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George
2016-Aug-05, 07:38 PM
Ok, not a "big" question but one about "big science"...

What would be considered by most to be the first big science project?

I have a hunch it might just be the that of the "Celestial Police" formation in 1800. The Titus-Bode law was in vogue and a team of astronomers (von Zach, Schroter, Harding, Olbers, Ende, Gildemeister) set out to find the missing planet between Mars and Jupiter. [Piazza in Palermo procured the planet per his preliminary perceptive observation on Jan. 2nd, 1801. Gauss eventually stepped-in with some orbital math to help relocate it (Ceres) by the celestial peace officers.]

Were they the first in modern science? There were, no doubt, many natural science clubs, especially in biology, but did they have a big science team prior to this?

Swift
2016-Aug-05, 08:53 PM
I don't know that there is a definition of "big science" (I don't have one). Is it based on number of people involved, money spent, scope of the project?

There were the various expeditions to observe Venus transits, such as the 1761 and 1769 transits (http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/history-and-sky-lore/the-transit-of-venus-tales-from-the-18th-and-19th-centuries/).

There have been various expeditions of discovery which collected data and specimens. Lewis and Clark in 1804 come to mind. I'm sure there were similar ones to Africa and elsewhere in the world. Would one even include the European expeditions to explore the New World in the 15th and 16th century? Or the expedition of the HMS Beagle in 1831 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_voyage_of_HMS_Beagle), with that Darwin fellow ;)?

profloater
2016-Aug-05, 09:07 PM
Well I nominate the building of Stonehenge to calculate eclipses. I know that's a tad controversial.

grant hutchison
2016-Aug-05, 09:21 PM
The "Figure of the Earth" expeditions of the 1730s should be on the list too, I think. A lot of money and effort, careful measurement, worldwide interest, reputations riding on the result.

Grant Hutchison

DaveC426913
2016-Aug-05, 09:30 PM
Do we account for technological "inflation"?

The Great Wall of China is surely the most massive single object engineered by mankind, but the pyramids of Giza are 3000 years older.

ngc3314
2016-Aug-06, 01:13 AM
They can't all be gems. The Carte du Ciel project was supposed to wrap up astrometry for a generation, and instead it tied up the staffs of many major observatories (pointlessly as it turned out, since they original hand data reduction was never finished and the results saw the light of day only some years ago). This happened as spectroscopy was birthing astrophysics, so institutions doing that instead of CdC had a head start as the field was emptier.

John Mendenhall
2016-Aug-06, 02:53 AM
CosmoQuest

Solfe
2016-Aug-06, 03:33 AM
I'm going out on a limb and suggesting the recording of the tides by both Strabo and Aristotle. While these two are individuals, who may have had few, if any helpers, their initial inquiry into the seas set the stage for oceanography. While it is often said that the Challenger Expedition was the birthplace of modern oceanography, that was merely the place where our means matched our desire for information.

We've been studying the same phenomena for over 2,000 years of written history.

Edit - It also ties back to the voyages of the HMS Beagle. Hydrology was a part of it's voyages.

Jens
2016-Aug-06, 04:14 AM
I would say it could be the Manhattan Project.

publiusr
2016-Aug-06, 04:57 PM
I agree.
That or Hale telescope.

A book suggestion:
http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Big-Science/Michael-Hiltzik/9781451675764

danscope
2016-Aug-06, 05:39 PM
Surely, the Hubble Space Telescope is the most astounding creation and most memorable milestone .

George
2016-Aug-09, 03:23 PM
I don't know that there is a definition of "big science" (I don't have one). Is it based on number of people involved, money spent, scope of the project? "Big" would be all the above, with greater weight to the number of people [multi-national, I should add] necessary for the project.


There were the various expeditions to observe Venus transits, such as the 1761 and 1769 transits (http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/history-and-sky-lore/the-transit-of-venus-tales-from-the-18th-and-19th-centuries/). Yes, I should have recalled this after reading a book on it a while back. This involved many people (Pingre, Chappe, Le Gentil, Cap't. Cook & Green, others to Norway and Hudson Bay. Some did not survive the trip (Chappe contracted Yellow Fever during his trip to Cabo San Lucas -- a place that recently took the life of a friend's elderly parents due to a rogue wave). Other astronomers were involved once the data was returned, not to mention Halley who conceived of this project while he was charting southern stars from St. Helena. Those were the 1769 participants. Mason & Dixon were hired to travel abroad for the 1761 transit but, after losing 11 men in a French frigate attack, they continued only to have clouds prevent proper observations.

It was big also because it established the distances of the unimaginably vast solar system -- oh how that has changed since Ptolemy. :) It is interesting that parallax outward (to the stars) was well understood because of the Copernican model, but, apparently, not applied looking inward (Mercury & Venus transits).


There have been various expeditions of discovery which collected data and specimens. Lewis and Clark in 1804 come to mind. I would guess science was secondary and single expeditions that do not directly involve a more global involvement would be less "big".


Would one even include the European expeditions to explore the New World in the 15th and 16th century? I doubt "in the name of science" was used much to get funding for any of these.


Or the expedition of the HMS Beagle in 1831 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_voyage_of_HMS_Beagle), with that Darwin fellow ;)? It too lacked serious group involvement. Darwin was not a scientist and not even considered the ship's naturalist, at least not initially. His kind nature and intellect, I assume, is what got him aboard to serve his purpose of giving the captain good company.


The "Figure of the Earth" expeditions of the 1730s should be on the list too, I think. A lot of money and effort, careful measurement, worldwide interest, reputations riding on the result. Agreed. After reading a little on it, this seems to be a more national (French) expedition, though it involved about 20 scientists and Spain was a participant as well, and, as you state, it had worldwide interest. All navigation would be affected. It was also an objective test of big theories (Newton's vs. Cassini's) and it was a big trip (to Ecuador). Though the expedition's name lacks sizzle -- maybe it sounds better in French -- and they weren't called the "Geo Police", it should qualify as the top contender for the first "Big Science" event in modern science.

George
2016-Aug-09, 05:17 PM
They can't all be gems. The Carte du Ciel project was supposed to wrap up astrometry for a generation, and instead it tied up the staffs of many major observatories (pointlessly as it turned out, since they original hand data reduction was never finished and the results saw the light of day only some years ago). This happened as spectroscopy was birthing astrophysics, so institutions doing that instead of CdC had a head start as the field was emptier. That's a story I didn't know. The copper engravings for the charts are likely worth something today. Got any you need to get rid of? :)

ngc3314
2016-Aug-12, 01:16 PM
That's a story I didn't know. The copper engravings for the charts are likely worth something today. Got any you need to get rid of? :)

And just how old does my online profile look?

Never mind.

George
2016-Aug-12, 07:03 PM
And just how old does my online profile look? :)

Not age, wisdom. Collecting such things as those beats stamps. :)

publiusr
2016-Aug-13, 06:02 PM
Some are grousing about fewer, more expensive missions:
http://nasawatch.com/archives/2016/08/re-thinking-the.html

I don't agree with this view at all--which likely was a result of the Dan Goldin years when they seemed to launch a Delta II every other week.

I want big projects that employ as many folks as possible.

There was a recent article in The Space Review: http://www.thespacereview.com/article/3032/1
The article was a review on recent, near-future space fiction. The best quote is this:

"Last Breath: Space Station Rescue, S.P. Cammick (1999): a meteorite strike in 2028 leads to a revelation of long-term lack-of-budget-induced neglect of the space station. Only a crash program that brings back the old guard with the right stuff can save the day and continue the flow of cancer-mitigating medicine coming from space. The author covers a lot of the demographic issues we’re grappling with today, and comes quite close to getting it right, but the solution is the very thing that got us to where we are now: a lack of cultivation of skillsets in younger generations that we need to maintain what we have into the future."

In a word--infrastructure.

A lot of folks don't take a long view. Give me a launch of one or two instruments. Money spent on a new rocket as a distraction? Kill it.

And so it goes.

I'm sure LIGO, Large Handron and other projects had their critics too.

Hypmotoad
2016-Aug-21, 06:13 PM
Well I nominate the building of Stonehenge to calculate eclipses. I know that's a tad controversial.

I kind of have to agree with you other than the fact that Stone Henge does not predate other such projects and is probably not even the largest, just the most well known.