Welcome to Blank On The Map! I have spent a long time reading and commenting on other people's blogs — long enough now, I feel, to have a good idea of what I would like my own blog to look like. In this first post I'd like to set out an overview of what you can expect to find here.
My main intention is to provide a discussion of interesting issues and topics in physics, and in particular in my own area of expertise, cosmology. Of course there already exist several excellent blogs that cover part of the same subject area: you can find some of my favourite ones listed in the right-hand panel. But in my opinion the broad questions that cosmology is concerned with — what is the Universe made of, how did it start, and how will it end? — are sufficiently interesting that the interwebs can handle another blog on the topic!
Different science bloggers approach the question of what level to pitch their offerings at differently. Although I will from time to time discuss relatively technical issues, and occasionally open research questions, in general I will address my posts to the educated layman rather than the expert. In most cases I will link in to other discussions on the 'blogosphere'; some of these may occasionally provide more details for those who are interested.
Of course, many of the best physics blogs do not restrict themselves merely to physics, and this one will not be any different! I enjoy writing in general, and constructing arguments in particular; one of the main motivations behind starting this blog was to provide an outlet for these urges. So on these pages you may also expect to find pieces on mountaineering and mountains, philosophical discussions of the point of universities and science education, arguments on economic and political issues, and general whimsical diversions. On some of these issues I am well aware I have no special expertise, and I will try to avoid the stereotype of the arrogant physicist talking of that which he does not know. But as friends and family will testify, a lack of knowledge of a subject does not usually prevent me from expressing an opinion on it, and it's probably not going to start now.
I reckon on putting something on here every week, perhaps more often while I have a backlog of things I have been meaning to write about.
Finally, before I end a somewhat over-long first post, a word of explanation about the title of the blog. In part it is intended as a description of what research is about: venturing where no-one has been before, pushing the boundaries and adding, by whatever tiny fraction, to the sum total of human knowledge. It is also the title of a famous book by Eric Shipton, one of the great mountaineers and explorers of the 20th century, an inspiring author and a teenage hero of mine — about whom I might write a little more in the future.
In a lighter vein, Blank On The Map also appealed to me as a reference to the Bellman's map in Lewis Carroll's wonderful The Hunting of the Snark -- a map the crew could all understand -- and to my current location here in Germany, which is rumoured not to exist. An obvious choice then!