Atacama: Teaching radio astronomy and science and measurement to students in nearby countries, should help all countries

Atacama Makers teaching radio astronomy and science and measurement to students in nearby countries

Valeria Foncea,

I visited the Atacama Makers page.  It was very dissatisfying.  None of the pictures was explained. If you are helping one country’s children, but could post materials online for 5 billion Internet users, that is just sad if you do not.  You could have a policy that you post all materials online, so that kids from other countries are never left out.

I was curious what things the kids are building.  There are about 2 billion kids now from 4 to 24 in the world, “first time learners”. And billions more who had no access earlier in their lives.

Your downloads are only “cute”, they are not hard science, methods, data and global collaboration – now the core of lifelong learning.

Your portal is only still showing pretty pictures and dribbling out bits of results.  You need to share the raw data, the methods.  Interferometry starts with raw data.

Most of the terms at and other pages have no backup information.  You know where those details are and could share.  Every viewer has to search for things you only need to find and share once.  Multiply the effort of your Internet teams by millions or billions.  If you set a good example, and link with all the other sites, then you only need to do things a few times to serve billions, and let them then help too.  It is a cultural change that will take a generation, but you should start now, so kids on Mars and Moon will have resources too.

Richard Collins, The Internet Foundation


You did not ask for feedback.  But I think you ought to have all your arrays reporting the frequencies from milliHertz to GigaHertz.  Time series of FFTs is a good way. And you ought to record and share the current and voltage of the ground wires of your antennas and systems. That is relatively easy to do, and it will constrain the global electric field variations.  If every group does their part – as part of a many overlapping global efforts, then perhaps it won’t be centuries and decades, but years and weeks.

I thought about it some more.  You have a lot of good material, but it is organized at the convenience of people putting things on the Internet, with their comfortable habits and presumptions.  The billions of people using the Internet, most of them have heard about radio telescopes, and many have heard about antenna arrays.  For young and old trying to find more information – many thousands or tens of thousands might want to learn how to use such tools or data from such arrays, in their futures.

One thing I did not find that would be useful, is the raw data from a few antennas in a form convenient for stepping through and learning array imaging. That cannot just be done by talking about it.  People learn by working with real things, including real data that has an origin, purpose and future.

There are software defined radio groups working on array elements.  But they mostly do not know the whole process from end to end. They search for radio astronomy and they get proud results and pretty picture, not the data and tools and affordable systems they need to get started.  They get hung up buying parts and software, and almost never get past the first few steps.  They need mentors and guides.

The high cost of “getting started” is driven by a number of factors.  But that cost, measured over the tens of billions of hours of Internet time used, is most of the current wasted time on the Internet.  I spent the last 25 years looking at why the Internet is so inefficient, that is a large part of it.  People put less effort publishing on the Internet for 5 billion users, than they do for preparing for a department seminar presentation.

Richard Collins, The Internet Foundation
Richard K Collins

About: Richard K Collins

Director, The Internet Foundation Studying formation and optimized collaboration of global communities. Applying the Internet to solve global problems and build sustainable communities. Internet policies, standards and best practices.

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