Puerto Rico, 2019

B and I went out to a beach near Aguadilla for a weekend. Or rather, she was out there for a week. I was a wimp and visited for a few days. I'm not much of a beach person.

But I am a giant science nerd (as is B) so we took some side trips. The highlight was the Arecibo Observatory.

I was lazy about posting these photos, but the bad news from Arecibo this week (August 2020) reminded me of our visit. So here's some images from a happier time.

These photos are from March of 2019. Some were taken by B, some by me.


You park and walk up a steep path. Big signs remind you to put your phone in airplane mode. Then there's a nice visitor center with science-museum exhibits about radio astronomy.

Then you walk out onto the balcony.

My first impression was that I'd walked into science fiction. Of course it is science fiction; it has been since I read Danny Dunn and the Voice from Space at age seven. The telescope has been in movies like Contact. It's also real, because science fiction is real.

Years later, I chose radiotelescope as my handle on Livejournal -- later Dreamwidth -- because of that Danny Dunn book. That idea of talking to the universe still lives, and that day I stepped into it and looked up.

The receiver platform hangs in the sky in much the same way that thousand-ton scientific instruments do. The domes and tracks and catwalks loom against the mist. (It was raining on Planet Telescope that morning. But it cleared up a bit later.) Myst and Simon Stålenhag illustrate these scenes.

The support towers are in the very best Brutalist style.

We got a tour of the lab rooms, too. This is vintage 1960s analog signal-processing hardware -- still in use, because that's what the scientists are doing. They're processing analog signals.

I inspect the equipment.

Yes, there's modern workstations too. The monitor has a camera view of the control room in the suspended dome.

B jiggled a mouse on one machine (not this one) and the xeyes shifted to watch.

A working lab.

I love this console in wood and Serious Powder Blue. One of the panels says "Klystron" on it.

Our science selfie.

Cueva Ventana

We also stopped by a limestone cave near Arecibo.

It's actually a series of caves, each with a front and back entrance. The tour winds through a couple of them.

None of the caves get entirely dark, and there's plenty of light near the entrances. Thus, lots of moss.

The back "entrance" to the last cave is a window looking out of a sheer cliff, hundreds of feet above the valley floor.


Our last science field trip was a decommissioned nuclear power plant at Rincón.

You can't tour the facility -- there are mumblings about reopening as a science museum, but it hasn't happened.

You can walk right up to the fence, though. The dome is that same 1960s science-powder-blue. There's a genuine, absolutely unironic Nuclear Power Is Awesome logo on the front lawn.

We walked all the way around the facility. The trees behind it were full of paths; that week they were marked up for some kind of rally-bike race. Also this extremely purple hermit crab.

B sitting on a rock on the Rincón beach.

Me farther up the same beach. I think we photographed each other in this spot, with the same palm frond in frame.

Later we got dinner at a beach bar in Aguadilla. I had the mofongo.

-- August 15, 2020

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