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Weapons of Mass Tourism?
Affordable air fares threaten astronomy according to Gerry Gilmore, Professor of Experimental Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. According to the Professor, "If trends in cheap air travel continue the era of ground astronomy may come to an end much earlier than most had predicted."

Dr. Gilmore explains his concern by stating "You get these contrails from the jets. The rate at which they're expanding in terms of their fractional cover of the stratosphere is so large that if predictions are right, in 40 years it won't be worth having telescopes on Earth anymore - it's that soon."

The Professor's views have triggered news articles and editorials in Europe and the US. In responding to one editorial, the Chief Executive of the Airport Operators Association and the Secretary General of the British Air Transport Association noted that "it seems premature to call for the closure of runways, and utterly ludicrous to equate flying with drought in Africa..."

The aviation officials also discuss the civilizing role played by international travel, "Would the unfolding Darfur tragedy be tolerated if the country had a thriving tourism industry? How much of the relief money for victims of the tsunami was raised because so many of us had visited the affected areas on holiday?"

The officials could have added that few professions have benefitted more from international travel than science.

"As Mark Twain observed: ‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.'"

Professor Gilmore stated that "You either give up your cheap trips to Majorca, or you give up astronomy. You can't do both."

Given the benefits of unquestionable benefits of travel and the claimed dangers of cheap air fares, Winston proposes to do his part for international well-being by flying only First soon as Professor Gilmore sends the tickets.
  • Click here for BBC article
  • Click here for editorial in the Guardian


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