The good folks beavering away at their long tables in the magisterial north Rose Main Reading Room on the third floor of the New York Public Library’s main building might be excused for feeling spied upon. “What is that thing?” they’ve been asking the guards over the past several months, pointing up at the eerie, tripod-mounted, radarlike dish mounted on the narrow balcony at the far end of the airy, vaultlike space.
Much of the time, the object is unmanned. But every once in a while, a lanky, long-haired young man will amble along the mezzanine balcony and squeeze himself into the narrow cockpit behind the dish, wedging his skull into a white helmet, and start taking measurements, or inventories, or calculations, or something. All very still, his arm jammed into the concave shell, scratching away infinitesimally, for hours on end (and indeed long after the place has otherwise closed down for the night). “What the hell is that guy doing?”
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