A Tale of Three Telescopes and a Blind News Media

Sir Arthur Clarke with his Celestron 14-inch telescope – photo by Rohan de Silva, circa 2001

Every newshound must survive a ‘lean news’ day. Most know what to do when that happens: sniff around, or dig deeper.

But like our canine friends, newshounds too occasionally bark up the wrong tree or dig in vain. Pressures of feeding the 24/7 news cycle can be immense, especially when the war has ended and no cricket matches or ‘grease devil’ performances are on.

On 27 September 2011, News First ran a story titled ‘Arthur C Clarke’s telescope sold by an assistant’. It said a ‘telescope owned by the late Sir Arthur C Clarke has been sold by an assistant for one million rupees’ through a newspaper advertisement. The buyer’s identity was not disclosed.

The story added: “Astrologists (sic) say the telescope belonging to the late science visionary is a valuable artefact not only to Sri Lanka but to the entire world. They point out that it is the government’s responsibility to safeguard such an item.

The astronomer/astrologer mix-up is common in Sri Lanka. The Sinhala news story, which the same website published a few hours earlier, got the label right. Both quoted the same atmospheric physicist: Dr Chandana Jayaratne of the University of Colombo.

Dr Jayaratne was reported as saying that “such belongings of Arthur C Clarke must be restored and kept at a public location so that future generations can also learn about the history behind it.”

Lofty words, indeed. But neither the reporter nor the physicist seemed to be interested in going beyond rumours and rhetoric. The facts are not that hard to come by, if only they researched the story a bit further. 

Celestial Knight

The telescope concerned is a Celestron 14 reflector that Sir Arthur imported from its US-based manufacturer in the 1980s. It was among many items that Sir Arthur bequeathed on his adopted Sri Lankan family, the Ekanayakes, and the Dr Arthur C Clarke Trust, a legal entity registered while he was still living.

Sir Arthur’s Last Will went through the usual testamentary proceedings in the Sri Lankan judicial system. No objections were raised by anyone. The beneficiaries are now free to retain, modify or sell what they received as they deem fit. Despite the public figure involved, it is entirely a private matter.

Following the news story, I checked with the Sir Arthur’s trusted business partner for half a century, Hector Ekanayake. Yes, the telescope was recently advertised in the classifieds for sale. No, it hasn’t found a buyer yet. The ‘sale price’ of one million rupees (USD 9,070 at current exchange rates) probably stemmed from the reporter’s imagination.

Legalities and shoddy journalism apart, is there any museum value in this telescope? Let’s investigate.

The Celestron-14 was the last – and most sophisticated – in a series of telescopes that Sir Arthur owned and used for night sky observations. As a young farm lad growing up in the 1920s, he home-built his own first telescope in Minehead, rural England. Over the next few decades, he bought a succession of telescopes intended for the serious amateur astronomer.

Sir Arthur earned a living as a writer of science fiction and science fact, who only dabbled in amateur astronomy and undersea diving as serious hobbies. When he settled down in Ceylon in 1956, he realised that most of the northern and southern skies were visible from this almost-Equatorial location. But he also found out that observations were not easy since “half the year we can’t observe due to cloud cover”.

Undaunted, he became an opportunistic night sky watcher, catching a glimpse of the heavens when weather and schedule permitted. The astronomy ‘bug’ soon spread and the Ceylon Astronomical Association (CAA) was established in June 1959 to promote organised amateur astronomy. Arthur C Clarke became its founder president.

So the Celestron-14 had many antecedents. Upon its arrival in Sri Lanka, it was located on the balcony of his Cinnamon Gardens home, and used for occasional star gazing. In his latter years, when Sir Arthur was wheel-chaired by Post Polio Syndrome and direct observations became difficult, he even coupled a television camera to the telescope. “I can now ‘hover’ over the Moon from the comfort of my living room!” he told his friends at the time.

For a few years, this Celestron 14-inch (36cm) was the largest telescope in Sri Lanka. Then in 1994, the Japanese government donated a GOTO 18-inch (45cm) Cassegrain telescope to the government as part of bilateral aid.

Teenaged Arthur Clarke observes night sky using home-made telescope in Minehead, UK – circa 1933 –  Photo owned by Arthur C Clarke Estate.

Misplaced gift

Sir Arthur wasn’t too happy when bureaucrats in the Ministry of Science and Technology decided to locate the Japanese telescope at the government institute in Moratuwa named after him. Other amateur and professional astronomers shared his concern because of urban light pollution, air pollution and weather factors.

Simon Tulloch, a British astronomer living in Sri Lanka at the time, carried out an independent site survey and found that two locations in the Kandy district — Kirimetiyakanda and Karagahatenna — were far superior to Moratuwa. But the babus ignored Tulloch’s recommendation that the Japanese-gifted telescope be relocated to one of these locations after studying their local weather for one year.

Fifteen years on, the GOTO telescope remains firmly rooted in Moratuwa — another reminder how expedience rules over evidence-based decision making in Sri Lanka. What serious observation or research this expensive instrument can make in suburban Colombo?

“It has not produced a single paper published in a refereed Journal during the 15 years of its operation”, says Dr Kavan Ratnatunga, an astrophysicist who was motivated by Sir Arthur to study astronomy.

Ratnatunga, now retired to Sri Lanka after an international research career, finds it ‘amusing’ that anyone should recommend Sir Arthur’s modern 14-inch Celestron be protected in a museum ‘for posterity’.

He adds: “Ironically, it’s the younger and larger 18-inch telescope gifted by Japan, and now at the institution that bears Arthur’s name, which has practically become a museum piece — being shown off to visiting school children!”

Ratnatunga’s exasperation was shared by Sir Arthur when, during his last decade, he heard how schools were being asked to visit the telescope during the working hours of 9 to 5!

In contrast, Sir Arthur’s privately-owned Celestron-14 was used for real observations by its owner and occasionally by his amateur astronomer friends. To them, astronomy was a passion, not a day-time job!

It also earned honourable mentions in Sir Arthur’s writing. For example, in an Op-Ed titled ‘Killer Comets Are Out There. Now What?’, he wrote in the New York Times on 14 August 1994:

“Soon after the last fragments of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashed into Jupiter last month, the monsoon skies above my home in Colombo cleared momentarily and I hurried to set up my 14-inch Celestron telescope. I didn’t really expect to see anything, so I could hardly believe my eyes when I clearly observed a line of dark bruises spread out across the planet’s southern hemisphere.

“Some imaginative souls suggested that the comet might have a catastrophic impact on Jupiter, but its effect will be largely cosmetic. And it will certainly have no effect on Earth, despite the inevitable alarmist warnings by religious fanatics. But the spectacular collision between the newly discovered comet with the solar system’s largest planet has brought sudden new attention to a genuine threat: the chance that a rogue comet or asteroid could strike Earth, with possibly devastating consequences.”

That was classic Clarke, no doubt, but not exactly frontier research. In fact, Celestron-14 always remained a toy, albeit an expensive one, of that boy who never grew up…

Sir Arthur Clarke at the Colombo University observatory where the Molesworth telescope was housed – 2003 photo by Rohan de Silva

Vandalised History

So is there any historical significance in this commercially-made telescope used for hobby astronomy by a celebrity owner for a couple of decades?

We can debate it, for sure. But current physicists at the University of Colombo, of all people, have no moral right to talk about ‘protecting’ any telescope. Not after they completely and miserably failed to look after Sri Lanka’s most historic telescope that was entrusted to their care.

That was the telescope used by  Percy Braybrooke Molesworth (1867 – 1908), who lived and worked in Trincomalee, and regarded as one of the world’s leading astronomers at the beginning of the last century.

By profession, Molesworth was a major in corps of Royal Engineers, an Englishman by birth who — like Arthur C Clarke — spent the better part of his life in Ceylon. From his private observatory in Trincomalee, Molesworth observed the night sky and photographed celestial bodies, the results of which were shared with leading astronomical groups in the west. Armed only with a basic telescope, a sharp eye and good drawing skills, he made significant contributions to advancing our knowledge of the heavens at the time.

For example, in February 1901, Molesworth was the first observer in the world to notice the beginning of the great South Tropical Zone Disturbance on Jupiter that was to last until 1939. This discovery made an important contribution in understanding Jovian atmospheric currents.

Decades later in 1973, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) named one of the largest Martian craters in Molesworth’s honour. He is the first Ceylonese on Mars, and one of the very few Lankans to leave their name in the sky…

But his legacy is both forgotten and neglected in Sri Lanka. After his premature death in 1908 aged 41, his custom-made 12.5-inch (32cm) Calver reflector telescope went into disuse. Some years later, it found its way to the University of Colombo, which housed it in a small dome on the grounds adjoining Reid Avenue.

Astrophysicist Ratnatunga, who studied at the University of Colombo in the early 1970s, recalls repairing the Molesworth’s telescope with science faculty lecturer late Dr V K Samaranayake. Afterwards, they used it for night sky observations.

That ended in 1988, when vandals looted the telescope for its metallic value. The culprits were never caught; with a youth insurgency in full swing, the university authorities and police had more pressing concerns.

I covered that incident as a young science journalist, and have been interested in it since. As I wrote in a death centennial tribute to Percy Molesworth in 2008, the telescope never recovered from that looting, and the University has shown little enthusiasm in preserving it.

In 2003, Sir Arthur wrote to the then Vice Chancellor in 2003 drawing his attention to “what is possibly the oldest piece of scientific equipment in their inventory”. The letters were not even acknowledged.

So when a Colombo University physicist calls for protecting Arthur Clarke’s hobby telescope, we have to point out his own institution’s appalling track record in protecting what was entrusted to them!

What about the Arthur Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies (ACCIMT)? Founded by the Jayewardene government in the mid 1980s with noble objectives and international goodwill, it never really took off.

When assessed using universally accepted measures of scientific productivity -– such as research publications in refereed international journals, peer citations and patents for innovation — it shows a dismally poor track record. It is today a disgrace to the very man it was meant to honour.

For 25 years, the Arthur Clarke institute took cover behind its famous patron to avoid adequate public and media scrutiny. Many Lankans mistakenly believed that Sir Arthur Clarke was involved in its management and research. In fact, he distanced himself from it during the last decade of his life.

Unlike Sir Arthur’s private office in Colombo (now closed), the Clarke Institute is a government body being sustained by taxpayers. My questions about the Clarke Institute’s poor performance, posed in a media article published in April 2009, have gone unanswered for over two years.

That, to me, is the real story. For any journalist dogged enough to follow these leads, there is a matter of public interest in Moratuwa — one about missed opportunities, misplaced priorities and continuing waste of Lankan (and Japanese) tax payer money.

Sadly, a nation and its news media blinded by hype keep missing it!

Note: All the information in this essay is only a Google search or phone call away — well within the reach of any serious journalist or researcher.

Science writer Nalaka Gunawardene worked for Sir Arthur Clarke’s personal office in Colombo (1987-2008), which was totally separate from the government’s Arthur Clarke Institute. He writs a weekly science and media column in Ravaya newspaper, and blogs at: http://nalakagunawardene.com

  • http://Asyouyourselfproclaimedthatyouareunabletograspwhat“ordinarylankan”says,itcouldbreakdownintothesecondofthosereasonsalone; yapa

    I think this is an example ofr even Science if not proof of Politics.

    In another perspective I think this is an example of the battle among so called heirs for the legacy of material and non material wealth of ex Science dignitaries.

    Thanks!

  • http://lakdiva.org Dr Kavan Ratnatunga

    For the record Hector Ekanayake told me that the telescope had
    been sold for Rs 7 lakhs when I phoned him a few days after the
    advert appeared in the HitAd. That deal probably did not go through.

    There is one for sale on ebay for US$6750 (Rs7.4 lakhs) which is of the same order of magnitude.
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=230674703493&_rdc=1

    • yapa

      Dear Nalaka Gunawardene;

      What do you have to say about Dr Kavan Ratnatunga’s response?

      Dr. Kavan says there is a telescope of the same order of magnitude at 7.4 lakhs.

      What do you think will be the value addition of the Sir Arthur’s telescope,being used by him, (the sentimental value added)?

      Do you think, “that sentimental value” + 7.4 lakhs = 7 lakhs?

      Why Dr. Kavan is not a testimony to you, as you claimed in the article?

      Thanks!

  • the way of the dodo

    If some is going to write an article that talks about how shoddy scientific research is in this country he or she should make sure they have proper referencing. After all the first thing they drill in at uni is how to reference properly. Source = google: just looks bad.

  • http://www.mysteryvisits.com John C. Sherwood

    Thanks for this informative account, Nalaka. And thanks also to Kavan for his comments! I’m sure Sir Arthur would appreciate the accuracy with which you’ve challenged the persistent rumors and misinformation that seems to surround him, even after his passing. All best to you!

  • yapa

    Dear Nalaka;

    “So when a Colombo University physicist calls for protecting Arthur Clarke’s hobby telescope, we have to point out his own institution’s appalling track record in protecting what was entrusted to them!”

    If I am not mistaken, just as “atmospheric physicist”, Dr Chandana Jayaratne is “a Colombo University physicist, “astrophysicist”, Dr Kavan Ratnatunga, also was “a Colombo University physicist”.

    Is your above statement relevant to all the Colombo University physicists? I think the statement implies so. (Sorry for troubling you).

    Thanks!

    • http://nalakagunawardene.com/ Nalaka Gunawardene

      @Yapa,

      I leave it to Kavan to clarify whether or not he can be called a Colombo University physicist. He is certainly an alumnus of Colombo University. Please note that I have very clearly mentioned in a sentence: “But current physicists at the University of Colombo, of all people, have no moral right to talk about ‘protecting’ any telescope. Not after they completely and miserably failed to look after Sri Lanka’s most historic telescope that was entrusted to their care.”

      So where is the confusion? Why don’t you address the larger issues of public accountability of scientific and academic establishments, raised in my article, rather than get into narrow semantics? That is the more productive discussion, rather than debate these side issues? The same goes for trying to assess how much Sir Arthur’s hobby telescope is worth: that’s besides the point!

      And Dodo, too, should please read and absorb carefully before rushing to comment. I choose my words carefully. My note at the end says “All the information in this essay is ONLY a Google search or phone call away” (emphasis now added). This means, plainly, that even with a basic Google search (with no further effort or skills) ANYONE can find the info that I have just put together over a few hours. In other words, I’ve merely looked up public-access online sources, spoken to a couple of people on the phone, and compiled this article. My critique there is about lazy journalism, not poor scientific research!

      Is subtlety and under-statement no longer effective in Sri Lanka? Must I say everything bluntly and explicitly?

      • Off the Cuff

        Dear Nalaka Gunawardene,

        Quote
        “It’s tragi-comic to see how ‘yapa’, with his limited comprehension of English, confuses himself and others! I will NOT respond to cat-calls of a person who hides behind a pen name”

        It is true that there are grammatical errors in Yapa’s writing but does it boil down to problems of comprehension? I have seen Yapa debating very complex issues with competence. English is not Yapa’s mother tongue and he need not be ashamed of grammatical errors.

        Yapa has already disclosed that he works at the Colombo University and by what logic did you arrive at the conclusion, that “Yapa” is Yapa’s pen name?

        Yapa says “I am not mistaken, I very we know he was in the academic staff of the Physics Department of University of Colombo. (Do you know how I know it, I am also from that very University.”

        I think that Yapa is on the staff of the Physics Department of the University of Colombo and if that is so, then Yapa’s indignation and anger is justified as you have collectively found fault with the CURRENT staff of that Department and that includes Yapa.

        The following statement of yours is an UMBRELLA statement that insults the CURRENT staff of the Department of Physics of the Colombo University, which ever way you look at it.

        “But current physicists at the University of Colombo, of all people, have no moral right to talk about ‘protecting’ any telescope. Not after they completely and miserably failed to look after Sri Lanka’s most historic telescope that was entrusted to their care.”

        It is tragic to see otherwise sane people taking umbrage at the use of a pseudonym when they know very well that a real name can also be used as a pseudonym without making anyone the wiser. Those who cannot understand that would of course be wanting in intelligence.

        Yapa could have easily called himself “Nalaka Yapa Gunawardene” or any one of the billions of Real names that can be assumed and you could not have hidden behind a pseudo indignation to avoid answering his charges. Nalaka Yapa Gunawardene is a REAL name (for that matter yapa itself is a real name) and your indignation about pseudonyms would have fallen flat.

        What matters is not the name of the writer but your ability to defend your own writing. The GV readership is not interested in credentials of the writer but on the subject matter of his/her published material. Inability to do so reflects only on you, not on yapa in this case.

    • neil

      Dear Yapa,
      You are mistaken about Kavan’s association with the University of Colombo. He was simply an undergraduate at Colombo in the early 70′s. His professional career was mainly in the US and was not part of the academic faculty of Colombo Physics dept. So obviously Nalaka’s comments about Colombo University’s stewardship of its telescope do not apply to Kavan.

      • yapa

        Dear neil;

        I am not mistaken, I very we know he was in the academic staff of the Physics Department of University of Colombo. (Do you know how I know it, I am also from that very University.

        Thanks!

      • http://Asyouyourselfproclaimedthatyouareunabletograspwhat“ordinarylankan”says,itcouldbreakdownintothesecondofthosereasonsalone; yapa

        Dear Neil;

        By the way dear Neil do you think Dr. Kavan would appreciate
        Physicist Nalaka Gunawardene to humiliate Dr. kavan’s teacher Physicists and colleague physicists in the University of Colombo?

        Thanks!

    • yapa

      Among the “Colombo University Physicists” were/are the names of distinguished Pro. Valentine Joseph, Prof. Osmond Jayarathne, Dr. Rohan Jayarathne (son of Prof. Osmond Jayarathne) and Dr. Rosa as well.

      Do you think your umbrella statement equally applicable to them as well.

      BTW, where did you get your Physicist credentials?

      Thanks!

      • http://lakdiva.org Dr Kavan Ratnatunga

        It should be clear to any person reading this article that Nalaka did not make an umbrella statement on all Physicists who worked at the Physics Dept in Colombo.

        I was never a member of the University of Colombo, which
        was only established in 1978 December
        See http://www.ugc.ac.lk/en/about-us.html
        I did from April 1976 till June 1978 in the University
        of Sri Lanka, Colombo Campus, before leaving for USA.

        I suggest yapa and others stop talking about narrow semantics and discuss the more important issues, if you have anything to say about them.

        Also I wish to point out to any reader who may be confused, that Dr Chandana Jayaratne is not related to Late Prof Osmund Jayaratne who’s son Dr Rohan Jayaratne studied with me from Montessori to Physics Special. He too was associated with the use of the then working
        Molesworth Telescope at Colombo Campus of University of Sri Lanka, which was the University of Ceylon, when I joined as an undergraduate in 1972.

      • http://Asyouyourselfproclaimedthatyouareunabletograspwhat“ordinarylankan”says,itcouldbreakdownintothesecondofthosereasonsalone; yapa

        Dear Dr. Kavan;

        “I was never a member of the University of Colombo, which
        was only established in 1978 December
        See http://www.ugc.ac.lk/en/about-us.html
        I did from April 1976 till June 1978 in the University
        of Sri Lanka, Colombo Campus, before leaving for USA.”

        It is unfortunate that a learned person like you are trying to hide behind semantics to testimony a person for what ever the reason. Are you going to say “the flower of merry gold” and “Daas Pethiya flower” have different scents because of the two different names used to call it?
        If we change the name of Ananda College to Imperial college from tomorrow, will anybody past student would stop calling in the future that he was not a “Old boy ” of Imperial college?

        Drar Dr. Kavan, are you going to say the University of Colombo and in the University of Sri Lanka, Colombo Campus were located in different locations? Were they not at the Reid Avenue? Didn’t they have the common building and common staff after the name was changed? Who is using semantic, Dr.?

        Is Dr. Kavan Ranatunga not the same person known as Mr. Kavan Ranatunga in the academic staff of the Physics Department of the Colombo Campus of the University of Sri Lanka? People change, Eh? With what?

        Thanks, Dr. (Api nodanna live)

      • http://Asyouyourselfproclaimedthatyouareunabletograspwhat“ordinarylankan”says,itcouldbreakdownintothesecondofthosereasonsalone; yapa

        The above was referred to Dr. Nalaka Gunawardene.

        Thanks!

      • http://Asyouyourselfproclaimedthatyouareunabletograspwhat“ordinarylankan”says,itcouldbreakdownintothesecondofthosereasonsalone; yapa

        Sorry!

        The above of October 5, 2011 • 5:57 am was referred to Dr. Nalaka Gunawardene.

        Thanks!

      • http://lakdiva.org Dr Kavan Ratnatunga

        I was just checking you understood the word Semantic.
        I am glad you do.

      • yapa

        Dear Dr. Kavan;

        Why Dr. Kavan, have you undertaken a post of English Language examiner after your retirement?

        Is that all you have to tell about my last post.

        I also want to check whether you understand my first post referred to you. See whether it is understandable?

        http://groundviews.org/2011/10/04/a-tale-of-three-telescopes-and-a-blind-news-media/#comment-37408

        Thanks!

      • yapa

        Dear Dr. Kavan;

        “I was just checking you understood the word Semantic.
        I am glad you do.”

        That means you are satisfied with my example I cited to explain the word “semantics” in my post.

        BTW, is there anything wrong mentioned in post? No query? So you accept what I said in my post that it was you who was hiding behind semantics and not me?

        Thanks!

      • yapa

        Dear Dr. Kavan;

        “It should be clear to any person reading this article that Nalaka did not make an umbrella statement on all Physicists who worked at the Physics Dept in Colombo.”

        Dr. has some problem of perception developed lately in you? This is the quote from the horse’mouth, ie from Dr. Nalaka Gunawardene,

        “But current physicists at the University of Colombo, of all people, have no moral right to talk about ‘protecting’ any telescope. Not after they completely and miserably failed to look after Sri Lanka’s most historic telescope that was entrusted to their care.”

        Can you read at least the first sentence above?

        I feel like I will have to teach not only “Physics” but “English Language” to you as well. May be American English is different.

        Thanks!, Dr.

      • yapa

        Dear Nalaka Gunawardene;

        “But current physicists at the University of Colombo, of all people, have no moral right to talk about ‘protecting’ any telescope. Not after they completely and miserably failed to look after Sri Lanka’s most historic telescope that was entrusted to their care.”

        Therefore, it is justifiable and proper to sell Sir Arthur’s telescope. No one has a right to talk about it. If anybody does, I use my “journalism club” and thrash him to the ground.

        Is that the message, you want to send across? What a trustworthy “trustee”? You advocate not only freedom of expression but also freedom of selling.

        Thanks!

  • yapa
  • http://Asyouyourselfproclaimedthatyouareunabletograspwhat“ordinarylankan”says,itcouldbreakdownintothesecondofthosereasonsalone; yapa

    Is it ethical for Nalak or anybody to inflict on attack on Dr. Chandana Jayarathna and the Academic Staff of the Physics Department in absence of them?

    They also must have a chance to defend their cause. Why anybody break pots in an abandoned house?

    Thanks!

  • yapa

    Dr. Nalaka Gunawardene/Dr. Kavan Ranatunga and others;

    By reading through the article and the comments, I thought it would be proper to express my opinion on the issue as an analysis of the information put forward by the two dignitaries in favour of their case.

    It seems that the article was written after the news article by Newsfirst of Sirsa that a telescope belonged to Sir Arthur.C. Clerk was sold by an assistant of him and the comment by Dr. Chandana Jayarathna, a Senior lecturer at the Department of Physics, at the Colombo University was saying as such belongings of Arthur C. Clarke must be restored and kept at a public location so that future generations.

    It seems that Nalaka Gunawrdene has got wild with the news article which has no any reference to him has initiated his hounding for news and barking up unjustifiably at all the trees suspected to have haunting dark shadows, as mentioned in the beginning of his article. It is natural as to why Nalaka Gunawardene got so furious on a matter that had no any reference to his name.

    The news article had not disclosed who the assistant that was responsible for the deal, however, Nalaka Gunawardana went as far as to disclose his name I don’t know how much good it would bring to Hector Ekanayake, if he is a true friend of Nalaka.

    However, Nalalka seems accept and confirmed by Dr.Kava that it was advertised in the HitAds and Hector had confirmed to him that it was sold and Dr. Kavan speculated that the deal probably wouldn’t have gone through.

    This confirms that there has been an attempt to sell the so called telescope in the open market. Neither Dr. Nalaka nor Dr. Kavan disclose the name of the buyer, which wouldn’t have been a difficult thing as friends of Hector Ekanayake to obtain if they wanted, however Nalaka goes in his article to say that the buyer is unknown. As the providers of the valuable information about the telescope and its owner and the assistant who later owned it and about the deal, anybody would instantly get the question in the mind as to what is the reason for secrecy of the identity of the buyer, if the deal is a genuine one.

    With all these unclear thing are there, Nalaka Gunawardene had no connection in the news article to the telescope or the deal comes up from nowhere with dumbfounding allegations against Dr. Chandana Jayarathne and all the physicists of the current staff of the Colombo University, regarding two other telescopes he alleged to have been neglected and disused by them and rules out the right of their right to talk of the Telescope at the point of focus, on the moral grounds. However, it is not clear how Nalak Gunawardene got moral rights and authority to criticize a recognized personality in this country and the Academic staff of a distinguished University of this country, on an issue, in which even his name was not transpired. Why he was going far as to protect Hector Ekanayake, the buyer and the deal with the help of Astrophysicist, Dr. Kavan Ranatunga banging on some respected persons and on a respected institution of this country, on a worthless telescope they claim can buy in the open market at low price as USD 6750? Why this unprecedented uproar of the unreferenced persons in the news item about a “worthless telescope”?

    To be continued………

    Thanks!

    • http://Asyouyourselfproclaimedthatyouareunabletograspwhat“ordinarylankan”says,itcouldbreakdownintothesecondofthosereasonsalone; yapa

      Continuation from my last post…..

      Dr. Nalaka Gunawardene/Dr. Kavan Ranatunga and others;

      Another question what suffered my mind was why the whole academic staff of the Physics department was to be blamed for some wrong of Dr. Chandana jayarathne,a member of the staff even if his statement is immoral from the stand point of Nalaka Gunawardene. However, Dr. Kavan tried to rescue Nalaka saying that his was not an umbrella statement for the whole staff which was miserably a failure.Then one should think that what was the initial requisite of knocking out the whole staff and later attempt to deny its cover for the whole staff by Dr. Kavan. Dr. Kavan tried to hide behind semantics to cover up his presence on the academic staff of the Physics Department of the University of Colombo. When I asked neil whether Dr. Kavan would appreciate Physicist Nalaka Gunawardene to humiliate Dr. kavan’s teacher Physicists and colleague physicists in the University of Colombo, he tried to do this in vain. This attempt I attribute to his natural shy to the society against betraying his tertiary education Alma Meta, in public. However, when the attempt was failed he went on to saying that “It should be clear to anybody reading this article that Nalaka did not make an umbrella statement on all Physicists who worked at the Physics Dept in Colombo.” It was I mentioned Dr. Rosa’s name, who used to be a colleague(same batch?) of Dr. Kavan, I think still on the staff of the Physics Department of the Colombo University. I think that is a good theory to explain the sudden change of the stance of the dignitaries of the inclusion of the staff under that umbrella. However, it still does not explain the initial want of attacking the whole staff of the Physics department and need of the them to be branded as an immoral group to totally oust them on their defined moral grounds.

      Another important aspect of this entangled ball of thread comes out when considering the sudden appearance of Dr. Kavan Ranatunga after serving his whole carrier out of this country and came back to his “mother country” they claimed after his retirement. I don’t think Dr. Kavan is in the retiring age for an academic or a researcher, especially in the USA. Even in Sri Lanka the retiring age of an academic staff of a University is 65 years. What ever, the reason is I think now Dr. Kavan is unemployed and eventually back in his mother country.

      Another point which we should consider is the reference of the writer of the Arthur C Clerk Center of the Moratuwa University. I would like to request the readership to read the the contents uner the sub-topic “Misplaced gift” of the article. The writer says referring to Dr. Kavan as saying,

      “He adds: “Ironically, it’s the younger and larger 18-inch telescope gifted by Japan, and now at the institution that bears Arthur’s name, which has practically become a museum piece — being shown off to visiting school children!”

      The writer also quotes Dr. Kavan saying as,

      ““It has not produced a single paper published in a refereed Journal during the 15 years of its operation”, says Dr Kavan Ratnatunga, an astrophysicist who was motivated by Sir Arthur to study astronomy.”

      Another item of the article that is worthwhile attention of the readership is the differentiation of the two main physicists he referred in the article. He refers Dr. kavan Ranatunga as an “Astrophysics” while calling DR. Chandana Jayarathne, a “Atmospheric physicists. It is also a well known fact that Dr. Chandana jayarathne, worked in the Arthur C Clerk center for a significant period (as its head?). It is a very reasonable question to arise in the mind of any sensible person form the pile of information carefully presented by the clever writer, why an astrophysicist cannot do the job at the Artur C Clark Center better than an Atmospheric physicist, besides the career of the latter was an utter failure, as per the presentation?

      So before continuing my mind investigation, I would like to give a chance to the readership to have your own imagination about the case. I will give a rest to my critical and analytical thinking and the investigative skills for the time being. I would be happy if the readership comes up with their own imaginations and suggestions of my case.

      Thanks!

      To be continued…..

      • yapa

        Continuation…….

        Dr. Nalaka Gunawardene/Dr. Kavan Ranatunga and others;

        In the lat quote I reproduced in the above post, Nalaka went further to say Dr. Kavan was motivated by Arthur C Clarke to become an Astrophysicist, that could be claimed as an added qualification for a career in an institution engaged in Astronomy, like Arthur C Clarke Center.

        It also should be noted that Physics Department of the Colombo University is a place where Dr. Kavan has a prospect to hold a high position, where he got his first degree in Physics and also have some experience as a lecturer. Then why he seems to have a hostile attitude towards the Academic staff of that Department and wanted to hide his previous academic career there? Some sort of misunderstanding?

        Now look at this highlighted quote of the writer,

        “So when a Colombo University physicist calls for protecting Arthur Clarke’s hobby telescope, we have to point out his own institution’s appalling track record in protecting what was entrusted to them!”

        Now in the hand of this admirer of Sir Arthur, his Celestron 14-inch (36cm) coupled a television camera, which was the largest telescope until the arrival of GOTO 18-inch (45cm) Cassegrain in 1994 becomes a “hobby telescope” and wants to label it as as a private property, Christianize it as bequeathed to a family named Ekanayakes, and further goes to indicate they are the legal owners of the telescope.

        Here is another quote displays his interest,

        “In contrast, Sir Arthur’s privately-owned Celestron-14 was used for real observations by its owner and occasionally by his amateur astronomer friends. To them, astronomy was a passion, not a day-time job!”

        On the other hand why Nalaka wanted to undermine the value of an article used by his personal hero supported by another admirer of Sir Arthur, Dr. Kavan?. I don’t think they do not have a knowledge about the sale values of the under garments of the western celebrities in public auctions, lakhs of dollars and pounds. It is not the price of a ladies under garment, but it is the sentimental value added due to the prestige of its user. I don’t think a Doctor and a writer with international connection cannot have an idea about the concept of “sentimental value”.

        I think by now anybody would guess why Nalaka got furious when Dr. Chandana Jayarathne claimed it as a valuable public property that should be restored for the future generations and why Nalaka went onto explode on Dr. Jayarathne.

        Now we can pick up another lead from the bottom of the article, which says, “writer Nalaka Gunawardene worked for Sir Arthur Clarke’s personal office in Colombo (1987-2008).”

        I think Nalaka is a one of the most active members of one of the organizations working for interest of the legacies of Sir Arthur C Clarke. One would be wondered on what basis a person of the caliber of Nalaka Gunawardene becomes a leading patron of an organization representing such a distinguish world figure, when there are much more qualified candidates for that. I think there is no other reason than his claimed personal connection or his work in the personal staff of Sir Arthur’s office. Can anybody point out a better reason?

        Now we can see a very special commonality among three main characters of the article, Hector Ekanayake, Dr. Kavan Ranatunga and Nalaka Gunawardene. It seems all them have claims for Sir Arthurs legacy on the personal capacity, not only for his private property but for the public properties like Arthur Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies (ACCIMT) on the personal grounds.

        Do you remember what I said in the first comment of this article. For your easy reference it is reproduced below.

        http://groundviews.org/2011/10/04/a-tale-of-three-telescopes-and-a-blind-news-media/#comment-37373

        Can anybody now guess why Dr. Kavan Ranatunga and Nalaka Gunawardene went on to far as testing my English knowledge? Definitely they felt the scent of the danger. Danger of disclosing their motives.

        I also have a sensitive long nose to sniff thing from far. That was why I could smell the thing in my very first post to the article.

        Now went on to say in his last response “Unlike him, Kavan Ratnatunga and I write under our full and proper names and we take responsibility for our statements.”

        I hope he would do as he said.

        Thanks!

  • Lakshan

    Yapa

    you are making a mountain out of a molehill, buddy!:)

    • http://Asyouyourselfproclaimedthatyouareunabletograspwhat“ordinarylankan”says,itcouldbreakdownintothesecondofthosereasonsalone; yapa

      You think so? We are naive to think about what is there in the society and in the minds of the people. In some people one can guess things in their minds. But in the case of clever people, it is not easy. Clever people are hard nuts to crack. I think eventually you will see the facts coming out of my mind and you will decide about the “clevers”.

      Please wait patiently.

      Thanks!

  • http://nalakagunawardene.com/ Nalaka Gunawardene

    It is noteworthy that so far, the discussion has not even touched on the only publicly-owned telescope, the Japanese GOTO telescope located at a government institute in Moratuwa, which is being grossly underused and mismanaged. That is the most important point in this essay, and precisely what was missed by the News First reporter too. Instead, one reader in particular, going by the name ‘yapa’, has chosen to focus on a single para in a 2,000 word article that covers over a century in time and discusses the different, albeit inter-related, fate of three telescopes in Sri Lanka.

    It’s tragi-comic to see how ‘yapa’, with his limited comprehension of English, confuses himself and others! I will NOT respond to cat-calls of a person who hides behind a pen name. Unlike him, Kavan Ratnatunga and I write under our full and proper names and we take responsibility for our statements. Our credentials are available on the web for anyone to look up. If the persons and/or institutions named in this article wish to engage us on these substantive points, I welcome that in the spirit of public debate.

    • http://Asyouyourselfproclaimedthatyouareunabletograspwhat“ordinarylankan”says,itcouldbreakdownintothesecondofthosereasonsalone; yapa

      Dear Nalaka;

      You are the second person I have come across in my whole life to claim to know English.

      When I was in grade 10, the English teacher of the class, asked the students who knew English to raise their hands. One hand went up. When checked his term test marks, we found he had 32 for English. I had 36. Ha! ha!!

      Thanks!

    • http://Asyouyourselfproclaimedthatyouareunabletograspwhat“ordinarylankan”says,itcouldbreakdownintothesecondofthosereasonsalone; yapa

      “It is noteworthy that so far, the discussion has not even touched on the only publicly-owned telescope, the Japanese GOTO telescope located at a government institute in Moratuwa, which is being grossly underused and mismanaged.”

      Is it also going to be sold with a HitAd? so there will be a lot of discussion on it, as well.

      Thanks!

    • http://Asyouyourselfproclaimedthatyouareunabletograspwhat“ordinarylankan”says,itcouldbreakdownintothesecondofthosereasonsalone; yapa

      Dear Nalaka;

      Do you know why if a dog bites a man’s leg is not news but when a man bites dog’s legs is news.

      It is difficult to create news, but news is created itself. So let it happen and watch. Don’t persuade dogs to bite your leg. It is not news. Ha! ha!!

      Thanks!

    • yapa

      Dear Nalaka gunawardene;

      You think yapa is a pen name? Nalaka, when Ven. Kithalagama Seelalankara Thero went to Dimbulagala there were no civilized people in that area even to provide some alms to him. However, Vedda people lived in that area got familiar with him and later provided with whatever they eat to the thero as alms. The leader of the clan encouraged his subjects to respect and help the monk. In gratitude, the thero gave that leader a Sinhala name and he was thereafter known as “yapa”(simple yapa). I am one of the descendants of him, that is why I have the name “yapa” with a “simple y” and cannot express in English language fluently. However, I am fluent in Sinhala and our kryol. Therefore, yapa is my real name and I am not cat-calling. Now I think you can respond to my queries without any obstacle.

      Thanks!

  • Bundoora

    Dear Yapa ,

    i have read the essay and the responses , i could not believe what you try to say/achieve , the two distinguish gentlemen clearly said what they had to say , but you on the other hand going on and on ..

    you remind me of an old  class mate of mine , his name was yapa and  quite brilliant on studies , but a total nut case , he used to repeat the same thing over and over , so all the friends used to call him yapa aiyya , yapa aiyya  repeatedly.

     ps. my friend yapa is a lecturer of kuliyapatiya university , i’m just wondering are you the same yapa.?

    • http://Asyouyourselfproclaimedthatyouareunabletograspwhat“ordinarylankan”says,itcouldbreakdownintothesecondofthosereasonsalone; yapa

      Dear Bandoora and neil

      There are different flowers by same name and also the same flower with different names. Whatever it is, generally flowers are sweet in smell.

      Thanks!

  • neil

    Dear Yapa,

    Like Bundoora, I too wonder what’s going on.

    You said: “When I asked neil whether Dr. Kavan would appreciate Physicist Nalaka Gunawardene to humiliate Dr. kavan’s teacher Physicists and colleague physicists in the University of Colombo, he tried to do this in vain.”

    I did no such thing (assuming that you know the correct usage of pronouns). I saw no reason to reply to your pointless question. It’s a sad day if we cannot discuss and comment constructively on the failings of individuals and institutions that you might have learned from, studied at, or worked in.

    Nalaka has already pointed out that since he referred to the “current physicists at the University of Colombo” that Kavan would be excluded. But I would say that even without the “current” qualification, that Kavan cannot be considered a “physicist at the University of Colombo”, simply because he worked for 2 years as an assistant lecturer (I assume) after his undergraduate degree. Nalaka’s generalization about the accountability of public universities surely cannot encompass those who were just a short step away from being students.

    • yapa

      Dear neil;

      “You said: “When I asked neil whether Dr. Kavan would appreciate Physicist Nalaka Gunawardene to humiliate Dr. kavan’s teacher Physicists and colleague physicists in the University of Colombo, he tried to do this in vain.””

      Neil you will have to take the above sentence along with the previous sentence to understand its meaning. Here is that previous sentence,

      “Dr. Kavan tried to hide behind semantics to cover up his presence on the academic staff of the Physics Department of the University of Colombo.”

      When you read them together, I think you would understand that “he” in the sentence you referred is not referred to you, but to Dr. Kavan.

      Why you though the hat was fit to you? Ha! Ha!!

      Anyway, I meant Dr. Kavan by “he” there.

      Thanks!

  • yapa

    Interesting video

    Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hd_ptbiPoXM&feature=relmfu

    Thanks!

  • sabbe laban

    King Arther’s Telescope
    ———————–

    He donated it to the Uni. for the use of the students
    He thought they would love to look @ the planets
    But they were not interested…
    They’d rather have a political discussion over a plain tea..
    on how to capture the power at the next election
    of the student union…
    As with everything else, this telescope became an exibit..
    like the Whisky bottles in some houses!

    So it seems that somebody and his buddies made a buck out of
    this old telescope!

    And he doesn’t want any Gamaraala to say things about it!
    After all it’s the property of his mentor and (…) partner..

  • yapa

    “Yapa has already disclosed that he works at the Colombo University and by what logic did you arrive at the conclusion, that “Yapa” is Yapa’s pen name?”

    Sorry, about the mistake from my part. Really I am not working in the Colombo University. Really I was graduated from the University that is all. Sorry about the mis-communication.

    Thanks!

    • yapa

      Above post is referred to the Off the Cuff’s post.

      Thanks!