Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Instrumental importance of ALMA

Humanity has LEARNED to know the physical environment in which it exists mainly through OBSERVATION.

Human senses, eyes, ears, nose, taste, touch, weight are spectacular but they are made for the immediate environment surrounding us. Senses are limited in order not to overwhelm us but to provide vital information about that crouching tiger nearby or the warning sound of a rattlesnake - not to speak of the skin burning heat from the gas stove.

Galileo Galilei
Galilei's telescope
Made by Hans Lippershey 1608
Only rather recently those crafty Dutchmen figured out that joining pieces of glasses - such as used on eyeglasses invented before - as a set on line in a tube it is possibly to magnify small items (microscope) or see distant objects (telescope).

Modern science is often considered to have began with the OBSERVATIONS through the looking glass made for Galileo Galilei.

Common binoculars beat the power of Galilei's instrument but few users of modern binoculars have his UNDERSTANDING of what they see through them.

Hooker. Mt Wilson APOD

Better INSTRUMENTS gave better view of things near and far, small and big.

Edwin Hubble's OBSERVATIONS through the venerable 100 inch Hooker on Mt. Wilson changed humanity's perception of the Universe.

What had seemed like dusty clouds in the Universe consisting of Milky Way and about 100.000 ly in diameter got specific - often spiral - shape when seen on photographs taken through the Hooker.

It is not just the INSTRUMENT but also the human person who uses it and UNDERSTANDS what he or she sees.

Edwin Hubble noted that there is a shift towards red in the color photographs and understood this on the basis of the work of Mr Doppler.

Hubble Space Telescope

HST wikimedia

When the telescope is lifted on orbit above the atmosphere WYSIWYG gets better.

There is no need to explain in detail how revolutionary the things seen through the appropriately named Hubble INSTRUMENT has been to the entire humanity.

James Weber Space Telescope is going to improve manifold on the performance of such an INSTRUMENT.

The sixty six antennas working in sync high up on the Chajnantor plateau in northern Chile are not so much "looking" as they are "listening" to radio waves.

Radio-astronomy has received in this complex INSTRUMENT possibility to expand the knowledge humanity has about the physical environment in which it exists on stellar and galactic level.

ALMA is just a tool.

Men and women will be needed for humans to UNDERSTAND the information this multi-national billion dollar INSTRUMENT will provide.

No comments:

Post a Comment