The thing is, astronomy research has no inherent profit in it. The work astronomers do can (and often does) eventually have a strong impact on human technology and society but, at the time the scientists are still doing it? Not really.

Astronomy research is not done for profit and frequently involves collaborations which straight up ignore national borders and political matters, focusing on acquiring knowledge and sharing it freely.

Honestly, capitalists hate it.

And yes, astronomy in particular, shares most of the knowledge it finds freely with anyone who wants it.

All major observatories have a freely searchable database. NASA, being publicly funded, have a policy of releasing all their data into the public domain as soon as its received.

Nearly all astronomy researchers put freely accessible copies of their published work on the internet for anyone to see, at

The Event Horizon Telescope, incidentally, is a fantastic example of a large scale decentralised non-governmental collaboration.

That black hole image was taken using 8 separately managed radio telescopes scattered across the planet. It was organised by scientists working in 60 different research institutes in 17 countries across 6 continents. With no motive beyond trying to learn something which they didn't know before.

Tell that to anyone who tries to argue that humans don't accomplish anything unless motivated by profit.


The profit motive is incredibly demeaning. Like, I don't make a profit from rasing my jade plant. Somebody just gifted me a jade plant and I take care of it cus it's my little plant child and I have to protecc it.

I've seen that kind of attachment boiled down to "indirect profit" and I'm like "I am wasting perfectly good water on a plant! There are tons of plants outside and they get watered for free! Why should I waste my hard earned mostiure on a little cutting!?"

@Roxxie_Riot @InvaderXan

Indoor plants can help keep the air fresh as well as beautify. So you are seeing a profit, just not going to professional profiteers to get it. :)

@InvaderXan @xenophora

Well if that's how you wanna slice it, the jade plant is still a bad choice. It grows very slowly, so to start from a cutting means my investment in care and water has been a massive drain compared to the output of my precious child.

I'd want plant that produces more than it intakes, and one that has a faster reproductive cycle so I can make more from my intital investment.

I am losing at greenhouse capitalism, and hard.

@Roxxie_Riot @InvaderXan

I only have air plants and hanging Devil's Ivy now. Our late, great orange monster finished off all the rest, including my fabulous jade. 🐈 (She didn't try to eat it, just played Gravity with it one time too many.)

@InvaderXan @xenophora

I keep my jade plant up on the window seal where the pups can't reach. Also, my pups only steal food, and usually only things that smell like meat.

@InvaderXan Even if capitalists prefer the "competition motivates innovation" one, this still disproves that because it was *cooperation* that got this done. No competition whatsoever.

The way I see it, profit is all about financial gain, but everything else is value and benefit. Though maybe that’s an English dialect thing...

@InvaderXan Ah, probably! I keep forgetting. :)

The way the word "profit" is usually translated into Russian can mean both material and non-material benefit, depending on a context. Although we do have a separate word for financial gain as well.

Oh, that’s interesting. I guess technically, “profit” can have that meaning in English too. But no one uses it that way, in my experience.

@InvaderXan Except, you know, developed on decades of NASA R&D and motivated by profit. But yeah, let's read altruism into corporate motive.

There's always someone out there who wants to try and explain my own profession to me...

@InvaderXan I hadn't even realised there was a telescope on the South Pole until yesterday. Their web site is charmingly retro:

Telescope websites often are. I swear, lots haven’t changed since the 90s!

@InvaderXan @_aD @InvaderXan to Read About This One Weird Science That Capitalists Hate! ❤️

@InvaderXan question, that *looks* like an intentional attempt to triangulate visual data but I don't know if radio telescopes work that way. Is this what was going on or is it simply incidental?

It's incidental. Those just happen to be the places where the telescopes were built. But it's still interesting...

The observation used a technique called very long baseline interferometry (VLBI), which is jargon that means two or more telescopes separated by a large distance. If you want to increase your image resolution, you can either use a larger telescope or use a few smaller ones linked together. The second option works out easier, and the further apart those linked telescopes are, the better the resolution. It's a little like if you were using just one larger one.

So this setup has ridiculously high resolution, because the telescope is effectively almost as big as Earth – Which is how they managed to take a decent image of something 53.5 million light years away!

@InvaderXan If they can resolve that much detail around a black hole in another galaxy (M87 is 50M LY away), they should be able to read E.T.'s license plate on a nearby #exoplanet. #EHT

The analogy they used in the press conference is that it's like being able to read the writing on a penny on the surface of the moon. 🌖

@InvaderXan So where is the smut taken through E.T.'s bedroom window? ;)

@InvaderXan one of my introductions to this kind of cooperation was learning from a guy at Kitt Peak that they have a small remote operated telescope belonging to a scandinavian university - a university that has telescopes around the world so their students can do observing 24/7. Just these boxes about the size of the utility boxes next to buildings (maybe 3x3x5'). One of the coolest things I've heard about.

Observatories are always interesting that way. In South Africa, one of the observatory caretakers showed me around a few similar sounding things one afternoon...


does this mean my silly idealistic dream of "grassroots research" with micro cells of academics working different aspects of problems and newcomers working with them on other aspects, with the whole world becoming a more interconnected sort of "citizen scientist planet" situation, is a thing?

please let that be a thing it could be pretty friggin' awesome c'moooooooon

You know, notwithstanding it’s systemic problems and shortcomings, this sounds to me like the way academia is ideally supposed to work...

Dreaming is good, chérie. Try not to let the world stop you from dreaming. 💚

@InvaderXan though it's not really "non-governmental" if the governments made the decision to fund the research institutes

Without public funding, none of us would get paid, and we’d all have to find different jobs. However, the collaboration itself is neither made between governments, nor organised by them.

@InvaderXan A note that the technology used by astronomers can also have other (practical) applications.

Here's a recent example: "An X-ray machine which uses space technology to generate crystal clear images that doctors can use to detect the early signs of cancer"

Oh, very interesting. I had t heard about this one, thanks!

@InvaderXan what both, astronomy, and particle physics have done in the past couple of years is push the limits of technology

OpenStack came out of NASA.
CERN was the first to have tons of data to process, and had *actual* use for BigData¹ technologies

¹When your data can fit into RAM, you don't have BigData.
It's cheaper to just have it all in one database, that's running from RAM, than buy dozens of machines and employ 3 people to evaluate how many clicks someone made.

Oh, that's interesting. I'll admit, I could stand to know more about the specifics of these things...

@InvaderXan nah

don't clutter your head with computer nonsense…

i say, while reading

My head's already cluttered with a lot of nonsense. A little more won't hurt. :P

WiFi came out of the Australian research organization CSIRO, specifically their work on radio astronomy.

@InvaderXan @hirojin
LOFAR, the enormous Dutch low-frequency radio telescope, archives all its data publicly. This is a challenge, because that means making quite a few petabytes of data reliably archived and publicly available. We do that by working with a computer science research group studying how to do precisely that.

@anne @hirojin
Another example of cooperation and interdependence, as emergent properties.

@hirojin @anne
Cool, I'm going to publish a book in a plant and distribute it as seeds.

@InvaderXan @anne or better yet: publish it in a fungus, and distribute it as (parasitic) spores.

Aan expensive book to read, as it stands; serving a genome is still pretty expensive per base pair.

@InvaderXan @hirojin
Plus it is a censored medium: while you can order DNA by the base pair, any lab that will do that will run it through a screen to make sure you're not ordering smallpox or the 1918 flu.

@anne @InvaderXan @hirojin

I read a thing on Radio 4 several weeks ago about people putting poems into bacteria. It seems best suited to shorter works, so far.

@InvaderXan @hirojin @anne there's a story similar to this in the original Brazilian Solarpunk anthology! I didn't love a lot of the stories in the anthology, but that one was 👌👌👌

@InvaderXan @hirojin @anne now that I'm looking through the TOC, I'm not finding the story that I had in mind. I'm gonna have to do some digging and let you know where on earth that story came from

@anne @InvaderXan @hirojin WiFi started with ALOHAnet, invented in the late 60s/early 70s at the University of Hawaii.

From Wikipedia:

The Australian radio-astronomer [...] developed a key patent used in Wi-Fi as a by-product of a [CSIRO] research project, "a failed experiment to detect exploding mini black holes the size of an atomic particle". Dr O'Sullivan and his colleagues are credited with inventing Wi-Fi. In 1992 and 1996, CSIRO obtained patents for a method later used in Wi-Fi to "unsmear" the signal.
@InvaderXan @hirojin

@anne @InvaderXan @hirojin yes, and ALOHAnet invented the way to deal with multiple active senders, so both statements are equally incomplete

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