made it possible for astronomers 

to probe the distant universe and study the faintest objects such as other planets. 

I call this as the traditional or linear path for progress. However, large forces that 

lie beyond academia have had equally big if not larger effect. Exponential progress in 

semi-conductor industry has enabled astronomers to build huge detectors and transmit, 

analyze and archive torrents of data. Improvements in quality of detectors and methodology 

(due to funding by space agencies and weapons industry) have sustained this exponential 

trajectory.The next frontier is defined by the decreasing cost in manufacturing (optics,

mechanical structures, motors). 


These three developments offer a distinct new path for astronomical investigation

(as opposed to the traditional telescope aperture based approach). I term this

approach as lateral or sideways path to exponential progress. The sideways

approach is less capital intensive than the traditional approach and is thus

very well suited for this decade where astronomers will have to learn do more

with less.  I will review the recent successes of this approach with some examples 

(SDSS, PTF) and speculate on projects over this decade.