Professor Denis Sullivan, from Victoria University of Wellington, describes the basic scientific process of astrophysics – measurement, prediction and the hunt for answers.
PROF DENIS SULLIVAN
I find a huge attraction in what you might call the physical sciences because it makes use of a lot of mathematics.
Modern astronomy is astro physics, so the underlying science is really physics. And what you are trying to do is collect data, make observations, interpret that in terms of models or theories. You know, for example, a star, what is a star? Well we are not there, we can’t poke our hands into it, but we can build up a computer model – a lot of the equations you can’t solve. But underlying it you’ve got physical theories which you can put in mathematical form and once you have got clear ideas of what they are, you can make predictions about what, for example, is inside the centre and what might happen to them, etc. So part of science is the need to know. We are just interested. It is also the actual process, the chase is interesting.