peteg's blog - noise - 2009 07 19 ParkesRadioTelescope

Parkes Radio Telescope Open Day

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Dad and I headed off to the Dish in the early morning, and got to their once-in-a-blue-moon open day around 10:30am. The helpful organisers claimed to have taken about 1500 visitors through the telescope building on Saturday, and that we were fortunate that they were better organised today. (ABC news later claimed 7000 people visited that weekend.) We queued for about 40 minutes, much less than we had anticipated, and the tour went for about the same again. Almost all the electricals have been rewired now, with the old receiver module (now taken by several people for a lunar landing module exhibit) being replaced by one with a humongous 13-head sensor, piped with fibre optics. Apparently the media got to go on the Dish itself on the Saturday morning, but I haven't seen any photographs from that. The tour was fantastic, everyone becomes a geek.

The CSIRO staff seemed to be enjoying themselves, talking about all kinds of things. I guess the beauty of this telescope is that it spans so many scientific and engineering disciplines. The Albert Einstein character kept the kids enthralled and made me wonder if his faith might've been restored by these efforts in the 1960s.

Dad scrounged up an old book for me: Parkes: One hundred years of Local Government. Compiled by R.T. Tindall in association with the Parkes Centenary Book Committee. Griffin Press, ISBN 0959278605, 1982. I scanned the chapter on the radio telescope and posted it here (circa 14Mb PDF).

I can't help but feel that while scientific progress might be faster than ever, the type of science and engineering that captures the public imagination has slipped into history. Australia will chuck $88 million into a Chilean optical telescope, and one can only hope the Chileans keep their pollution under control (and the Brazilians stop cutting down the Amazon). Quiggin opines that the moon was approximately as far as we can go, but with his being an economist I want to see the error bars.

Neil Armstrong asserts that the race to the moon was a byproduct of the cold war, a Kantian perspective that I find vaguely troubling.