Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Zen and the Art of Astronomy
Today I showed two Buddhist monks (plus three of their friends) around the biggest telescope in the world. The senior one is the professor of Buddhist Philosophy at the University of Varanasi, in India. Unfortunately I can't remember his name since it was so exotic to me.
I did a bit of a double take when I saw that the university professor was wearing Tibetan robes, like the Dalai Lama. It's not something you often see on La Palma. If anything, the observatory dress code learns towards slightly scruffy, since quite a lot of the people there have been up all night, are living out of suitcases, and are more interested in exoplanets than fashion anyway.
Well, it didn't take long to see past the robes to the people, and to find out that they were very nice. So I showed them around and gave the talk for people who are intelligent, but don't know much science, and they were all very appreciative. And as usual with small groups, we all took photos of each other.
When we got outside, we were all thirsty. We had plenty of water but only two cups. I was just about to go back into the building in search of cups when the monks showed us how to share cups hygienically - you don't touch it with your lips. I got soaked on my first try, but it was only water on a hot day, so that was no problem. And then I got the hang of it.
When I got up this morning, I certainly wasn't expecting drinking lessons from a Buddhist monk.