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Technically Geeking: Los Angeles is Burning


a blogumn by Justin Time

The 100-inch telescope at Mt. Wilson

The 100-inch telescope at Mt. Wilson. Photograph © Andrew Dunn, 1989.

In my last entry, my wife and I were navigating the pitfalls of car buying. Well, we got through it ok, and here are some lessons we learned:

–> Research prices extensively to make sure you pay only slightly more than the dealer paid.
–> Negotiating over email with a dealer can be efficient, convenient, and it keeps the details in plain sight.
–> Factory navigation systems, while impressive, cost an arm and a leg and may have hidden costs. We opted against the nav because it was $2500 plus the $2500 we would have had to pay to get the minimum required trim package. For five grand we could buy another car.
–> Don’t buy any of the up-sells during the financing portion of the deal. They will try to convince you that you need it all and it won’t cost you much over the life of your loan, but you don’t and it will.

Now that the shiny new car is in the driveway, ash from the Station Fire is raining down and covering it in an off white dusty coating. Luckily we live far enough away that a sore throat and itchy eyes is the most we can complain about, but this is one gigantic fire, currently having burned over 160 square miles and still out of control. In addition to two heroic firemen who lost their lives battling this monster, many structures have burned already. 10,000 homes are threatened.

One of the areas that firemen are working hardest to defend is Mount Wilson, which is home to many television, radio and cell signal towers, as well as the Mount Wilson Observatory. What’s so special about this observatory, you may ask. Well, for one thing it is over one hundred years old, as you will see from its timeline. It is the birthplace of the big bang theory and it was the home office for the father of modern cosmology, Edwin Hubble. He discovered that the Universe is a lot bigger than just our humble Milky Way and established that the universe is expanding. You might have heard of a telescope named after him.

I hope the firefighters can save this astronomical piece of history, but I was moved by the words of fire chief Mike Dietrich yesterday. “If they have to abandon the position, there’s no facility that is worth a human life,” he said.

Here’s a live web cam view from Mount Wilson Observatory.