Arecibo Observatory at Risk, but Defended

Photo by Nadia Drake

If you’re a fan of James Bond films, then chances are you’ve seen the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico on a screen at some point–it was the location for the climax of Goldeneye, where Pierce Brosnan debuted as the British spy character. The largest radio telescope in the world, and for several decades managed by Cornell University, Arecibo Observatory is now threatened with defunding in the coming year, but the community around it in Puerto Rico, as Nadia Drake (whose father once directed the Observatory) reports for NatGeo and Science Friday, is rallying around it:

SAN JUAN and ARECIBO, Puerto Rico — Francisco Cordova just started his job as director of Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory, the world’s largest radio telescope. But at a public meeting on day two of his new post, he was already facing the iconic telescope’s potential demolition.

At meetings June 7 in San Juan and Arecibo, students, scientists, observatory staff and community members spoke about what would be lost in terms of science and education if the observatory were to close, an outcome that no one in attendance seemed to find acceptable in any way. As the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope, Arecibo is famous for searching for distant galaxies,  gravitational waves, and signs of extraterrestrial life.

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Bonds In Theaters

Here on the southern coast of Nicaragua, I have tracked reviews of the latest Harry Potter movie without yet being able to see it for myself.  My parents and brother went to see it in Kerala today.  Their review was less about the movie itself than about the fact that being in a movie theater in India is a kind of spectacle in its own right, apart from whatever may be happening on screen. I’ll describe the Indian experience in more detail later; for now I think back in time.

In 2006 my family was living on a small island off the coast of Dubrovnik (that is the view from our home in the photo above). About 150 people lived on the island, mostly the families of fishermen, who only spoke Croatian and maybe a little Italian.  The old city of Dubrovnik had a small cinema that sometimes played movies in English.  I recall when the latest James Bond film, with a new actor whose performance everyone was eager to review, started playing in this theater–in English with Croatian subtitles. “Casino Royale,” the movie was called.

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