So, yeah, I admit it, I recently (this afternoon, when I should have been doing homework) finished reading Anne McCaffery's The Skies of Pern. This is not a book review, although I will say that I seem to recall reading this book before. I think it was called... Satan's Mallet? Something like that. [img]/phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif[/img]
Regardless, on to the Bad Astronomy<font size=-1><sup>TM</sup></font>!
So those crazy dragonriders decide that they need to find all of the asteroids which could possibly be a danger to Pern. And they decide to do it, using 4 (count them, 4) telescopes arranged around the planet. Using these 4 (count them, 4) scopes, they will discover all of the large and small space rocks in their vicinity, and keep themselves safe.
Ahh... these must be some pretty impressive telescopes, you say. Well, it doesn't seem like it. The one that they describe, tucked away in its own private observatory, is about a 24 inch reflector. And the other ones are going to be smaller. Or at least, that's what it sounded like to me.
The other thing about the telescopes is that glassmakers are described as "building the mirrors". Exactly what does this mean, to build the mirror, I'm not sure. But I don't know anybody who does it that way. Those crazy glassmakers...
Also, the two main characters, Tai and F'lessan (see? I really did read the book! So there!) whip out a picture of an asteroid that is distinctly potato shaped, and has little craters on it. But they get this from their ground based scope, which as I mentioned, I don't think was massively awesome, gotta go call the grandkids amazing. Here's an animation of an asteroid going by outside the orbit of the moon, let alone out in the asteroid belt. Here.
Er... anyway, the point is that they aren't that easy to find.
The other point is that they decide to do this because <spoilers!!!!> the planet gets smacked by a comet, causing destruction and ruin to many. (I guess I kind of gave that away with... Beelzebub's Sledge? It's on the tip of my tounge here. Anywho.) Then everybody decides that they are in danger of being smacked by stuff from the sky, and that its the dragonriders' responsibility to stop it. And they're planning to make a permanent career out of this. Is it just me, or does this sound like an incredibly dull job. How often can a big major threat wander by? Yeah, that's what I thought.
Disclaimer: this is not to say that astronomer's jobs are stupid, or that astronomers are silly, or that we shouldn't be worried about NEOs. But it seems to me that asteroid/comet hits come in a Poisson distribution, with a really long interval. by the time our intrepid riders are called upon to do anything, it will have been a really long time. And.. um... I guess I just feel disappointed by the book. It started off being about Luddites, and then it was about comets, and then it was about angst, and then, oh yeah, the Luddite problem is magically taken care of, only not really at all. Um... ok, I think I've wandered into the realm of incoherency. Yay!
So, in the final estimation, I would recommend this book to people who like books about things that this book is about, and also people who don't, because they should broaden their horizons. The end.
In related news, I was on Half.com, looking for a book for my Diff. Geometry class, and they informed me that people who bought An Introduction to Differentiable Manifolds & Riemannian Geometry, also bought Memoirs of a Geisha, Poisonwood Bible, and Bridget Jones. I think that these titles are completely and totally random, unless middle aged women have recently taken a keen interest in manifolds. (mmm... manifolds...) [img]/phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif[/img] Check it out here: The Link!. Hit refresh and spec those titles. Yikes!
<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Ben Benoy on 2002-02-11 01:15 ]</font>