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    Re: Sky & Telescope Magazine article on Capt. Cook's Astronomy
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2020 Jan 27, 10:14 -0800

    Roger Sinnott, you wrote:
    "Well, Frank, I don't see the harm in showing a reasonable reproduction of a historical instrument. "

    Roger, it seerms I wasn't sufficiently bliunt on this. The item in the photo is not a "reasonable reproduction of a historical instrument". It's a piece of shit. These things are dust-collectors that somewhat resemble historical sextants. In no way is this a faithful or historically meaningful copy of an instrument no longer available in any other form. Paul Saffo was on-the-money calling out your publication on this. Sky & Telescope has published a photo of a piece of shit as if it represents an actual instrument of nautical astronomy. You should be disappointed in Sky & Telescope's editorial process for this obviously lazy gaffe.

    And you added:
    "The Stanley ad clearly states, at the end of the description, While this sextant is fully functional, it does not come with a certificate of calibration and is not intended for navigation. "

    Wow. Don't you recognize the linguistic stylings of a used car salesman?? This is a highly misleading bit of ad-speak designed to con tthe gullible. The claim that this thing is fully functional can be defended by saying "the mirrors reflect light" and "the arm can be moved" and so, therefore (says their legal team), it is "fully functional". But it absolutely is not "functional" in any other sense. If someone handed you a shiny brass telescope with flat window glass instead of lenses and told you it was "fully functional" (since, after all, you can hold it up to your eye and look through it!), would you accept their claim? The statement that there is no "certificate of calibration" is another clever con -- a way of suggesting that it's almost a professional sextant, lacking mere paperwork. But these are not "functional" sextants in any sense. They only resemble sextants. If you tried to take a Sun sight with one of these, you would burn your eyes. If you tried a star sight, you would find altitudes off by many degrees, if you could get the thing to line up at all. This is not a sextant. It is not a faithful reproduction of a scientific instrument, which you seem to be imagining. It's a tchotchke, a nautical knick-knack, a coffee table ornament for the well-heeled yachtsman. It's a piece of shit. And yes, it's fake.

    You wrote:
    "Nor does the S&T article say, 'This was Captain Cook's sextant.' "

    Pff. And no one suggested that it did.

    Robin Stuart posted a message about the difficulty of licensing images. This is certainly true for some classes of images. But it does not excuse this blunder. I challenge anyone: how many images of sextants with liberal licensing can you find in under five minutes? I'll get you started: Google search: sextant site:wikimedia.org. Or how many can you find in the NavList archives (with licensing permission from the original photographer generally available on request in under an hour)?

    Licensing is clearly not the issue. Images of real sextants with easy licensing permissions are abundant. Somebody at S&T screwed up and selected an image of a coffee-table dust-collector -- a piece of shit. Is it the end of the world? No. To be honest, I'm amazed to see that there are still subscribers of the print edition. And of those who do subscribe, few have any significant interest in "nautical astronomy". But it is what it is: a lazy mistake, and there's no reason to defend it.

    Frank Reed

       
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