The question Are the stars distributed in uniform distribution, on the celestial dome, with respect to brightness? brings to mind a different study that I vaguely remember hearing about a while ago, perhaps several decades. This is a summary of how I recall it, it may not be 100% accurate:

An astronomer was stuck in a situation for an extended length of time and in order to keep busy and do science used a small personal computer to do an analysis of star positions, focusing on pairs that were diametrically opposed; at nearly antipodal points, in order to see if there was a deviation from other pairs of points that were not antipodal.

One possible effect that might cause such an anomaly was that the universe was small and closed and light from a star might reach us from both the "short" and "long" part of a great circle drawn on a 4-sphere (or torus?), thereby appearing to us at antipodal points of the celestial sphere, a bit like how amateur radio operators with directional antennas with good rejection ratios can sometimes receive the same signal from both directions along the great circle containing both sites.

Does this sound familliar to anyone? Was it ever published? I've tried googling several ways but lack the proper search terms.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This sounds like you may be remembering the "Poincaré Dodecahedral Space" (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/homology_sphere ). See the discussion at mathoverflow.net/questions/9708/… and . $\endgroup$ – David Cary Dec 17 '19 at 23:35
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidCary thanks for the pointer. I'm remembering an astrophysicist using a personal computer to do a search of a catalog of star positions when "stuck in a situation for an extended length of time and in order to keep busy." $\endgroup$ – uhoh Dec 28 '19 at 1:41
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidCary I've just posted a partial answer but I don't understand the paper linked there. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Feb 26 '20 at 8:20

This is a partial answer because while I'm quite sure that

  1. Fang Lizhi is the astronomer I'm thinking of
  2. The paper Periodicity of Redshift Distribution in a T-3 Universe (FERMILAB-Pub-90/26-A January 1990) is a description of the research I'm remembering

I can not understand the paper well enough to connect it to how I remember the author describing his computational experience working on the small Apple computer while trapped in an embassy, and what this paper has (if anything) to do with comparing antipodal points.

Hopefully this is enough information for someone to go further and post a proper answer.

There is also the book The Most Wanted Man in China: My Journey from Scientist to Enemy of the State by the same person. On Page 294:

What I needed was a computer. Again I was fortunate, because one of the diplomats, who originally had been a student of mathematics, was being transferred back home and was ready to part with his first generation Apple computer.


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