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Norman Sperling
2625 Alcatraz Avenue #235
Berkeley, CA 94705-2702

cellphone 650 - 200 - 9211
eMail normsperling [at] gmail.com

Welcome

Welcome to "Everything in the Universe", my blog on Science, Nature, and the Public. I often explore their intertwinings. New posts should appear
roughly weekly, so if you want to check regularly for new items, every Monday or Tuesday you ought to find something.

I don't try to be literary, but I do think before I write, and write only when I have something to say. When news spurs a reaction, mine aren't the
fastest knee-jerk comments, they're more often a considered reflection.

Some entries are full-blown essays, others are ideas that can be presented briefly. I don't yak and I don't blather. When I don't have anything to
say, I don't say it. If my message needs 2 paragraphs, you don’t have to slog through 10 paragraphs to get to it. I try to get things right.

Please also enjoy my previously-published articles posted here.

Comments and suggestions are welcome: eMail me at normsperling [at] gmail.com. I read them all, but don't always post them. To prevent descent into
harsh put-downs, political stabbings, rancor, advertising, and irrelevancy, I squelch those.

Norm Sperling’s Great Science Trek: 2014

San Luis Obispo
Santa Barbara
Palm Springs
Death Valley
Tucson
El Paso
Corpus Christi
Baton Rouge
Tampa
Everglades
Key West
Winter Star Party, Scout Key
Miami

MARCH 2014:
up the Eastern seaboard
mid-South

APRIL 2014:
near I-40, I-30, and I-20 westbound

MAY 2014:
near US-101 northbound
May 17-18: Maker Faire, San Mateo
May 23-26: BayCon, Santa Clara

California till midJune

JUNE 2014:
Pacific Northwest

JULY 2014:
Western Canada, eastbound

AUGUST 2014:
near the US/Can border, westbound
August 22-on: UC Berkeley

Speaking engagements welcome!
2014 and 2015 itineraries will probably cross several times.

**DRAFT** for Bright-Eye Manual

The Kickstarter campaign for this project ended May 23, 2016, but the site plays on: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1592946658/bright-eye-telescopes. To order now (at the same prices), eMail normsperling@gmail.com .
Bright–Eye™

Between You
and the
Universe

© Norman Sperling
co-designer and producer

2625 Alcatraz Ave. #235, Berkeley, CA 94705 USA
Congratulations! You just launched on the easiest and fastest route to the stars! Bright–Eye sets up the fastest and lets you find targets the fastest of any newcomer’s telescope. It shows you the widest, richest, most contrasty view. Bright–Eye is compact, portable, rugged ... and cute.

SAFETY FIRST: DON’T LOOK AT THE SUN!

Even without magnifying, the Sun is painfully bright. Collecting more light makes it so intense that you can permanently burn out your retina in a fraction of a second – faster than you can flinch. That hole in your vision will be permanent; the retina never grows back. If you point your scope at the Sun, even if you aren’t looking through it, concentrated sunlight can melt plastic, and quickly set fire to whatever wanders into its line of sight, such as your shirt or your hair. For telescope users, the Sun is a “no-go zone”.

OUT OF THE BOX

Bright–Eye is custom-molded from thick, tough ABS terpolymer. Each individual shell has its own unique color pattern. The shell has 3 distinct zones: \\illustrate\\
* The sphere is 10 inches (254 mm) in diameter. It is the telescope’s mounting.
* The cylinder is 6 inches (152 mm) in diameter. It keeps the window, mirrors, and eyepiece all in their proper positions.
* Poking out of the cylinder’s side is the eyepiece focuser.

The cylinder encloses the optical tube assembly. That contains the first 3 optical pieces that light encounters on its way from the sky to the eye.

Set the base on a table, with the bowl facing up. Gently set the telescope’s ball in the bowl, with the top of the cylinder pointing pretty high.

The dust-cap keeps the window clean when you’re not observing. It’s way easier to keep crud away than to very delicately clean it out later. Cleaning tips are on page \\. The hemispheres that protect big telescopes are domes, so we make our little one that shape too. It’s a simple friction fit. Start your observing sessions the same way the big observatories do: open up the dome.

The dew shield creates a “dead air” space which delays dew from condensing on the window. The amount of delay changes continually, depending on temperature, humidity, and breeze. You may not need the dew shield in daytime, indoors, dry air, or short sessions.

If there is a plug in the eyepiece hole, pluck it out (but save it to put back when the session is over). The eyepiece itself is probably in a small container. Gently open the container and (avoiding touching glass surfaces) unwrap the eyepiece. Slide it into the eyepiece hole, as in this illustration.

RIDE A BEAM OF LIGHT THROUGH BRIGHT–EYE

Light’s First Encounter: Starlight enters the window at the top. That’s not a lens, it’s simply an optically-flat glass window. It keeps the inside clean and fairly dry, and reduces internal air turbulence. It’s about 4¾ inches (121 mm) wide.

Light’s Second Encounter: Light continues to the bottom of the tube, where it hits the main mirror. That’s lower in the middle, higher on the rim. 4⅛ inches (105 mm) of its diameter shows through its retaining ring.

To focus starlight, the mirror has a special “paraboloidal” curve: take a parabola, and spin it on its axis. The amount the mirror is curved puts the focus 17½ inches (445 mm) up the axis. You could stick an eyepiece at that focus, but if you tried to look through it, your head would block light from entering the telescope at all, leaving nothing to see.

Light’s Third Encounter: Pondering this problem, the great scientist Isaac Newton figured that you could stick a diagonal mirror a little before the focus, and shunt the light out the side. Put your eyepiece there, and look through it without blocking the view.

Newton was a genius! His plan worked. He made the first successful reflecting telescope. For hundreds of years, Newtonian reflectors have been the world’s favorite form of telescope. They collect more light for less money than any other kind. Bright–Eye’s optical pattern is a Newtonian reflector. The diagonal mirror is glued to a short stalk that is glued to the middle of the window.

Light’s Fourth Encounter: The eyepiece is a sophisticated magnifying glass for examining the focused light. Astronomical eyepieces now come in a great many optical patterns. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Bright–Eye’s eyepiece gives a wide view with minimal distortions and comfortable “eye-relief”. It has a standard 1¼-inch (31¾ mm)-wide tube, so any other standard eyepiece can slide in there too. Shorter eyepieces magnify the image more. That’s good for observing planets and the Moon, but it makes the field of view very small, so planets are hard to find, and hard to keep in view. Higher magnification also dilutes the feeble light of comets, nebulae, and galaxies. Different eyepieces may show wider views (but they’re a lot more expensive), or have less eye-relief (hard to use if you wear glasses, and sometimes hard to find the image even if you don’t), or are cheaper (with a narrow view ... or poor quality). As newer types of optical glass are invented, different combinations of features will be optimized, with different trade-offs.

Magnification (“power”) is the best-known, but one of the least-important, telescope factors. Divide the “focal length” of the big mirror (445 mm) by the focal length of the eyepiece (~28 mm). 16 power is our recommended magnification for newcomers. Get used to it to start with. Experienced observers who have many eyepieces will tell you they use low power eyepieces most of the time.

Light’s Fifth Encounter: Your eye. Human eyes are not identical to one another. When reading this description, adapt it to your personal eyesight.

Light enters the dark circle in the middle of your eye, the “pupil”. This may widen to 7 mm (¼ inch) in a young person who has adapted to darkness for at least 30 minutes. That’s how to collect the most light, and therefore see the faintest details. The following factors narrow the pupil and dim the view, depending on dose and time:
* age
* consuming alcohol
* consuming nicotine
* adapting to darkness for less time
* observing from a place that isn’t very dark.

If you don’t wear eyeglasses (contact lenses are OK): look straight down the center of the eyepiece. Stay just out of eyelash-distance from the eyepiece.

If you wear glasses but aren’t sure of the technical reasons, here are easy ways to tell.
* Hold your glasses just above something printed. If the lenses act like magnifying glasses, you’re farsighted.
* Hold your glasses at arm’s length in front of you and look through the lenses. If they make things look smaller, you’re nearsighted.
* If you rotate a lens around its middle, and stuff beyond seems to tilt left and right, you have astigmatism.
* If things look fuzzy, your lenses need cleaning, so meticulously follow the instructions on page \\.

If you wear eyeglasses to correct astigmatism: You’ll probably see sharper with your glasses on. Unfortunately, eyeglasses keep you farther from the eyepiece so you see a narrower field of view. Keep far enough from the eyepiece to avoid scratching your eyeglass lens on the eyepiece frame. Experiment with and without glasses, with each eye. You may prefer the way that gives the sharpest view, but if it’s not much different, you may prefer the way that gives the most comfortable view.

If you wear eyeglasses because you are farsighted: Take your glasses off and put them in a safe place, where you won’t lose them in the dark, nor drop them, nor step on them. A buttoned shirt pocket might work, or a zipped jacket pocket. Use the eyepiece just the same as a person without glasses. The only difference is in tweaking the focus knobs a tad one way or the other compared to standard 20/20 vision.

If you wear eyeglasses because you are nearsighted: Read the “farsighted” paragraph above, but there’s an added hassle: When your glasses are off, you can’t see the starry sky well. To point the scope in the right direction, put your glasses on. To see when you’ve got your target in view, leave your glasses on but tweak the focus knobs to sharpen the view. Once you acquire the target, take your glasses off so you can approach almost to eyelash range of the eyepiece, and re-tweak focus to sharpen the view.

BRIGHT–EYE ON DAY ONE

For your first look through your new telescope, go outside during daytime, as long as the weather won’t hurt yourself or your scope. Set your base on a table, gently set the sphere in the bowl, and point the window up, but nowhere near the Sun. Then gradually swivel the top end down to where the sky disappears behind a tree, building, mountain, or whatever ... the farther away, the better. Looking straight down through the eyepiece, gently turn the focus knobs till the image sharpens. Now notice 2 things about your scope:
* lean down behind the sphere, and look at where the top of the sphere, and the flat that the eyepiece pokes into, line up with what you’re seeing through the eyepiece. That’s your line of sight. \\photo 1, below\\
* Also, notice how far the eyepiece stands above the flat that it pokes into. The nearer the thing you focus on, the higher up the eyepiece must be. Don’t look at objects within about 10 meters (33 feet) because the eyepiece could literally fall out of the tube. \\illustrate\\ The farther away the object you focus on, the farther down the eyepiece must be. Farther than a kilometer (½ mile) or so, all objects beyond that are simultaneously in focus. That’s nicknamed “infinity”. Start your nighttime explorations with the eyepiece sticking out just that amount, so you’ll be very close to true focus. \\illustrate\\

While it’s still daylight, scan your scope around and look at everything you can see. Each time, notice where the top of the sphere and the top of the eyepiece flat are, compared to the thing you’re observing. Notice how far in or out the eyepiece is, and relate that to the distance of the thing you’re observing.

Practically all astronomical telescopes “invert” the view. There’s no up or down in space so that doesn’t matter. For looking at things on the ground, it can matter a lot, so here’s a way to make things look upright.
* Stand behind the scope, with the scope right in front of you, and the thing you’re looking at much farther away in that same direction. When you bend down to look through the eyepiece, the image looks upside down. \\photo 4, below\\
* Now move to the side of the telescope and look through the eyepiece. From that angle, the image looks sideways. \\photo 5, below\\
* Now move again, till you’re almost in front of the scope, with your back to the thing you’re looking at. (If you get exactly in front, you block the view yourself.) Look through the eyepiece. From that angle, the scene looks upright. \\photo 6, below\\
Trees, bushes, and rocks often look very esthetic even at unaccustomed angles. Experiment. If you like the view, that makes it “right”.

FIRST NIGHT, FIRST LIGHT

The first time a telescope shows you an astronomical object (like the Moon or stars) is called that telescope’s “First Light”. We recommend that you use a permanent marker to write “First Light” and the date somewhere on the cylinder, or on the sphere close to the cylinder, or on the base. \\illustrate\\

Start observing astronomical objects, guided by the accompanying book To Know the Stars. At first, most targets will take some searching. Start with bright and big objects. They’re easiest to find, and very rewarding to examine. They’ll catch your eye instantly as you scan by. 5 seconds to look over each field of view is plenty to notice bright objects.

Develop a scan pattern: up and down, or side to side, or spiraling out ... whatever you please. To spot fainter objects, scan slower – 10 or 15 seconds to examine each field of view. It’s not a race, so take your time and enjoy whatever swims into sight. Use a “star-hopping” reference to show you the route from a bright star, past nearby faint ones, to your goal. Even if you can’t find your target, enjoy examining the neighborhood ... and often the target will turn up in the process.

Objects are usually easier to find the second or third time than the first time. They haven’t grown bigger or brighter, of course, but now you know what to look for. As you gain experience, try for fainter and smaller challenges.

While you watch sky objects, Earth’s rotation is magnified by the same 16 times as the view, so objects “drift” out of view after a couple minutes. While watching through the eyepiece, gently tap the upper end of the scope to push it in the direction you want the image to move. Think of yourself as pushing the image rather than pushing the telescope. You’ll soon get enough experience to keep stars in view for as long as you want. \\illustrate\\

Using a high power eyepiece makes things move out of view much faster, and chasing them becomes frustrating. That’s why bigger telescopes have clock drives and electronic-driven finders. You can grow into handling those. But while you’re just beginning, stick to the low-power eyepiece we supply. It minimizes frustration while maximizing brightness, contrast, and field of view.

FAR OUT

From suburbs, Bright–Eye can spot 8 planets and at least 7 moons (4 of Jupiter and 2 of Saturn, and of course Earth’s). It can show you the entire Messier catalog of the finest clusters, nebulae, and galaxies. The farthest object is probably Messier 87, a giant elliptical galaxy roughly 55 million light years away.

Moving from suburbs to dark skies makes every one of those objects easier to find and better-looking, and allows glimpsing even farther galaxies. It’s worth going to the darkest safe place that’s convenient.

BRIGHT–EYE MODELS (pre-production prices, summer 2016)

* NEWCOMER MODEL: Everything you need to get started: complete telescope, base, dust-cap, dew shield, eyepiece, skywatching book, carrying strap. $599.

* CHECK-OUT MODEL, for libraries, clubs, and classes to check out. Complete telescope and carrying strap. For people using it unsupervised, we make pieces harder to lose: we bolt the eyepiece in, and tether the base, dew shield, and dust-cap with wires. Such groups already have skywatching books so we don’t make them buy another. $599.

* QUICK-GRAB MODEL: a “second” telescope for experienced observers, when the occasion doesn’t call for big equipment. Complete telescope, base, dust-cap, dew shield, carrying strap. Such people already have their own eyepieces and skywatching books so we don’t make them buy more. $549.

* The OPTICAL TUBE ASSEMBLY (including eyepiece focuser) is a useful component to add to large telescopes as a finder, and for photographers to use as a “telephoto lens”. It can also be a long-distance microscope. For technically-advanced users who already have the fittings, mountings, eyepieces, and skywatching books they prefer, so we don’t make them buy more. $499.

* YOUR CUSTOM MODEL, selected from our buffet of features and accessories. Tell us what you have in mind, so we can make suggestions and figure its proper price.

SHIPPING COSTS: By far the easiest method is to use whatever shipping company you already have an account with. Tell us the account number, and they bill you at their contract rate, which is usually relatively good. This should work anywhere in the world. If you pick it up at our works (probably in Northern California), no shipping charge because no shipping. If we must pack and ship it to you in the lower-48 states, add $60. For all other destinations, price has to be calculated individually.

Goods delivered within California must add state sales tax.

ORIGINS: Bright–Eye is assembled in USA from mostly-American-made parts. For the Newcomer model, 85% of the cost and 69% of the parts come from the USA. Tracing back further: 19% of the parts, costing 5% of the dollars, come from Earth’s Anthropocene Epoch. 42% of the parts, costing 20% of the dollars, came from Earth’s Carboniferous Period. Geological origins of the remainder could not be determined. Even further back: cosmically, roughly 5% of the mass originated in the Big Bang, 65% from Red Giants, and 30% from Supernova explosions. We post updates and details on our website.

ADVICE

HOBBY
Amateur astronomy is a hobby. A wonderful aspect of hobbies is that you do only the parts you like. If part of the subject doesn’t interest you, simply don’t do that. You can also do the interesting parts in the ways you prefer. You decide for yourself how to do things. We suggest how other people enjoy exploring the universe, but those are never requirements (except the warning to NEVER POINT A TELESCOPE AT THE SUN. That’s a firm rule.) As in all science, and all specialties, you can dig into finer and finer technicalities. Later! Whenever you feel like it. Maybe years later. Maybe never.

ASTRONOMY CLUBS
Astronomy clubs serve every big city and lots of smaller places. Even if you’re not usually a “joiner”, this is where to find people who have already been through the awkwardness of beginning. They know the best observing locations. They know where to buy advanced equipment when you get to that. They are happy to advise you. Most clubs host star parties where everybody can look through everybody else’s telescopes. Every club has its own personality. Visit all the clubs that are easy enough to get to. Join the one that feels best. Astronomy clubs are listed online, and your nearest planetarium probably knows all of them.

RETURN VISITS SHOW MORE
Like other fine art, celestial objects reward return appearances. First, enjoy the brightest and most contrasty parts. On later returns, seek dimmer details – “supporting stars” – in clusters and the Milky Way. \\photo 9, below\\ Watch for patches and filaments in nebulae and galaxies. Scout around for wider context. Mercury, Venus, and the Moon are lit from different angles at different times. Jupiter’s and Saturn’s clouds are always churning.

CHILDREN
Skywatching is one of the few activities that children and adults can pursue as near-equals. You can see the same things, and learn the same skills and science, at the same rate. Galaxies are just as stupendous and wondrous to jaded adults as to elementary kids.

Children under 9 or 10 simply haven’t developed enough yet to handle a scientific instrument, even an easy one like Bright–Eye. Of course, children vary immensely in behavior and intellect, and different aspects mature at wildly different rates and ages. If you wonder whether you should leave a child alone with Bright–Eye, don’t. Help them till they convince you they don’t need you. After that, drop by frequently and have them show you what they’re observing.

TABLES
Most people set their Bright–Eye on a picnic table or card table. Car hoods are no longer horizontal, but some car trunk lids are horizontal enough. The eyepiece (when the scope is pointing straight up) should be a little lower than your eye, for whatever you’re sitting on. If you have to bend down awkwardly, you won’t be comfortable while searching for or observing objects. You may not even find certain objects, if looking in their direction is too awkward.

An alternative is to use a tray that hangs onto a car window. 1950s-style “car hop” trays are available from eBay, Etsy, and other sources. Considering our use, I think they’re “star hop” trays. If the tray shakes a little, damp that with a gentle finger. Get the “large” size from Meritt Tool & Die, 203 W. Third Street, Vermontville, MI 49096. I bought mine through their store on Etsy.com.
\\photo 8, below\\
Those trays’ hooks only hang on the windows of some cars. Back in the heyday of car hops, almost all cars had windows that had straight horizontal tops. No longer. A lot of car window tops are now curved and sculpted in ways that these trays simply can’t hook onto. For these trays to work well, they have to hook onto windows, at positions 11½ inches (28 cm) apart, that are at the same height above the ground. Measure your car windows before ordering a tray!

SIT OR STAND
Bright–Eye is easy to cradle in your lap while you sit in a chair, on a bench, or on the ground. You can brace it with your lap, with an arm hugging it, and with the shoulder strap helping hold it tautly. That’s stable enough for personal enjoyment, especially a leisurely scan along the Milky Way.

You can even hold Bright–Eye stable enough while standing up, if you lean against a building or car. Hold steady using your strap, arms, chest, and abdomen.

SEEING RED
The only color of flashlight to use while skywatching puts out red light. All other colors destroy your dark-adaptation. After using white light at night, it may take 10 minutes to re-adapt fairly well, and 30 minutes to adapt completely, to seeing the faintest objects.

Red lights are widely available in bicycle shops, outdoor outfitters, and elsewhere. You can also cover a white-light flashlight with red cellophane (available as gift-wrapping) or red nail polish.

SHOW OTHERS
Once you know your way among the stars, and know what you’re looking at, use your Bright–Eye to show other people what celestial objects look like. Tell them something about the ones you show. You could do this as part of an organized event like Astronomy Day or Sidewalk Astronomers, or as a Halloween treat, or for people from a school, or elder care, or friends, or anybody. It doesn’t matter who or when, but it matters a lot that you do some such thing.

ADVANCED SKY BOOKS
After you’ve learned what you want from Guy Ottewell’s To Know the Stars, you’re ready for a higher level of sky guide. There are many, each with a different attitude. Examine all the ones your library has, and all the ones your astronomy club members have. Since the stars and constellations don’t change much, consider older editions from online listings.

Richard Berry: Discover the Stars
Guy Consolmagno: Turn Left at Orion
Terry Dickinson et al: NightWatch
Alan Dyer: Backyard Astronomy, also called Advanced Skywatching
Robert A. Garfinkle: Star-Hopping
Phil Harrington: Star Watch
David Levy: Skywatching
Alan MacRobert: Star-Hopping for Backyard Astronomers
Fred Schaaf: 40 Nights to Knowing the Sky

Smartphone and computer apps abound. We hear good things about Sky Safari.

The yearly Observer’s Handbook of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada has an excellent list of wide-field sights in the sky.

ADORNMENTS
Tourists adorn their vehicles with oval bumper-stickers proclaiming where they traveled on Earth. We supply free oval stickers so you can show where you have traveled ... across the sky: “Looked There, Seen That”. When you observe an object, write its name or number on an oval. Place its oval on your telescope cylinder or base, or in an observing log, or a convenient wall or appliance. \\photo 7, below\\ Or ignore them if you prefer.

Decorate your Bright–Eye any way you wish, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of actually using the scope. Here’s a Steampunked version \\photo 3 , below\\ and one painted in the style of Piet Mondrian \\photo 2, below\\.

DETOURS AND DISAPPOINTMENTS

DO NOT TOUCH GLASS SURFACES
The window and the eyepiece are both sensitive to the slightest smudge. Cleaning optical glass is so finicky that you’d rather not need to.

IT GETS COLD
Dress as if it’s 15º colder than you expect. That’s because you’re mostly standing still, not exercising, while wind-chill blows away your body heat. Wear a warm head cover and warm socks. Dress in layers, so adding or subtracting is easy. Insulation comes from the air trapped between layers. Keep warmth handy if you’ll be out longer than half an hour – a warm car, hot beverage, or other source.

LIGHT POLLUTION
The famous astronomer Caroline Herschel complained that town lights veiled a good look at Halley’s Comet ... in 1835! Light pollution grew ferociously in the 1900s and remains ghastly in the 2000s. Some fancy filters help a bit. But since your Bright–Eye is extremely portable (even adding a card table), get out of town! Your astronomy club has already scouted surrounding areas and will recommend the best one for you. If you don’t get such advice, examine a regional map. Notice where all the towns are. Go as far from them as you can. Mass transit only goes where masses of people go, so you’ll need a car. Bring food, warmth, pest repellant, red light, and star maps. Experience and club members will help you build your own checklist.

THE FULL MOON
The brighter the phase, the worse it makes viewing nebulae and galaxies. But there’s definitely a lot to see: the Moon itself! It is by far the most detailed celestial sight. Many books, magazines, and websites tell you all about its features. Since it’s uncomfortably bright, dim the view by covering most of your scope window – taping cardboard across ¾ of the open area helps. If it’s not exactly Full Moon, you can see surface detail in the long shadows on the sunrise/sunset line. For several nights before and after Full Moon, “rays” from geologically recent cratering impacts show up wonderfully. The lava-seas are dark, but notice that patches are different shades of grey. You can recognize many large craters even without shadows.

CLOUDS
Modern forecasts help you plan your next clear evening. For hour-by-hour predictions for cloudiness and temperature, start at www.cleardarksky.com. Then you might watch the clouds on Venus, Mars, Jupiter, or Saturn, and the deep-space clouds called nebulae. When Earth’s clouds block the sky, there’s still something to see, at least by daylight, no scope needed: Earth’s clouds themselves. There are several types. Which ones are left over from the last weather system that passed? Which are portents of the next one coming?

INSECTS AND OTHER WILDLIFE
They’ve used this habitat since long before humans arrived. Some ignore us, some avoid us. Some consider us as food, others treat us as rivals to expel or fight. Ask local people how to minimize hassles.

FUZZY VIEWS
Look at the sky to see if clouds or trees are impinging on your view. You can still see bright objects through thin clouds and trees.

Dew can collect on your window and eyepiece. Use the dew shield. Some people use an electric hair-drier to blast dew away. Don’t wipe dew off the optics directly! You could scratch the optics, and you can leave a film that demands delicate cleaning.

Dust can also collect. Blow that away with pressurized “canned air”, available at camera stores. Camel-hair brushes can softly nudge dust away. Don’t wipe dust off, because the particles are themselves grit that will scar the optics.

Examine each optical component. It may be time to clean them. Follow instructions on page \\

HIGH MAGNIFICATION
The best uses for high magnification include seeing detail on the Moon and planets, and splitting close double stars. High magnification demands many trade-offs, however. The entire mounting must be very stable, since every vibration is magnified too. The field of view is tiny, so the occasional tap — that works with Bright–Eye’s rich field — loses the target at high power. You need a clock drive or computer-driven scope. And it’s not rare for the computer to fail to find the object. See “Setup Time and Technicality” below.

DETOURS AND DISAPPOINTMENTS WITH DIFFERENT TELESCOPES

DELICACY
Bright–Eye is deliberately made very sturdy. Using it, you may develop habits that are too rough for delicate scopes. Watch carefully how other people use theirs.

SET-UP TIME AND TECHNICALITY
Big powerful multi-task telescopes can do a lot. But they typically need 15-20 minutes to set up, and the same to take down. Learn exactly how each doodad fits into its thingamabob. Watch the owners set up at a few star parties. Carry heavy parts very carefully! Then volunteer to help several times before trying it on your own.

FREQUENT FIDDLING
Every fitting has a purpose. It’s adjustable because it needs to be adjusted. The more complicated the equipment, the more adjustments it needs. The results are superior, but you earn them.

AUTOMATIC FINDING
Computerized mountings can usually find objects automatically. How good that is depends on your attitude (as well as how well the gizmo works). Hurrying right to the intended target is similar to a traveler jetting into a city. Watching the sky along the way, as with Bright-Eye, is like taking in the countryside until you get there.

ASTRO-IMAGING
If you’re a newcomer, we echo the advice of tens of thousands of experienced observers to delay the frustrating finicky technicalities of time-exposures for a few years. Yes, years, really! Anecdotes are available at all astronomy clubs.

**DRAFT** for Bright-Eye website

The Kickstarter campaign for Bright-Eye Telescopes ended May 23, 2016, but the site plays on: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1592946658/bright-eye-telescopes

Bright-Eye™ Telescopes
© by Norman Sperling

This is our temporary website, until www.Bright-Eye.com is ready for prime time. Telescopes and other goods can be ordered right now via eMail: normsperling@gmail.com, to which you may PayPal the payment; or send a paper check by snail-mail to: 2625 Alcatraz Avenue #235, Berkeley, California 94705 USA.

HOME

The Bright-Eye telescope offers newcomers a superior portal to the wonders of the night sky. Wow, now!
* It’s tailored to be the easiest telescope to use, not the dim wobbly frustration of toy-department scopes.
* It shows especially fine views of stars, galaxies, clusters, nebulae, comets, and the Milky Way.
* It’s the first newcomer's scope we know of to launch on Kickstarter.com.

People who look into the Universe appreciate learning more about things. This website explains Bright-Eye’s special advantages. Read what you feel like, skip what you feel like. We try to tell you a satisfying amount about any matter you want to delve into.

BRIGHT-EYE IS MADE BY NORMAN SPERLING

Norm Sperling designed the instrument, and wrote the manual, website, and Kickstarter. \\photo 1, below\\
I have been popularizing astronomy all my life. I’ve given thousands of planetarium shows, taught astronomy to thousands of college students, and wrote the Sky & Telescope magazine articles that transformed Astronomy Day from a few local observances into a global celebration. Read my blog posts on creating the first version of this telescope, and the advantages of rich-field telescopes. Those 39-year-old telescopes sell for nearly twice their original price. One of the books I published was John Dobson’s own story of making Dobsonian telescopes. His favorite material was plywood so I thought of binding the book in that. Many people said it couldn’t be done, and several said it shouldn’t be done. To me, that’s a dare, so I did it. The books sold out quickly. 25 years later, copies command 12 times the original price.

WHY BRIGHT-EYE IS DISTINCTIVE

Welcome to the easiest way to start exploring space: the Bright-Eye Telescope. Get to the good stuff right away. Bright-Eye excites you with thrilling views. Bright-Eye minimizes the frustrations that other scopes put in your way.

BRIGHT-EYE TRADE-OFFS, QUICK VERSION

Bright-Eye optimizes
* set-up speed
* finding speed
* contrast
* rich field of view
* compactness
* portability
* and ruggedness.

To gain these, it bargains away
* Jupiter and Saturn (they look OK but not superior)
* astro-imaging (time exposures demand a far more intricate mount)
* and some money (there are cheaper telescopes ... in several senses).

BRIGHT-EYE TRADE-OFFS, DETAILED VERSION

Form follows function, as Louis Sullivan and Horatio Greenough put it, but that always demands trade-offs. Trade-offs influence everything you buy. You can optimize any characteristic ... but it will cost you something. You can optimize 3 characteristics at the same time ... forcing you to diminish other characteristics. Trade off the ones you care less about to gain the ones you care more about.

A very common trade-off illustrates the issue: balance stability against portability. Usually those are opposites: Make something stable by making it big and heavy ... which isn’t portable. Make something portable by making it small and light ... which isn’t stable. Big portable equipment is often shaky. Strong, light “miracle” materials help ... but they’re expensive, and restrict ranges of temperature, humidity, etc.

Most telescope makers share a centuries-old mindset to make “general-purpose” telescopes. They’re pretty good with large, dim objects like nebulae and galaxies, and pretty good with small, bright objects like planets ... by being superior with neither. They make compromises that “turn off” newcomers.

I wrote our behavioral specifications first. From those, the physical structures that satisfied those functions were developed. My specifications help newcomers get to the good stuff – seeing impressive celestial objects.

Bright-Eye’s sweet spot optimizes
* set-up speed
* finding speed
* contrast
* rich field of view
* compactness
* portability
* and ruggedness.

To gain these, it bargains away
* Jupiter and Saturn (they look OK but not superior)
* astro-imaging (time exposures demand a far more intricate mount)
* and some money (there are cheaper telescopes ... in several senses).

IT’S HARD TO MAKE THINGS EASY

Smartphones’ easy simplicity gives portability, instant-setup, and quick finding. But that requires expensive design and construction. Bright-Eye, too, benefits from a great deal of attention, many peoples’ suggestions, meticulous design and engineering, and custom-made components.

HOW DO YOU WANT TO SPEND YOUR TELESCOPE TIME?

Would you rather be overwhelmed by the majesty of the heavens, or by the fiddly details of setting up a telescope?

Set-up time deters most users. Following another centuries-old mindset, big, serious telescopes and accessories take 15-20 minutes to set up, and the same to take down, committing 30-40 minutes of a night just to that. To justify so much preparation, observing often occupies most of the night. Many dedicated observers do exactly that and love it.

A lot more people love the sky’s glories, but not the setup. Most prefer shorter observing sessions because they want to do other things as well.
* They devote time to their loved ones.
* They have jobs, meetings, and other competing obligations.
* They surf the Web.
* They play games.
* They don’t have a full-night watch-list this time.
* If they stay out too long in winter, they freeze to the bone.
* If they stay out too long in summer, mosquitoes suck them dry.
* Intermittent clouds only reveal the stars for little while this evening.
* There’s a half hour between their last TV show and their next one.
* They appreciate a good night’s sleep.
A whole lot of fans delight in a half hour of sky-watching, but not in many hours. Family and friends are a lot more willing to look at a few sights for a few minutes with you.

(This is nothing new! I have an 1873 book called Half Hours With the Telescope, and an 1887 book called Half-Hours With the Stars, both by famous British astronomer Richard Anthony Proctor. You can buy reprints online.)

So I prescribed the easiest, fastest set-up.

IT’S TIME TO OBSERVE!

Start
Same-Old: I wanna observe!
Bright-Eye: I wanna observe!

5 seconds
Same-Old: Where’s the base?
Bright-Eye: Bright-Eye’s by the door

12 seconds
Same-Old: Not in the garage
Bright-Eye: Plop the base on the picnic table

20 seconds
Same-Old: Not in the trunk
Bright-Eye: Plop the scope in the base

30 seconds
Same-Old: Try the back yard
Bright-Eye: That cluster is always big and pretty!

1 minute
Same-Old: Spread ground cloth
Bright-Eye: I love this double star’s colors

3 minutes
Same-Old: Haul the base out
Bright-Eye: Scan the Milky Way

6 minutes
Same-Old: Haul out piece B
Bright-Eye: This is the third globular puffball

9 minutes
Same-Old: Haul out piece C
Bright-Eye: The club said to watch this comet

11 minutes
Same-Old: Assemble them in order
Bright-Eye: Follow that satellite across the sky

13 minutes
Same-Old: Hunt dropped wingnut
Bright-Eye: This is the brightest galaxy up now

15 minutes
Same-Old: Calibrate setting circle
Bright-Eye: Neat asterism! Is it in Corder’s Atlas?

16 minutes
Same-Old: Align the mirrors
Bright-Eye: This carbon star is way dimmer tonight

17 minutes
Same-Old: Tweak alignment
Bright-Eye: Venus’s crescent is thinning

18 minutes
Same-Old: Hunt first object
Bright-Eye: Jupiter shows 3 moons. Io’s orangish.

20 minutes
Same-Old: Find first object. Neat!
Bright-Eye: Finish with the bright Moon

THE BEST “SECOND TELESCOPE” IS THE BEST “FIRST TELESCOPE”

Serious observers appreciate these very same factors. On many nights they just want a “quick-grab” scope to check out a thing or 2, not a long list. They graduated to a big complicated rig, but keep their rich-field scope by the door. When they buy a new Bright-Eye, they don’t have to buy stuff they already have or don’t need.

RICH FIELD
Specifications: f/4.2, 3º field of view

A very-short-focal-ratio telescope delivers a very wide field of view with a conventional eyepiece. This delivers many advantages while costing only a few ... though those aren’t trivial.
* A wide field of view is usually breathtakingly beautiful because you see more stars, especially with open clusters and along the Milky Way. Many people devote entire observing sessions to roaming the Milky Way because there’s always so much to see.
* Because the field of view is so wide, you see a lot of sky at once. It’s easy to search for the next target quickly because you cover so much sky so quickly.
* The wide field concentrates the light of nebulae and galaxies and faint clusters. By compacting their light, they make each one more contrasty so it’s a lot easier to notice.
* This same contrast enhancement makes comets a lot easier to see. Rich-field telescopes are often nick-named “comet seekers” because comets stand out, and also because you cover more sky in each field of view while hunting them.
* A wide field means that celestial objects appear to cross the field of view more slowly. We all perch on Earth, which rotates, and carries our view across the starry sky. It’s not much bother to nudge the scope to keep up once in a while. If you accidentally “lose” the object, it’s easy to “sweep” all around the neighborhood and find it again, usually in a few seconds. Scopes with narrow fields of view have to use clock drives to keep a star centered. That forces the expense and weight of the motors and the gears and the computer that controls them. It also forces spending setup time for the telescope to learn how it’s oriented among the stars. Those systems take frustratingly long to get working. That can ruin your mood, or even the whole observing session.
* Bright-Eye’s field of view is so wide that you can hold the telescope steady enough by cuddling it in your lap! You don’t need a table or the base.
< That all works fine for eyeball observing. It does NOT work for astrophotography. A lot of people are attracted to astronomy by seeing the most beautiful photos taken by the most accomplished astro-imagers. Realistically, astro-imaging is so complicated, and has so many ways for things to go wrong, that most experts agree that newcomers shouldn’t try it at all. Get a year or 3’s experience before diving into that time-sink.

EASY EYEPIECE

Experts in eyepiece design emphasize a characteristic called “eye-relief”. It’s one of several qualities traded off to achieve ultra-wide fields of view. It’s also traded off to minimize certain distortions. Experienced, dedicated observers may want those other factors so much that they’re willing to trade off eye-relief. Newcomers prefer an image that they can see easily.

FOR COLLEGE AND HIGH SCHOOL ASTRONOMY CLASSES

Bright-Eye is educational as well as entertaining. It shows the entire Messier catalog of objects. It boggles students who roam the Milky Way. It demonstrates how Newtonian reflectors work. It lets an instructor deploy a telescope with uncommon qualities in showing the evening’s targets. Bright-Eye is meant to check out to students to use at home on their own.

OPTICAL QUALITY

In optics, the higher the magnification, the more precision is required to achieve it. The more precise the surfaces, the higher the cost. Our low-magnification lenses and mirrors are perfectly fine for visual use without making you pay for precision that doesn’t help you see any better.

SOLAR SYSTEM

There’s a big, important class of objects that look better at high magnification, as opposed to the low magnification that makes a wide field of view possible. They are the planets, Moon, and Sun. But we haven’t traded off everything.
* The Moon looks great through all telescopes, including Bright-Eye.
* The Sun is so brilliant that you should NEVER look directly at it through ANY scope. The safest method is to project onto a white card ... and you can do that just fine with Bright-Eye.
* Mercury and Venus do not show surface details through any amateur telescope. All you can see is the phases they go through, much like the Moon’s. Through Bright-Eye they look smaller than through longer scopes, but you can plainly see the phase, and that’s all there is to see.
* Mars looks so small that it’s a disappointment through all portable telescopes.
* Uranus and Neptune are faint. The largest amateur telescopes show them as tinted featureless discs. Bright-Eye shows them as small featureless discs, sometimes with a hint of tint.
* Pluto is way too faint to see through portable telescopes.
* That leaves Jupiter and Saturn, which really do look quite a bit better through longer scopes than through Bright-Eye. Bright-Eye reveals a couple belts on Jupiter and sometimes on Saturn (depending on Saturn’s weather). It shows the 4 big moons of Jupiter and the 2 biggest moons of Saturn. It shows Saturn’s glorious ring. It shows the equatorial bulges of both planets. But it shows all that smaller than other scopes do. This is the biggest trade-off that Bright-Eye made. We knew it going in. We bought superior views of 100 deep-sky objects at the expense of superior views of 2 planets. If Jupiter and Saturn interest you the most, Bright-Eye is not the best telescope for you. Seek a telescope that’s f/20 and 1/20 wave, with a clock drive.

PORTABLE
Specifications: 4 1/8-inch (105 mm) clear aperture
17 1/2 –inch (445 mm) focal length

You can wear Bright-Eye home on a school bus. You can wear Bright-Eye while riding a bicycle or motorcycle to get to a better observing spot. Wear a Bright-Eye farther into a field than would be convenient for a heavy scope. Bright-Eye fits into any car or train or bus, and many backpacks.

STABLE

Most cheap telescopes wobble. They use flimsy tripods. Their mounts vibrate around a small pivot. Wobbly mounts make it frustratingly hard to point a telescope at what you seek.

Bright-Eye pivots on 3 widely-separated felt pads. The distance between those pads confers stability. Most people put the base on a picnic table or a portable table they’ve picked for stability, like a card table.

PRICE VERSUS QUALITY

Everybody knows “you get what you pay for.”

Bright-Eye is inherently a compact telescope. Therefore there’s less material in it, it’s made on smaller machines, and it’s cheaper to transport. All those save money without sacrificing quality.

Americans invented and popularized this type of telescope in America, but after several years, global economic forces lured its manufacture overseas in the late 1900s. The first contractor held quality to good standards. But after that, low price was bought at the cost of irregular and undependable quality.

Bright-Eye is not made in the cheapest possible way and therefore does not carry the cheapest possible price. Instead, it works well.

Inflation is measured in several different ways. A commodity priced $150 in 1976, as the previous brand was, in 2016 would cost from $585 to $972.

HOW MUCH IS MADE IN USA?
HOW MUCH WAS MADE IN THE CARBONIFEROUS PERIOD?
HOW MUCH WAS COOKED IN SUPERNOVAE?

Bright-Eye is assembled in USA, using mostly-USA-made parts. It is built to American standards ... and to the standards of inventor Norm Sperling. Every part is carefully inspected. Everything does what it’s supposed to.

Viewpoint: Current Geography

The US Federal Trade Commission counts “Made in USA” ratios by their costs. USA components cost 85%. It is also possible to count by mass, and to count by number of parts. By number of parts, there is a philosophical question of what’s “a part” versus what’s “a part of a part”. The way we count parts, 69% come from USA.

Viewpoint: Earth-History

Looking farther back: our paper, cardboard, felt, and rubber all grew organically in the Anthropocene Epoch. Those are 19% of the components, and cost 5% of the dollars.

Plastics are polymerized out of organic petroleum from the Carboniferous Period. That 42% of the components cost 20% of the dollars.

Supply chains are now too commodified to identify the geological or geographic origin of the other raw materials.

Viewpoint: Cosmic Origins

Looking as far back as possible: geologists have learned that right after Earth condensed, 4.5 billion years ago, it was so hot that it turned into liquids and gases. The dense stuff sank (forming the metal core) and the light stuff rose (forming the crust and atmosphere). The crust eventually cooled off and turned solid. We humans scratch the surface of the Earth for our materials.

Astronomers have learned that Earth condensed from a little clump in a cloud (“nebula”) of gas and dust. The biggest clump became the Sun. The nebula contained many interesting substances. We see these in other nebulae throughout space even now. Bright-Eye shows you many nebulae like that. \\photo 4, below\\
Nebulae Contain:

* Gases: hydrogen and helium
* Ices: water, carbon dioxide, methane, ammonia
* Tars: hydrocarbons
* Dust: silicates, iron, nickel

Astronomers now understand how those substances got into nebulae:

* Hydrogen, helium, and a little lithium were cooked in the Big Bang, and flung around by it, 13.8 billion years ago.
* Carbon, neon, nitrogen, oxygen, magnesium, silicon, nickel, and iron are cooked in Red Giants (massive dying stars), and flung around by their stellar winds, and by supernova explosions when they die.
* More of those elements, plus all others, are cooked in supernova explosions and flung around by them.

So: virtually all hydrogen came from the Big Bang. Almost everything else that we and our telescopes are made of comes from Earth’s crust, which came from a nebula, many of whose contents had been cooked in Red Giants. All the rest were cooked in supernova explosions. So the ultimate origins of the telescope’s materials were the Big Bang, Red Giants, and Supernovae. We estimate that roughly
* 5% of Bright-Eye’s mass came from the Big Bang
* 65% from Red Giants
* and 30% from Supernovae.

Now, we humans (made of stuff cooked in the Big Bang, Red Giants, and Supernovae) point our telescopes (from those same origins) to study the phenomena we came from. That is progress! Your Bright-Eye easily shows many red giants. In a really dark sky, you can spot a couple supernova remnants. (To detect the Big Bang, however, requires radio telescopes.)

BRIGHT–EYE MODELS (pre-production prices, summer 2016)

* NEWCOMER MODEL: Everything you need to get started: complete telescope, base, dust-cap, dew shield, eyepiece, skywatching book, carrying strap. $599.

* CHECK-OUT MODEL, for libraries, clubs, and classes to check out. Complete telescope and carrying strap. For people using it unsupervised, we make pieces harder to lose: we bolt the eyepiece in, and tether the base, dew shield, and dust-cap with wires. Such groups already have skywatching books so we don’t make them buy another. $599.

* QUICK-GRAB MODEL: a “second” telescope for experienced observers, when the occasion doesn’t call for big equipment. Complete telescope, base, dust-cap, dew shield, carrying strap. Such people already have their own eyepieces and skywatching books so we don’t make them buy more. $549.

* The OPTICAL TUBE ASSEMBLY (including eyepiece focuser) is a useful component to add to large telescopes as a finder, and for photographers to use as a “telephoto lens”. It can also be a long-distance microscope. For technically-advanced users who already have the fittings, mountings, eyepieces, and skywatching books they prefer, so we don’t make them buy more. $499.

* YOUR CUSTOM MODEL, selected from our buffet of features and accessories. Tell us what you have in mind, so we can make suggestions and figure its proper price.

SHIPPING COSTS: By far the easiest method is to use whatever shipping company you already have an account with. Tell us the account number, and they bill you at their contract rate, which is usually relatively good. This should work anywhere in the world. If you pick it up at our works (probably in Northern California), no shipping charge because no shipping. If we must pack and ship it to you in the lower-48 states, add $60. For all other destinations, price has to be calculated individually.

Goods delivered within California must add state sales tax.

IN CONTRAST TO PLAYING VIDEO GAMES

Bright-Eye is analog, not digital. The image is powered entirely by the photons you collect from outer space.

Bright-Eye is manual, not motor-driven. You steer it yourself. The instructions tell you how.

Bright-Eye is mechanical, not electronic. The only electrical thing is a tiny LED if you get the optional finder.

Bright-Eye keeps working for decades with less servicing than any other kind of telescope.

Bright-Eye casts its web vastly beyond merely “worldwide”; way beyond our solar-system, way beyond our Milky Way, to galaxies more than 50 million light years away.

Even if you look at billions of stars, that will not jam Bright-Eye. If you look at something in an unexpected format, Bright-Eye will show the object anyway. If you look at photons that have traveled for tens of millions of years, through Bright-Eye they look as good as when they were fresh.

The celestial objects you view are real. They are not virtual or fictitious. Many of them were beyond the imaginations of their discoverers. They still invoke superlatives.

The celestial objects you view are not ©opyrighted, ®egistered, patented, or licensed. Look at them as much as you please, without paying for a license, registration, ticket, membership, or bribe.

DECORATE YOUR OWN

Artist/Astronomer Richard Miles steampunked this telescope. He accepts commissions in several artistic styles. Discuss your vision with him at StarBaseOne@outlook.com . \\photo 2, below\\
Here’s how Piet Mondrian might have painted his. \\photo 3, below\\

THANKS TO ALL WHO HELPED

Isaac Newton invented the Newtonian type of reflecting telescope.

The ball-in-socket was developed during the design of the hip joint.

Mike Simmons designed setup to take as little as 15 seconds (with practice). Nobody will ever beat Simmons by more than 15 seconds.

Artist Dick Termes suggested that the dust-cap for this shape of device should be a hemisphere.

Congratulations to New Hampshire and Missouri for pioneering Library scopes.

A great many people made helpful comments and suggestions. Thanks to:
David Almandsmith, Piers Anthony, Mel Bartels, J. Kelly Beatty, Molly Bentley, Richard Berry, Sylvain Billot, Chris Burt, Shawn Carlson, Sheldon Carpenter, Lucille Chang, Robert Clemenzi, R.L. Dietz, Marisa Edmund, Robert Edmund, Simon Quellen Field, Chris Gervang, Norm Goldblatt, Bob Heddy, Kathy Hedges, Donald Hollenbeck, Steve Johnson, Nick Kanas, Randy Latimer, Larry Lesser, Mark Levy, Lou Lippman, Bruce Mangan, Amelia Marshall, Keenan McGuckin, Richard Miles, Al Nagler, Jerry Oltion, Nick O'Shea, Richard Ozer, Carolyn Collins Peterson, Bob Sanders, Bob Schalck, Sara Schechner, Caroline Sherman, Gordon Slack, Barry Sperling, Lumin Sperling, Mason Sperling, Clyde Sugahara, Richard Termes, Jason Weisberger, John Westfall, Walter Jon Williams, Lucas Willis.

Astronomy clubs of Eugene, Louisville, Boston, Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa County (Wisconsin), Central Maine.

Everybody who supported our Kickstarter: Kabo Ad, Sandy Adam, Jason Weisberger, Christian Gray, Joshua Mehlman, Justin Husted, Steve Heath, Taz, Alex Jenny, spongefile, Oscar Lhermitte and Kudu, Christopher Grau, Martin Webster, Patrick O’Reilly, Kent KB, Dan and Jean Ann Chernikoff, Jim Kirk, Steve Kick, J. Wilson, Marcus Kocmur, Hugo Herdav, Lamont G. Kelly, Angela McEliece, Jake Bosley, Bobby Edmonds, Paul Bernardi, Chriss Coffinn, Donald Day, Nicolas Colicchio, Viv White, Joseph Partington, Cara Noverio, Elan Lee, Christopher C. Burt, Tomas Talpa, Bill Welliver, Olya, Trent, Caroline Sherman and Deborah Stanfill, Steven M. Johnson, Steven J. Klinko, Z. Engelbert, Kalypso, Sheldon Carpenter, kokobin, Todd, Eric Truong, Richard Horwitz, Robert M. McCauley Jr, Mike Lynd, Thomas Boyd, Douglas Laycock, Amy Reams, Mike Meenan, Michael and Liz, Jay Raol, Chris Kaiser, P. Edward Murray, Ben, Kevin P., Steven Smith, Spencer Rose, Jason Mansfield, Mary Becker, Caroline Keys, Chris Hagen, Peppa O’Shea, Mike McCool, Peter Beach, METI International, Marius, Chris O’Neil, Erik Sjoberg, Steve McDonald, Jonathan Armstrong, Preevio, Andrew Bleich, Jason Denning, Leo vanMunching, Rev Chas, Alexandra Tinsman, Paul Sponagl, Nora, Greg Spencer, Doctor P., Patrick Brennan, J. McCormick, Martin Hallett, Kuo-Jen Yuan, Kinoss, David Kirsch, Victoria Pawlik, Todd Nilson, Cassidy Napoli, Chris Carroux, Chris Richie, Erwin Estigarribia, Dawn Forbes, Eric Salituro, David Greenberg, Kevin Cassidy, Greg Pfluger, Kat Let.

Astroscan is a registered trademark of Scientifics Direct, Tonawanda, New York.

Doing the Easiest Part First Makes the Whole Job Less Daunting

© Norman Sperling, February 11, 2015

I’m faced with an array of big and difficult problems. Just as I have been, all life long.

Over the years, I’ve evolved a process that reduces stress and hastens results.

While aware of the overwhelming difficulties, I start with the easiest part first. When teaching my (then young) sons to clean up some breakage, I said “first, pick up the 3 worst pieces. Good. Now pick up the 3 worst pieces. Good. Now pick up the 3 worst pieces. [repeat]. They got into the swing of things, and saw the daunting hassle reduce greatly. By the time they got to more difficult parts, they already had a lot of experience and momentum, and could see an end in sight.

I do the same for myself. In putting together an issue of my magazine, I start with the easiest and most obvious pages. Then the next-most, and then the next-most. By the time I have to do anything hard, I’m deeply into the process and the rest becomes a lot less daunting and easier.

I teach my students the same. In their big term project, research the easiest part first. After the input is acquired, write the easiest part first.

Adapt this principle to most projects, even careers, and you’ll start easier, go farther, and finish faster, all with less stress.

It does have limits: After a while, all the easy and nearly-easy stuff is done, and all that remains is tough and unpleasant. To get over that, I used to imagine my boys telling me I needed to finish that so I could do family stuff with them. These days I have to imagine something else.

Crowd-Source Testing

© Norman Sperling, February 8, 2015

THE PROBLEM
Many kinds of contaminants and adulterants afflict products sold in the US and elsewhere, often imported from places with lower standards. The press reports most often on problems coming from China and Mexico, but I don’t doubt there are many other sources too. The salmonella peanuts that recently poisoned so many Americans were native-grown US products.

Contaminants include lead, melamine powder, and listeria. A lot of adulterants are chemically not too hard to identify. A lot of infections are biologically not too hard to identify.

Government inspectors inspect just the tiniest proportion of goods. Cheaters wheedle their way in, often with bribes, or discounts, or maybe just winks, from unscrupulous distributors and retailers.

HOW TO SOLVE IT
Thanks to the advance of technology, and with only a minor change in law, we, the public, can now fix the bulk of this problem. Bring in citizen scientists and science students.

Professional societies should establish standard testing protocols that can be learned by high school students of their subject (such as chemistry and biology), and conducted with equipment typically found in high schools.

Those societies should establish standards for affordable kits for retailers. Encourage smartphone apps. Each kit should include “how to report”, to what institution or agency, etc. Open-source testing will teach citizen scientists and all America what it takes to determine scientific measurements, and the importance of getting the amounts right.

Make it a very common standard exercise to test products sold in stores and online. Tentative positive results should be brought to chemistry and biology teachers for re-testing. If they indeed look suspicious, bring the suspect stuff to the local college for more sophisticated testing. If adulteration is confirmed, ring the hotline of the professional society, USDA, FDA, US Attorney, or other appropriate agency.

Though food supplements and cosmetics are too-lightly regulated, crowd-sourced testing can clean up some of their acts, too. Where the FDA cannot or will not reject something dangerous, that danger violates plain laws against poisoning and infecting and mislabeling.

FUNDING
The project will need an initial grubstake, but should become self-funding as soon as court fines are collected. Set those to:
• repair the damage already done,
• penalize guilty businesses and imprison their guilty decision-makers so harshly that it will deter everyone from pulling a similar stunt, and
• award a share of the fine to the citizen scientists and testing labs who blew their whistle.

This should make manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers a lot more leery of under-the-table deals. Only fly-by-night risk-takers would dare to pull a fast one, and with the entire supply chain poised against them, even they would find it harder. Horrible negative publicity can put a company out of business, as happened with Arthur Anderson accountants. Competent individuals can bring down a big adulterator.

Testable products will become more correct, less poisonous, and less infectious. The resulting greater trust in products will INCREASE trade in those trusted items.

Funding should not run out unless there are no more violations found. What a wonderful problem to have!

The Journal of Irreproducible Results
This Book Warps Space and Time
What Your Astronomy Textbook Won't Tell You

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