Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Moon and the Book

In The Sunday Times I go back to the moon and contemplate digital libraries.


  1. As ever, an excellent pair of articles Bryan.

    However, did I spot the most popular solecism in astronomy in the moon-shot article? You say that:

    "The far – 'dark' – side is probably the best place in the solar system to set up a radio telescope, as it is shielded from the radio noise from Earth as well as from the sun."

    Is this really true? Whilst the moon keeps one hemisphere facing towards the Earth at all times, it does not keep one hemisphere facing towards the Sun at all times. When the Moon lies between the Earth and the Sun, then the far side of the Moon is illuminated by the Sun, and the dark side is the side which is facing us, the near side.

  2. Well spotted, Gordon. However, as every Pink Floyd fan knows, there is actually no dark side of the moon.

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed the articles too. I must say, I worry for books. As mere objects, I find them a great comfort. Maybe a library should be one of the first things they build on the moon - save the books at all costs.

  4. The book reduced to the role of cultural 'souvenir' is a depressing thought indeed, but there is a great benefit of the digital search that you did not touch on.

    An electronic search will produce a much richer series of sources on a subject (as you found out), and these may often be from cross-disciplinary perspectives. This broader span will provide greater insight than the narrow, perhaps prescriptive, teacher reading lists and therefore enhance rather than diminish our culture.

  5. Very interesting article - and hypotheses.
    However,and I am very surprised that I am the only one to comment along this vein, it was quite surprising to note that no mention was made about the traditional keeper of what may, in future, be described as a "book museum" - the librarian! By this, I do not mean the person stamping the books at the issue desk, but someone with qualifications in acquiring, organising and ensuring that these (soon to be extinct?) books are used to their maximum potential. This work does not always happen in the rarefied atmosphere of the large and well-known university and national libraries - there is a band of hard-working and often overlooked librarians working in smaller academic institutions, legal organisations and the health service - to name but a few.

    And - arguably - books (in their original, non-digitised format) are easier to transport than their electronic equivalents - and do not need batteries!