I was shocked to read on Nature’s news pages that the Clover project has been cancelled. This is a UK project aimed at probing the polarization of the microwave background and was capable of unveiling the physics of the inflationary epoch of the universe. A lot of money had already been spent on the project, including the design and construction of most of the instrument. All that remained was shipping and installation in Chile, and running costs. But this has proved too much for STFC, the relevant funding council.
This is a real pity The project was well advanced, well justified and had the promise of producing some spectacular science. For the paltry sum, these days, of 2.78 million it’s been thrown away, along with the years of effort to get it close to deployment.
At a time when STFC is planning on spending tens of millions of a probe that will launch poles into the moon, a branch of science where the UK has no track record, this is appalling news for physics and shameful action by the funding council.
It also bodes ill for proper funding for Planck exploitation in the UK.
We were beginning to think that we’d seen the worst of the physics funding crisis that blew up 18 months ago. It looks like the effects are far from over.