Rapidly-rotating neutron stars at COSPAR '21
The 43rd COSPAR Scientific Assembly was to be held in Sydney last August, but thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was delayed until this week. Sudip Bhattacharya and I led a session on "Rapidly Rotating Neutron Stars", which featured a terrific set of presentations on radio and X-ray pulsars, as well as gravitational waves.
Monash PhD student Ka Ho Tse presented some of his recent work on the enigmatic mHz quasi-periodic oscillations observed in some burst sources, suggestive of quasi-stable nuclear burning but at accretion rates an order of magnitude below where we would expect them.
The COSPAR organisers imposed a very complex virtual program, with speakers required to pre-record full duration talks as well as 3-minute summaries. The platform was overly complicated, and plagued with technical issues; on top of that, having to go on your own time to view the full-duration talks kind of defeats the purpose of the session.
I'm not sure how well it worked for attendees, but for session organisers it was a nightmare, and I was glad when it was over. Some organisers of other sessions abandoned the platform altogether and switched to Zoom. These large virtual conferences are very challenging to set up, and it's all well and good to be ambitious with the format, but it would have been much better to keep it simple. It was also a bit galling for the organisers to blame the chairs and speakers in the closing address.