real estate?

James A. Landau <> JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM
Thu Sep 3 01:52:40 UTC 2009

The 6:30 PM news broadcast on ABC began by reporting on the fires around Los Angeles.  The newscaster kept referring to Mount Wilson, which is currently still threatened by the fires, as "valuable real estate".

Technically he is correct, since Mount Wilson is land (and has buildings on it.)  However, I feel "valuable real estate" is misleading, since it seems to refer to the possibility of making a multi-zillion dollar profit by selling the land and its buildings.  The value of Mount Wilson is not in its square footage but rather that it contains:
   1. the Mount Wilson Observatory (one of the Hale Observatories), one of the most historic and important astronomical observatories in the world
   2. a concentration of radio/TV/cellular towers so important as to be considered a national security problem if they burn down.

     Mount Wilson, as best as I can find out, belongs to the US Government (as part of a National Forest), the non-profit Mount Wilson Association which runs the observatory, and a small portion is owned by a telecom company.  Much of the land recently came off a 99-year lease to the Carnegie Institute, and both CalTech and UC Berkeley are in there.  Nothing to interest a real estate agent.

    Trivia---the first man known to have explored Mount Wilson was Benjamin Davis Wilson (grandfather to General Patton).  Wilson Gray will tell us that Benjamin Davis was the first black US Army general.
    Mount Wilson Observatory was one of the first beneficiaries of the technology known as "Star Wars".  Adaptive optics developed for the Strategic Defense Initiative aka "Star Wars" was used to greatly improve the capabilities of the telescope mirrors there.

    - James A. Landau

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