By Patricia Daukantas
Imagine standing in New York and being able to peep through a telescope at people walking down the street in London. Or the other way around.
Nonsense, you say. The magnification required for such a ground-based telescope would be daunting. And then there’s the little matter of the curvature of the Earth over the 5,580-km distance.
However, a British artist has been able to build such a “telescope”—and even to make his creation look like a giant tube that was drilled through the Earth from one coast of the Atlantic Ocean to the other.
On May 20, the public-art project emerged from the banks of the East River in Brooklyn as a giant metal drill bit. By Thursday, the art installation looked like the end of a giant brass and wood telescope poking out of the ground. This “Telectroscope” is Paul St George’s conception of a 19th-century idea that started when a reporter misspelled the word “electroscope” (a classic device for measuring static electricity) and writers such as Mark Twain spun tales of pictures that could be sent around by telegraph wires.
Although the “story” on St George’s Web site, telectroscope.net, implies that a giant straight-line hole was drilled through the Earth, the gizmo really relies on high-definition cameras linked by undersea fiber-optic cables, courtesy of the European Internet provider Tiscali.
Still, the Telectroscope gives passersby the illusion that they are looking through a giant Victorian spyglass—and they can actually wave at their counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic.
CNN and the New York Times are among the media outlets sorting out the colorful facts and fiction about this artwork, which will be in operation in both London and New York until June 15. The Telectroscope fits in well with other “steampunk” movies, novels and fashions that have gained popularity in recent years.
2008-05 May, Optics and pop culture