22 January 2007

Deep down inside of me lives a nerd named Herb.

Herb loves science. He subscribes to Omni Magazine and haunts Radio Shack. He has fantasies of ordering that kit he's read about in the back of Popular Science, and building a hovercraft out of a lawnmower engine and riding it to school. That'll show everybody. He loved the "mytharc" episodes of The X-Files, and regrets that he's never seen a UFO. In grade school, he checked out every book on Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and the paranormal that the library had to offer.

He's even been known to play old school pencil-and-paper D&D, although if you call it that, he'll correct you (it's AD&D.)

Friday night, Pamela took Herb to Grifftih Observatory for my birthday.

Griffith closed not long after Pamela and I moved out here. $93 million and five years later, it's open, and it's badass.

Highlights of the trip:
  • The "cloud chamber" wherein one can "see" cosmic rays hitting a tray of super cooled alcohol. If I were the paranoid type, I'd be freaking out about the constant barage of cosmic rays that shoot through us every moment of every day.
  • The Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theatre, and "The Once and Future Griffith Observatory" film. This is how you do an orientation film. I've been to so many museums in my life, and have fallen asleep in/walked out of just about every other orientation film. They usually suck. No sense of humor or wonder, no attempt at creating something people would be willing to pay to see (even though these films are free. It's the mindset. When you know that someone is going to pay good money for your product, you tend to make it a little more worth their while, right?) Oh ... and Nimoy rules all.
  • The Planetarium Show. Just absolutely incredible. The Big Bang is couched as a modern version of the stories man has been telling about the sky since time immemorial. Just a great, non-confrontational way to present the theory. Oh, and the state-of-the-art star projector was amazing. Living in the big city, I find myself yearning for the clear, country skies of my youth. Would you judge me too harshly if I confessed to getting a bit weepy when the Milky Way was splashed out across the darkened dome above?
  • Looking at the Orion Nebula through the 12-inch Zeiss refracting telescope. I've never before experienced looking at the night sky through a real telescope. I understand the sentiment that Griffith J. Griffth expressed upon looking through the telescope at the famed Mt. Wilson observatory: "Man's sense of values ought to be revised. If all mankind could look through that telescope, it would change the world."

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