This approach connects to historical practices of technology-assisted scientific images, such as those by Galileo, Robert Hooke, and Johannes Hevelius. These scientists combined their early telescopic and microscopic images with artistic techniques so they would be legible to non-specialist audiences (particularly those who did not have access to the relevant instruments).
How philosophy can help
Videos of black holes would be of significant interest to theoretical physicists. However, there is a bridge between formal mathematical theory and the messy world of experiment where idealized assumptions often do not hold up.
Philosophers can help to bridge this gap with considerations of epistemic risk — such as the risk of missing the truth, or making an error. Philosophy also helps to investigate the underlying assumptions physicists might have about a phenomenon.
For example, one approach to describing black holes is called the “no-hair theorem.” It’s the idea that an isolated black hole can be simplified down to just a few properties, and there’s nothing complex (hairy) about it. But the no-hair theorem applies to stable black holes. It relies on an assumption that black holes eventually settle down to a stationary state.
Responsible telescope siting
The choice of locations for telescopes, or telescope siting, has historically been determined by technical and economic considerations — including weather, atmospheric clarity, accessibility, and costs. There has been a historic lack of consideration for local communities, including First Nations peoples.
As the struggle at Mauna Kea in Hawai’i highlights, scientific collaborations are obligated to address ethical, social, and environmental considerations when siting.
The ngEHT aims to advance responsible siting practices. It draws together experts in philosophy, history, sociology, community advocacy, science, and engineering to contribute to the decision-making process in ways that include cultural, social, and environmental factors when choosing a new telescope location.
Overall, this collaboration is an exciting example of how ambitious plans demand innovative approaches — and how sciences are evolving in the 21st century.