Monday, 18 June 2007

MAD SCIENTISTS - smile for the camera


COMET man Rodney Austin never assumes we are alone in the universe – and he’s extra polite just in case.
“When I go out there and set up my telescope, I always give the sky a wave because you never know who might be waving a friendly tentacle back,” the New Zealand astronomer says.
There are 236 other named planets around other stars and billions of galaxies in the universe. “There have to be planets that have life,” he says.
“Astronomy is full of nuts.”
The one the 62-year-old Taranaki man believes is most worthy of the mad scientist mantle is American astronomer and mathematician Percival Lowell (1855-1916).
While earlier stargazers claimed they could see canals on Mars, Lowell took it a step further, claiming they were irrigation channels (above) built by an intelligent life form.
“He even came up with a method to communicate with the Martians,” Austin says.
Despite being an eccentric, the scientist founded the Lowell Observatory on Mars Hill in Flagstaff, Arizona, and led the search for the ninth planet.
But he never saw the discovery of Pluto, because he died 14 years before it was spotted in 1930. Last year, Pluto lost its planet ranking, when it was officially re-classified as a dwarf planet.

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