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The Dangers Of Amateur Astronomy In Afghanistan

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the time-to-pick-another-science dept.

Space 137

Nancy_A writes "Most amateur astronomers take for granted that they can just go outside and enjoy viewing the night sky without encountering many problems. But in order for amateur astronomers in Afghanistan to simply set up a telescope in a dark region, they have to deal with more serious complications, such as making sure the area is clear of land mines, not arousing the suspicions the Taliban or the local police, and watching out for potential bombing raids by the US/UK/Afghan military alliance."

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Now THAT is sacrifice for science, brother (5, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36752936)

Most of us in the West complain when we don't have enough science grants or when some Bible-thumper questions our biology textbook.

These poor bastards have to practice astronomy in a country where 70% of the population is illiterate, where the Koran-thumpers cut people's heads off, and where the occupying military force takes a blow-them-the-fuck-up-and-ask-questions-later approach to anyone who looks like they have a scope.

Now *that's* rock-hard dedication to getting some astronomical observations.

On the upside, the piss-poor electrical service probably really cuts down on the light pollution.

Re:Now THAT is sacrifice for science, brother (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36752982)

On the upside, the piss-poor electrical service probably really cuts down on the light pollution.

I expect the smell of napolam in the morning is to die for though.

Re:Now THAT is sacrifice for science, brother (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753048)

No, that's the smell of victory!

Re:Now THAT is sacrifice for science, brother (1, Informative)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753092)

In case any of you didn't get the joke.

"You smell that? Do you smell that? Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for twelve hours. When it was all over I walked up. We didn't find one of 'em, not one stinkin' dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like... victory. Someday this war's gonna end..."
(Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore, Apocalypse Now)

http://riot.typepad.com/the_lucretius_plan/2007/06/the_smell_of_vi.html [typepad.com]

Re:Now THAT is sacrifice for science, brother (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36753134)

If you explain the joke immediately... it's not a joke anymore.

Re:Now THAT is sacrifice for science, brother (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36753546)

That's what SHE said!

Actually Islam is pro astronomy (2, Insightful)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753060)

... where the Koran-thumpers cut people's heads off ...

In the middle ages muslims thought very highly of astronomy, so why would the guys wanting to base their society on that era be against astronomy?

Some of the scientific work was done in central asia, if not Afghanistan then next door. Perhaps you've noticed that some stars and astronomical terms are arabic in origin.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astronomy_in_medieval_Islam [wikipedia.org]

...just not this particular flavor of it. (4, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753168)

In the middle ages muslims thought very highly of astronomy, so why would the guys wanting to base their society on that era be against astronomy?
 

...because Wahabbism (the sect of Islam from which the likes of AQ and Taliban are based) isn't exactly out to bring back the days of classical scientific inquiry. The Wahhabist concept of Islam is a lot like Pol Pot's concept of Communism... skewed all to hell and not exactly what you would think, yet will claim to be the mantle and keeper of it.

Re:...just not this particular flavor of it. (1)

just_another_sean (919159) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753262)

skewed all to hell and not exactly what you would think, yet will claim to be the mantle and keeper of it

That could be used to describe zealots of any stripe, especially religious but IMHO equally applicable to political and cultural zealots as well.

Re:...just not this particular flavor of it. (2)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753362)

That would be like the world's leading proponent of democracy not allowing their own people to vote for their leader.

Oh, wait....

Re:...just not this particular flavor of it. (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753650)

I take it by your u/n you're a Mackem (I don't mean that as an insult; call me a Tackem if you want), so if you want to decide who leads Labour in the next GE it will cost you £41 p.a. and - paradoxically - only £25 p.a. if you're the only tory in the village. The liberals come cheap at twelve quid a year.

Re:...just not this particular flavor of it. (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753570)

..because Wahabbism (the sect of Islam from which the likes of AQ and Taliban are based)

Wahhabism is the dominant form of Islam in Saudi Arabia. (wikipedia)

Well, think about it.

CC.

Re:...just not this particular flavor of it. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36753686)

Wahhabism is the dominant form of Islam in Saudi Arabia.

Saudis were the majority of attackers on 9/11.

Well, think about it.

Re:...just not this particular flavor of it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36754646)

And yet you're still killing civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq based on well-established lies. Over 6000 American service personnel and hundreds of thousands of civilians dead in both countries, all for a lie about weapons that didn't exist. A lie that you bought into because after being attacked by the Saudi's you wanted blood, you wanted revenge.

Well, think about it. Or don't, that seems to be the American Way (tm).

Re:Actually Islam is pro astronomy (4, Insightful)

royallthefourth (1564389) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753212)

And don't forget that before the CIA created the Afghan Mujahideen 30 years ago, Afghanistan was a normal society with things like education, electricity, sanitation and equal rights for women (at least in the urban areas). Now those cities and the infrastructure that supported them have been bombed beyond recognition. But of course, none of that matters nearly as much as anticommunism and counterterrorism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Afghan_Crowd_Circa_1980.png [wikipedia.org]

Re:Actually Islam is pro astronomy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36753294)

And don't forget that before the CIA created the Afghan Mujahideen 30 years ago, Afghanistan was a normal society with things like education, electricity, sanitation and equal rights for women (at least in the urban areas). Now those cities and the infrastructure that supported them have been bombed beyond recognition. But of course, none of that matters nearly as much as anticommunism and counterterrorism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Afghan_Crowd_Circa_1980.png [wikipedia.org]

I think you mean to say it was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that created the Mujahideen, and destroyed all that "infrastructure". If you were intellectually honest that is.

Re:Actually Islam is pro astronomy (2)

royallthefourth (1564389) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753460)

Because the Soviets didn't create those Mujahideen; it was the American response to the Soviet intervention to remove an incompetent and dangerous head-of-state next door (Amin). The backwards people in the hills wouldn't have amounted to anything the Red Army couldn't deal with if they hadn't trucked in foreign radicals to do the serious fighting, which wouldn't have happened without the CIA collaborators in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

Re:Actually Islam is pro astronomy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36754588)

Because the Soviets didn't create those Mujahideen

Talk about revisionist history. Total bullshit. They existed strictly BECAUSE of the Soviet invasion. The CIA went looking for people to back. Guess who they found. If you think the CIA has the power to create armies out of thin air, you are smoking crack. The CIA's standard policy, which has been in place at least as long as the 50s, is to support those who have already shown they are capable of supporting whatever endeavor the CIA finds of value. Next, you train them and supply them with weapons. That's it. Period.

Re:Actually Islam is pro astronomy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36755016)

Because the Soviets didn't create those Mujahideen

Talk about revisionist history. Total bullshit. They existed strictly BECAUSE of the Soviet invasion.

GP and P have it both wrong The rebels existed and were supported by CIA before the Soviets deployed troops in Afghanistan see here: [wikipedia.org]

Former CIA director and current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wrote in his memoirs From the Shadows that the U.S. intelligence services began to provide financial aid to the rebel factions in Afghanistan six months before the Soviet deployment. [emphasises mine]

Besides: The Soviets where not eager to get drawn into this civil war:

The Afghan government, having secured a treaty in December 1978 that allowed them to call on Soviet forces, repeatedly requested the introduction of troops in Afghanistan in the spring and summer of 1979. [...] They repeated these requests and variants to these requests over the following months right up to December 1979. However, the Soviet government was in no hurry to grant them.

Re:Actually Islam is pro astronomy (1)

x6060 (672364) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753468)

I would mod you up if I had the points. =\

Re:Actually Islam is pro astronomy (4, Informative)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753492)

No, I guess he is quite right. The Islamic fundies are imported, they didn't "grow" there. The US (more specifically, the CIA) ported them over to Afghanistan in the 80s, mostly from the Arabian Peninsula. Which served two goals at once, you got rid of the Islamists in the "important" areas like the oil regions (imagine, another Iran... Saddam couldn't have waged a two front war for us, against Iran AND Saudi Arabia) and the poor sods went on to fight the godless Russkies for us too. Worked like a charm, really.

I guess the US then somehow managed to double cross their former friends when the Russians didn't want to play the evil Commies anymore and became our ... well, not quite friends, but no longer "teh evilz" and that pissed Ozzy enough for that 9/11 stunt. I mean, it's not like the US don't simply dump their buddies when they're no longer convenient. For reference, see Saddam.

Re:Actually Islam is pro astronomy (1)

zill (1690130) | more than 3 years ago | (#36754620)

I think you mean to say it was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that created the Mujahideen, and destroyed all that "infrastructure". If you were intellectually honest that is.

The Mujahideen was mostly foreign fighters funded by foreign powers using foreign weapons. I failed to see why the Soviet would want to create such a situation.

Re:Actually Islam is pro astronomy (0)

squidguy (846256) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753418)

CIA didn't create the Muj, the Soviet invasion did.

Re:Actually Islam is pro astronomy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36753496)

Er...Jimmy Carter wanted to coax soviet union into attacking afghanistan because the afghan govt was friendly with russia.. so yes, in a way, it is America's own doing.

Re:Actually Islam is pro astronomy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36753656)

Citation?

zbignew brezinski (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#36754142)

was absolutely thrilled that the soviets invaded afghanistan. it would give them a 'vietnam' (never ending proxy war).

although most of these posts on slashdot have left out Pakistan (especially the ISI) and India

Re:Actually Islam is pro astronomy (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753766)

Jimmy Carter? Or the CIA boss, George Bush? Does it even matter? The whole thing is just another opium war.. That brown Mexican stuff was shit.. China White is where it's at

Re:Actually Islam is pro astronomy (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753242)

Unfortunately, these days the Taliban and their radical ilk seem more interested in using science to blow shit up than in building up their culture. If you ever find yourself in a position of blowing up ancient statues because they might anger your sky god, that's a pretty good hint that your society has regressed significantly in its intellectual sophistication.

Re:Actually Islam is pro astronomy (1)

royallthefourth (1564389) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753348)

That's not the only reason they blew up the statues. They did the final deed after being insulted that they were offered money for the statues but not to fix their crumbling country.

When the Afghani head council asked them to provide the money to feed the children instead of fixing the statues, they refused and said, 'No, the money is just for the statues, not for the children'. Herein, they made the decision to destroy the statues

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhas_of_Bamiyan#Dynamiting_and_destruction.2C_March_2001 [wikipedia.org]

Re:Actually Islam is pro astronomy (1)

x6060 (672364) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753454)

We send quite a bit of aid to Afghanistan and all of that money seems to be filtered off by corruption before it ever reaches anyone actually in need. So Whos to say that money wouldnt have had a similar fate?

Re:Actually Islam is pro astronomy (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753392)

Unfortunately, these days the Taliban and their radical ilk seem more interested in using science to blow shit up than in building up their culture. If you ever find yourself in a position of blowing up ancient statues because they might anger your sky god, that's a pretty good hint that your society has regressed significantly in its intellectual sophistication.

Blowing up the Buddhist statues was a major crime in my book but Islam *never* approved of statues or paintings depicting humans, even at its scientific and mathematic peaks. Astronomy doesn't seem to cross any religious line as far as I know. I think the problems with astronomy are more practical, in a war zone people wonder if that telescope is a spotting scope (neither side wants to be observed), a rocket launcher, etc. Waving around green lasers can also be troublesome.

Re:Actually Islam is pro astronomy (1)

Tarlus (1000874) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753306)

...so why would the guys wanting to base their society on that era be against astronomy?

They're not against the astronomy so much as they are against suspicious activity. The guy with the telescope could be (and most likely is) stargazing, or as far as they're concerned he could be scoping out the ideal vantage from which to snipe a government official. Nobody trusts anyone.

Re:Actually Islam is pro astronomy (1)

magarity (164372) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753716)

They're not against the astronomy so much as they are against suspicious activity. The guy with the telescope could be (and most likely is) stargazing, or as far as they're concerned he could be scoping out the ideal vantage from which to snipe a government official. Nobody trusts anyone.

No, when the local police commander who has come to check them out calls them a group of half wits for doing a little astronomy that's not just against suspicious activity, it's macho backwater anti-intellectualism.

I bet there are some US service members at that nearby big base who are interested in astronomy. This group needs to find one to help out with coordinating viewings with patrols so they don't have to worry so much about getting shot.

Re:Actually Islam is pro astronomy (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753326)

In the middle ages muslims thought very highly of astronomy, so why would the guys wanting to base their society on that era be against astronomy?

Because Tamerlane and his troops went in and killed everyone but the peasonts.

What was left was a bunch of ignorant peasants who mostly fear the learning that was once prized in the Islamic world.

Re:Actually Islam is pro astronomy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36753398)

Apparently it is pro-goatse too.

Re:Actually Islam is pro astronomy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36753552)

Kinda...see 24m20s [google.com] (great video by Neil deGrasse Tyson)
The middle-east region had a great period for astronomy (and art, math, biology etc). Which was then followed by al-Ghazali [wikimedia.org] - who brought the world Sufism. [wikimedia.org]
So it was in spite of Islam that the region did so well, not because of it.

thats a tall claim (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#36754188)

considering that a large number of those astronomers were avid muslims and used their calculations to help plan religious ceremonies.

its like saying that indian astronomy survived 'despite hinduism'. alot of those guys were priests.

Re:Now THAT is sacrifice for science, brother (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753104)

it's only fitting that they're doing it around the region where the stuff was first done. though, they probably don't have much of light pollution and can get up to thin air. it's not bad area geographically and even some of taliban must appreciate using stars for navigating. now go try and do archeology in syria..

Re:Now THAT is sacrifice for science, brother (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36753220)

What does biology have to do with the summary?

Re:Now THAT is sacrifice for science, brother (1)

rwven (663186) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753246)

Give me a break. I'm sure these horrid circumstances extend to FAR more than just astronomy. Every thing that TFA mentions could just as easily apply to going down to the grocery store for these people. In its present form, this is not news.

Re:Now THAT is sacrifice for science, brother (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36754500)

And yet you not only read it, you commented on it. Which means that whether or not it's news it got your attention and Slashdot got its ad revenue.

I love you little bitches who come into a thread just to announce to everybody their banal opinion that it shouldn't be here in the first place, as if you have any part in the decision (hint: you don't). You have a problem with what gets posted here, go the fuck somewhere else. I guarantee you that NOBODY is going to miss you and the entire site will be short one fucking loser. Win-win if you ask me.

Re:Now THAT is sacrifice for science, brother (1)

rwven (663186) | more than 3 years ago | (#36754778)

Take your own advice. Moron.

Re:Now THAT is sacrifice for science, brother (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753508)

Now *that's* rock-hard dedication to getting some astronomical observations.

actually its just far more likely that the media has convinced you that its a lot scarier than it is, the fact that people are bothering to do it shows its reasonably safe in some areas. If life was bad, they wouldn't be have time to dick around look at the stars. They'd be more concerened with eating and surviving.

Re:Now THAT is sacrifice for science, brother (1)

x6060 (672364) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753734)

That isnt true at all. =\

I watched a 20 year old kid stole out of his village every day across a minefield. The minefield had been there for 15 years and he knew it was there. I asked a local about it and most of the towns folk would just walk through the minefield to get to one of the neighboring villages. It was just an accepted danger. They could have walked a quarter mile out of their way to go around it, but they didnt. Well every week or 2 it would end poorly for some unlucky bastard, sometimes children.

It is not that these areas are not extremely dangerous, they just dont care.

Re:Now THAT is sacrifice for science, brother (1)

OldSoldier (168889) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753556)

These poor bastards have to practice astronomy in a country where 70% of the population is illiterate,

AND they have to practice it at night, in the dark too!

Wow such insight! (5, Insightful)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 3 years ago | (#36752976)

Wow such an insightful article. Who would have thought that it would be dangerous in a country that has been a war zone for over 2 decades?

Re:Wow such insight! (1)

EraserMouseMan (847479) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753030)

Yea, this has nothing to do with armature astronomy. These woes are just a fact of life in Afghanistan no matter what you're trying to do.

Re:Wow such insight! (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753402)

Well, to be fair, there are automated drones flying around with sensors for detecting ruby coated optics. You could be targetted a lot easier doing astronomy than, say, picking carrots.

Re:Wow such insight! (1)

EraserMouseMan (847479) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753668)

Military optics are specially coated to protect from eye damage from the 633nm "ruby red" laser in military rangefinders. It wouldn't make sense to coat amateur astronomy gear with that. So probably no worries on being detected by a drone because of your astronomy equipment.

Re:Wow such insight! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36753072)

Decades? Give that another order of magnitude or two, for good measure.

Shining green lasers around in a war zone ... (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753154)

Wow such an insightful article. Who would have thought that it would be dangerous in a country that has been a war zone for over 2 decades?

Shining green lasers around in a war zone, what could go wrong?

Re:Wow such insight! (1)

rwven (663186) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753266)

Thank you. I just said as much in a reply to another comment. Going to the grocery store or market for these people is probably harrowing in many places... This isn't an article about astronomy.

Re:Wow such insight! (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | more than 3 years ago | (#36754640)

Its been four decades. And I've been harassed by police while using my telescope too.

Use the right 'scope' (1)

DoomHamster (1918204) | more than 3 years ago | (#36752986)

Also, be aware that these [nightforceoptics.com] are not telescopes.

If you're doing nothing wrong... (1)

quacking duck (607555) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753028)

FTFA:

“We explained that we are astronomers, but the local police commander approached so to be sure that we are not terrorists and that our telescope had no military application and it is not a rocket launcher. We invited him to watch M4 Star Cluster, but he didn’t like it and said that his own binocular is more powerful. He told us were a group of half-witted and nothing else. One of the police registered our names and listed all our equipment.”

Yeah this is Afghanistan, the commander was power-tripping, and western police as a whole are 100x better behaved, but the above is yet another example of the idiotic fallacy of "If you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide" that authoritarians love trotting out to justify increased police powers and intrusions.

Re:If you're doing nothing wrong... (3, Interesting)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753078)

Its funny, I almost said this to a cop yesterday.

I saw that his car (parked in the "police parking only" spot had an expired inspection sticket, so I snapped a couple of quick photos as a "concerned citizen". He came running over to question me.... ROTFL he even asked "who is paying you" LOL!.

Next day I walk by, he has a new inspection sticker (unlike about 10 other cars, including cruisers in the same lot).

I was totally kicking myself for not tossing in a "if you have done nothing wrong...."

Re:If you're doing nothing wrong... (1)

Grizzley9 (1407005) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753310)

FTFA:

“We explained that we are astronomers, but the local police commander approached so to be sure that we are not terrorists and that our telescope had no military application and it is not a rocket launcher. We invited him to watch M4 Star Cluster, but he didn’t like it and said that his own binocular is more powerful.

And he could have been right. Take any cheap beginner telescope that parents will get for their kids (likely what is available in Afghanistan) and 8 out of 10 times a simple pair of binoculars will be better suited as well as not as frustrating to use on the likely cheap mount with the scope.

While looking at the M4 with my 13" dobsonian is nice, many times for general viewing, especially for others, guests, and novices, a good pair of binocs are better.

Re:If you're doing nothing wrong... (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753336)

Yeah this is Afghanistan, the commander was power-tripping, and western police as a whole are 100x better behaved,

Sometimes.

Try again in the us as a non-white, or not an obvious "dad trying to educate his kids", let us know how it goes, assuming they don't shoot you.

Re:If you're doing nothing wrong... (1)

PickyH3D (680158) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753638)

Ah yes, because in the US it is frequent for asians, blacks and latinos to be questioned, beaten or shot for carrying a telescope. American police are regularly overzealous, and many times they are just downright stupid, but I have never once heard of someone struggling to explain telescopes. In fact, I used to live near a mountain peak that was frequented by all kinds of people for amateur astronomy without problems from the police. And the police were pretty stupid in that city.

This type of fear and expectation of racism that many people present breeds racism itself. It absolutely causes tensions that otherwise would not exist.

Re:If you're doing nothing wrong... (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755128)

I haven't had problems with cops while using telescopes, but when I was about ten or twelve, I had a lady freak out a bit because she though I was setting up some kind of mortar or rocket launcher. To be fair, she looked -- and sounded -- like she may well have been Vietnamese or Korean, so there's a good chance that she might have lived through some pretty horrific things, and I can understand how a reflector telescope at night might resemble a mortar to someone who doesn't use either one on a regular basis (but they aren't usually painted bright white...).

Re:If you're doing nothing wrong... (2)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753710)

Yeah this is Afghanistan, the commander was power-tripping, and western police as a whole are 100x better behaved,

Sometimes.

Try again in the us as a non-white, or not an obvious "dad trying to educate his kids", let us know how it goes, assuming they don't shoot you.

Actually, even if you take a handful of suburbanite friends out into the country and set up a decent-sized tripod mounted telescope pointed skyward and wait, pretty soon the cops will be by demanding what the hell you think you're doing. Even though it should be pretty damn obvious from the equipment and star charts and red-lens fashlights what the hell you're doing. I can only imagine how much worse it would be if the astronomers were non-white.

Re:If you're doing nothing wrong... (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753472)

Cops in Afghanistan have a good excuse to be paranoid. There legitimately are thousands of people trying to murder them and their loved ones, every day. A cop asking questions, and then registering the names and equipment of the people, really doesn't seem bad at all. If those people had been setting up a rocket launcher, and the cops saw it and did nothing, wouldn't that be far worse?

Western police don't have that excuse.

Re:If you're doing nothing wrong... (2)

OldSoldier (168889) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753658)

Some minor harassment happens in the US too. We were doing a star viewing event at a local elementary school. There were perhaps 3 big dobsonians and 2 or so smaller scopes, 20-30 people in the ball field of this school at 10:00 in the fall (so it was very dark, well past sundown) and somehow a police helicopter started circling us. We figured some neighbor must have called about some activity in the school and maybe there was a helicopter already near by so the local authorities dispatched it instead of a squad car. Thing is, it wasn't a quick fly-by. It circled us about 10 times, but otherwise left us alone. No police lights, no spot light, no loud speaker announcement, just 10 very noisy circles of our location then it went away.

I think unusual activity of any kind gets noticed and "inspected" these days.

Re:If you're doing nothing wrong... (1)

ShavedOrangutan (1930630) | more than 3 years ago | (#36754602)

You were trespassing. Just because a school is state property doesn't make it open to the public. That was very nice of the police to leave you be after checking on you.

I've been arrested for that before, but we weren't exactly star gazing.

Re:If you're doing nothing wrong... (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753660)

They didn't have anything to hide and nothing happened to them, if you're trying to make a point make it, but getting someone checking out out because you have high end optics on a tripod on the top of a mountain ... IN A FUCKING WARZONE is not exactly an odd thing to ask.

Re:If you're doing nothing wrong... (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36754198)

Why do you think it's a justification?

It's not a justification. If you accept it as an attempt at justification, you are being distracted from finding the real justification and proving it right or wrong.

The fact is, those who are most worried about legal advancements in intrusion are those who have done something wrong and do have something to hide. And they fight the technology and techniques. Instead of fighting to ensure that these things are only used legally, they try to fight them being used at all. Which does nothing to help the innocent and everything to help the criminal.

Don't hate the drone. Make them have to get a warrant before they fly it over your house.

The Dangers Of Amateur X In Afghanistan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36753052)

Fill in X with anything.

Re:The Dangers Of Amateur X In Afghanistan (1)

obergfellja (947995) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753184)

Fill in eX with anything you say?

Poor astronomers, poorer dogs (1)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753056)

FTA:

But their adventures weren’t over for the night. Next, a pack of dogs approached and began barking loudly. Aghaei said they dispersed the dogs by inventing a new application for green laser pointers.

Bothersome dogs? Nothing a little permanent eye damage can't remedy.

Re:Poor astronomers, poorer dogs (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753192)

FTA:

But their adventures weren’t over for the night. Next, a pack of dogs approached and began barking loudly. Aghaei said they dispersed the dogs by inventing a new application for green laser pointers.

Bothersome dogs? Nothing a little permanent eye damage can't remedy.

I suspect its more like the "cat trick" where the chase the dot of light. Never tried it on dogs, probably works pretty well.

Re:Poor astronomers, poorer dogs (4, Informative)

hellkyng (1920978) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753420)

It works EXTREMELY well on most dogs. In fact my dog goes absolutely crazy for it, like crack fiend crazy. She gets so excited she shakes, and that is just when I reach near the box that the laser pointer is in. Then she will run until she passes out, literally, chasing the thing. And finally she goes into withdraw if she doesn't get it for a few days. Like crying, shaking, skittish angry withdraw. She has been clean about two months now, I'm tired of the damn thing.

Re:Poor astronomers, poorer dogs (2)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36754268)

Y'know, if, up on a table in the living room, you had a salt-water aquarium...and if, in that aquarium, you had a small, you know, shark... and if, on that shark, you put a harness...

(do this in a Cristopher Walken voice and just try not to laugh.)

Re:Poor astronomers, poorer dogs (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 3 years ago | (#36755184)

My dogs are far more excited to chase the laser pointer than my cat.

"I don't want to live on this planet anymore." (1)

obergfellja (947995) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753066)

Yeah, well that is the cost of allowing war to dictate what goes in the ground. Koran-thumpers will hurt you and than ask questions later... that sounds like something we have here... Bible-thumpers who will blow up abortion clinics, or kill you if you don't fit into their way of thought (like that one guy who killed the abortionist that went to the same church because he felt the abortionist was in the wrong.

Uneducated world, it is bigger than you think. I have ran into so many idiots in the states that I am thing "I don't want to live on this planet anymore." - http://s3.amazonaws.com/kym-assets/photos/images/original/000/126/314/3cd8a33a.png?1306264975 [amazonaws.com] It is a shame.

Upside, little to no light pollution. I would kill for that (no pun intended).

Re:"I don't want to live on this planet anymore." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36753550)

You sound like one of those idiots your talking about, crazy huh? Not really, this is slash idiot so you fit right in. Nice you hate bible thumps and Muslims.

Re:"I don't want to live on this planet anymore." (1)

obergfellja (947995) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753604)

and there is the proof why I don't want to live on this planet anymore. Thank you for proving my point.

The can see the moon! (5, Interesting)

Scarred Intellect (1648867) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753068)

I spoke to a man that was a college graduate out of Kabul when I was in Golestan, Farah Province, Afghanistan.

He asked, "Which country is better, the USA or Afghanistan?"
I replied "I think the USA is a better country."
"Why?"
"We have paved roads everywhere, and every house has electricity and running clean water." Only SLIGHTLY off, but it gets the idea across.
"I think Afghanistan is a better country because I know that those things are impossible. And we have beautiful gardens and can see the moon."
"We have gardens in America, and we can see the moon, too"
"I know you are lying, because I have been to college and you cannot see the moon from America."

This is a true story. Obviously, the dangers of astronomy in Afghanistan are worth the risk, because we cannot see the moon.

Re:The can see the moon! (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753248)

Which is why NASA gave up on going to the moon. We can't see it, and we got tired of risking astronauts and spacecraft on blind shots.

And the moral of the story is..... "Hard science is hard."

Re:The can see the moon! (4, Insightful)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753602)

Assuming this Afghani wasn't yanking your chain for laughs, that's a serious issue. I'm speaking of the ignorance and hopelessness entrenched in this mans head. I don't blame him either. Conflict is part of their culture. It was there from the moment he was born, and perhaps long after he's dead. Hell, may last another thousand years. Maybe a million. No, what these people need are a bunch of terminals air-dropped into villages with SATCOM uplinks. Hell, it might even be cheaper that the money we've spend so far on this theater of war. Shower them with knowledge, and let God sort it out. It sure wont stop the immediate violence, but I'd bet the ROI would be better in helping them help themselves.

Re:The can see the moon! (4, Interesting)

Scarred Intellect (1648867) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753866)

As far as I could tell he was dead serious. He didn't believe that we could have paved roads everywhere and electricity and clean running water everywhere. He thought that I was yanking HIS chain.

And I agree, it's not his fault at all. It's simply what he's been taught, and it's unfortunate that he doesn't have access to learning materials outside of his instructors.

Re:The can see the moon! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36754086)

Great idea except when the most trusted man in each community says on behalf of the power brokers "the information that the infidels are air dropping and passing onto you are all lies and you will be punished for reading the devils work." or similar things like that.

The concept is strong but it would take even longer and even more humanitarian disaster (scary i know), should such a strategy come into action to win the hearts and minds.

This plan would take centuries most likely. Books and access to information wont help people forget the air strikes, constant occupation by foreign powers who are now dropping information that so conveniently doesn't have a bad word to say about them. They also wont forget "lets scalp some raghead" soldiers who we also never have a bad word to say since they're serving our countries even if they are douchebags any time soon. (im not talking propaganda im talking our actual history reference books, (history written by the winner and all that jazz))

There are also plenty of extremists for all sorts of reasons in the west, and they have access to all the information and it hasn't helped so many of them.

Well they kind of look like an RPG (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753098)

The article even mentions that their telescope was examined to make sure it wasn't a rocket launcher. This jives with what I think would happen if a bunch of guys went out at night with large tube like objects in that country. It does however sound like they still have to deal with light pollution, but from US bases.

Re:Well they kind of look like an RPG (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36753676)

This jives with what I think

*sigh* ... Not jive ...

Definition of JIVE
1
: swing music or the dancing performed to it
2
a : glib, deceptive, or foolish talk

You want this:

Definition of JIBE
intransitive verb
: to be in accord : agree

SO FUCKING LEAVE !! (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36753170)

If you don't like it, LEAVE !! We don't want your kind round here anyway !! Go back to fucking US of A or to whatever part of the third world you hail !!

Moon showing (1)

Kamiza Ikioi (893310) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753274)

Yeah, you don't wanna get caught out in the open mooning a sniper who'll put a shot right up Uranus.

Dangers of X in Afghanistan (1)

necro81 (917438) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753296)

This is an interesting example. However, I think it fair to say that the headline could be made more generic:

Dangers of [X] in [Country Wired in Civil War, Corruption, Insurgency, and Foreign Occupation]

Heard: (3, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753334)

"Well, I've never seen that comet before. Hey, I can see it moving! It's almost as if it's heading straight towar ^ `{ &.......[NO CARRIER]

It's obvious really. (3, Funny)

mr_lizard13 (882373) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753394)

They are plotting a terrorist attack on the moon.

Bastards.

Re:It's obvious really. (1)

Pope (17780) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753780)

We're Earthlings, we should blow up Earth things!

Re:It's obvious really. (1)

cosm (1072588) | more than 3 years ago | (#36754252)

Now we have a reason to go there! I have an idea. Lets train TSA agents as astronauts and send them to the moon. Hell Mars too while we're at it. They can continue to be be the monkeys that they are to ensure that DHS secures the space frontier from intergalactic terrorist. Benefits everybody. Helps manned space exploration, gives the TSA an actual useful mission (although they would not know it from there 'new' mission statement), and I can lololol all the way to the space industry! Even better, have the government put all these agents on privatized corporate space-craft, so we grow the private-sector space exploration arena!

It's not more ridiculous than their current method of operation. We have to save the children from intergalactic IEDs and space-boot bombers!

Oh no! A snip (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36753406)

If you do not step on a mine, you may have your head blown up for possible being a sniper, cool.

Drunk dudes and skunks (1)

ArmchairAstronomer (724678) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753482)

Here in Michigan we were once threatened by a bunch of drunk dudes who were out joyriding while we were out stragazing. Most of the time those type of guys were interested in getting a look through the scopes but these dudes were wacked. No harm came to anyone in this "incident". The only chemical weapons we ever encountered were wielded by the skunks. All in all much safer here.

The Afghans get props for their dedication to the science. Lets hope it gets better not worse for them.

Waaah, sucks to be an astronomer, doesn't it! (-1, Flamebait)

Kaz Kylheku (1484) | more than 3 years ago | (#36753548)

But not as much as it is to be, say, a *woman* in Afghanistan.

Some freshly ground perspective on your steak, sir?

dum fsck sand hog mussleems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36753598)

who gives a fsck what happens in AssGhanistan.

captain obvious (0)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 3 years ago | (#36754036)

Warzones are dangerous: More at 11.

Arizona - not that much better (1)

mike449 (238450) | more than 3 years ago | (#36754316)

In Arizona, I can not just go out to the middle of nowhere and set up my scope. There are land owners with shotguns. I have to arrange with them where I can set up. Otherwise they shoot first and ask questions later.
And then there are scorpions and snakes. Granted, they are not as bad as landmines, but they are somewhat of a deterrent.

And then, after the interview (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36754468)

He went home, beat his wife and cut off her nose for looking at the reporter. Poor him.

Just go further out ... (1)

Kittenman (971447) | more than 3 years ago | (#36754934)

I just RTFA ... he went 20km from Kabul, and was close enough to a military base to get light pollution. Back when I was a lot more active astronomer than I am now, I used to head to a field some 10 km from my hometown (south of Auckland, NZ), which was way the hell away from everything anyhow. No light pollution, no passing strangers. I met a goat once, but that was it.

Afghanistan is a lot more empty than NZ - he just needs to head out further. Maybe he was purposefully provoking some response to get the material for his article?

Stars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36755094)

Wait... they can still see the stars? Sounds like we need to install some additional infrastructure to fix that! Streetlights for everyone!

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