Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Haley Reading Group: Katie Worth’s “Telescope Wars”


[The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2016)]

By Cynthia A. Campbell

Katie Worth’s article “Telescope Wars” focuses on the quest to build larger telescopes. Worth highlights the infighting among three competing groups of astronomers. Ultimately, the article speaks to the dissension among these astronomers that has impeded joint and/or individual success in creating the “grandest” telescope.

Worth’s discussion of financing for the three projects was especially enlightening. At one point, Worth notes that “building all three could cost nearly $4 billion” (270). This point indicates that the groups of astronomers should complete one combined project at a lesser cost, which would prompt federal financing.

After reading Worth’s article, what was one point concerning the rivalry that caught your attention? Why was that point or passage notable to you? Please provide a page number citation.

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

I had no idea that the formation of "the grandest telescope" had so much drama in the making of it. You can see clearly in this quote that the rivalry started to affect not only astronomers, but also other aspects of science, "the fragile relationship between the institutions inevitably spilled into science" (272)The split for he custody of the Palomar became very personal. It goes to show how passionate all these scientists were when it came to using their own talents to create this feat of science of its age.

- Asher Denkyirah

Jasmine Williams said...

The astronomers at Carnegie and Caltech "recognized it would be kind of crazy to have two giant telescopes centered on two institutions within two miles of each other" (273). Even though it would have been much more rational to collaborate on one telescope, both institutions were too stubborn. I think this shows that the institutions were more concerned about being the best rather than doing something that would be beneficial for a large number of people.

Jasmine Williams

Jaleelah Muhammad said...

What I found interesting and somewhat of a shame is how bad the meeting went on page 274 in June 2000. "The meeting was tense, disjointed, and plagued by misunderstanding" (Worth 274). They couldn't even put aside their differences in the name of science and discovery. Something incredibly game changing could have been created; instead it became a missed opportunity.

J'kolbe Kelly said...

What caught my attention about the rivalry is its origins with Carnegie and Rockefeller."There was a catch: the astronomers at Carnegie Institution were the only ones in the world with the expertise to build the new telescope, but Rockefeller would not fund his rivals old charity(271)." I just think its these big name money rivals carried their dispute onto a field of science ultimately holding it back

JaLeah M . said...

At the point where the text reads, "When you look back on that moment what a tragedy. With a few phone calls and a bit of diplomacy we could have brought Carnegie in and we'd probably have a telescope by now" (274). I think it was important that this point was realized but at the same time it is unfortunate it wasn't not recognized earlier. It seems as if this rivalry is filled with stubborn people whom hold a lot of pride. This situation also sheds light on the importance of communication skills in everyday life. Without all of the misunderstandings and discrepancies the telescope very well would have been built faster.

Kyla Tinsley said...

The fact that there are rivalries about building a telescope amuses me, but the fact that the astronomers act in such a childish way is concerning. "Garth Illingworth, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, says there remained “just enough residual resentment and unhappiness” from the old rivalry to derail a constructive conversation. “You just think, jeez, why wasn't there a little adult supervision in the room to help these folks to get over this?” he adds. (274)" They couldn't overcome their pettiness in order to have a conversation, and this makes me think that they care more about themselves and their pride than for the good of astronomy.

-Kyla T.

Jordan R. said...

What caught my attention was how such a grand rivalry set back the making of a telescope that could have been made sooner, "'When you look back on that moment--what a tragedy,' he says 'With a few phone calls and a bit of diplomacy, we could have). This statement jsut goes to show that in the mist of greatness, or any situation, it would be significant to put pride aside and take into consideration all possible outcomes.

Zaria Whitlock said...

While reading "Telescope Wars" by Katie Worth I found the most important lines to be the final lines of the short story. Worth states that have too many telescopes in the world is not really a problem and ends by quoting McCray who states, "If this situation is a tragedy, it's a tragedy with a small t" (Worth p. 279). This line by McCray is an important message because it concludes the fact that although this may be an expensive endeavor it will definitely be a worth while endeavor. One in which scientist will have the opportunity to learn more about the vast world outside of what we are accustomed to experiencing.


Zaria W.

Sierra Taylor said...

What caught my attention was the beginning of the passage on page 276 where the text says, "Rivalry is hardly rare in science: brilliant minds are often accompanied by big egos with a penchant for clashing. Sometimes feuds can yield innovation; other times they can turn the high-minded pursuit of discovery into a series of petty personal conflicts." It's ironic because one would think that these astronomers are too smart to bother with petty conflict. It reinforces the fact that smart people are indeed human regardless of their IQ. It's more beneficial for these brilliant minds to come together than to argue over who is right.

Anonymous said...

The point concerning the rivalry that caught your attention was this quote."Both Wendy Freedman, who would later become director of the Carnegie Observatories, and Richard Ellis, now a senior scientist at the ESO, who was then on the verge of replacing Sargent as Caltech's Palomar Observatory director, spoke to all four men immediately after the meeting and heard a different story from each: Dressler felt that the Caltech men were not taking Carnegie's proposal seriously, whereas Tombrello mistakenly believed that Carnegie did not have serious money to contribute" (274). This passage was notable because of conversations about partnerships sometimes result in a terrible discussion.
-Aleeya B.

Deborrah B. said...

On page 274 Richard Ellis says, "when you look back on that moment-what a tragedy. With a few phone calls and a bit of diplomacy...we'd probably have a telescope by now." This quote caught my attention because at this point it was clear that both institutions needed to work together to get what they wanted but their rivalry prevented them from making any progress. It's kind of sad how people's egos and misunderstanding can ruin something that would be so important for the scientific community.
Deborrah B.

Brandy Collier said...

What caught my attention in this article was on page 275 where the author spoke about the competition of both companies to get funds for their projects, "The three projects scoured the globe for financing, sometimes searching in the same places" (275). This caught my attention because there really didn't have to be competition to get money from the same people for individual projects if they would have worked together for one big project.

-Brandy Collier

Jazmyn Maggitt said...

"The most sought-after partner was the U.S. government, which could open its strongbox of federal funding to finance a giant telescope" (275). This really interesting to me because there are several other countries out there that have the same amount if not more money than he US government that they could use as a partner. I don't know if the other countries would have just taken over the project instead of making it a partnership and if that's why they wanted the US, but for the purpose of funding I found it interesting that we were the top choice.

Kelsey W said...

One thing that caught my attention was on page 276 when the author said that brilliant minds often have big egos as well. These people were so intelligent and could have gotten the biggest telescope built much sooner and probably rather quickly had they been able to work together. None of them wanted to share their success with the other though. This just goes to show that when people work together for the purpose of the greater community and world in this case, a lot more will get done instead of when people are being sort of selfish.

Sydney Oats said...

"Rivalry is hardly rare in science: brilliant minds are often accompanied by big egos with a penchant for clashing." Even People with high IQ's and multiple degrees can have their judgment clouded by avoidable disagreements. This short story was interesting to look into the scientist as more of an average person who fall to things such as arguing over who is right based on ego.

Alexis Acoff said...

On page 273 in the section titled "Conflicting Designs, it is not a surprise that each person was wanting to make the larger design for their project. However, it seemed like the scientists were biting off more than they could chew. It's one thing to gradually increase the size of the telescope. But to go from 6.5 meters to 30 meters is a large jump. I also read that it was idea to have two large telescopes within 2 miles of each other, which clearly shows the competition between the two.

Andre Valentine said...

It is sad to think that because of one meeting a huge chance for discovery was left behind. On page 274 it states " With a few phone calls and a bit of diplomacy, we could have brought Carnegie in." The telescope could have been made years ago and we might know so much more about the universe. However a couple of petty disputes ruined it for all of us.


-Andre Valentine

Aja J said...

One point concerning the rivalry I found interesting was how serious they took the matter, especially since it sounded like it would be an amazing feat for everyone. “he fragile relationship between the institutions inevitably spilled into science,” (272). This sentence seems to make the relationship very forced and how it turned it a lost opportunity.

Tiera Williams said...

The rivalry in general was unbelievable. After reading the thing most notable to me was how so many decisions regarding the production of telescopes were based on rivalries. On page 271 the text states, "The story begins in 1917." It goes on to state, "In 1928 Rockefeller personally approved Hale's 200-inch telescope, eventually providing it with a $6 million grant- at the time, the largest sum ever donated to a scientific project. There was a catch: the astronomers at the Carnegie Institution were the only ones in the world with the expertise to build the new telescope, but Rockefeller would not fund his old rival's charity." This is notable because it seems apparent that rivalries and disagreements is a part of telescope development.

Tiera W.

De'Abrion Joyner said...

There were two things about the rivalry that caught my attention, one being that there is a rivalry in the first place. I can see how you would want to come up with things on your own but to further progress I think its just logical to put your differences aside and make it work. The other thing is on page 272 they talk a lot about how they just couldn't get along and how the feud between Caltech and Carnegie was getting to "junior high pettiness". This was pretty funny to me because I can see adults really fighting over bragging rights at the end of the day.

De'Abrion Joyner

Kenisha Townsend said...

One point concerning the rivalry that I found quite interesting was how scientists from Caltech and Carnegie couldn't look over their differences to collaborate on a scientific invention. The text states, "With a few phone calls and a bit of diplomacy, we could have brought Carnegie in. And had we brought them in, we'd probably have a telescope by now" (p.274).It seems as though the two charities were both prideful and wanted to be known for the invention of the new telescope by themselves to make new discoveries. They were selfish, and weren't looking forward to broadening the scope of science as much as they were in being known for designing the telescope. They both behaved as children at the meeting also in how they didn't use their words to communicate. Therefore, I agree with Ellis. There is a high possibility communication could have fixed the problem.

Donovan Washington said...

After reading the article one thing that caught my eye was when the author spoke about W. Patrick McCray's book titled "Giant Telescopes" stating, "What is striking about the enmity between Caltech and Carnegie is it longevity: they have been bickering over large telescopes since 1928" (Worth 276). This caught my eye because we are on the cusp of this bickering lasting an entire century. I am surprised that the Caltech and Carnegie have still not been able to come together after all this time.

Paris Smith said...

What caught my attention was "When you look back on that moment what a tragedy. With a few phone calls and a bit of diplomacy we could have brought Carnegie in and we'd probably have a telescope by now" (274). It just reminded me about how pride can stand in the way of incredible things. Everyone wants to be the hero and have their names in lights and have all the fame, but everyone needs help along the way. Just let go of your pride and do something that benefits not only yourselves but the world. Who knows what ideas and inventions could have been made if people just let go of their pride and get the job done.

Jeremiah Terrell said...

"With a few phone calls and a bit of diplomacy, we could have brought Carnegie in. And had we brought we brought them in, we'd probably have a telescope by now" (274).Its unfortunate that ego and pettiness can get in the way of us accomplishing major goals when both parties know it would be beneficial to collaborate.

Jeremiah Terrell said...

"With a few phone calls and a bit of diplomacy, we could have brought Carnegie in. And had we brought we brought them in, we'd probably have a telescope by now" (274).Its unfortunate that ego and pettiness can get in the way of us accomplishing major goals when both parties know it would be beneficial to collaborate.

Crystal Rice said...

The part that caught my attention was when the passage says, "The fragile relationship between the institutions inevitably spilled into science, especally...astronomer Maarten Schmidt," (272). This goes to show hoe much of a competition it was to them and how they ultimately let their pride and determination to win, along with egos as I later read on page 276 when the author stated "brilliant minds are often accompanied by big egos with a penchant for clashing. Sometimes feuds can yield innovation." This can ultimately make something that could have been finished/accomplished in a short period of time take much longer to finish.

Crystal R.

Jasmin Smoot said...

Reading this passage made me laugh a bit. It is amusing to see that some of the most successful people can be just as petty as the people we make fun of on reality shows or silly videos we find on social media. On page 272, the author mentioned how Rockefeller did not want to help fund the project for a major scientific breakthrough because he did not like Andrew Carnegie.

Nia Piggott said...

After reading the article the point that stood out to me concerning the rivalry was on page 273 where it states “Carnegie was just completing these telescope in 1999 when Caltech in the University of California announce their intake is ability 30 meter telescope. The ESO and intergovernmental organization of astronomers throughout Europe was already torn was up and even more ambitious a 100 m overwhelmingly large telescope.” This point stood out to me because I found it interesting how they were creating separate telescopes that out did each other instead of working together. The cost of creating 3 designs could have been used to create one effective and cost efficient telescope. The article furthered the idea of how division can cause something to fail.

Kaelyn Blunt said...

This passage had sort of a different feeling than the other ones. More light-hearted as it was mostly about them debating what to do rather than existential problems. The part that stuck out to me was “it would be kind of crazy to have to giant telescopes centered on two institutions within 2 miles of each other” (273). This stuck out to me because it was refreshing to see two people agree on that point rather than actually doing separate things because it is well known how much ego’s can affect one’s logic. Kudos to them.

Brianna Reed said...

I've been told to always keep personal matters out of business because of the complexity it adds This entire chapter demonstrates just how poorly the process of trying to get business done while being immature and petty can go. Things could have gone a lot smoother and probably much faster if pride, egos, rivalry, and hurt feelings were cast aside. A quote that I felt captured that point perfectly on page 276 reads" Rivalry is hardly rare in science: brilliant minds are often accompanied by big egos with a penchant for clashing.Sometimes feuds can yield innovation...". I feel that the people who are considered to be the best and the brightest are expected to be above acting this way, but they are only human just like everyone else.

Joshua Jones said...

On page 274, when they say, that "by all accounts, that discussion went terribly. The meeting was tense, disjointed, and plagued by misunderstanding." The meeting was meant to be constructive but instead became this augment to the problem and I found it ironic. The entire disagreement happened because of a misunderstanding of funds, when they had the funds to do so. Misunderstandings happen all of the time and such big corporations and companies have the same problems as regular people.


-Josh J.

Mike Dade said...

I found this passage particularly funny. At the beginning of the passage on page 276, the text says, "Rivalry is hardly rare in science: brilliant minds are often accompanied by big egos with a penchant for clashing. Sometimes feuds can yield innovation; other times they can turn the high-minded pursuit of discovery into a series of petty personal conflicts." This really stood out to me cause I felt that such intelligent people would never bother with such narrow-minded disputes. You'd think they'd put their minds together to come up with something great, but it seems that people's greed and selfishness can still get in the way of the bigger picture, regardless of their level of intellect.

Brandon Nichols said...

No matter how successful one becomes, they are still susceptible to childish behaviors. On page 274, Richard Ellis says "When you look back at the moment- what a tragedy. With a few phone calls and a bit of diplomacy , we could have brought Carnegie in". Some people really just want to have credit to themselves over sharing. They went with their ego over their desire for knowledge, and as a result has set us back a few years. Very sad to see that.

Brandon N.

Jazsmine Towner said...

The part that caught my attention was when Worth said: "Rivalry is hardly rare in science: brilliant minds are often accompanied by big egos with a penchant for clashing" (Worth 276). This was eye-catching because I understand the aspect of competition and wanting to be the best, but what bothers me is the need and greed for wanting to be the best overrules the greater good: to make the world a better place, and in this aspect that means making a bigger and better telescope. I understand the need for competition in any field, but I think the world would be a better place if humans didn't go head to head with one another. I believe those scientists should all get together and contribute their brilliant ideas and make the best telescope possible so that they can make a great contribution to society.
-Jazsmine Towner

Aliyah Johnson said...

I find it unusual that there are rivals in the world of science when the common goal for any of the parties should be scientific expansion and discovery. In the text it says “...the astronomers at Carnegie Institution were the only ones in the world with the expertise to build the new telescope, but Rockefeller would not fund his old rival’s charity”(271). I don’t understand why Rockefeller does not see the overall picture. If he is not good at building telescopes he should leave it up to someone that is. -Aliyah Johnson

gabby said...

This chapter was very interesting but also somewhat frustrating to read. Something that stuck out to me was on page 274, as a rivalry between people ceased a scientific discovery from happening early, it said, "The meeting was tense, disjointed, and plagued by misunderstanding” (274). Although, it is quite amusing to know that there are rivalries centered around the construction of a telescope. Their attitudes toward each other seemed quite childish and I am surprised by this pettiness!

Peyton D. said...

The part of the story that stuck out to me was on page 273-274. Caltech and Carnegie are only 2 miles apart so it would be ridiculous for both to build a giant telescope. They tried to collaborate by having 4 men meet to discuss and it ended terribly. All four had a different account of what happened. My interpretation of the meeting was the men had an inflated sense of ego and sensitive to being offended. Other scientists agree if the meeting would have gone better and people would have displayed diplomacy, the telescope would be built already. It's a shame that the ego of these intelligent and skilled men kept the world from advancing.

Zuriah Harkins said...

One thing that stood out to me was when Worth stated, “In the end, they backed neither, kicking the projects to the bottom of the priority list and effectively quashing federal funding for another 10 years” (page 276). It’s sad to know that two intelligent, talented groups let small things inhibit scientific advancements. It seems like they would have been smart enough to set their pride aside to achieve something that would have been very essential to the scientific community. Both groups wanted to have all the credit. They wanted the credentials so bad that they basically said, “Either I’m doing it or it won’t get done.” I don’t see how anyone in the science community could be okay with prolonging an achievement just because of small personal issues that they with a rival. I think it’s clear that some of the greatest achievements that we’ve had so far came from scientists working together.

-Zuriah Harkins

Anonymous said...

(Had something come up yesterday)

Its pathetic, I think. At the same time its human nature to prefer personal fame over collective advancement. 276 does a pretty good job showing it. It's very ironic that foolish stubbornness and useless feelings are keeping even the "most rational" field from innovating. But humans functionally are not rational creatures because they are polluted with excess feelings and needs that will be a crutch on productivity forever. Its disturbing to imagine the contrast between the present world and a world where we actually worked together for the sake of just liking each other.

Q. Mason

John Kriha said...

One point concerning the rivalry that caught my attention was how the scientists let petty rivalry interfere with scientific innovation. On page 276 “Rivalry is hardly rare in science….they can turn the high-minded pursuit of discovery into a series of petty personal conflicts.” This makes me wonder what other inventions fell victim to rivalry.

Tatyana Curtis said...

"There was a catch: the astronomers at Carnegie Institution were the only ones in the world with the expertise to build the new telescope, but Rockefeller would not fund his rivals old charity”(271). Stood out to me because sometimes people let there egos get in the way of doing/ making something great. If your the only one with the money and they’re the only ones with the knowledge why not combine.

Sandra Yokley said...

One point concerning the rivalry that caught my attention was how tense the process was and also the level of opposition. Page 272 speaks about the fragility of relationships and communications that exceeded beyond astronomy and astronomers. The level of frustration highlights the level of importance for science in general but also the individuals involved.

-Sandra Yokley

Breanna B. said...

"Sometimes feuds can yield innovation; other times they can turn the high-minded pursuit of discovery into a series of petty personal conflicts (page 276)." I liked this particular statement, because I have seen this in my field--chemistry. There are the practicing-chemists, students like myself, who would do anything to help their neighbor in class. Then there are the students who look to everyone else as competition. It's such a said quality to possess in such a field, a field which focuses on understanding the world around us. It should be a unified front pushing toward like goals

A. Robinson said...

A point in the passage that stuck out to me was on page 276 "Rivalry is hardly rare in science: brilliant minds are often accompanied by big egos with a penchant for clashing. Sometimes feuds can yield innovation; other times they can turn the high-minded pursuit of discovery into a series of petty personal conflicts." It stuck out because I would have never expected to see rivalry in science because everyone ultimately has the same goal. I guess it makes sense that someone still wants to win though.

Anonymous said...

p. 274 The rivalry between institutions to build the largest telescope was counterproductive, to say the least. They all had the same goal, but instead of fostering cohesiveness and working together, they bickered and none could get the funding they needed. "When you look back on the moment-- what a tragedy...had we brought them in, we'd probably have a telescope by now. This rivalry and the outcome reinforces the importance of sharing and working together. Shelby W.

Tela Medearis said...

This was such an interesting read! I thoroughly enjoyed it. The page that jumped out to me the most was on 247, “When you look back on that moment-what a tragedy. With a few phone calls and a bit of diplomacy...we'd probably have a telescope by now." It was in that moment that he realized that if they had put their rivalries and pride aside, they would have been able to build the telescope. So instead, none of their projects were able to be finished. It just goes to show that working together can be more beneficial than working alone. Having other people to rely on and to help can be important.

Fiona Hill said...

The part talking about the meeting stuck out to me the most. On page 274, they said, "By all accounts, that discussion went terribly. The meeting was tense, disjointed, and plagued by misunderstanding."The meeting/discussion made things worse when it had the potential to make everything better. Its interesting to see how big of an impact a simple misunderstanding can have.

Erica K. said...

"They couldn't overcome their pettiness in order to have a conversation, and this makes me think that they care more about themselves and their pride than for the good of astronomy" (274) this sentence stood out to me the most. It amuses me because you would think the astronausmts would all work together to accomplish something so big and that they would be so fond upon building the telescope that they didnt worry much about anything else at the moment but that wasn't the case, they worried more about competing than the actual goal at hand.

Erica K. said...

The quote thay stood out to me the most was page 274 "Its unfortunate that ego and pettiness can get in the way of us accomplishing major goals when both parties know it would be beneficial to collaborate." The fact that they were more worried about who gets it done first instead of actually building the telescope amuses me.

Marcus Barnes said...

I would definitely have to say the fact that the rivalry prevented them having the telescope when they should have had it already was something that caught the eye for me. "When you look back at that moment - what a tragedy...With a few phone calls and and a bit of diplomacy, we could have brought Carnegie in. And had we brought them in, we'd probably have a telescope by now" (274). This would annoy me and you can tell it annoys this person. Personal egos and the unwillingness for help can prevent progress and in this instance it shows. If they would have had the help, the task would have been completed earlier.

~ Marcus Barnes

Maya Searcy said...

The rivalry itself seemed petty and ridiculous. On page 271 it says"In 1928 Rockefeller personally approved Hale's 200-inch telescope, eventually providing it with a $6 million grant- at the time, the largest sum ever donated to a scientific project. There was a catch: the astronomers at the Carnegie Institution were the only ones in the world with the expertise to build the new telescope, but Rockefeller would not fund his old rival's charity." This stood out to me because they could have gotten a lot done a lot faster had they just put aside their differences. It would make more sense to give the money to the institution that would be able to use it the best and further along scientific technology. However because of a misunderstanding they were not able to.

Cheniya A. said...

While the production of the telescope was a big deal, I think that the rivalry was petty and telling. Instead of coming together and creating a revolutionary piece of technology, the astronomers would rather waste millions of dollars in a country where people are homeless. While shocking, this does not surprise me. Often times, people congratulate each other on their achievements in science, but I know that because many people work on similar projects at the same time, these accolades are a result of "beating" someone else. This is confirmed with this quote, "Rivalry is hardly rare in science: brilliant minds are often accompanied by big egos with a penchant for clashing. Sometimes feuds can yield innovation; other times they can turn the high-minded pursuit of discovery into a series of petty personal conflicts" (Worth 276).
As a student going into the STEM field, this jumped out at me because it is something I see everyday. While it would be great for everyone to do well on an exam, often times, because of competition, students will steer each other wrong to receive the highest grade.

Anonymous said...

On page 276, "Rivalry is hardly rare in science: brilliant minds are often accompanied by big egos with a penchant for clashing." In my mind, I thought that all scientists got along because at the end of the day, all that mattered was the facts that they observed. It turns out that even scientists have their moments of not focusing on solely the facts and put themselves above others.

-Marcus U