Archive for October 2, 2011


Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , on October 2, 2011 by telescoper

I stumbled upon the following cartoon on Youtube and, since it’s about a mad astronomer, I thought I’d post it here.

It strikes me how  comic depictions of astronomical observatories, such as the example on the left,  always seem to show the telescope pointing out of the dome like the barrel of a gun poking out of a turret, which they never do. I venture to suggest that a great many members of the general public think that’s how they work also. I wonder why?

Perhaps it’s connected with the origins of the verb form of telescope which the OED gives as

a. trans. To force or drive one into another (or into something else) after the manner of the sliding tubes of a hand-telescope: usually said in reference to railway carriages in a collision. Also fig. to combine, compress, or condense (a number of things) into a more compact or concise form; to combine or conflate (several things, or one thing with another); to shorten by compression.

b. intr. To slide, run, or be driven one into another (or into something else); to have its parts made to slide in this manner (see quot. 1882 for telescoping n. and adj. at Derivatives, s.v. telescoping below); to collapse so that its parts fall into one another (quot. 1905).

The inference being that large astronomical telescopes must extend in the same way as the much smaller hand-held variety. Anyway, this idea is taken to a ludicrious extreme in the cartoon, with hilarious consequences…


Indian Summer, a Poem

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on October 2, 2011 by telescoper

These are the days when birds come back,
A very few, a bird or two,
To take a backward look.

These are the days when skies put on
The old, old sophistries of June, —
A blue and gold mistake.

Oh, fraud that cannot cheat the bee,
Almost thy plausibility
Induces my belief,

Till ranks of seeds their witness bear,
And softly through the altered air
Hurries a timid leaf!

Oh, sacrament of summer days,
Oh, last communion in the haze,
Permit a child to join,

Thy sacred emblems to partake,
Thy consecrated bread to break,
Taste thine immortal wine!

by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886).