Archive for telescopes

The Royal Society really needs to work on its history of the telescope

Posted in History, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on October 30, 2019 by telescoper

An important corrective to frequently repeated fallacies about the history of telescopes in astronomy. The Royal Society really shouldn’t be making mistakes like this!

The Renaissance Mathematicus

One would think that the Royal Society being one of the eldest, but not the eldest as they like to claim, scientific societies in Europe when presenting themselves as purveyors of the history of science, would take the trouble to get their facts right. If, however, one thought this, one would be wrong. Last week on the Internet the Royal Society was pushing a slide show, under their own name, on Google Arts and Culture on the history of the telescope in astronomy that in terms of historical accuracy is less than one, as a historian of science, nay of the telescope, might hope or indeed wish for.

The slide show in question is titled, Silent Harmony: astronomy at the Royal Society: Discover how innovation in telescopes and other optical instruments changed the way we see the universe. Following the title slide we have another general blurb slide…

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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…