Thursday, April 09, 2009

Forensic Astronomy with Don Olson

The latest edition of the Smithsonian Magazine (April 09 edition) has an article (available online here) about Texas State astronomer Donald Olson, who

solves puzzles in literature, history and art using the tools of astronomy: charts, almanacs, painstaking calculations and computer programs that map ancient skies. He is perhaps the leading practitioner of what he calls "forensic astronomy."
Pretty neat stuff, although worth seeing in print as the online edition only shows a single image.

While some in the art world welcome Olson's input, others seem to react poorly to learning what, when or where famous painters actually painted their works. I love Olson's pragmatic response to this:
"You can't ruin a painting's mystique through technical analysis," Olson says. "It still has the same emotional impact. We are just separating the real from the unreal."

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