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School of Chemistry & Physics

Telephone: +61 8 8303 5996
Facsimile: +61 8 8303 4380

Professor R. W. Clay

Professor Roger Clay


I was born in South Yorkshire in England and went to university in London, at Imperial College. I got my Honours degree there in 1967 and went on to do a PhD in the Cosmic Ray Group, supervised by Harold Allan, a physicist of great intellect. The PhD on radio emission from cosmic ray showers was completed in 1971 and included two years working on the Haverah Park airshower array, based at the University of Leeds.

I went to the University of Calgary for a post-doc with John Prescott where, with Jim Hough, we continued to work on measurements of radio emission. This was my first introduction to infra-red since Alan Clark at Calgary was working on various forms of infra red astronomy at that time - as he still is. John got a Chair at Adelaide and I came to work on the transported experiment and to get it running well. That took the next 20 years or so. John moved his main interests to archaeometry and I got interested in Cerenkov emission as a tool, together with cosmic ray anisotropy studies. They have been continuing themes since then. Alan Gregory and John Patterson joined the team early on and eventually moved into Cerenkov VHE gamma-ray astronomy, and I tried to assist. That has taken much more of my time since both Alan and then John retired and I had made a commitment to Tadashi Kifune that I would continue to provide Australian support for the CANGAROO collaboration.

The Buckland Park array closed effectively at the end of the 1980's and Bruce Dawson came back whilst I was Dean of Science. Bruce and I have continued with air showers, but in a larger league, with HiRes and the Pierre Auger project. We got into cloud detection as a practical sideline because the projects needed such a technique. Actually, Alan Gregory was the first at Adelaide to try that. Infra-red has taken up more of my time than I ever intended but I soon realised that there wasn't as much understanding of the infra-red properties of the atmosphere as I had imagined. It has taken some years to get a clear picture (possibly incorrect) of how heat flows to us and away. This is particularly interesting in an urban environment.

Following the closing of the Buckland Park array, we moved a number of the detectors close together to examine the muon flux. This gives a really easy, and fascinating, way to monitor the activity in the solar system. Every home should have one. The Buckland Park muon detector system works pretty well, although it is probably not yet quite good enough to become part of the Spaceship Earth consortium. We are nearly there but it will just take a bit more effort and time - precious commodities.

Neville Wild lets me do fun things and interesting physics. Bruce is kind enough not to complain too much when I am doing that and he is flat out with serious stuff.

I felt for at least the last 20 years that cosmic ray physics needed to become closer to mainstream astronomy, so I had a deliberate policy to become part of that community. Whilst I don't always feel one of them, astronomers seem to accept me, at least as a curiosity.

Bruce and I have done some really nice stuff, which seems to have been worthwhile. And we couldn't have done it without Neville and our students. See our publication lists.

By the way, whilst I have reservations about the Grimethorpe band, brass bands take a lot of beating. Even if they aren't Count Basie, who cannot be replaced. Then there is George Chisholm. I'm probably the only person who listens to the Goon Show for the (his) charts.

I fill in time by being a second rate bureaucrat.

Research Interests

Cosmic rays and cosmic ray detection, cosmic ray sources, the knee, anisotropy, building detectors, Cerenkov stuff, archaeoastronomy and understanding how smart ancient people were, VLBI, cosmic ray acceleration - and its sites, cloud detection, scattering, tachyons, understanding how students perform when examined, etc...

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