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September 16, 2007


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While Arecibo may have appeared in "Contact", the array *featured* in the movie was the Very Large Array (VLA), located in Socorro, NM (having visited the VLA but not (yet) Arecibo, I can certainly say that the VLA is an incredible sight). Arecibo, on the other hand, was featured in the James Bond film "Goldeneye".

Sadly, at this point in my Astronomy career, I have yet to use data from either the VLA or Arecibo (except in data reduction exercises), but some of Arecibo's current projects (especially the ALFA L-band detector array, and its ALFALFA sky survey offer the possibility of an incredibly detailed 21-cm survey of the sky visible from Arecibo (a 7-element detector array may not seem impressive compared to something like MegaCam's 300 megapixel CCD array, but when you compare the size of an L-band feedhorn to the size of a CCD pixel, it becomes obvious how impressive it really is).

Skeptico -

I think I'm on the same side of the "religion as an interesting-at-best myth" divide, but I also think that you are somewhat disingenuous about the US$2,000,000,000- the feds give to religious groups.

Let me be clear about my view: ANY moneys from The State provided to religious groups directly and obviously violates the Separation of Church and State principle as well as the corollary Constitutional Law.

Needless to say, having read the NPR article you link to, it’s clear that a majority (perhaps all) of that money is given out to support community initiatives. It’s not just free money. Additionally, any organization, even a fanatical and fascist faith-base program must follow federal guidelines on how the funded programs are administered. Of course, those guidelines (and Laws!) have to enforced – but at least they are there.

One final point – a possible silver lining: In order to work under those conditions, faith-based programs must serve the broad community without limitation based on race, religion, or creed. That, in turn, puts at least some pressure on the people involved to become more accepting of others and catholic (in the secular sense of the word).

What mostly pisses me off, however, is how this Executive Branch administration (i.e. the puppet masters of George “Dubya” Bush) use an unchecked (and unbalanced) free hand to torque the laws and spirit of These, Our United States.

But maybe that’s…

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