Dwight Peck's personal Web site

Science and culture in New Mexico, USA


In July 1997, Mr Peck sensed that he'd been working too hard, so he went on a hike over the High Route of the Swiss Alps with Mr Charles Berman. But when that was over, he STILL felt he'd been working too hard, so he went to England and rode a bicycle around under highway overpasses near Heathrow Airport and collected number 3 daughter Marlowe Tyson Peck and flew to New Mexico, USA, to visit number 1 daughter Alison Beth Peck and imbibe science and culture.

This was before demented ashcroftian airport security personnel, in their permanent Orwellian search for the ARCHVILLAIN Osama bin Goldstein, made flying in or out of the USA really unpleasant.

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Marlowe and Alison Peck, and Alison's friend Tim Canty, pose before the VLA (Very Large Array) of the NRAO (National Radio Astronomy Observatory), in the Plains of St Augustine some miles west of Socorro, New Mexico.

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Alison and Tim, with Mr Peck, on the Plains of St Augustine. Alison was a PhD candidate in radio astronomy and astrophysics at New Mexico Tech in Socorro at the time. Update: she is now, in 2002, at the Mauna Kea Harvard/Smithsonian observatory in Hawaii (and in 2008, at the Atacama Large Millimetre Array in Chile)(and in 2014, at the NRAO HQ in Charlottesville, Virginia).

Tim, Marlowe, and Alison, with NRAO looming.

27 of these big items can be moved in and out on three 9-mile railroad tracks in order to increase the resolution or area viewed in the farthest heavens, but, though featured in the Jody Foster film Contact, they have not yet noticed any engaging alien intelligences who will guide Earthlings to a better future.

But somebody better do it soon.

Marlowe and Alison viewing a radio telescope Gathering of the Clans.

A School of Pecks on the front balcony of the NRAO VLA control room in New Mexico.

Alison's and Tim's house in Socorro, New Mexico, extremely attractive to many people, albeit to some people who live in Switzerland, extremely . . . dry.

Some miles westward and desertward, Mr Peck marched up South Baldy mountain (3289 meters) in the Magdalena Mountains west of Socorro, New Mexico, to meet his party at the top, and learnt a new lesson in dry air and dehydration!

Three Pecks pose before the Faraday lightning cage at the Langmuir lightning research laboratory on top of South Baldy Mountain.

PhD candidates sit in the cage below that deck, shoot rockets with wires attached up into thunderclouds, and view the lightning charging down the wires, secure in their faith that Michael Faraday's theory about lightning routing itself all round the cage instead of right through it is not just another proto-scientific theory like phlogiston and the creation of the earth in 5,600 B.C. If they're right, they get their PhDs.

With admirable patience, Alison explains to her still incredulous Dad how the Faraday cage is supposed to work, when it's on form.

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Tim, Alison, and her Dad with her mates from the University, on South Baldy.

However Rumsfeldian and StarWarsian this may look, it's actually just well-intended lightning research stuff on South Baldy.

After some days in and about Socorro, a gaggle of Pecks headed east. As follows.

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Rental auto looming in the background, Marlowe and Alison Peck cross a lava flow in New Mexico . . .

. . . and view "petroglyphs". Petroglyphs, or rock carvings, were left here by ancient people, for some good reason probably, but it's hard to see that they got anything out of it. Perhaps it was a hobby.

Marlowe and Alison toast marshmallows at dusk somewhere in the empty deserty sort of central New Mexico.

Camping in New Mexico deserts, waiting for coyotes, wolves, scorpions, rattlesnakes, federales, and possibly wild boars to come poking about outside the tent.

Alison and Marlowe Peck, at White Sands, playing about amidst a lot of . . . white sand.

White sand to the horizon. Awesome sight!!! Give the capitalists another 25 years and most of the world may well look very like this.

"I've lost my shoe. It's out there somewhere. Help me look for it."

Marlowe and her Ramsar COP6 Brisbane Australia stuffed koala bear

Rain! Note how fast the foliage springs up. Tomorrow morning it will all be back to White Sands.

Two Drs Peck planning strategy.

Visitors who proceed in an orderly fashion and keep their place in line will now be treated to views of a few more ethnic and cultural sites in New Mexico, namely Bandelier pueblo and a village fête in Socorro.

Alison and Marlowe Peck at Bandelier National Monument, in northwestern New Mexico (USA), where long ago people used to live up in those little holes in the cliffs. Until they got tired of that, and moved to Las Vegas, where the jobs are. And the heartbreaks.

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Speculative Mr Peck is not just posing for a tourist photo with daughter Alison. He's casting an investor's eye all about, thinking "Theme Park". If Disney can take over Paris, why not ancient cliff dwellings?

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Alison's thinking: "'Disney Pueblo! Give it up!"

Marlowe Peck emulates ancient pueblo dwellers, irritated that our forefathers (or somebody's forefathers) couldn't do any better than a fairly shaky ladder.

Dr Peck enters somebody's bedroom without knocking, but the occupants are long gone, and there's nobody here now but rattlesnakes and scorpions and Dads with cameras.

Back in Socorro, a village fête in progress

The blue sugar-candy tongue may not be an authentic New Mexican tradition, however, so we don't need to pretend we find this "fascinating" in the name of cultural diversity. A blue tongue is a blue tongue in all cultural traditions, for better or for worse.

Bye bye, New Mexico. This is, in fact, Cambridge, Massachusetts (USA). Marlowe safely deposited in Vermont (USA), Señor Peck relaxes in Harvard Square or thereabouts with friends Paul Miller and Charles Berman, and then, finally, goes back to work in Switzerland, alas.


The summer of 1997 was not a bad summer, all round, for those of us who benefit from humane European holiday opportunities. Prior to the foregoing trip to New Mexico, USA, harmless Mr Peck was privileged to be able to run all round the High Route of the Swiss Alps, in late June 1997, and that's here.

{Click on the photo.}


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 22 April 2002, revised 17 October 2008, 16 August 2014.


Marlowe Tyson Peck