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Watchers of the Skies - John Dobson


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As many here will know, John Dobson is regarded as the the inventor of the Dobsonian telescope.  Recently I discovered that he is also a scientist and philosopher. 

The following is an excerpt from one of his articles:

Watchers of the Skies


One of the problems of human knowledge is that the world which we see from the surface of this planet on a sunny day bears almost no resemblance to the Universe at large. Our Earth is made of iron and rock, but the Universe as a whole is mostly hydrogen. The actions which we see on the surface of this Earth run mostly on sunlight, but the Universe runs on gravity. What we see here are continents, oceans, rivers and lakes, mountain ranges, forests, tundra and prairies. But the Universe at large is mostly gas, partly condensed by gravity to galaxies and stars, and lightly sprinkled, here and there, with interstellar dust. The dust is made from hydrogen in the bellies of the stars, and is scattered through the galaxies by the explosions and the stellar winds of stars much bigger and much hotter than our Sun. But the dust is scarce, and, like our bodies, the rock on which we live is made of these dusts. It is a collector's item. The heavier elements, such as iron, have sunk to the center, overlaid with the rocks of the mantle and the crust and a thin veneer of water and gas. Since the age of this museum piece is pushing five billion years, by now the water-soluble compounds of the surface rocks have leached into the water layer, making the oceans salty. The saltiness of our blood is the saltiness of the ancient sea, some four hundred million years ago. That is when our scaly ancestors, on stumpy fins, crawled out across the land in search of other water and the sight of other fish. Descended as we are from them, we can think of our bodies, even now, as little bags of sea water, hung out on clotheslines of bone, gulping oxygen directly from the gas layer above us, and shambling out across the rocks to gaze with starry eyes, through the blackness of night, at the vast expanse of the Universe beyond... 

The full article can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/c5l53

His website home page: http://www.johndobson.org/index.html

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Having known John for about 6 years now, I can say he is a dynamic and fascinating speaker. He is a philosopher and as such, is not as scientific as all that. While he's famous and we owe him a lot for reintroducing the alt/az mount, his theory of cosmology is flawed in many places. His talks are compelling to be sure, but it doesn't make him right. Caveat Emptor.

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