Sarah Day, Editor, on the highlights of the Summer 2021 issue of Geoscientist
As I write, a helicopter just took off and landed on Mars. A helicopter! On Mars! Stories like this make me think of a response I saw once – I’ve long forgotten when and who from – to a complaint about a lack of wifi on a long-haul flight. “You’re sitting in a chair, thousands of feet above the ground, travelling at hundreds of miles an hour – and you’re unhappy about the wifi?!”
It’s easy to take science and its miracles – I do think we can call them that, the true, real-world miracles of the modern era – for granted. Never more so than in the past year, when we’ve witnessed the extraordinary development of coronavirus vaccines at vastly accelerated speeds in what, to my mind, is one of the most amazing scientific achievements of our age. And now they’ve gone and flown a helicopter on Mars.
In our summer issue, Jennifer Scoular and colleagues report on the development and potential of InSAR – a radar technique with the potential to measure millimetre-scale changes in deformation, with applications ranging from monitoring of natural hazards to tunnelling projects. Like the figure sitting in a chair in the sky, worrying about wifi, it’s incredible to think that there are satellites beyond the Earth’s atmosphere with the ability to detect the tiniest changes, down to millimetres, on the Earth’s surface.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, further miracles are occurring. The UK’s vaccination programme continues at pace, promising news of a malaria vaccine has just broken, and the Biden administration has announced that the US will work to halve emissions by 2030. Optimism seems to be in the wind – I’m writing this outside a café, in the real world, wearing sunglasses! Underneath it, though, there remains a ripple of uncertainty and unease. The pandemic continues to spread rapidly in many parts of the world, and our hesitant emergence from months of lockdown feels fraught with uncertainty, as well as optimism, about what lies ahead.
Fellows may well be feeling a similar mix of optimism and uncertainty in relation to their Society and its future. In the last issue, we reported news of the Society’s campaign to remain at Burlington House, where we’ve been based since 1874. The situation remains unresolved, and with it, as reported in this issue, comes uncertainty over a future home for our extensive and valuable Library collections. At the same time a new Open Access Journal, a vibrant programme for the 2021 Year of Space, the reopening of our Library to visitors and a whole host of other good news stories in this issue speak to an optimistic future.
There’s been a lot of changes to this magazine as well – and we’re grateful to all of you who’ve taken the time to get in touch with us with feedback, from enthusiastic thumbs up to constructive suggestions. Rest assured, we’re taking the latter on board, and we’re delighted by the former! In the meantime, don’t forget an important part of our role as an editorially independent magazine is to provide a forum for Fellows to feedback on the Society more broadly – if you have any questions, concerns or comments about any of the above, please do get in touch.
Sarah Day, Editor