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The True Cost of Fire ~ Mt. Wilson Observatory

View from the observatory on 8/30, click for larger

It was 1904 that wealthy, Chicago-born astronomer George Ellery Hale, with nothing more than a 1900-pound, 60-inch reflecting lens—a gift from his father that had been gathering dust since 1896—and a generous grant from the Carnegie Institute, set out to build an observatory in the mountains above Los Angeles. Dr. Hale, by all accounts not only a genius but a functional schizophrenic who co-authored many of his most enduring theories with an elf, chose a location, 5,715-foot Mt. Wilson, that was as astronomically advantageous for its steady atmospheric conditions as it was a huge pain in the ass for construction. The entire observatory was hauled up the mountain piece by piece on muleback, but when completed in 1908 the Mt. Wilson Observatory was the premier astronomic research facility in the western hemisphere, a virtual clubhouse for the greatest minds in the field.

It was here that on a starry night in 1929 famed astronomer Edwin Hubble peered through the 100-inch Hooker Telescope—at the time the largest and most powerful in the world—and gazing further into the great, seething, primordial Mother-Taco than any man before him, gasped in discovery and was heard to proclaim, “Holy shit! There was a Big Bang!” It was the greatest scientific achievement of its day, unifying Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity with observable phenomena of an expanding universe while subtly implying we are not merely these rude physical beings born of woman, ploddingly propagating our generations from the odds and ends of one another, but great, luminous, aromatic creatures of smoke and fire, sparked to life by a masterful hand on the seasoned griddle of infinity, descendents of tacos all....

As we speak the Mt. Wilson Observatory is besieged by the rampaging Station fire as it sweeps through the Angeles National Forest. The press at the moment seems more concerned with the possible loss of the radio and television transmission towers that defile that mountain’s peak, but you and I, who understand the secret history of the Birthplace of the Taco Cosmogony, know what the real tragedy would be.

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