Ask Dr. SETI ®
Tune In The Universe!
by SETI League executive director Dr. H. Paul Shuch
I am honored to dedicate Tune In The Universe to Dr. John D. Kraus, W8JK, a true renaissance man. Prof. Kraus has distinguished himself as a prominent physicist, educator, antenna designer, engineer, writer, publisher, radio amateur, and philosopher. His textbooks Radio Astronomy, Antennas, Electromagnetics, and Our Cosmic Universe have guided a whole generation of astronomers and engineers, including me. His two volumes of memoirs (Big Ear and Big Ear Too) have inspired a whole generation of radio amateurs (again, including me). His short-lived periodical, Cosmic Search, was the world's first SETI magazine, its thirteen issues still cherished by those of us involved in the SETI enterprise. And his designs (including the legendary Big Ear radio telescope) have expanded humanity's knowledge of the cosmos.
It was also he who ordained me as a radio astronomer (see below).
That particular episode occurred a few years ago at the Ohio State University, where Kraus is Professor Emeritus of Physics, Astronomy and Electrical Engineering. I had just given a SETI paper to a room full of astrophysicists, and I was justifiably nervous. "After all," I told him afterward, "I'm just an electrical engineer."
"Don't ever say that!" roared Kraus, with a forcefulness which belied his eight decades. "You are a radio astronomer!"
Right there, I realized I had offended my mentor. (After all, he himself was, first and foremost, an electrical engineer.) "But John..." I started.
"But nothing!" he retorted. "As an engineer, you can very easily learn (and, in fact, have already learned) all the astronomy you need to call yourself a radio astronomer. The converse cannot be said of the physicists."
Over the years, John Kraus has been quick with his wit, frank in his criticism, generous with his praise, and ever supportive of the young upstart with his head in the clouds. I am proud to call him my friend.
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this page last updated 23 November 2002
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