Diary

RedState WaterCooler! Tuesday, 8/8/2017 Open Thread - What If The Government Built The Worlds Largest Telescope But Didn't Have Anyone Who Could Run It?

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Well it did and thankfully this time it wasn’t our government.

China built the world’s largest telescope, but has no one to run it

China has built a staggeringly large instrument in the remote southern, mountainous region of the country called the Five hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST.  The telescope measures nearly twice as large as the closest comparable facility in the world, the US-operated Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. Radio telescopes use a large, parabolic dish to collect radio waves from distant sources, such as pulsars and black holes—or even alien civilizations.

According to the South China Morning Post, the country is looking for a foreigner to run the observatory because no Chinese astronomer has the experience of running a facility of such size and complexity. The Chinese Academy of Sciences began advertising the position in western journals and job postings in May, but so far there have been no qualified applicants.

One reason is that the requirements are fairly strict: The candidate must have at least 20 years of previous experience in the field, and he or she must have taken a leading role in large-scale radio telescope project with extensive managerial experience. The candidate must also hold a professorship, or equally senior position, in a world-class research institute or university.

Suntzeff, an astronomer who helped lead the discovery of dark energy and is involved with construction of the optical Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile, said there are probably about 40 or so astronomers in the world who would qualify for such a job. Compared to other astronomy disciplines, radio astronomy is a relatively small field.

—Ars Technica

While I have to confess a little joyous relief (not schadenfreude very sorry for the Chinese people on this) that it wasn’t our government doing its level best to make science stupid again. This should be a demonstration of just how bad an idea it is to let any government grow large. Here we don’t have pointless telescopes that can’t be operated, but we have environmental agencies that pollute rivers and fail to oversee towns drinking water, bridges to nowhere, all overseen by people who are so much smarter and know so much more about how the average person should run their lives than the average person.

This time it wasn’t us, anyone want to give odds on next time?


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