From why?! to wifi!! How astronomers can change the world

Historically, astronomy has played a key role in the development of science and technology while also having a large cultural impact. For example, explaining the orbits of the planets was important for understanding that the Sun, and not the Earth, was at the centre of the solar system; that had an enormous impact on our view of our place in the Universe. During the ‘space race’ and the cold war, when astronauts took the first photos of a spherical earth, it was the first direct evidence that the Earth was a sphere, just another planet. Such images emphasise the isolation of the Earth in space, and perhaps underline the fragility of the Earth’s ecosystems. Direct evidence of a greenhouse effect can be seen from Venus, which has been a ‘hot topic’ (excuse the pun!) in international policy in the last few decades. Also, understanding of our early Universe after the big bang has been found using telescopes such as WMAP and Planck. However, most astronomers also contribute their skills and knowledge to industry and culture in less well known ways. This blog post tells a less well known story, that modern wireless technology (which you are probably using to read this very blog post!) was developed by mathematicians, engineers and radio astronomers.

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