Saturday, July 31, 2010

David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas -- Mauna Kea Observatory

Mauna Kea Observatories

In "Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After," the middle story of Cloud Atlas, we find the protagonist, Zachry, a tribalist on the Big I of Ha-Why (Big Island of Hawaii), accompanying the more knowledgeable 'Prescient' woman Meronym to the top of Mt. Mauna Kea, where they find the observatories of the "Old Ones," which he describes:
Describin' such Smart ain't easy. Gear there was what we ain't mem'ried on Ha-Why, so its names ain't mem'ried neither, yay, almost nothin' in there could I cogg. Shimm'rin' floors, white walls 'n'roofs, one great chamber, round'n'sunk, filled by a mighty tube wider'n a man an' longer'n five what Meronym named a radyo tel'scope what was, she said, the furthest-seein' eye Old Uns ever made. Ev'rythin' white'n'pure as Sonmi's robes, yay, not one flea o' dirt 'cept what we tromped in. Tables'n'chairs sat round waitin' for sitters on balconies made o' steel so our foots gonged. (Mitchell, Cloud Atlas, page 276)
Meronym calls that "mighty tube wider'n a man an' longer'n five . . . a radyo tel'scope," but the description of the "tube" as some 25-30 feet in length sounds more like an optical telescope to me. Is Meronym wrong, as is certainly possible, given the collapse of civilization? Or have I misunderstood something about radio telescopes?

I'm sure that there are readers who would know, and perhaps even be able to use the link to identify which of the Mauna Kea telescopes is meant, so speak up, please, in the comments.

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At 6:03 AM, Anonymous Malcolm Pollack said...

You are quite right. Radio telescopes aren't tubes.

At 6:27 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Then, I suppose Meronym's tribe has forgotten a lot about the collapsed civilization of its past . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, this all happens in a very distant future. By that time, before civilisation collapsed, it could have produced tube-shaped radio telescopes?

At 10:21 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...


Jeffery Hodges

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