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truth in space-vertising

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  • david mcconville
    Fulldomers, I ve been to a few fulldome and planetarium presentations in which exoplanets are excitedly presented as somewhere humans might soon travel to.
    Message 1 of 18 , Jun 17, 2011
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      Fulldomers,

      I''ve been to a few fulldome and planetarium presentations in which exoplanets are excitedly presented as somewhere humans might soon travel to. With the ongoing discovery of more and more of them, the interest is quite understandable. But I'm curious about the degree to which the scientific reality is glossed over in science centers to perpetuate science fiction fantasies? The notion of the "conquering the space frontier" is one that planetariums played an important role in perpetuating during the 20th century, so it's little surprise that recent findings concerning the diminishing prospects for long-term human spaceflight would be slow to trickle into the official mythology of space geekdom.

      I mention this because I imagine many of you are responsible for giving your own versions of "tours of the universe," and I'm curious how you handle this? Since I imagine many of you find yourselves in the unique position of answering questions and setting expectations w/r/t humanity's place in the cosmos, it seems that a healthy discussion of this kind might shed some light on the why (instead of just the how) of the fulldome industry.

      Full disclosure: I've stated my position on this quite bluntly. I'm not a trained scientist or even an educator, so take my critiques with however many grains of salt needed. But after the NBC Nightly News clip on exoplanets last year (http://www.amnh.org/news/2010/10/looking-for-life-in-the-goldilocks-zone/) in which Brian Williams suggests that a planet 20 light years away is "practically next door in astronomer terms" and "it's just nice to know that if we screw this place up badly enough there is some place we can all go." I responded with a letter Williams pointing out the absurdity of some of his suggestions, which a friend animated with xtranormal and was covered in Discover, which provoked some rather telling comments: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/discoblog/2010/10/04/so-how-long-would-it-take-to-travel-to-that-exciting-new-exoplanet/ -

      So in light of the extraordinary work of Walt Disney, Wernher von Braun, and countless science fiction tale spinners to excite audiences about the prospects of space travel (http://history.msfc.nasa.gov/vonbraun/disney_article.html), what if the harsh reality is that the closest we'll realistically come is within our fulldome theaters? Good news for us, right? Maybe NASA could divert some of the manned spaceflight funding for projector upgrades!

      In the end, I'll defer to the ultimate scientific authority on this issue. It seems that space travel might not be so exotic and enjoyable after all: http://www.cracked.com/article_18547_6-reasons-space-travel-will-always-suck.html

      cheers,
      david



      ---

      david mcconville
      director, noospheric research division
      http://www.elumenati.com
    • Dave Pentecost
      Thanks to David for these reflections. The temptation to bend the science for entertainment value is always with us. For myself, years spent with conscientious
      Message 2 of 18 , Jun 21, 2011
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        Thanks to David for these reflections. The temptation to bend the science
        for entertainment value is always with us.

        For myself, years spent with conscientious archaeologists and epigraphers in
        Mexico and Guatemala leave me apprehensive (but amused) over the flood of
        distortions we will see around 2012 and the so-called Maya apocalypse. We
        are already seeing its entertainment value pumped up by fulldome producers
        who should know better. If it fills the theater, and no qualified researcher
        calls our bluff, what's the harm in a little exploitation?

        Cheers
        Dave

        --
        Director, Technology
        Center for Community
        http://www.girlsclub.org/building

        Community Base
        http://c4c.posterous.com
        @dpentecost
        Cell 646 704 2021
      • Ed Lantz
        Bravo, David. Excellent debate! I appreciate your reasoning that we should have a realistic view of what it would take to visit a neighboring planet, and the
        Message 3 of 18 , Jun 22, 2011
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          Bravo, David. Excellent debate!

          I appreciate your reasoning that we should have a realistic view of what it
          would take to visit a neighboring planet, and the long road ahead of us
          before we're able to live sustainably in any sort of man-made spaceborne
          habitat. I also appreciate your focus on living well here on earth. This
          needs to be a number one global priority that all humans support with a
          substantial portion of our productivity. The earth is indeed all we have
          for now and, even if there were viable alternatives such as a nearby
          habitable planet, it would be unthinkable to destroy this awesome world -
          especially when given a choice in the matter, which we apparently still
          have.

          At the same time, I agree with blogger Lionel Tilmont (and Stephen Hawking -
          http://tinyurl.com/2fsevkc) that we owe it to ourselves to seek to expand
          beyond the earth as a long-term plan for humanity. There are a long list of
          threats that could render humans extinct: asteroid or comet collision,
          gamma ray burst, nuclear disaster and more. If nothing else, the oceans
          will evaporate in a billion years or so as the sun grows towards a red
          giant. I recently heard on climatologist speculate that - considering
          global warming - we may already be right on the edge of the habitable zone
          for earth - the so-called goldilocks zone (often cited to be 0.95 AU - see
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habitable_zone).

          Many have argued that, although the earth is the cradle of civilization, we
          cannot stay in the cradle forever. With peaking oil and energy resources,
          it could be that, if we do not reach for space now, we may forever loose the
          chance as global challenges force us to shrink back into survival mode. Lt
          Col Peter Garretson contends that inexpensive energy resources like gas and
          coal are like our "baby fat" - if we burn it off we may become locked in the
          gravity well of earth forever. He argues that we should use these resources
          now to build the capacity to harness space-based solar power and the many
          resources within our solar system. This is his "billion year plan" for
          humanity.

          In the 1970's Gerard K. O'Neill speculated that the asteroid belt had enough
          material to build space colonies with over 3,000 times the surface area of
          the earth. I would not be so quick to pour cold water onto these bold
          visions. Sure these visions will take time to manifest - generations - but
          only if we reach for them. There are many innovations to come that we can
          hardly predict today.

          Striving for long term goals such as space colonies and asteroid mining is,
          to me, the same kind of long-range thinking that is needed to care for the
          planet. Some scoff at global warming, saying it is some other generation's
          problem. However the choices we make now will have very long lasting
          effects on our descendents. Inhibiting a mindful manned space exploration
          effort could set humanity back generations and have unknown and unexpected
          repercussions in our ability to survive over the long term.

          While the specter of humans spreading our seed into the cosmos is
          distasteful to some, the evolution of life on earth is full of examples of
          species that survived because they were able to extend their habitat. I
          believe that ultimately life is a good thing and should be preserved.

          This is not an either-or situation. Calling for a shutdown of manned space
          exploration altogether seems extreme to me (many of my friends and
          colleagues feel that we should shut down manned space programs). We are
          capable of developing as a spacefaring civilization at the same time we tend
          to our global challenges. And who knows, the neo-space enthusiasts may turn
          out to be right about resources in space:
          http://www.nss.org/settlement/L5news/1981-resources.htm

          While Cracked.com is certainly an impressive authority, and the article
          brings up valid challenges, the pessimistic attitude of the writer demands
          an alternative, more upbeat point of view:

          Six Reasons why Space Travel could be Awesome (visions for the future once
          we work out a few kinks):

          1) Sex in Space. The Karma Sutra will need to be re-written once we
          start experimenting with lovemaking positions in micro-gravity.

          2) Space Is Infinite (Cyberspace, that is). No astronaut in their
          right mind would spend their time in a cramped space capsule. When the
          goggles go on, the capsule disappears and Johnny plays in a virtual world
          with endless vistas to explore and time-shifted semi-autonomous AI versions
          of all your friends and family's avatars to play games with.

          3) Life in Zero Gravity Rocks. Space farers will know better than to
          stay still and rot in micro-gravity. Imagine the sporting games that will
          be invented to pass the time! How about space pinball (where you are the
          ball)? Or space juggling with your friends? Or maybe someday, space
          Olympics. Of course, we don't need legs in space, so these useless
          appendages will likely shrivel away after a few generations.

          4) Art in Space. True, there is not much to see in interstellar space
          - that is, unless you have a telescope. Better yet, why not make your own
          art in space? You could make your own floating constellations out of blinky
          lights, pin stripe the sides of your starship, or make floating kinetic
          sculptures out of spinning toothpicks.

          5) Escape is Golden. If you are leaving the earth for a 1000-year
          multi-generational trip, you probably are running or hiding from something
          and have no desire to go home.

          6) Rescue is Impossible. Admittedly, rescue in interstellar space
          would be difficult. But the entire drama would doubtless be recorded and
          replayed on You Tube over and over, warning future generations not to make
          these same mistakes.

          Best,

          Ed
        • Tom Casey
          Upon reading David s comments, I at first agreed with him, but after further thought, had to rethink my vision. I finally came up with this... It doesn t
          Message 4 of 18 , Jun 22, 2011
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            Upon reading David's comments, I at first agreed with him, but after further thought, had to rethink my vision. I finally came up with this... It doesn't matter that it's not so!

            As for the storytelling aspects of using futuristic space travel as a tool in fulldome shows... why not if it works as a teaching tool. We did a show for E&S called Microcosm a while back. Featured a miniaturized submarine with a crew of two doctors cruising around a patient's arteries, heart, brain, etc. just like in Asimov's tale. Along the way, lots of biological facts were explained so the audience was learning something without even realizing it. I know of one planetarium that wouldn't show it as it was until they redid the sound track to remove the scientific impossibility of shrinking humans... replacing that story element with the idea of plausible-today remotely-controlled probes. One way around the issue.

            Another time, we created a future Lunar colony, giant domed city and all and had a grandfather tell his grandkids stories of the Earth they had never experienced since they were born on the Moon. The colony-concept was really science fiction for the most part with some plausible correct-science design, but only some. In testing it was shown to be a very effective concept-teaching tool... in other words the kids enjoyed themselves as they were learning.

            My son always reads the scripts we are working on and his most common comment is, "another bunch of science jargon that you will animate some imagery to." He wants an interesting story to go along with the learning, doesn't care if it's way out there.

            From a producer's viewpoint... why do we do fulldome? It would be easier to just do it flat screen. Or even easier yet to just write a book with pictures. Why? Because we like big complex drama... makes the learning chore more palatable.

            One of my favorite films is "2010." But that title's reference was last year and I don't remember reading about anyone rocketing around near Jupiter in big giant spacecraft. We are far behind what we expected in space travel.

            And lastly, who is to say technology won't eventually expand to change what is thought possible today. As the story goes, many believed man would never fly, then later we would never go to the Moon, etc... there are many more such examples. I remember doing animation for Discovery Channel when Glenn went up in the shuttle. Comparing the shuttle with his little capsule was one quote used often in the edit. It was quite a step forward in his view.

            Maybe someday we'll progress to where what we dream today becomes reality. And until then, I hope to continue to produce content for fulldome shows that are not limited to only today's plausible storylines to teach audiences.

            To infinity and beyond as Buzz says,

            Tom


            On Jun 17, 2011, at 12:53 PM, david mcconville wrote:

            > So in light of the extraordinary work of Walt Disney, Wernher von Braun, and countless science fiction tale spinners to excite audiences about the prospects of space travel, what if the harsh reality is that the closest we'll realistically come is within our fulldome theaters?

            ************************************************
            H o m e R u n P i c t u r e s

            Tom Casey
            President & Creative DIrector

            100 First Avenue - Suite 450
            Pittsburgh, PA 15222
            mailto:tom@...
            http://www.homerunpictures.com
          • Ed Lantz
            One more thought on the truth in space-vertising thread. Using AMNH s Digital Universe Atlas (or similar datasets), planetarians routinely zip around in a
            Message 5 of 18 , Jun 22, 2011
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              One more thought on the "truth in space-vertising" thread. Using AMNH's Digital Universe Atlas (or similar datasets), planetarians routinely zip around in a (largely) static model of the universe, taking guests to the edge of the known universe - the WMAP microwave background residual radiation from the big bang, appearing as the "outer" sphere of the known universe.

              I believe that Jim Sweitzer has pointed out how this can be quite deceptive. You can never make it to the edge of the universe! Time and space are such that, wherever you go, the big bang is the farthest thing we can see in all directions no matter where you go, no matter how fast you travel.

              But there we go, zipping around in these datasets as if we can travel millions of times faster than light. Of course, if you did a real simulation of physics, the planetarium would be boring. Sunsets would go on for tens of minutes, days would take 24 hours, etc.

              How do you let audiences know the truth of these simulations? Should we?

              Best,

              Ed

              Ed Lantz
              Visual Bandwidth, Inc.
              310.913.2696
              ed@...
              www.visualbandwidth.com
            • Mark C. Petersen
              ... I ve not been to any such presentations; perhaps I need to get out more. In looking over our list of fulldome shows commercially available (the LNP
              Message 6 of 18 , Jun 23, 2011
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                David observed:

                >I've been to a few fulldome and planetarium presentations in which exoplanets
                >are excitedly presented as somewhere humans might soon travel to.

                I've not been to any such presentations; perhaps I need to get out
                more. In looking over our list of fulldome shows commercially
                available (the LNP Fulldome Show Compendium), I'm hard-pressed to
                find any that "excitedly" present exoplanets, let alone suggest they
                are imminently bookable destinations. Perhaps you could enlighten us
                as to which specifically you refer?

                >But I'm curious about the degree to which the scientific reality
                >is glossed over in science centers to perpetuate science fiction fantasies?

                In lieu of a quantifiable study, I'd say -- probably not much. I
                seriously doubt many science centers have specific "gloss over
                science, promote fantasy" agendae in their mission statements.

                >it's little surprise
                >that recent findings concerning the diminishing prospects for long-term human
                >spaceflight would be slow to trickle into the official mythology of
                >space geekdom.

                In the immortal words of Wikipedia, "[citation needed]" :-) The
                commercial sector is gearing up, not diminishing.

                >Brian Williams suggests that a planet 20 light years away is
                >"practically next door in astronomer terms"

                Absolutely true -- in astronomer terms, when you deal with objects on
                the scale of billions of light years away, 20 is indeed relatively
                right next door.

                >and "it's just nice to know that if we screw this place up badly
                >enough there is some place we can all go."

                Some hold that the Moon's enticing omnipresence in the sky inspired
                mankind's urge to explore and travel over the millennia. There is
                nothing wrong with providing inspiration; we've always said the
                planetarium/dome theater should primarily be a place of inspiration.

                I remember receiving feedback from a dismayed audience member who
                attended the planetarium show "Gateway To Infinity" that Loch Ness
                Productions created for the St. Louis Science Center. Toward the
                show's conclusion, James Earl Jones intoned Carolyn's elegant script words...

                "How we long to traverse cosmic pathways, in the hope of finding
                other worlds, other life! But the universe challenges us with
                seemingly impassible distances. Journeys of a million years or
                longer would be necessary to reach the outer limits of the Milky
                Way. To reach even nearby stars would consume hundreds or thousands
                of years, and the lives of generations of star travelers. We have
                not yet gained the knowledge necessary to send our children's
                children on lifetime voyages of discovery."

                The gist of the correspondent's complaint was basically, "Arrgh!
                Throughout the show, you've shown me the glorious wonders of the
                universe -- then at the end, you dash my hopes by telling me I'll
                never be able to go there? How dare you!"

                True, we're not going to be traveling to exoplanets *today*. We are
                not going to rule out "tomorrow", though. Perhaps our crystal ball
                shows a different vision of the future from yours.

                >what if the harsh reality is that the closest we'll realistically
                >come is within
                >our fulldome theaters? Good news for us, right?

                From a limited viewpoint, actually, the answer is yes. In other
                words, "This is perfectly normal and nothing to be worried
                about." Or, the last words of Randy Clagget: "Blessed Saint
                Leibowitz, keep 'em dreamin' down there."

                >Maybe NASA could divert some of the manned spaceflight funding for
                >projector upgrades!

                As you surely know, David, NASA has already bought fulldome
                projectors for several facilities upgrading their systems, and they
                operate some of their own. No diversionary funding was necessary.

                >> Mark



                ____________________________________________________
                Mark C. Petersen, Loch Ness Productions
                http://www.lochnessproductions.com
                _____________________ GEODESIUM ____________________
              • david mcconville
                Thanks Dave, Ed, and Tom. I m absolutely all for presenting fantastic visions to inspire humans to their greatest potential, I m just questioning the accepted
                Message 7 of 18 , Jun 23, 2011
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                  Thanks Dave, Ed, and Tom.

                  I'm absolutely all for presenting fantastic visions to inspire humans to their greatest potential, I'm just questioning the accepted logic of what this can and should look like. There has long been a tendency to present fantastic visions of space travel in the context of "science education," which at one point served the explicit purpose of supporting the space race. But today these visions often fail to distinguish empirical realities from imaginative fairytales.

                  Personally, I don't buy that we need to just make shit up to make it interesting. I think we need to get better at telling the story of the world science is revealing. After all, it's arguably far more paradoxically mysterious (observer effect, time dilation, entanglement, dark matter/energy cosmology), synergistically beautiful (ecosystems), precariously interdependent (planetary boundaries) and awe-inspiring (consciousness) than just about anything ever dreamed up by philosophy, fantasy, or religion. We're not lacking for extraordinary scientific material, yet many of these issues remain ignored or woefully misunderstood.

                  "Expanding beyond the Earth" has a very progressive and visionary ring to it. But many ideas of how this can happen seem to be predicated on dangerously outdated assumptions of infinite growth and expansion. This is the same myth underlying the current economic paradigm, which is itself the greatest threat to humanity's long-term survival. The logic is rather circular: We're rapidly destabilizing Earth's ability to comfortably support life, so we need to build vehicles to escape - but since this will take generations, we need to accelerate this now at all costs. As Brian Williams said, "it just nice to know that if we screw this place up bad enough there's somewhere else to go". This all rings of the mediocrity principle, which has justified taking many extraordinary gifts for granted by reducing Earth's life support systems to "resources" and "externalities." Yet the efforts of NASA, SETI, and astrobiologists continue to tacitly reveal that the Earth actually *is* special, being the only place within any reasonable time horizon that can support complex life and is uniquely suited to support us Earthlings.

                  So if we're sincere in our desire to reach the stars, shouldn't the top priority for our generation be figuring out how to live within this system and increase the regenerative capacity of our home planet? If we really care about space travel, shouldn't we be focused on buying the necessary time to let both our technologies and sensibilities mature to the point that it's truly feasible? Perhaps asking this is akin to asking a corporation to forego their quarterly profits for the benefit of greater returns later. And since 20th century ideas of "space conquest" were so successful at making space travel awesome and sexy, this argument quite understandably triggers defense of these spectacular visions.

                  The problem is that with current technologies, human spaceflight directly works against restoring ecological health. For instance, every nouveau billionaire seems to want their 20 minutes in low Earth orbit, but a recent report in Nature about simulations run at NCAR (http://www.nature.com/news/2010/101022/full/news.2010.558.html) suggests this could be incredibly dangerous for the rest of us. The model indicates that space tourism would likely dramatically accelerate climate change in the near future, essentially doubling the heat-blocking gasses of the current aviation industry. Black carbon and the windless upper stratosphere don't mix...

                  So even though many science educators regularly scoff when scientific findings are ignored in lieu of imaginative fantasies (evolution anyone?), there seems to be a double standard at work here. In spite of the published dangers of space tourism,
                  as well as research demonstrating the extreme physiological complications of even short-term space travel, the human spaceflight agenda continues to be pushed without the full context of our understanding of its pitfalls. This also has very real implications for how we cosmic docents talk about exoplanets, habitable zones, life on our own home planet, and the universe at large...

                  I'm by no means calling for a permanent shutdown of human space exploration, but I am suggesting that it is currently a hubristic endeavor when we need to be more mindful than ever about our expenditures and research programs. In the short term, we're much better served by focusing on the most efficient and necessary unmanned missions designed to benefit everyone (and of course visualizing their progress in domes!). If we really want our species to hang around for a billion (or even a thousand) more years, science education should take on the responsibility of igniting the collective imagination by focusing on the pressing needs of our immediate survival. Instead of pimping visions of a far-out interstellar futures, it would be refreshing to see more practical visions for far-in terrestrial successes on our home planet.


                  cheers,
                  david


                  ps - Ed, you really should submit your Top 6 list to Cracked. They're definitely funnier than the originals!



                  ---

                  david mcconville
                  director, noospheric research division
                  http://www.elumenati.com
                • Tom Casey
                  I just like it when the audience goes wow as when they grasp a small hint of how big the universe is and you realize you managed to get a bit of science to
                  Message 8 of 18 , Jun 23, 2011
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                    I just like it when the audience goes "wow" as when they grasp a small hint of how big the universe is and you realize you managed to get a bit of science to be understood :-)

                    Tom


                    On Jun 22, 2011, at 5:31 PM, Ed Lantz wrote:

                    > How do you let audiences know the truth of these simulations? Should we?

                    ************************************************
                    H o m e R u n P i c t u r e s

                    Tom Casey
                    President & Creative DIrector

                    100 First Avenue - Suite 450
                    Pittsburgh, PA 15222
                    mailto:tom@...
                    http://www.homerunpictures.com
                  • david mcconville
                    Ed, You raise a critical point here. I m actually giving a TED talk this weekend at http://tedxphillyed.com about how the Digital Universe Atlas is an
                    Message 9 of 18 , Jun 23, 2011
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                      Ed,

                      You raise a critical point here. I'm actually giving a TED talk this weekend at http://tedxphillyed.com about how the Digital Universe Atlas is an incredible teaching tool precisely because it does not lend itself to a simplistic interpretation. Jim Sweitzer's back-of-the-napkin calculation is that DU represents around $10B of research, which, ironically, has placed Earth back at the center of a celestial sphere. Far from demonstrating that it's possible to achieve a purely objective view on the cosmos (arguably the tacit driving force driving much of the empirical endeavor of reductionist materialism), it looks more like the universe has a wicked sense of humor! The Copernican shift away from the geocentric model is credited with instigating the Scientific Revolution, so to understand why we're back to a geocentric model it's critical to understand DU from multiple perspectives. Yes, we're at the observational center (from a subjective perspective), but Earth is also our ecological center. And the entire thing is mapped in three dimensional Cartesian space, which is itself a cultural interpretation. And of course from the empirical perspective the data we're showing has actually been observed and quantified. Beyond impressing people with the vastness of it all, I've found that DU is an extraordinary tool for teaching about the complex and paradoxical nature of our attempts to understand our place in the cosmos

                      So you're spot on - we absolutely need to be transparent about the limitations of our ability to measure and map the universe (zones of avoidance and all), in the same way we should help audiences to understand that exoplanet "next door" in astronomical terms does not mean we have somewhere else to go in any the foreseeable future. In my experience, the more honest we can be in communicating the limitations of scientific observations and representations, the more interesting the whole process becomes.

                      cheers,
                      david

                      ---

                      david mcconville
                      director, noospheric research division
                      http://www.elumenati.com

                      On Jun 22, 2011, at 5:31 PM, Ed Lantz wrote:

                      > One more thought on the "truth in space-vertising" thread. Using AMNH's Digital Universe Atlas (or similar datasets), planetarians routinely zip around in a (largely) static model of the universe, taking guests to the edge of the known universe - the WMAP microwave background residual radiation from the big bang, appearing as the "outer" sphere of the known universe.

                      > I believe that Jim Sweitzer has pointed out how this can be quite deceptive. You can never make it to the edge of the universe! Time and space are such that, wherever you go, the big bang is the farthest thing we can see in all directions no matter where you go, no matter how fast you travel.

                      > But there we go, zipping around in these datasets as if we can travel millions of times faster than light. Of course, if you did a real simulation of physics, the planetarium would be boring. Sunsets would go on for tens of minutes, days would take 24 hours, etc.

                      > How do you let audiences know the truth of these simulations? Should we?
                    • Tom Casey
                      ... One comment here that may be of interest to what you are saying. If I remember correctly, wasn t the concept of how fragile the Earth was a result of
                      Message 10 of 18 , Jun 23, 2011
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                        On Jun 23, 2011, at 12:43 PM, david mcconville wrote:

                        > "Expanding beyond the Earth" has a very progressive and visionary ring to it... So if we're sincere in our desire to reach the stars, shouldn't the top priority for our generation be figuring out how to live within this system and increase the regenerative capacity of our home planet?

                        One comment here that may be of interest to what you are saying. If I remember correctly, wasn't the concept of how "fragile" the Earth was a result of the early space program, specifically the Apollo flights, that as the astronauts were heading towards the Moon, the steadily receding Earth caused them to realize what an isolated place it truly was. In essence the space program gave birth to a greater environmental awareness of Earth.

                        Tom

                        ************************************************
                        H o m e R u n P i c t u r e s

                        Tom Casey
                        President & Creative DIrector

                        100 First Avenue - Suite 450
                        Pittsburgh, PA 15222
                        mailto:tom@...
                        http://www.homerunpictures.com
                      • Jack Dunn
                        ... Exactly. It was the picture of the entire Earth in one shot taken by the Apollo 8 astronauts that really started much of the environmental movement. I
                        Message 11 of 18 , Jun 23, 2011
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                          On 6/23/2011 3:33 PM, Tom Casey wrote:
                          > On Jun 23, 2011, at 12:43 PM, david mcconville wrote:

                          >> "Expanding beyond the Earth" has a very progressive and visionary ring to it... So if we're sincere in our desire to reach the stars, shouldn't the top priority for our generation be figuring out how to live within this system and increase the regenerative capacity of our home planet?

                          > One comment here that may be of interest to what you are saying. If I remember correctly, wasn't the concept of how "fragile" the Earth was a result of the early space program, specifically the Apollo flights, that as the astronauts were heading towards the Moon, the steadily receding Earth caused them to realize what an isolated place it truly was. In essence the space program gave birth to a greater environmental awareness of Earth.

                          Exactly. It was the picture of the entire Earth in one shot taken by
                          the Apollo 8 astronauts that really started much
                          of the environmental movement. I tell audiences today that before
                          those pictures, nobody had seen a whole Earth.
                          It's an interesting historical moment because before the pictures,
                          people could not conceive of the Earth as a single
                          planet with connected systems.

                          --

                          Clear DARK Skies,

                          Jack Dunn - Mueller Planetarium

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                        • david mcconville
                          Tom, Absolutely - you re referring to what Frank White calls the Overview Effect, and this was an essential stage in the evolution of our understanding. In the
                          Message 12 of 18 , Jun 23, 2011
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                            Tom,

                            Absolutely - you're referring to what Frank White calls the Overview Effect, and this was an essential stage in the evolution of our understanding. In the same way that Copernicus' realization helped to launch a new era of inquiry. Similarly, if we didn't discover oil, we probably wouldn't have Earth observing satellites. These are not simple black and white issues, and the space program has been extremely valuable for informing our perspectives on our home in the cosmos. What I'm suggesting is that as our knowledge evolves, so too should the discourse and communication surrounding the viability of human spaceflight and habitable regions of space in relation to other contingent aspects of human needs and endeavors. And thanks to so many fulldome theaters, the experiential impact of recognizing the uniqueness and interdependence of our planetary system is accessible to audiences worldwide. This is a central theme in the Worldviews Network (http://www.worldviews.net), in which we're combining cosmic, global, and bioregional data to get communities talking about all of this...

                            ---

                            david mcconville
                            director, noospheric research division
                            http://www.elumenati.com

                            On Jun 23, 2011, at 4:33 PM, Tom Casey wrote:

                            > On Jun 23, 2011, at 12:43 PM, david mcconville wrote:

                            > > "Expanding beyond the Earth" has a very progressive and visionary ring to it... So if we're sincere in our desire to reach the stars, shouldn't the top priority for our generation be figuring out how to live within this system and increase the regenerative capacity of our home planet?

                            > One comment here that may be of interest to what you are saying. If I remember correctly, wasn't the concept of how "fragile" the Earth was a result of the early space program, specifically the Apollo flights, that as the astronauts were heading towards the Moon, the steadily receding Earth caused them to realize what an isolated place it truly was. In essence the space program gave birth to a greater environmental awareness of Earth.
                          • david mcconville
                            Mark - ... I was specifically thinking of a planetarium show I saw recently at the Pink Palace in Memphis (using an analog starball) in which the presenter
                            Message 13 of 18 , Jun 23, 2011
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                              Mark -

                              On Jun 23, 2011, at 12:21 PM, Mark C. Petersen wrote:
                              > I've not been to any such presentations; perhaps I need to get out
                              > more.

                              I was specifically thinking of a planetarium show I saw recently at the Pink Palace in Memphis (using an analog starball) in which the presenter suggested that we may be headed to the exoplanets soon, as well as the previously mentioned ways in which the accessibility of habitable zone exoplanets are deceptively portrayed in the media.

                              >> But I'm curious about the degree to which the scientific reality
                              >> is glossed over in science centers to perpetuate science fiction fantasies?

                              > In lieu of a quantifiable study, I'd say -- probably not much. I
                              > seriously doubt many science centers have specific "gloss over
                              > science, promote fantasy" agendae in their mission statements.

                              Let's hope not, eh? The pre-history of 'fulldome' in the 20th century is chock full of space travel being promoted using decidedly fantastic speculations. Even seminal and brilliant shows like Cosmos took plenty of liberties in the name of a good story (not that I would ever suggest changing one iota of Carl's floating new age love craft). But as our understanding evolves, the onus is on us to communicate new insights. And since clever narrative tricks used to entertain audiences don't necessarily need to conform to mission statements, I'm throwing these questions out to this list of practitioners...

                              >> it's little surprise
                              >> that recent findings concerning the diminishing prospects for long-term human
                              >> spaceflight would be slow to trickle into the official mythology of
                              >> space geekdom.

                              > In the immortal words of Wikipedia, "[citation needed]" :-) The
                              > commercial sector is gearing up, not diminishing.

                              Indeed - the commercial sector pushing human spaceflight has considerable financial incentive to avoid discussions of the negative ecological impact of the industry. As we have come to better understand the interactions of Earth systems (thanks in large part to satellite observations), doesn't it make sense to use launch options for maximum immediate benefit?

                              Regarding citations, there's quite a bit of material from the nascent field of space physiology available. Of course most of it is about the effects of short-duration trips, particularly the detrimental effects related to the loss of bone density and muscle atrophy.

                              http://www.nsbri.org/HumanPhysSpace/contents/overview.html
                              http://www.traveldoctoronline.net/acclimation-during-space-flight--effects-on-human-physiology-UE1DMjY5NjUyNw==.htm

                              These rather unglamorous physical side effects seep into many narratives of science education or sci-fi (as opposed to the tried and true psychological deterioration of space travelers). Could make for one hell of a dome show: Space Travel Ain't What It Used To Be...

                              > True, we're not going to be traveling to exoplanets *today*. We are
                              > not going to rule out "tomorrow", though. Perhaps our crystal ball
                              > shows a different vision of the future from yours.

                              There's the time horizon thing again. I'm assuming you mean an astronomer's tomorrow, whereas I'd settle for a ecologist's tomorrow, during which we prioritize cleaning up plastics in the ocean, preserving biodiversity habitats, and generally making our living spaceship work for everyone over fantasizing about our escape by launching into the aether (or dark matter, as the case may be).

                              > As you surely know, David, NASA has already bought fulldome
                              > projectors for several facilities upgrading their systems, and they
                              > operate some of their own. No diversionary funding was necessary.

                              Ahh, but the century is young!

                              david
                            • Berta Mac Gregor
                              More than the truth of it all - who really knows what the truth is - it is the beauty and aesthetics of the Universe that move our visitor s emotions and
                              Message 14 of 18 , Jun 23, 2011
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                                More than the truth of it all - who really knows what the truth is - it is the beauty and aesthetics of the Universe that move our visitor's emotions and maybe, just maybe, they will leave a show with a desire to also understand and protect the beauty and fragility of the universe of the natural world that is closer to them.

                                ______________________
                                b e r t a m�a c g r e g o r

                                From: Tom Casey <tom@...>
                                To: fulldome@yahoogroups.com
                                Sent: Thursday, June 23, 2011 3:13 PM
                                Subject: [fulldome] Re: truth in space-vertising

                                I just like it when the audience goes "wow" as when they grasp a small hint of how big the universe is and you realize you managed to get a bit of science to be understood :-)

                                Tom

                                On Jun 22, 2011, at 5:31 PM, Ed Lantz wrote:

                                How do you let audiences know the truth of these simulations? Should we?
                              • Glenn Smith
                                Hi David, Great theme for discussion! It would have fit perfect in the agenda here in Tenerife at the Starmus Festival. http://www.starmus.com/ It has been an
                                Message 15 of 18 , Jun 23, 2011
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                                  Hi David,

                                  Great theme for discussion! It would have fit perfect in the agenda here in
                                  Tenerife at the Starmus Festival.

                                  http://www.starmus.com/

                                  It has been an amazing week so far. I can't imagine this line-up people ever
                                  being assembled again.

                                  I hope the talks and discussions get posted afterwards.

                                  Cheers
                                  Glenn Smith

                                  Sky-Skan Europe
                                • Ed Lantz
                                  Message 16 of 18 , Jun 23, 2011
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                                    <What I'm suggesting is that as our knowledge evolves, so too should the discourse and communication surrounding the viability of human space flight and habitable regions of space in relation to other contingent aspects of human needs and endeavors.>

                                    I agree that planetarium programming is skewed towards astronomy and space travel, and planetarians Ought to be more focused on Earth science and the many global challenges facing humankind. What a great way to promote STEM - get a degree, save the planet, do breakfast.

                                    GIS datasets like SOS abound now - a "god's eye view" of our biosphere - and are readily accessible to digital planetariums (and infinitely more powerful than the simple earthrise photo that changed the world...). Let's get with it, people! (And Kudos to those producers who are working on such programs!)

                                    How about a roll call of existing and in-production Earth/climate change programs?
                                    Here's where I still have a beef of sorts.

                                    While "discourse and communication surrounding the viability of human spaceflight and habitable regions of space in relation to other contingent aspects of human needs and endeavors" is healthy, the notion that challenges of human spaceflight are too great, or unworthy, or are receiving too much attention is not, in my opinion, the issue. It is the lack of focus and attention on the other sciences and more pressing human needs. I understand that David is frustrated by naive visions of spaceflight that detract from global concerns, but let's keep our eye on the ball - it is the lack of focus on these concerns that needs to be addressed.

                                    I suspect that the most fruitful way to understand global warming would be to send scores of geologists to Mars to collect rocks, sift through the sand and dig not inches into the ground, but dig Mars cores thousands of feet deep and bring it all home for analysis in universities and research labs. What happened to Mars? Imagine what we could learn from this! We have learned so much from doing this on Earth. What odd correlations might we find between Mars and Earth climate changes? We would also immediately solve the "life on Mars" issue - these cores would tell it all, no? (Disclaimer - I'm not a geologist...)

                                    So rather than making this a "manned versus unmanned" spaceflight debate, my suggestion is to focus on what we want more of - accelerated planetary science research (especially Earth/Venus/Mars) and greater focus on solving global issues of all types.

                                    Regarding the need for realism regarding the challenges of human spaceflight, every lofty endeavor has such challenges, including the mitigation of climate change. One futurist recently told me that, even if humans suddenly stopped producing CO2 gas today, it could take 1,000 years for the global temperature to peak and settle back down (I am not an expert on this, but if you look at the geological record, global temperature has made some amazing swings between extremes in the past - we could be in for a wild ride!). The science and engineering challenges of safe human spaceflight could be a cake walk compared to the mitigation of carbon emissions and, ultimately, solving the many crises raised by global warming! Fortunately, scientists and engineers thrive on big challenges like these, and we will solve them, bit by bit, as long as they remain on our radar.

                                    As a closet futurist, I am also very much in favor of speculation about the future. In fact, I believe that we often gravitate towards and manifest the future that we envision. SciFi writers have been very influential, and you might say that SciFi is the leading (or bleeding) edge of science. The dome is a great place to indulge in "what if" scenarios as long as we do our best to remain science-based and qualify that we are speculating (so as not to confuse it with facts).

                                    Which brings us back to the dome - our "spheres of influence." We have, I believe, a moral imperative to address humankind's global challenges in our programming. Period. Any educator, or corporation for that matter, that is not contributing to making a better world (in their own way) is probably helping to destroy it. We are approaching a crossroads where humanity will need to decide whether we will work together to build a green earth, or go forth blindly and possibly end up with a charred earth. Essentially we are a carbon-based lifeform choking in our own waste. We need a visionary 50-year, 100-year and 1000-year plan for humanity (which ought to include space colonization for reasons already stated).

                                    Now is the time to educate and inspire our young to go forth and invent, engineer, explore and solve our global challenges. The digital dome is a powerful medium. Let's use it to make a difference in the world!

                                    Ed





                                    Ed Lantz
                                    Visual Bandwidth, Inc.
                                    310.913.2696
                                    ed@...
                                    www.visualbandwidth.com

                                    -----Original Message-----
                                    From: david mcconville <id@...>
                                    Sender: fulldome@yahoogroups.com
                                    Date: Thu, 23 Jun 2011 17:36:01
                                    To: <fulldome@yahoogroups.com>
                                    Reply-To: fulldome@yahoogroups.com
                                    Subject: [fulldome] Re: truth in space-vertising

                                    Mark -

                                    On Jun 23, 2011, at 12:21 PM, Mark C. Petersen wrote:
                                    > I've not been to any such presentations; perhaps I need to get out
                                    > more.

                                    I was specifically thinking of a planetarium show I saw recently at the Pink Palace in Memphis (using an analog starball) in which the presenter suggested that we may be headed to the exoplanets soon, as well as the previously mentioned ways in which the accessibility of habitable zone exoplanets are deceptively portrayed in the media.

                                    >> But I'm curious about the degree to which the scientific reality
                                    >> is glossed over in science centers to perpetuate science fiction fantasies?

                                    > In lieu of a quantifiable study, I'd say -- probably not much. I
                                    > seriously doubt many science centers have specific "gloss over
                                    > science, promote fantasy" agendae in their mission statements.

                                    Let's hope not, eh? The pre-history of 'fulldome' in the 20th century is chock full of space travel being promoted using decidedly fantastic speculations. Even seminal and brilliant shows like Cosmos took plenty of liberties in the name of a good story (not that I would ever suggest changing one iota of Carl's floating new age love craft). But as our understanding evolves, the onus is on us to communicate new insights. And since clever narrative tricks used to entertain audiences don't necessarily need to conform to mission statements, I'm throwing these questions out to this list of practitioners...

                                    >> it's little surprise
                                    >> that recent findings concerning the diminishing prospects for long-term human
                                    >> spaceflight would be slow to trickle into the official mythology of
                                    >> space geekdom.

                                    > In the immortal words of Wikipedia, "[citation needed]" :-) The
                                    > commercial sector is gearing up, not diminishing.

                                    Indeed - the commercial sector pushing human spaceflight has considerable financial incentive to avoid discussions of the negative ecological impact of the industry. As we have come to better understand the interactions of Earth systems (thanks in large part to satellite observations), doesn't it make sense to use launch options for maximum immediate benefit?

                                    Regarding citations, there's quite a bit of material from the nascent field of space physiology available. Of course most of it is about the effects of short-duration trips, particularly the detrimental effects related to the loss of bone density and muscle atrophy.

                                    http://www.nsbri.org/HumanPhysSpace/contents/overview.html
                                    http://www.traveldoctoronline.net/acclimation-during-space-flight--effects-on-human-physiology-UE1DMjY5NjUyNw==.htm

                                    These rather unglamorous physical side effects seep into many narratives of science education or sci-fi (as opposed to the tried and true psychological deterioration of space travelers). Could make for one hell of a dome show: Space Travel Ain't What It Used To Be...

                                    > True, we're not going to be traveling to exoplanets *today*. We are
                                    > not going to rule out "tomorrow", though. Perhaps our crystal ball
                                    > shows a different vision of the future from yours.

                                    There's the time horizon thing again. I'm assuming you mean an astronomer's tomorrow, whereas I'd settle for a ecologist's tomorrow, during which we prioritize cleaning up plastics in the ocean, preserving biodiversity habitats, and generally making our living spaceship work for everyone over fantasizing about our escape by launching into the aether (or dark matter, as the case may be).

                                    > As you surely know, David, NASA has already bought fulldome
                                    > projectors for several facilities upgrading their systems, and they
                                    > operate some of their own. No diversionary funding was necessary.

                                    Ahh, but the century is young!

                                    david
                                  • david mcconville
                                    Thanks for your thoughtful comments Ed. I don t mean to cast this as a simple manned vs. unmanned spaceflight, though I do mean to provoke questions
                                    Message 17 of 18 , Jun 23, 2011
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                                      Thanks for your thoughtful comments Ed. I don't mean to cast this as a simple manned vs. unmanned spaceflight, though I do mean to provoke questions surrounding the economic and ecological wisdom of human spaceflight - and particularly space tourism - at the present time.

                                      Your statement

                                      > I suspect that the most fruitful way to understand global warming would be to send scores of geologists to Mars to collect rocks, sift through the sand and dig not inches into the ground, but dig Mars cores thousands of feet deep and bring it all home for analysis in universities and research labs.

                                      illustrates this perfectly. How much would it cost for such a mission? What would emissions, manhours, and payback be, versus spending comparable resources on studying projects on this planet that are focused on addressing interconnected global challenges simultaneously?

                                      Instead of looking at the big picture, the specializing tendency of science often lead a deceptive reduction of complexity. Shrinking global change issues and the environment to the single (politically charged) topic of "climate change" is a prime example. I highly recommend checking out the Planetary Boundaries framework (first published in Nature in 2009): http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/node/935 - or for the easily digestible YouTube version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkkKZgKmdP4

                                      We're using this framework within the Worldviews Network to explore how to communicate a more comprehensive view of global challenges, encouraging participants to think systemically about the relationship between human well-being, water availability, land use changes, biodiversity loss, chemical pollution, ocean acidification, nitrogen/phosphorus cycles, ozone depletion, and yes, climate change. But only after a nice tour of the observable cosmos to setting the awe-inspiring context!

                                      If we want pass on a world to future generations in which they have the luxury of a functional society and industrial infrastructure that can accommodate the research and development necessary for space travel, we desperately need to be focusing the majority of our attention on these issues now - many of which are largely ignored. Suggesting that we need to go to Mars to study to study climate change is akin saying we need to create synthetic humans to study cancer (instead of suggesting that we stop smoking). And even if choose this exotic route, a recent report suggests that a 13 week trip to Mars would cause permanent heart damage due to cosmic radiation: http://www.marstoday.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=33208.

                                      We have a tendency to search for technological fixes to our cure our woes. Technological advancements will undoubtedly play an important role, but there are also often much simpler, effective, and affordable solutions derived from the study of complex systems and identifying key leverage points. For prime examples, see this approach to increasing ocean biodiversity and increasing community health - http://challenge.bfi.org/winner_2011 - or this one addressing climate change, soil depletion, and desertification by counterintuitively using cattle to re-green deserts - http://challenge.bfi.org/winner_2010.

                                      Interactive and immersive scientific visualization environments are ideal for spreading the word about these kinds of stories - and facilitating community dialogues to discuss the conditions necessary to support life. We have the ultimate stage setters - the ability to visualize the beauty and grandeur of our cosmic observations. But instead of using the millions of dollars/pounds/yen of infrastructure as entertaining distractions from the world, how 'bouts we take on the responsibility to engage and inspire audiences in ways that help them realize that they're already astronauts aboard a beautiful spaceship in need of serious repair?

                                      C'mon, I double dog dare you...

                                      ---

                                      david mcconville
                                      director, noospheric research division
                                      http://www.elumenati.com
                                    • Tom Casey
                                      ... One issue here is the market s position on what a particular planetarium facility will consider to show. We have produced for many non-astronomy/space
                                      Message 18 of 18 , Jun 24, 2011
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                                        On Jun 23, 2011, at 7:37 PM, Ed Lantz wrote:

                                        > How about a roll call of existing and in-production Earth/climate change programs?

                                        One issue here is the market's position on what a particular planetarium facility will consider to show.

                                        We have produced for many non-astronomy/space themed shows over the years. Recently a five year NASA funded grant (Immersive Earth) was completely aimed at Earth science topics for fulldome. Several shows were produced in partnership with the Houston Museum of Natural Science and Rice University during that grant's timeframe, one in particular dealing specifically with climate change and the fate of the dinosaurs.

                                        So, starting over six years back, shows completely based on Earth science were being created. There have been other non-astrnomy/spaceflight topics as well in our pipeline. Further back in production history was our work with E&S to create Microcosm, a human biology show. Even further back was our involvement with Buhl to help create the Living Cell show. Feedback that I have heard was that these shows were hard to sale/license since they did not deal with astronomy or space travel. Some planetariums will only consider programs based on that subject.

                                        For some locations, coexisting with an IMAX theater makes non-astronomy/spaceflight shows a more difficult choice. But in contrast, IMAX has no problem producing shows on astronomy or spaceflight. I remember way, way back in '99 attending a "fulldome" conference at SkySkan attended by many of the early producers of content. I was the only one present that stressed that the fulldome capability should be open to other topics, non-astronomy/spaceflight in storyline.

                                        I know there are other shows that have been produced on Earth science and do not know how "popular" they have been. But my point here is that the market is not as big as the numbers might indicate for show subjects that are non-astronomy/spaceflight in theme. Unless topic selection widens.

                                        Just something to think about,

                                        Tom



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