Rants, Raves, & Random Thoughts

Shameless self-promotion of my writing skills or lack there of.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


It’s time for another installment of The Darwin Awards.

(30 April 1987, Arizona) The Kitt Peak National Observatory, located in the desert near Tucson, is home to two dozen telescopes, including the 4-meter Mayall Telescope, once the largest in the United States. It is also the site of the only known Darwin Award involving an astronomer.

Astronomy is normally a sedate profession, mainly conducted from a computer console. But Marc, 36, took "head in the clouds" astronomy to a new level. One evening, Marc was operating the Mayall Telescope. From inside the dome, an astronomer cannot see enough sky to tell if there are cirrus clouds that will interfere with viewing. So he periodically pokes his head out a hatch below the dome, to see if the sky is still clear.

The Mayall observatory dome has an access ladder attached to the side. The ladder rotates with the dome, and is a potential hazard to things in its path. Anticipating "operator error," the builders designed the dome motor to automatically switch off if the ladder approaches the open hatch.

Observers are not supposed to open the hatch while the dome is rotating, but Marc didn't "observe" that key rule. He opened the hatch and peered out at the sky...

The momentum of the heavy dome keeps it turning for a few seconds after the motor is switched off. Long enough for the ladder to impact the outward-opening hatch. Slamming the hatch shut. Crushing the unfortunate astronomer's aspirations.
Marc continued to publish papers for several years after his death.

Asteroid 3277 is named in his honor.

Safety first, pumpkin! Now, I admit this isn’t as blaringly stupid a way to end your life as most Darwin award winners, but come on…who starts something that big turning then sticks their head out their with it.


At 6:39 AM, Blogger lime said...

one would expect a scientist to have a better grasp on momentum and such so yes, i think this qualifies quite well.

and ok, i am admitting my own brand of 'dumb' it is only today that i noticed the title of yesterday's post being 'look lime it's new' :-))

At 9:16 AM, Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

Good think he wasn't an astronaut - can you imagine? "What do I need to be tethered for?"

Duh duh duh duh...

At 9:24 AM, Blogger James Goodman said...

Not dumb, Lime. Just unobservent. Did you notice that the title was linked to your blog? :D

I'm thinking that would have made national news, Sandra. Lol, idgets in space. Hey wait--that may be the basis for one helluva story...

At 10:46 AM, Blogger lime said...

doh! blushing now. shockingly inobservant of me! i bow humbly in shame.

At 11:54 AM, Blogger James Goodman said...

lol. :P

At 10:35 AM, Blogger snavy said...

Oh my stars!!!

da dum dum

At 1:30 PM, Blogger James Goodman said...

Lol, nice pun. :D

At 12:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where did you find it? Interesting read video editing schools


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