Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Science and politics never mix

Science and politics never mix…however science transcends political boundaries and ultimately prevails…but not without some intrigue. Alas, even the eclipse in 1991 had a bit of intrigue. As I designed the experiment which will image the corona in white light during the 2017 eclipse, I am reminded of a similar collection of data I took at the 1991 eclipse. My Russian colleagues were very interested in my CCD data. I offered them a disk with the images on it at our ‘after the eclipse going away party’. As we laughed and enjoyed great company amount new found friends and colleagues, one of the Russian scientists became very quiet and pensive. He was concerned about the data on the computer disk and how he would get it back to Russia. Because Russia was a communist country and all the science equipment had to be carefully accounted for and the fact that it had to go from Russia to Cuba then to Mexico for the eclipse…the data disk was not on the manifest. Going through three layers of security from Mexico to Cuba then back to Russia posed a potential security problem. If found the disk might be construed as some nefarious international spy plot. What to do? After about 3 seconds of thought the scientist said the equivalent of “the hell with it” and hid the disk deep in his duffle bag! The data and scientist did make it back to Russia and a paper was published using my data. Here’s the intro from that paper:

The full paper can be found at