How Big of a Telescope is Needed to See Any Interest?

A popular television program of the early days of television was This is Show Business. It ran from 1949 to 1954 and gave aspiring entertainers the opportunity to get advice from a panel of experienced celebrities. Sometimes the advice was helpful. The helpfulness of the advice typically had a correlation to the level of sympathy the aspiring entertainer could garner from the panelists.

One of the guests was 19-year-old Eddie Fisher. The young man was just beginning what would be a very successful career as a singer. At the time he appeared on This is Show Business, however, he had a problem. As he explained it, he was having difficulty finding any woman who would be willing to date him because he looked so young. He mournfully explained his dilemma and waited to see which panelist would offer sage counsel.

Eddie Fisher and George S. Kaufman “This is Show Business”
Eddie Fisher (left) and George S. Kaufman (right)

The moderator directed the question to playwright George S. Kaufman. Kaufman ran his fingers thoughtfully through his thick hair before responding:

“Mr. Fisher, on Mount Wilson there is a telescope that can magnify the most distant stars up to twenty-four times the magnification of any previous telescope. This remarkable instrument was unsurpassed in the world of astronomy until the construction of the Mount Palomar telescope, an even more remarkable instrument of magnification. Owing to advances and improvements in optical technology, it is capable of magnifying the stars to four times the magnification and resolution of the Mount Wilson telescope.”

Fisher, the panelists, and the studio audience, perplexed by this explanation, eagerly awaited the point to Kaufman’s observations:

“Mr. Fisher, if you could somehow put the Mount Wilson telescope inside the Mount Palomar telescope, you still wouldn’t be able to detect my interest in your problem.”

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