Anniversary Post: Royal Greenwich Observatory

Royal Greenwich ObservatoryOn this day way back in 1675, King Charles II ordered that the Royal Greenwich Observatory (RGO) be built. If you’ve ever wondered why we have the random Greenwich Mean Time, it is thanks to this iconic observatory — the first specifically built one in Britain. It really isn’t an observatory anymore. Slowly, work at the RGO was moved to other, more appropriate locations. Since 1998, it is a museum. But what a museum! That’s my idea of a good vacation — as long as there are pubs close by.

Oh, what a long way we’ve come! Just 340 years ago we had kings who cared about theoretical and practical science. And now here in the United States, we have a major political party for whom science is but a play thing to be used when it furthers its ideological goals but mostly just ignored and treated with derision. A civilization cannot long flourish when half of its people look down on the smart people “who think they’re better than us.” I’ve written about that before.

But it is nice to look back on a time when the power elite of the world weren’t quite so evil and parochial as we are here in the United States. I often wonder: would we be worse off with crazy King George III or with “reasonable” Republicans like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and John Kasich? It probably would be the same. It doesn’t matter if a leader is insane or he simply thinks he must pretend to be to maintain power to do what he sees as his most important work: taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich.

Happy anniversary Royal Greenwich Observatory!

20 thoughts on “Anniversary Post: Royal Greenwich Observatory

  1. This is why we need to go on vacation together. My list of museums to see is like ten miles long.

    And I don’t spend hours examining every placard until the person I am with is trying to physically drag me out of the room.

    • That would be a problem I’m afraid. You should come to San Francisco. We can go to the De Young, and you will see that I want to spend about 10 hours longer there than you — but only if we went on a Friday when it is open 11 hours. But I’ll admit that I’m not as much that way in science museums.

        • It’s so gorgeous, like New York. And, like New York, it’s so damn expensive and getting around with a rental car so impossible that unless you’re visiting someone with sofa space, vacationing there would be borderline nuts.

          True story. I was on a container ship for a month. And the officers were the biggest bunch of intolerant bigots imaginable; “San Francisco” was an all-purpose slur meaning “gay.” Even so, the boat sailed into Oakland at night and every single officer went out to the bridge catwalk to see San Francisco and how beautiful a town it is. It’s that lovely.

          Personally I liked the train tunnel that went under the water! But I love stuff like that.

          • I have been to San Francisco before. Once for the Young Democrats 2005 convention and a couple of times to visit a different Frank who used to tell me I would be pretty if I lost weight. He, oddly enough, was the reason I stopped thinking I was a horrible human unworthy of life so it wasn’t all bad.

            But because of that, I have seen almost everything I want to see in San Francisco. Well except for the The Room tour.

          • It is gorgeous. I remember flying out at night when I was much younger. But if you love the BART tunnel, I have to question your judgement. But it’s probably just me. I’m so used to it that it is just that very loud, very humid part of the ride.

            Oh, the new part of the Bay Bridge is really beautiful too. And the new light thing is now supposedly permanent:

            • Well I was 14 when I rode the BART and had never been to a city bigger than Portland before, so I was pretty much impressed by everything.

              That bridge thing is cool. I wonder if they can program it to read “Go Giants!” But then I guess A’s fans would get annoyed.

              • You know, despite the whole “battle of the bay” stuff, I don’t find that fans hate the other team. They are like I am in the Democratic primary. I’m a clear partisan, but I like both sides. That doesn’t seem to be as true with the 49ers and the Raiders, but I think that’s because of the Raiders being moved around a lot.

                • Not that’d I’d know, but I can imagine why that would be. Oakland fans I’ve run into online are much quirkier than the average “yr teem sux” numbskull, while Giants fans are a little more down-to-earth than the average San Fran hipster yuppie. So I can see them sharing a lot in common.

                  • That could be it. I know there is some playful razzing that goes on. But in a lot of ways, the Bay Area is more parochial than other city areas; there’s more a sense of being all together. There is also the fact that the teams have independent ups and downs, so there is twice the chance of rooting for a winning team. There was one year when the two of them were in the World Series together. I only know because my brother-in-law has a poster of it. I would count him as a Giants fan who likes the As just fine.

                    • 1989. Year of the big quake. Happened right before a World Series game at Candlestick.

                      I remember because I remember telling my various high-school teachers I was too concerned about the victims to finish my homework. Most didn’t care about this lie. The brightest one assigned me a makeup essay in French on how that tragedy made me concerned about others. Of course it was out of my vocabulary league.

                    • Really?! The guy I worked for at that time was at that game with his son. I didn’t realize it was against the As. I mostly remember him telling about the clever way he managed to make it out of the city. Well, he thought it was clever; I don’t remember what it was. If it weren’t for the collapse of the freeway, that would have been an amazingly benign earthquake.

                    • Apparently God doesn’t want the A’s and Giants to meet in the World Series, but He is a little more feeble these days. Once upon a time, He would have just smote that whole region off the map, but now He jiggles the continental plates and “calls home” people crushed by the rubble.

                      What a dick that person was! “I’m so clever, I can respond to situations which stress out millions of people and injure quite a few by my nifty ingenuity.” Thanks for sharing, dick.

        • You do not want to go to Alcatraz! It is a really upsetting place to go. But I suppose you will not understand that until you too experience it. Really: I used to have these nightmares about hellish spaces. Alcatraz is the closest to that that I’ve ever been. Interesting though, I had a teacher who grew up there. His father was a guard, and there is a little area where the guards and their families lived. Of course, I didn’t like that teacher. I almost never liked math teachers — probably because they mostly sucked.

          How do I know you are you? Hmm… This could have all been a ploy to assassinate me…

          • Well you have a picture of me, you have my contact info and I hope it is obvious I am way too lazy to do an assassination.

            I want to go to Alcatraz because is scary! Heck, I want to go there at night when it is really terrifying. Then be vastly disappointed it isn’t scary and just really sad.

            • Ah yes, but maybe this is all an elaborate plot. I knew roughly what you looked like long before your article, because I researched this crazy judge who started hanging out here. But wait. I guess that does kind of make the whole conspiracy difficult. Maybe you are coming here to arrest me. How about that one?!

              Alcatraz is falling apart. But I don’t think it was much different back when it was in use. I can well see how Frank Morris and company escaped: I think I could dig through a wall with a spoon. But I think even more is the fact that, very much like Guantanamo Bay, it wasn’t filled with the worst of the worst. It was mostly filled with people who, for various reasons, didn’t get on well at other prisons. So you have Al Capone, whose time there was uneventful. And you have the Morris escape. And not much else. But it is probably more interesting for people who didn’t grow up here.

              • Arresting powers are held by the executive branch. So nope! Try again. It could just be that I think I will enjoy your company even if you will tell me constantly “slow the fuck down Elizabeth, this isn’t a race.”

                To me Alcatraz is now solely about the ghosts that haunt the place. And really, when you grow up around a tourist spot you don’t get why everyone else is interested. I still don’t see how the Grand Canyon is anything more than a well decorated hole in the ground.

                • Like you couldn’t be deep undercover for the FBI!

                  The only truly iconic thing in SF is the Golden Gate Bridge. And unlike the Statue of Liberty, it isn’t something the locals can avoid — especially locals like me who bounce between the north and south bay. Overall, I’m rather fond of San Francisco as a tourist destination. It isn’t tacky — maybe because Trump has stayed away.

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