Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Wayne Rosing came to Hilo last week to give an Astrotalk at UHH about a foundation he is funding to provide access to a global network of professional quality telescopes to everyone in the world for free. The network of telescopes include existing scopes that he bought and new scopes that he designed and are being built by his foundation.

Wayne talked about his telescope design using new materials resulting in a vastly lower cost than conventional scopes of its size. He has made the design and code open so that anyone can use his blue prints to build their own. He is building and deploying telescopes around the world that are accessible to the public for free via the internet.

His foundation acquired the 2M Faulkes Telescope on the summit of Haleakala on Maui. This scope was having operational and software problems which he invested a lot of energy and money to fix and upgrade. Now UH uses the telescope along with others around the world. Wayne talked about a group of grade school students in England that are using the telescope and how the young students figured out how to pose as teachers and operate the telescope on their own. Wayne Rosing thinks access to his telescopes will get kids excited about math and science again.
There were lots of excited college students in the audience that asked about how much time they could get on his telescopes and how to get set up.

One of the Astronomers in the audience suggested it would best for Wayne's organization to hire his graduate students to help “train” people on what to look at and how to use a telescope “properly.” Wayne’s surprising response was that people can learn themselves and they can teach themselves. “In school I could teach myself faster than any class could teach me so I sat in the back of the room with a book and learned myself.” Wayne's discussion about his self learning and contradiction with the PhD's in the room were said with great humility, not haughtiness. The response of this self-taught multi-millionaire makes more sense when you know about his incredible achievements.

Wayne has been involved in revolutionary projects for much of his career. He led the Apple Lisa project, the first commercial computer with a graphical interface launched in 1983. Then he went to Sun Microsystems and launched the SPARC workstation which made obsolete expensive minicomputers, and later he headed the effort to create the Java Web-programming language.
Wayne's interest in Astronomy led him to dedicate two years to his own astronomy projects. He built telescopes and control systems and worked on a project to survey the interstellar medium at an observatory in Chile. A corner reflector that he hand machined was put on the moon by NASA to use in measuring the Moon's orbit more precisely using laser interferometer technology.

Later Wayne joined Google to set up their Engineering department and created a corporate culture that maximized innovation and creativity. Google’s search technology provided better access to the internet for free. He became a multi-millionaire from the stock when the company went public.

Since leaving Google in 2005, Wayne Rosing has been dedicating his time and money to Astronomy. He founded Las Cumbres Observatory and Global Telescope (LCOGT) network.

LCOGT has a vision for education which is to have telescopes available 7x24 and in particular during school days. Their two 2-meter scopes have already provided over 3,500 hours of student contact time and they plan to have 70,000 dark hours per year available for education and science.

LCOGT plans to have access available to learners of all ages for free. Online self-paced “How To’s” will guide learners through the basics and teach them how to use the telescopes and software tools. Observation is via an internet browser to make it easy and accessible. Image analysis and computational tools are web-based. Novices will use the same tools as professional astronomers – nothing is dumbed down. Accounts and logons, collaboration, blogs and sharing are provided via Google Apps.

LCOGT is planning observatories around the world backed by a 140 processor supercomputer with 280 TB of storage. Two 2M telescopes in Hawaii and Australia, the existing Faulkes telescopes that LCOGT purchased, are already available. Twelve to fifteen 1M telescopes in 6 clusters of 2 to 3 scopes will form a research network. And twenty 0.4M telescopes, in clusters of 2 to 4 scopes will form a core educational network and be co-located with 1M scopes.

The plan is for hundreds of science projects and measurement opportunities to be available for learners to pursue and learn about the universe. Go to the web site it you want to sign up and view the heavens from your comfort of your couch.

Thanks to Gary Fujihara, Mr AstroDay, for inviting Wayne Rosing to come to Hilo, Hawaii and talk about his incredible project and vision.


kesha said...

The most common elaboration to this argument is that the creation of the universe violates conservation of energy. It's a well known fact of science that you can't get something from nothing.




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