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New Book: The Last Stargazers

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#76 SandyHouTex

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Posted 12 March 2021 - 11:49 AM

So I bought this book a couple of weeks ago.  It was a pretty good book until the author decided to wade into the sexism-racism pool.

 

At about mid-book, she talks about how one night when she was alone in the Keck Observer’s room, a PI for the next day walks in and asks to speak to “the PI”.  She mumbles something, and finally says that’s her.  They exchange a short pleasentry, and he leaves.  She then goes on to claim “sexism”.  Maybe, until she explains her appearance.  She is wearing yellow socks with happy faces on them (no shoes), the bottom of some flannel pajamas, a t-shirt with cartoon penquins on it, her hair is in braids, and on top, a striped wool hat.  This woman is 25 years old at the time!  If I had encountered that, I would have thought the same thing as the male visitor, and I’m a girl too.

 

I worked with PIs for 15 years of my engineering career, and none, dressed like that.  I would of thought that some 12 year old “teeny-bopper” had somehow gotten into the control room.

 

Aahh, but that’s not all, we are then told of how her boyfriend and her have agreed to a co-equal relationship.  In a book about Stargazers!  Then we get a diatribe about the lack of blacks and women in Astronomy.  Evidently it never occurs to her that maybe, just maybe, those groups have chosen not to enter the field, instead of some covert plot to keep them out.

 

How this ancillary crap was left in the book by the publisher and editor is beyond me.  I wanted to read about the people who are “The Last Stargazers”, not this socio-political junk.

 

So in the end, I did something to this book that I have never done to any of the almost 1000 books in my library.  I threw it in the trash and stopped reading it.  I will NEVER buy another book that she writes.


Edited by SandyHouTex, 12 March 2021 - 01:45 PM.

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#77 mikemarotta

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Posted 12 March 2021 - 01:01 PM

I respectively disagree - and continue to recommend this book. ....but then I *like* reading "war stories from the pros" - I can see why others might not.  ... 

 

Pro's leaving 'astronomy' for another career? I have two personal acquaintances who have done just that - or something similar. Both left a 'major' University astronomy dept - and full professorships - because of "politics", "declining funding", and fewer students. They both claim that ...

I enjoyed the first half. It just got to be cloying. And she never proved her thesis. The title of the book suggest a vanishing group. She never established that with any of her narratives. Your point on the profs who left validates her thesis, but she does not. We caution against criticizing the book that the author did not write. You are praising the bookt that the author did not write.

 

So I bought this book a couple of weeks ago.  It was a pretty good book until the author decided to wade into the sexism-racism pool.

 

...  If I had encountered that, I would have thought the same thing as the male visitor, and I’m a girl too. ... Evidently it never occurs to her that maybe, just maybe, those groups have chosen not to enter the field, instead of some covert plot to keep them out.

And there you are at the limits of discourse, in an Oort Cloud. I do agree that Levesque failed to analyze the fundamental problem with the first women astronomers to work at remote observatories. She was indignant that they were given bungalows apart from the men, but how would it have worked out for them to be dormatoried with the men? Or maybe the dozen or so men should have been crammed into a bungalow so that the woman could have the bunkhouse to herself. I mean, there was no easy solution. How about taking money from telescope operations and shutting it down for a year to build separate but equal facilities? So, I understand the premise of your complaint, but I have to disagree with the rest. It is not a controversial claim that managers hire in their own image. Gender, race, fraternity ring, Masonic lodge, whatever... The problem is universal and not unknown.

 

Levesque says that she visited some observatories as a result of her request because she was writing a book. At that point, she had already completed her doctorate and been granted the Annie Jump Cannon Award. I believe that the book was an end in itself, a project that she took on to be a bullet point on her CV. The publisher would have accepted just about anything that could sell. It has been said that every equation costs 100,000 lost sales, a mistake that Stephen Hawking made, but Leveseque (and Neil deGrasse Tyson) did not.


Edited by mikemarotta, 12 March 2021 - 01:15 PM.

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#78 brentknight

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Posted 12 March 2021 - 02:17 PM

So I bought this book a couple of weeks ago.  It was a pretty good book until the author decided to wade into the sexism-racism pool.

 

At about mid-book, she talks about how one night when she was alone in the Keck Observer’s room, a PI for the next day walks in and asks to speak to “the PI”.  She mumbles something, and finally says that’s her.  They exchange a short pleasentry, and he leaves.  She then goes on to claim “sexism”.  Maybe, until she explains her appearance.  She is wearing yellow socks with happy faces on them (no shoes), the bottom of some flannel pajamas, a t-shirt with cartoon penquins on it, her hair is in braids, and on top, a striped wool hat.  This woman is 25 years old at the time!  If I had encountered that, I would have thought the same thing as the male visitor, and I’m a girl too.

 

I worked with PIs for 15 years of my engineering career, and none, dressed like that.  I would of thought that some 12 year old “teeny-bopper” had somehow gotten into the control room.

 

Aahh, but that’s not all, we are then told of how her boyfriend and her have agreed to a co-equal relationship.  In a book about Stargazers!  Then we get a diatribe about the lack of blacks and women in Astronomy.  Evidently it never occurs to her that maybe, just maybe, those groups have chosen not to enter the field, instead of some covert plot to keep them out.

 

How this ancillary crap was left in the book by the publisher and editor is beyond me.  I wanted to read about the people who are “The Last Stargazers”, not this socio-political junk.

 

So in the end, I did something to this book that I have never done to any of the almost 1000 books in my library.  I threw it in the trash and stopped reading it.  I will NEVER buy another book that she writes.

Perhaps we are living in an age where that "junk" will always be with us.

 

I actually believe that a book about the people should include some social commentary - regardless of our personal beliefs or feelings about it.  But I did not feel that this book was dominated by those attitudes in any way.


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#79 sanbai

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Posted 12 March 2021 - 05:55 PM

I also don't believe this book was dominated by such chapter. It portrays an era. We may like it or not, but the past sometimes has things that don't pass well current or future standards, even if it was normal back then. Some thighs haven't changed at a pace one would like. The standard can change faster than the natural human bias.

The chapter could have been omitted, but it's not inappropriate, and it's not overly activist or political. It's closer to the fact than to the opinion.

I dind't have the impression the scene of the control room was for her an obvious case of sexism, and certainly not an accusation. It just fueled some thoughts for her. I can understand how she was dressed, alone, in a small room, in long tiring night. It was not a meeting during business hours. One could argue well that wearing business clothes would be inappropriate, definitely not practical. May be in the future we will go to work in pajamas!

Personally I think it's a lost for the humans that not everybody can achieve the same degrees of education/position. How many Einstein or Mozart-like people have beenn missed due to lack of opportunities? This does not benefit us as a society, rather the contrary. It's difficult to me to think that a group of people can have a natural dislike for Astronomy due to some corporal característic.

Further that that, I respect all educated opinions.

Regarding the "last stargazers", yes, the job has changed a lot. As the book depicts, the level of effort required for past astronomers during their observations makes it in today's view an epic one.
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#80 bobzeq25

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Posted 01 June 2021 - 10:38 AM

Absolutely loved the book.  Start to finish.  She's a professional astronomer whose enthusiasm places her at the high end of the scale for any astronomer, professional or amateur.  The language is a bit unpolished in places, that made it more human.  And it certainly is that.  The material that is relevant to today's society did that also.   The struggles of female astronomers to get to be either observers or principle investigators have been very real.  As has been the theft of their work by males in higher jobs.

 

I also recommend the movie "Hidden Figures" about the struggles of women scientists of color in NASA.  The scene where the boss physically tears down the sign over the restroom, so they no longer have to run blocks to get to a restroom while working, is a truly heartwarming moment.  93% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, both professional reviewers and  audience.

 

https://en.wikipedia.../Hidden_Figures

 

One thing I found interesting.  She's an accomplished astronomer, who's spent time in a number of observatories.  Sometimes up at the prime focus end.  And she could find no professional observatory who would let her revisit prime focus (at least on a major scope).  It appears astronomers don't do that any more.  Just the technicians.  I understand that, in many cases astronomers don't even go to the observatory.  Make a proposal, submit an observing plan over the Internet, get their data back the same way.

 

Hence, the title.


Edited by bobzeq25, 01 June 2021 - 10:52 AM.

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#81 erin

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Posted 02 June 2021 - 09:10 AM

Absolutely loved the book.  Start to finish.  She's a professional astronomer whose enthusiasm places her at the high end of the scale for any astronomer, professional or amateur.  The language is a bit unpolished in places, that made it more human.  And it certainly is that.  The material that is relevant to today's society did that also.   The struggles of female astronomers to get to be either observers or principle investigators have been very real.  As has been the theft of their work by males in higher jobs.

 

I also recommend the movie "Hidden Figures" about the struggles of women scientists of color in NASA.  The scene where the boss physically tears down the sign over the restroom, so they no longer have to run blocks to get to a restroom while working, is a truly heartwarming moment.  93% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, both professional reviewers and  audience.

 

https://en.wikipedia.../Hidden_Figures

 

One thing I found interesting.  She's an accomplished astronomer, who's spent time in a number of observatories.  Sometimes up at the prime focus end.  And she could find no professional observatory who would let her revisit prime focus (at least on a major scope).  It appears astronomers don't do that any more.  Just the technicians.  I understand that, in many cases astronomers don't even go to the observatory.  Make a proposal, submit an observing plan over the Internet, get their data back the same way.

 

Hence, the title.

I couldn’t agree more with your well-written assessment of the book. Thanks for posting! waytogo.gif


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#82 SandyHouTex

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Posted 02 June 2021 - 06:34 PM

If you want to read a really excellent book about "stargazers", get this one.  First Light", by Richard Preston.  It's actually about astronomers, with their observations and struggles to get the "big" telescopes to do what the want them to do.  No socio-political non-sense.

 

Light years (pun intended) ahead of the book being discussed in this thread.



#83 desertstars

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Posted 02 June 2021 - 08:00 PM

Absolutely loved the book.  Start to finish.  She's a professional astronomer whose enthusiasm places her at the high end of the scale for any astronomer, professional or amateur.  The language is a bit unpolished in places, that made it more human.  And it certainly is that.  The material that is relevant to today's society did that also.   The struggles of female astronomers to get to be either observers or principle investigators have been very real.  As has been the theft of their work by males in higher jobs.

 

I also recommend the movie "Hidden Figures" about the struggles of women scientists of color in NASA.  The scene where the boss physically tears down the sign over the restroom, so they no longer have to run blocks to get to a restroom while working, is a truly heartwarming moment.  93% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, both professional reviewers and  audience.

 

https://en.wikipedia.../Hidden_Figures

 

One thing I found interesting.  She's an accomplished astronomer, who's spent time in a number of observatories.  Sometimes up at the prime focus end.  And she could find no professional observatory who would let her revisit prime focus (at least on a major scope).  It appears astronomers don't do that any more.  Just the technicians.  I understand that, in many cases astronomers don't even go to the observatory.  Make a proposal, submit an observing plan over the Internet, get their data back the same way.

 

Hence, the title.

Agree with the above completely.

 

For me, this book now has quite a track record. I have yet to recommend it to someone who didn't thoroughly enjoy reading it. But I'd expect that of a book with 96% of its ratings on Amazon either 4 or 5 stars.


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#84 erin

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Posted 03 June 2021 - 03:41 PM

If you want to read a really excellent book about "stargazers", get this one.  First Light", by Richard Preston.  It's actually about astronomers, with their observations and struggles to get the "big" telescopes to do what the want them to do.  No socio-political non-sense.

 

Light years (pun intended) ahead of the book being discussed in this thread.

Except that the “socio-political non-sense” you refer to is something people, especially women and minorities in this field, really experience. I wish it wasn’t part of the history of astronomy, but it is. We need to know so we can do better even when it makes us uncomfortable.


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#85 bobzeq25

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Posted 03 June 2021 - 04:26 PM

Except that the “socio-political non-sense” you refer to is something people, especially women and minorities in this field, really experience. I wish it wasn’t part of the history of astronomy, but it is. We need to know so we can do better even when it makes us uncomfortable.

Completely agree.  This is not a case of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".  It's broke.

 

In fairness, that other book also looks good.


Edited by bobzeq25, 03 June 2021 - 04:27 PM.

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#86 erin

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Posted 03 June 2021 - 04:29 PM

Excellent…another one to add to my list!



#87 SandyHouTex

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Posted 03 June 2021 - 05:13 PM

Except that the “socio-political non-sense” you refer to is something people, especially women and minorities in this field, really experience. I wish it wasn’t part of the history of astronomy, but it is. We need to know so we can do better even when it makes us uncomfortable.

It shouldn't be in a book that is supposed to be about astronomers and their attempt to solve the riddles of the universe.



#88 erin

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Posted 03 June 2021 - 06:15 PM

We’ll have to agree to disagree on that one, as I do believe there is value in addressing sexism/racism so that everyone may participate in solving the universe’s riddles without that unpleasantness. Thanks for the book recommendation waytogo.gif


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#89 awitze

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Posted 03 June 2021 - 07:27 PM

We’ll have to agree to disagree on that one, as I do believe there is value in addressing sexism/racism so that everyone may participate in solving the universe’s riddles without that unpleasantness. Thanks for the book recommendation waytogo.gif

Thanks, Erin, for the posting. This is all about everyone having access to the ability to study the wonders of the universe.


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#90 hdavid

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Posted 04 June 2021 - 06:49 AM

It shouldn't be in a book that is supposed to be about astronomers and their attempt to solve the riddles of the universe.

Why not?  Why some stargazers continue to ignore opportunity and access issues is certainly one of the riddles of the universe.

 

Those who don't think there's a problem are usually the problem.


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#91 spereira

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Posted 04 June 2021 - 07:45 AM

Folks, this topic is here for posting reviews/opinions of the subject book.

It is clear that we have some differing opinions - but that does not invalidate anyone's opinion.

Let's please agree that there are different opinions about the book, and not continue arguing about those opinions.

 

smp



#92 brentknight

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Posted 05 June 2021 - 05:14 PM

I have both books, and they are both well worth the read. First Light is quite old now though, and I think that one is more of a history of how astronomy used to be done. I don't believe any astronomer could get "200 inches on Venus" these days...


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#93 ETXer

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Posted 06 June 2021 - 11:57 AM

I'm nearly done with this book (I'm in the chapter about targets of opportunity) and have found it truly enjoyable. I like its relatively easy-going, matter-of-fact style that's just technical enough without being overbearing. I also find it satisfying my curiosity on the day-in-the-life events of a typical professional astronomer's work.

 

I'm a recently retired airline pilot (Air Force before that) and I wish someone could write an equally-treated book as Dr. Levesque does that could accurately tell not only the real-life stories (as opposed to what's depicted in Hollywood or fictional novels), but also acknowledges the issues that face my profession, that as it turns out, are much the same that Emily Levesque details in her book about professional astronomers.

 

Cheers, Allan


Edited by ETXer, 06 June 2021 - 07:03 PM.

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#94 BFaucett

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Posted 06 June 2021 - 03:56 PM

I'm nearly done with this book (I'm in the chapter about targets of opportunity) and have found it truly enjoyable. I like its relatively easy-going, matter-of-fact style that's just technical enough without being overbearing. I also find it satisfying my curiosity on the day-in-the-life events of a typical professional astronomer's work.

...

 

Cheers, Allan

 

Allan,

 

I think you might find my thread about Dr. Becky's YouTube channel to be of interest. She has some "in the life of an astronomer" videos on her channel that I found interesting.

 

https://www.cloudyni...outube-channel/

 

Cheers! Bob F. smile.gif


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#95 Larry Mc

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Posted 21 July 2021 - 11:39 PM

Just finished reading "The Last Stargazers" by Emily Levesque. Thought it was a great read. I also liked how she tied the LIGO gravitational wave story across multiple chapters.

 

Her progression of 'stories' highlight how professional observational astronomy has dramatically changed over the past 75 to 100 years. From 'classical' hands-on where you loaded plate film and spent the night guiding the telescope hoping to get an image to today's automated, remote-controlled, get your results delivered via email to your kitchen table, future-is-now type of astronomy. I think her title hit the nail on the head, we really are living thru the end of an era, the final years of old-school professional observational astronomy. Once the really 'Big Data' automated monster telescopes comes online over the next few years, there probably wont be much of a need for the observing astronomer. Nor do I imagine that the next generation of professionals will have as many interesting stories that Emily and others have documented in their books. 

 

So for me, this book is definitely a keeper!  Just need to figure-out how to shoe-horn it into my bookcase,,,,, LOL

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#96 SandyHouTex

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Posted 22 July 2021 - 11:46 AM

Allan,

 

I think you might find my thread about Dr. Becky's YouTube channel to be of interest. She has some "in the life of an astronomer" videos on her channel that I found interesting.

 

https://www.cloudyni...outube-channel/

 

Cheers! Bob F. smile.gif

I think I'll take a hard pass on that.


Edited by SandyHouTex, 22 July 2021 - 11:47 AM.


#97 brentknight

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Posted 22 July 2021 - 03:44 PM

Just finished reading "The Last Stargazers" by Emily Levesque. Thought it was a great read. I also liked how she tied the LIGO gravitational wave story across multiple chapters.

 

Her progression of 'stories' highlight how professional observational astronomy has dramatically changed over the past 75 to 100 years. From 'classical' hands-on where you loaded plate film and spent the night guiding the telescope hoping to get an image to today's automated, remote-controlled, get your results delivered via email to your kitchen table, future-is-now type of astronomy. I think her title hit the nail on the head, we really are living thru the end of an era, the final years of old-school professional observational astronomy. Once the really 'Big Data' automated monster telescopes comes online over the next few years, there probably wont be much of a need for the observing astronomer. Nor do I imagine that the next generation of professionals will have as many interesting stories that Emily and others have documented in their books. 

 

So for me, this book is definitely a keeper!  Just need to figure-out how to shoe-horn it into my bookcase,,,,, LOL

That's a nice problem to have...



#98 Szumi

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Posted 22 July 2021 - 04:30 PM

If you want to read a really excellent book about "stargazers", get this one.  First Light", by Richard Preston.  It's actually about astronomers, with their observations and struggles to get the "big" telescopes to do what the want them to do.  No socio-political non-sense.

 

Light years (pun intended) ahead of the book being discussed in this thread.

I enjoyed the book in this thread.  It was a fun read. 

 

I hope I like the one you suggested as much, I ordered the Kindle version.


Edited by Szumi, 22 July 2021 - 04:34 PM.



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