February 13, 2005

gone fishing

The shed held out, the mast finally fell. With its poles and lines it resembled an abstract fishing apparatus, apt for its location in a lough full of eels.

The parallels don't end there: like fishing, radio astronomy depends on making plans as best one can and then hoping to catch something. You lay out your lines, trimmed to the wavelength you're angling for and aligned to net the fishes trajectory through the sky. Your lines baited and hooked you wait for the appointed hour, the optimum feeding time, fishing the lough for radio storms. Maybe you'll catch nothing, maybe you'll catch the fish you expected. If you're very lucky though , you'll catch something you never knew existed.

This seems an analogy fitting the process of both the scientist and the artist: setting up initial conditions so as to create a situation in which something occurs, something unexpected, a discovery transcending expectations and explanations.

The scientist then seeks to explain, the artist leaves it as it is . . .

Posted by Jem Finer at February 13, 2005 8:01 PM