[Burke with the 140 foot telescope]
Burke with the 140 foot telescope (Photo courtesy of NRAO/AUI/NSF)


[Burke with Kenneth Kellermann and Harry Van der Laan]
Burke with Kenneth Kellermann and Harry Van der Laan (Photo courtesy of NRAO/AUI/NSF)


NATIONAL RADIO ASTRONOMY OBSERVATORY ARCHIVES

Papers of Woodruff T. Sullivan III: Tapes Series

Interview with Bernard F. Burke
At Leiden
January 21, 1972
Interview Time: 45 minutes
Trancribed by Sierra Smith

Note: The interview listed below was either transcribed as part of Sullivan's research for his book, Cosmic Noise: A History or Early Radio Astronomy (Cambridge University Press, 2009) or was transcribed in the NRAO Archives by Sierra Smith in 2012-2013. The transcription may have been read and edited for clarity by Sullivan, and may have also been read and edited by the interviewee. Any notes added in the reading/editing process by Sullivan, the interviewee, or others who read the transcript have been included in brackets. If the interview was transcribed for Sullivan, the original typescript of the interview is available in the NRAO Archives. Sullivan's notes about each interview are available on the individual interviewee's Web page. During processing, full names of institutions and people were added in brackets and if especially long the interview was split into parts reflecting the sides of the original audio cassette tapes. We are grateful for the 2011 Herbert C. Pollock Award from Dudley Observatory which funded digitization of the original cassette tapes, and for a 2012 grant from American Institute of Physics, Center for the History of Physics, which funded the work of posting these interviews to the Web.

Sullivan

Ok. This is interviewing [Bernard] Bernie Burke at Leiden on 21 January 1972. Well then, how did you get started in radio astronomy?

Burke

Oh, [E. G.] Taffy Bowen was an old friend of several of the senior people at MIT where I was a graduate student. And Al [Albert] Hill saw him at some meeting probably in 1952 or so and he hadnít heard the radio astronomy story. Taffy, of course, was full of it right at that time so he invited Taffy to go to MIT to give a series of three lectures on all of radio astronomy. And, the first lecture was on the sun, the second lecture was on the moon, and the third was on everything else. And Hillís hope was to get some of the faculty at MIT interested in radio astronomy.

Sullivan

Now, who is Hill?

Burke

He was a professor of physics. At the moment, he is vice president of research at MIT. He was a former member of PSAC [Presidentís Science Advisory Committee]. He has been very active on the national scene. He was one of the active people in the Rad Lab [Radiation Laboratory]. And so the irony was of all the people who heard the lecture, I think I was the only one that the message came through to. So when I was looking around for a job after finishing my thesis work which was on...

Sullivan

What was your thesis on?

Burke

Zeeman effect on water. Well , Zeeman effect in asymmetric, Zeeman effect on molecules, in particular the water molecule. Itís nuclear moment also. It was microwave spectroscopy and it was Henry Booker that suggested I go to the Carnegie Institution. And [Merle A.] Tuve had just heard from [Rudolph] Minkowski about the discovery, the identification of radio sources at a year or so earlier...

Sullivan

And Tuveís position was what?

Burke

He was director of DTM [Department of Terrestrial Magnetism].

Sullivan

The DTM?

Burke

Yeah, head of the DTM and so he invited [Francis] Graham Smith to come to the DTM and Graham had arrived just a few months before I came and so I essentially learned radio astronomy from Graham. And the first experiment that Graham was involved in was a 38 MHz interferometer that just started measuring scintillations. And during the course of the year, there was a stewing about what should be the next step. And Graham felt that low frequency radio astronomy would be the right thing to do because he knew the sun spot minimum was coming on and it was something you could do with string and receiving wax techniques.

Sullivan

This is the same Graham Smith that was at Jodrell Bank?

Burke

Yeah, he was at the Cavendish at that time. So the proposal was to build a 22 MHz Mills Cross and he. We built it as an X and it was clear that Graham was the main driving force. As things got on, I got involved more working along with him. Graham was the one who thought this was the next direction to go. I remember Tuve wondering if a prototype should be built and Graham was pretty quick in his answer that we should build the whole thing as opposed to... So anyway, we had built a 22 MHz interferometer which was intended to observe the occultation of the Crab Nebula by the Sun in the Spring of í54. I came to the Carnegie Institution in Fall of í53 and so in the Spring of í54...

Sullivan

Are all these things located in the district?

Burke

The antenna field was about 20 miles up the Potomac River on a piece of bottom land down beside the river and we rented a 96 acre field to build antennas in. Originally we rented a smaller field next to it. So we built the small interferometer and during the course of the occultation of the Crab, we suddenly saw what appeared to be a reappearance of the Crab Nebula. Beautiful fringes. In looking over the data, Graham was...

Minor tape malfunction

Sullivan

Are we ok?

Burke

Yes, well letís see. Where were we? Graham saw this and it was amazing that he pounced on it right away. And the two of us got down on the floor measuring up the fringes and we, from the fringe rate and from the rate of change of the fringe rate, Graham saw that it was not right at the position of the Sun or at the position of the Crab Nebula. And he said, "Oh, thatís interesting." He had heard that Shane in Australia had seen bursts from the Sun but rather far out from the Sun itself. It ended up being 10 diameters away, quite a large amount. And well it rested there. That was the end of the discussion and so we went on to build the antenna. And Graham left in the, I think it was at the end of the summer of í54 and the antenna was about completed by the time he left. He continued to work on clearing up the details and starting observing. We really got going on a regular observing program about the turn of the year, í54, í55 as the antenna was really working and we decided to look at the Crab Nebula because we got a nice trace on the Crab.

Sullivan

Where was this first occultation published? Or was it?

Burke

You mean the first interferometer?

Sullivan

Yeah.

Burke

The measurement of the apparent burst of the Sun?

Sullivan

Yeah, right.

Burke

That wasnít published.

Sullivan

That wasnít published?

Burke

That was just, you know, an interesting thing. Well at any rate, we looked at the Crab and there were a number of other weaker sources on the tracing. We could see IC443 and then there was another source that was apparently weak and extended but it was interfered with and we looked several times and several times interference came just as we were trying to look at that weak third source that was just beyond IC443. Was it IC443? I think it was. No, I think it was IC443. Anyway, we then proceeded to make a systematic survey. Ken Franklin had come there in the fall of 1954 and was working. And so we were submitting a paper to the Princeton Meeting in 1955 at AAS [American Astronomical Society]. And we were working up the data. That is we as usual, we knew we had the observations. We had flux measurements of several radio sources made with the large 22 MHz Mills Cross. And so we had all the records laid out and in laying them out with the Crab Nebula lining up so you essentially had it laid out by sidereal times so you could see that this interfering set of bursts was also coming through. No, at first you could see that it was approximately the same sidereal time, clearly not solar time, approximately the same sidereal time. And I think Ken Franklin has written a story in the Scientific American. Itís a very accurate story because I noticed they were coming by at about the same time. Then we began to fiddle and fuss as to what it could be and trying to measure the very best time, we could see that it wasnít coming at quite the same sidereal time. And there is an ironic thing. We donít remember who it was that made the suggestion. That is whether it was one of us or whether it was just someone half joking in the room because it was the large map room, Howard Tatel, John Firor at least those two.

Sullivan

Was this down in the basement?

Burke

At that time it was on the first floor. The arrangement in the DTM is different from now. At any rate, somebody suggested well why not look up the planets and so there was a certain amount of laughter but we did it anyway. And very quickly we could see that Jupiter was in the vicinity. And then Ken Franklin sat down and plotted out the times when the noise bursts came and the positions of Jupiter. And he said, "Hey fellows, come over here and look at this." And you could just see it. There it was.

Sullivan

Yeah, no doubt about it.

Burke

And so it sort of just gradually grew up. Itís funny; we donít know who it was that originally thought it might be Jupiter.

Sullivan

About when was this article in the Scientific American?

Burke

About five years ago plus or minus one. Then I went back to the interferometer records where weíd seen the burst far out from the sun and, of course, the position one deduced from the fringe rate plus the rate of change of the fringe rate was right on Jupiterís location at that time.

Sullivan

So you reported this at the AAS meeting?

Burke

Yes, it was only a week later.

Sullivan

I see. So you had no chance to follow it up?

Burke

No. No. And letís see.

Sullivan

Does the official abstract of that paper show anything about Jupiter?

Burke

The official abstract doesnít show anything about Jupiter. It just says we examined some radio sources.

Sullivan

What about, I forget, some Australian fellow you mentioned that had seen a burst?

Burke

Shane.

Sullivan

Was this shown to be Jupiter?

Burke

Yeah. Actually we let the Australians know. I wrote a letter to Shane. And by the time I got to the Manchester Symposium of the IAU [International Astronomical Union] that summer, the Australians had worked out their data and they got a rotation period so it was a source located in system two. They had the wrong identification and the wrong rotation period by a small amount but still the basic thing was that it was not rotating with the equatorial velocity. And I remember going back into the literature just for the fun of it, [Alex] Shane just a short time before had published a 9MHz survey and in his publication of the 9 MHz survey, he commented that they did have trouble with interference from time to time and they showed an example of the typical interference burst. And son of a gun, that typical interference burst occurred with Jupiter was high in the sky overhead. Of course, it might have been interference but it is also a good chance that it was Jupiter.

Sullivan

Now this follow up work the Australians did, was this from just looking at patterns?

Burke

From just looking at their old records.

Sullivan

I see. When they were studying the Sun?

Burke

Right. Well then we built a proper interferometer and several different groups came almost at the same time to the showing that there was a well defined rotation period different from the Australian rotation period but no greatly different, the so called system 3. Roger [Galey?] was the first person to officially call it system three but I think [Galey?] and Smith, Alex Smith, and Ken Franklin. All of us had the data in hand and knew that we all had a value for the rotation period which was roughly 9 hours 55 minutes 29 seconds. After awhile, well letís see, our observations showed that there was high circular polarization. And then as time went on it just became clear to me that it was going to be a problem that it had seen the main features but they, really showing what it was, wasnít clear that it was supposed to spend the rest of oneís life. At just about that time Howard Tatel died. He had been working the hydrogen line receiver at the DTM. So essentially John Firor and I had joined to make that receiver work so that meant a turn to galactic radio astronomy. We were the first to use the 21 cm line receiver on the Green Bank 300 foot when we looked at...

Sullivan

On the 300 foot?

Burke

Yeah, we put a traveling feed, we made a traveling feed. Everett Eckland at DTM was a very good engineer. We built a traveling feed and we surveyed the major axis of M31.

Sullivan

This was what in í55?

Burke

No that would be later. It would be around 1960.

Sullivan

Oh, thatís right. The 300ft wasnít even around.

Burke

Around 1960. I forget the exact year. Youíd have to sort of work it back.

Sullivan

But let me just ask another. What about the 60 foot dish? Wasnít the 60 at Carnegie?

Burke

Yes.

Sullivan

That was what, where Tatelí s receivers went on?

Burke

Yeah.

Sullivan

Where did that dish come from?

Burke

Well, that was bought by the Carnegie Institution from Blaw Knox. Originally we wanted an 84ft but it turns out that we didnít have enough money for an 84 foot so we got a 60 foot.

Sullivan

And designed mainly for hydrogen line work?

Burke

Well you see the Blaw Knox dish was essentially originally Tatel and Tuve. As Tatel and Tuve worked out a design, they then, the reason they made a new design was that they thought the Kennedy dish was too expensive. They thought they could get it cheaper so the idea of just using a very big gear that was not too precise was theirs. They then had a local engineer make a first engineering study and then they went to D.S. Kennedy and said hereís a dish but we think it should be made out of steel. And D.S. Kennedy, they made a mistake. We donít build things of steel. Aluminum is our specialty, see if the Blaw Knox Company might do it. Later they wished theyíd gone into the steel business.

Sullivan

Yeah, they lost a lot of business.

Burke

So anyway, Blaw Knox reengineered the dish. Paul was a very good engineer and Tuve, Tatel really resonated with him.

Sullivan

So this receiver was tested out on the 60 foot?

Burke

Yeah, we had it in a trailer and we hauled it by trailer down to the 300 foot.

Sullivan

And that was the first line observations, youíre saying, on the 300 foot?

Burke

Yeah, thatís right. Now letís see, what else is there? Oh the...

Sullivan

Just describe that survey again.

Burke

Letís see. í60 to í63 was hydrogen work but then it was around 1963 more or less that we... Noordwijk Symposium.

Sullivan

You said the Noordwijk?

Burke

The Noordwijk.

Sullivan

Yeah, in í66.

Burke

We reported the results in í66 but the work had been done a little bit earlier. 3/61. You shouldnít have turned your machine on so quickly. Here we go. Does it give the date? Isnít that funny? It doesnít give the date. At any rate, the main conclusion there not being halo was that there. I think the work was done in í64. í63 or í64.

Sullivan

So you covered the complete sky above the -19 declination?

Burke

Yeah, itís actually very close to being finished but itís been handed to a succession of graduate students. Itís all on tape. The job of editing this massive thing, correcting it, calibrating it progresses by a finite step each time. That is, the first pass was done by Ted Rigenstein the second improvement, the second development was Martin Ewing.

Sullivan

Each graduate student went on to something he found was more interesting?

Burke

Well, itís clear why they went on. It wasnít a thesis. It was cleaning up someone elseís work. Well, anyway that was good fun because nobody before that had proposed driving the 300ft up and down swabbing the sky. We took 40 degree cuts with the antenna and.

Sullivan

Zigzagging.

Burke

Zigzagging.

Sullivan

Thatís sort of how Westerhout surveyed.

Burke

Westerhout began to do this much afterwards.

Sullivan

Over a much smaller region.

Burke

Yeah. And at the same time at the Carnegie Institution, we decided to build a cheap interferometer using a home built dish, a 100 foot dish. And we built a 100 foot dish near Deerwood where there used to be an interferometer near the 60 foot. But then I left before the job was done and went to MIT.

Sullivan

Did it ever? I donít think it ever did get done, did it?

Burke

The dish itself was completed but not much in the way of observations was done with it because the staff, the radio astronomy staff, had dropped below the critical level. Ken Turner was still there but the Carnegie Institution has also started the Argentina Project. The Argentine dish was the same design. Actually we used the dish we built in Maryland. In part, we used it as a prototype. We could work out the same things that would be done in South America but under much more difficult conditions.

Sullivan

Now can you tell me a little bit about that dish? I mean was it just to get a look at the Southern sky, I suppose?

Burke

Yeah. Sure. To look at the Magellanic Clouds. And the reason we went to Argentina was very clear that the Carnegie Institution didnít want to have an all American show where essentially you go in, clean up, and pull out. Rather, they wanted to build a real partnership and it was pretty clear that Argentina was the only South American country that had the scientific competence to hold up their own end. So a corporation or a group was set up that had three representatives: University of La Plata, University of Buenos Aires, and the Carnegie Institution. It had a majority of Argentineans as far as representation on the steering council. And the dish, it remained technically American property. That was just to provide a little extra protection for the Argentineans. And actually I did go down there to help get it on the air because the Argentineans did most of the work but Ken Turner and I also worked on the thing to try to help bring it into operation. So I went to MIT and Iíve been at MIT, I think, the major amount of really active work was on developing Leiden interferometry. I got started very early with Alan Rogers doing the massive amount of real hard work on getting the Millstone-Haystack antennas working as an interferometry on the OH line. And there it was, I was the pusher and Al Rogers was the doer. That was a funny exercise because on the one hand Lincoln Lab did want to do the job but they had a very cautious view of how far they should go. And I kept jumping up and down because I knew that Caltech was also doing interferometry on the OH line.

Sullivan

In fact you did do it first?

Burke

We published simultaneously and I donít know who actually got fringes first as our publications appeared at the same time.

Sullivan

I donít remember this. Iím familiar with your groupís paper.

Burke

Yeah, this was [Ramon?] and...

Sullivan

[?]

Burke

No, this was earlier than that. This was, oh dear who was it? I forget the authors but...

Sullivan

Not Bartlett?

Burke

No. Youíd have to look it up. [Talking over each other] We published a paper in the Astrophysical Journal. We published in the Astrophysical Journal around roughly 1966.

Sullivan

In the same journal?

Burke

In the same journal. What happened was that we called them up and we said, "Well we arenít going to tell you our answer but weíll publish our results and see if they agree." And then that was the thing that ended our going into long baseline interferometry because we kept going to bigger baselines. The next step beyond the short one, the Millstone-Haystack, was to go to the Harvard antenna which was at Agassiz Station which was ten miles away and there essentially we used the radio link. And then it was in the winter of 1967, the idea was bubbling around that a long baseline experiment should be done.

Sullivan

A line experiment you mean?

Burke

On the OH line.

Sullivan

The continuum had been..?

Burke

Well, the continuum... Well happened was at that time since we had been using Green Bank both for that and for things that other people wanted done, we were also getting involved in recombination line work at Green Bank at the same time. We knew that there was a VLB project going on and we also knew that they werenít getting any results. And so in the winter time, I just decided that perhaps the right way to do long baseline interferometry was to use a line where your correlation time would be longer. And so I talked to the Green Bank people and said, "So we realize that we are latecomers but we think that this is the way to do a VLBI experiment. To do it right the first time and really debug your system on something that is easy to observe." And so it served as a marvelous spur, I think, because we scheduled an observation for, when was it, I think it was about the first of June. Iíve forgotten the exact dates. You can check on that. As I remember it was the first of June; however, up until then. How is your tape going?

Sullivan

Keep talking. There is no indication when it ends.

Burke

Oh I see.

Sullivan

I wish I had a bell or something.

Burke

Well, up until that time then between Arecibo and the 140 foot that the Cornell-NRAO group worked trying to do the job. However, they wanted to have one last fling before we came in. It was quite clear. They really did want to have...

Sullivan

On the 140 foot.

Burke

So, they worked up an experiment between the 140 foot and Maryland Point. So that was done probably May 15 about two weeks before.

Sullivan

This was í65, right?

Burke

This was í67.

Sullivan

í67?

Burke

í67. And make our fringed on a quasar there. So I think it was probably a good thing because they had done all the hard work so they got the first fringes. Then they brought, our original proposal was that we use the Haystack computer as one terminal and use only one of the Mark I VLBI terminals, the one at 140 foot. However, at this stage Marshall Cohen wanted very much to share the time on Haystack, using the second, one of the other Mark I terminals at Haystack. He had a certain amount of hassle with that because I was feeling very worried. I knew it was a complicated experiment and I said, "Well, I think that to have two really complicated pieces of digital equipment in the same room. Iím afraid they will be talking to each other." But it ended up, I think, Paul Sebring and Dave Heeschen agreeing that it probably wouldnít be a big risk. So we shared the time on the telescopes and the only change that was made was that the other group observed quasars with a wider band whereas we had two bandwidths. We had 120 kHz and a 6 kHz bandwidth.

Sullivan

But they use the same front end?

Burke

They use the same front end. So then the experiment worked. It was one of those, I remember exactly the moment when it worked because I had gone down to Green Bank. I started off the experiment at Haystack. I had gone to Green Bank and I came back from Green Bank carrying the tape with me. And it was a tape that was taken at the last minute. Jim Moran was at this stage was the man deepest involved in the nitty-gritty and Jim had been trying to process some of the earlier tape and wasnít getting any results. So one of the last tapes we took at Green Bank was an observation of W3 at the zero fringe rate point. See when you have zero fringe rate then you donít have to worry about correcting for your fringes because everything is very straight forward. And so we had one tape taken at the zero fringe rate point and I came back with that. And it was really wonderful because Jim had been processing other tapes and nothing was coming out. So he put that tape on and it worked very quickly. I was about to go because...

Sullivan

This was on the computer at Haystack?

Burke

Yeah, yeah. And then Jim said, "Hey, come back here and look at this." I went back and there was this nice line as you could want.

Sullivan

What had been the problem?

Burke

Well it turned out that it was a software problem where the fringe rate had been put in the wrong side and so going to the zero fringe rate was just the right way to escape the...

Sullivan

The likely thing?

Burke

So after that it went very quickly because the nature of software is that once you fix software it is really fixed. It never goes bad. So very quickly then Jim was able to find out what his error was.

Sullivan

Give in a few second. We will leave it here.

Blank spot on tape. ~5 seconds of silence

Sullivan

This is continuing with Bernie Burke and we are talking about the OH VLBI. You were saying four stations interferometry is difficult just mainly because of scheduling of people and antennas.

Burke

Yeah...

End of Tape 10A

Sullivan Tape 10B

Sullivan

This is continuing with Bernie Burke and we are talking about the OH VLBI. You were saying that four station interferometry is difficult just mainly because of scheduling of people and antennas.

Burke

I think at that time it really was worth it because essentially everyone was hot to do it. But you had to have knowledgeable people at every station. Jim Moran went to Sweden and I think that, Iíve forgotten who was at Green Bank. I went to Hat Creek in California. So we had our forces very thinly spread. AL Rogers, I think. I think Al Rogers was at Haystack. I donít know who the fourth one was. I would have to look into that but that doesnít matter. But at any rate, it was a lot of fun because we were with me in California there was a strongly attenuation communication link to there all the way east. We had a sick recorder and we were, Dave Cuddaback and I learned a great deal about AMPEX on our own because we just had to get deeper and deeper into the system to find out what the trouble was. And we eventually got it fixed by telephone. We called up the AMPEX repairman and it was New Years Eve and he wasnít terribly eager to come up to Hat Creek so he essentially steered us by telephone through the system and we found very quickly what the trouble was. It was false pulses getting into the rewind circuit. In other words, the pulse that ordinarily signifies that youíve reached the end of the tape was being generated by some spurious route and so therefore, it was just rewinding itself automatically.

Sullivan

At arbitrary times?

Burke

At arbitrary times. So all we had to do was learn from the AMPEX man how to disable the rewind and then we did it all manually. So it wasnít so very difficult but it was sort of fun.

Sullivan

So but you got how much good data for that experiment finally after everyone was operating ok?

Burke

We only got a relatively small number of tapes but they were all on W3 and those are the tapes that the very nice map of delta 3 was developed from. And in fact, not only that we got a complete development of the smallest diameter source showing its angular size. So really resolving it. So the totally number of completely mutual tapes was not large.

Sullivan

Well I supposed thatís some inverse number of the total station of course for obvious reasons.

Burke

And then letís see. The next step I guess was H2O.

Sullivan

Yeah, pretty much. Now of course Iím familiar with it once NRL [Naval Research Laboratory] was involved but there were some things done just between Haystack and building 26, were there not?

Burke

Yes, we tried a mini baseline experiment but it wasnít very well done. It was our very first try and the electronics wasnít in very good shape but what we had done we had realized that we could modify the front ends that we had. The front end frames that we were using in the rooftop interferometer, we realized that we could use those frames and the same IF systems and just put on a new mixer and local oscillator system. And [D.] Cosmo Papa very quickly, it was a real scrounging operation. We went up stairs to Dave [David] Staelinís lab and we found several K band mixers which had no good on them and we took them apart and found out why they were no good and fixed them up. And so we just scrounged enough parts that we could build three mixers. And letís see, actually the hybrids we did make specially. That is we started out with homemade hybrids but then we had the shop build some more. It started on a very casual basis. The key person in that case was probably George Papadopoulos and Cosmo Papa. It was the combination. George worked on getting us multipliers because we were having a lot of trouble making stable multipliers.

Sullivan

There is always someone who wants to get a thesis done. A key person, funny how that works.

Burke

So George really did develop the quiet multiplier and then we took the things all over the Haystack and beat them against each other and quieted them down. I donít know, you probably are familiar...

Sullivan

Yeah, Iím familiar with the story from that point on, yeah.

Burke

But letís see, how did we get involved with NRL? Thatís an interesting question. I think...I donít really remember.

Sullivan

Well, of course, NRL and Haystack were doing these early simultaneous observations competing with each other.

Burke

Yeah.

Sullivan

Finding new sources. Looking at what the time variability was and searching all over. And I think it was sort of a natural thing.

Burke

I think, I believe that the way things developed was that I called Connie [Cornell H.] Mayer to say, "Well, it looks like youíve got really the right antenna for us to use for the first real interferometer experiment." And then it went very quickly from there because it was pretty obvious that the interest was there.

Sullivan

Now one thing that comes to mind that you havenít talked about is the business of the NEROC antenna and so forth. It gets more into the realm of political astronomy, I guess, but, well, what comments do you have to make about the general scene during the Ď60s as to the development of US radio astronomy? I mean do you think that this Dicke Panel approach was the right way to do it? Or do you think they just made a bad decision?

Burke

I donít know what the right approach was. I think that specifically that the Dicke Panel approach was a necessary evil because none of us really knew what the, by none of us I really mean none of us, neither the senior statesmen of science nor the sort of the intermediate generation that I consider myself to be a part of, you know the post war generation. Neither the post-war generation nor the old pros from the Radiation Laboratory and Los Alamos. That is, no one understood what was happening because up until then whenever you needed a good thing, youíve got it.

Sullivan

And so they didnít understand how to really make priorities?

Burke

What had happened was that the ability to turn on the money faucet had been lost and nobody knew what the right thing to do was. And in fact, I think that everybody somehow believed that it was a temporary state of affairs. It wouldnít last long. And itís very interesting to look back on the changing mood because when I first came to MIT the NEROC was still called CAMROC and there was a very great feeling of excitement. You know, a great new step for a big dish. And I think that when it became clear that the competition between the various projects was as mortal as it turned out to be, well, it was hard to know what the proper procedure would be and I think that it probably was wrong to convene the Dicke Panel but we didnít know it then. I mean Iím just guessing but you canít play history back. Basically the Dicke Panel since they didnít know any better than we did that you werenít going to get all this things. That meant that the fact that they didnít do the right thing doesnít mean that a group of the working people trying to work out a compromise between would have done any better.

Sullivan

Yeah, who actually, whose idea was it to convene the Dicke Panel?

Burke

Oh, I donít know.

Sullivan

I mean, was this someone from way up in NSF [the National Science Foundation] or...?

Burke

That happened in NSF, Iím sure. And actually the group that was convened I think was as good of group as you could possibly have wished for. That is given the requirements that they be knowledgeable and not subject to conflict of interest. And thatís the really hard part. So I think that the, perhaps at that time the Dicke Panel should have set priorities in a much more sure way than they did.

Sullivan

What you are saying is that then some action might have taken place on priority number one?

Burke

Yeah, yeah. One thing at a time instead of holding up the whole works.

Sullivan

But this business about not knowing how to decide between options because you all of a sudden have to decide?

Burke

Well no, what Iím saying is that at that time it really wasnít understood that decision was necessary.

Sullivan

Oh, I see.

Burke

See if it were understood that you really had to decide on one thing then they could have done that but at that time...

Sullivan

It wasnít clear that the money was all of a sudden going to dry up.

Burke

Yeah and the idea of a program of more than one kind of instrument well that only makes sense because, in fact, the only two directly competing instruments were the NEROC antenna and the Berkeley antenna, the one Harold Weaver wanted to build. And that was easy enough. They did make a decision between, but to pretend that the VLA and, in a sense the VLA and the Owens Valley Interferometer, I guess the Owens Valley Array it was then, those were competing. And they didnít quite grasps the metal and try to set a priority between those. But looking back at it if they had even so, they had decided on the NEROC antenna and the VLA as the two highest things, even then it might not have flown because it was too expensive then. So itís just so hard to know what the right thing to do at that time.

Sullivan

Yeah, easy with hindsight. Well thatís covered a lot of things. Well, Iíll give you a chance to think but otherwise thank you very much.

Sullivan

Later when the recorder was off, Burke told me a couple of other things namely the reason that the Westerbork Array was built was so much redundancy in the UV plane was that when the decision had to finally be made as to what the final configuration was going to be of the dishes, [Christiaan Alexander "Lex"] Muller was the only one around that was willing to make it. He said that Hobbing, not Hobbing, [Jan A.] HŲgbom was able to present all the alternatives was never able to come to a decision. So Muller just chose this configuration which looked quite reasonable to him but, really of course, turned out to be the best one. Also the business of how the Benelux Cross turned into just a Dutch project. The idea was that the Belgians had money to supply and the Dutch, of course, had most of the astronomical manpower and as it went along it became quite apparent that it was sort of an uneven situation and that it really would be best for the Belgians to drop out but it was tricky diplomatic thing because the two governments had entered into this agreement and all. And he said that it was [Jan Hendrik] Oort who primarily did a one man diplomatic job in convincing the Belgians that they could drop out with honor and so forth and that the Dutch could just finish the project off themselves. But he said that if it hadnít been for sort of the one man handling by Oort that this may have gotten to be a very sticky point and delayed things quite a bit. And then one other point is that Burke went to this so called Little Green Men Conference in Russia which was last September I think, September í71 [Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence (CETI), The First International Conference on Extraterrestrial Civilizations and Problems of Contact with Them, held on September 6-11, 1971, in Byurakan, Armenia], and he said there should be a proceedings published for it but that in any case most of it had to do with the origins of extraterrestrial life. There was very little on interstellar communications. A couple short papers, he said there are various people doing projects all of which he thought were very well thought out but, nevertheless, they were being carried on but the proceedings of this conference should be checked to see if there are any interesting things there.


Modified on Monday, 29-Apr-2013 14:32:33 EDT by Ellen Bouton, Archivist (Questions or feedback)