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The Joy of Astronomy? January 10, 2009

Posted by keithkchan in Philosophy.

There is some reasons for my long silence. First I expected Mr Eyal would help me to keep the blog updated. It seems I am too optimistic. Another reason is that I am kind of in a dilemma, but I am not going to talk about it explicitly here.

OK, let me turn to the topic of the post. From various sources, I got some impressions of astronomy. I would like to comment on it. First, if you like me check out the Bad Astronomy regularly, you may got the impression that astronomy is really cool. Astronomers takes tons of beautiful pictures of galaxies, nebulae, quasars, etc. That’s the final product, not the whole story. Real astronomy is boring!

Astronomers spend a lot of time on telescope, various observation instruments. From my point of view, that’s engineering, and engineering is dirty and boring.

Some astronomers do not directly involve in observations, instead they analyse the observed data. One of my colleague is working on some of a big observation project, and he mainly works on data analysis. He told me that in last few days, he spent all the time to download the data and change the data format. I also know some guy works on a project involving analyzing images. He told me that the work need to done is very technical, and there was not many useful things would be learned. I don’t think there is anything can be learned from doing this kind of work. In particular there is no physics. You may counter argue that because it is astronomy, not physics. Well you may say that such tedious work happens in every research project. But it seems to me this kind of work is the day job of astronomers.

My observation is that in astronomy, when you get into details, it becomes very technical, tedious, and you don’t feel there is much physics involved.

Sorry for saying so many negative things about astronomy. These negative observation probably stems from the fact that I am not interested in this kind of work. If there are some readers who disagree with me, feel free to argue with me. But be careful, not to confuse astronomy with astrophysics.

Update: This year is the International Year of Astronomy, but the conclusion of my post remains unchanged.



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