Thursday, September 12, 2013

What our telescopes can't see

There's a really thoughtful opinion piece in the New York Times written by Pippa Goldschmidt, a former astronomer who worked at telescopes high in the mountains of Chile. Although the physical beauty of the night sky is still a huge motivation for her, her scientific activities-- operating the telescope, analyzing images-- became progressively more divorced from that sense of encounter.  This ambivalence was heightened by her realization that the Chilean desert at the foot of the mountain was the site of horrific political repression-- in this second way, her studies interfered with her sense of groundedness.
As the title of my blog would suggest, the visual encounter for me has always been the pinnacle, the reason why science is worth all the work and tears. Keats perceptively equated this experience to his happiness reading Chapman's translation of Homer. But looking into the lens does come with consequences for engagement with the real world.

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