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Bob Berman's strange universe: Astro-humiliation

October 2008: Reminiscing about moments of astronomy-related shame and embarrassment.
Astronomy, embarrassing? Believe it. And what better authority than someone who's played the fool in each phase of his career.

As a kid, when I still lived in the city, I set up my little 2.4-inch refractor on the sidewalk. One cold night the streets were empty. Then, from around the corner, I heard slow footsteps. I kept gazing into the eyepiece, the steps getting louder. I was spooked. Finally, gathering my courage, I looked up, and came face to face with . . . a little old lady.

"Don't set it off now, sonny!" she commanded. I stammered something, but she wouldn't believe the tube I was bending over wasn't fireworks.

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