However, there are a coupla minor historical things that can be chalked up to literary license. According to Parkes Observatory Homesite, the following things just didn't happen.
Photo CSIRO: The three principal players at Parkes: (L-R) John Bolton, Robert Taylor and Taffy Bowen.
Just recently, one of my students, Brian Mihaich, after viewing this page, mentioned that he noticed an error in the movie! They used cars near the dish! Now, at first thought, I didn't think that was any big deal and he was making something up. However, it makes perfect sense if you think of it. The Parkes dish is a radio wave receiver and amplifier. Regular internal combustion cars, like the one the young girl and the American Ambassador drove right up to the front door during operation, have spark plugs. Spark plugs make, well, sparks! Sparks have associated with them a large EM field including in the radio frequency range. Anyone who has tried to listen to a weak AM radio station in an older car knows the radio static spark plugs can produce. So, according the Brian, they use diesel vehicles on the grounds of a radio dish since diesel engines have no spark plugs. Cool! I'm awaiting confirmation on this, but for now, it makes perfect sense. He and his family visited a dish somewhere... ADDENDUM 12/08/02: Just got word from Brian's Mother, Berlinda, that the dish they visited on a family trip was the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia.
Addendum 12/06/02: Just got an email reply from my astronomer buddy, Phil Plait; an honest-ta-goodness astronomer previously of Goddard Space Center now of Sonoma University in sunny California. Visit his fabulous Bad Astronomy site! He concurs that the only vehicles used near an operating radio dish is of the non-sparking kind - diesel and bikes and such! So, my AP Fizzoid was correct! Nice job Brian! Apparently, according to Dr. Phil, PLAIT that is, at radio dish places like the VLA, Very Large Array, see picture below, it doesn't matter as much since the interference at one dish is easily filtered out by all the others. However, at a place like Parkes, little EM disturbances make a huge problem.
Green Bank's Big Guy, the Robert C. Byrd Telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia