Interest in Accurate Star Positions
Date: Spring 2013
Why are scientist so interested in obtaining accurate measurements of star positions? For what purpose can this information be used?
Your challenge to the purpose of accurate measurement made me think even more about the issue, which is a valid challenge.
(1) We never know what we will find out when we make a more accurate/precise measurement. That applies to any physical measurement, not just the position of star positions.
(2) For what purpose do more accurate/precise of such measurements make? Who knows! We only know when such measurements are made. Although the accurate measurements of the position of stars are specific applications, that same ?technology? applies to the measurement of electron microscopes. The list goes on and on.
We never know just where physical measurements will ?take us?.
One example, off the top of my head, is the exact position of star passing behind the Sun during an eclipse. The light from that star did not disappear and re-appear in the very exact position that it should. Its position was displaced by an amount predicted by Einstein?s theory of the bending of light by a gravitational field. Now you might respond, ?So what!? In that case there is no opportunity for discussion, because your position is already pre-determined.
My response to that position is the question, ?Of what use is a baby?? Scientists often study science without knowing just where it is going to lead. In fact, that is what science is all about. If we understood, ?For what purpose can (some scientific information) be used.? There would not be any use in doing any science.
Science is about studying the unknown.
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Update: December 2011