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index
Cern
hubble
antarctica

las cuevas

cold spring
arecibo
CERN:
Matter
Hubble:
Universe
Antarctica:
Extremes
Las Cuevas:
Biodiversity
Cold Spring:
DNA
Arecibo:
Astrobiology

Fundamental scientific research takes place at "observatories," which are havens for science. The locations we visited represent a wide array of scientific environments, each one different from the other. What binds them together is the role they play as hubs of scientific pursuit.

Some observatories are created to serve an instrument. At CERN, the boundaries of the observatory are defined by the particle accelerator, an aerial photo shows that those boundaries even cross an international border. A photo tour of the Hubble Space Telescope’s Mission Control reveals that while there’s a wide variety of labs and activities, all are devoted to collecting and disseminating information from the telescope.
In other places, researchers have set up camp in naturally existing environments that provide them with unique opportunities. In Antarctica, for example, the harsh conditions produce organisms with unusual adaptations—such as
fish with antifreeze—that give scientists clues to the process of evolution. The rain forest of Belize is a field biologist’s dream, with one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth.

Each of the locations we visited displays, in some way, a history of science and human curiosity. In Antarctica, the story begins with the
efforts of explorers, scientists, and traders simply trying to reach the place, and continues as an experiment in international scientific cooperation. At the Natural History Museum in London, modern tools such as the scanning electron microscope build on the knowledge obtained over hundreds of years from vast collections of specimens gathered for study. The legacy of Barbara McClintock’s genetics research is embedded in the very landscape of Cold Spring Harbor, which includes the farm where research on her Nobel-winning corn hybrids continues today.

This environment of science goes beyond the physical, and becomes a culture within each of the observatories. The halls of Cold Spring Harbor buzz with research talk during conferences, CERN has its own rock band, and Christmas in Antarctica is an experience that bonds the few who share it. While it’s the science that brings most researchers to these locations, perhaps it’s the camaraderie that keeps them coming back.

 
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