Friday, August 17, 2007

Arizona and SpaceFest part 1

Ok, yesterday I drove to Arizona from my home in Los Angeles. That's right, I drove the entire three-hundred-something miles. So, I hope you could understand that I was really tired when I got there, and didn't blog. Anyways, I'm still getting used to the heat around here. I prefer the mild humidity of California. Screw the dry heat!

Since I'm in Arizona, and away from my very beloved computer, I have to use the family laptop, which runs Windows. Yes, the open-source advocate is forced to use Windows. Make all of the jokes about it now. However, I'm not SO stubborn that I pop in a KNOPPIX CD just to avoid using Windows. That would be even more inconvenient and annoying than Windows (which is pretty inconvenient and annoying). I shall remain pining for my Ubuntu box at home!

Today however, was a good day for Arizona (something that I predict will be in short supply). It was the first day of SpaceFest, and was the day we went all-out to do and buy stuff. A large part of the SpaceFest booths were areas where famous (and not-so-famous) astronauts would be giving signatures, even Buzz Aldrin (the guy who went to the moon, remember him). However, I wasn't all-to-crazy about this section. My generation isn't one that reveres these people like the previous ones. I'm not saying these people are anything less than what they are, heroes. But I'm merely just not as interested in their legacy, and prefer to look toward the future which will have new heroes. Along with the astronauts, there were many vendors who sold various astronomy-related things. I bought apparel, some T-Shirts and ties (Ties were important, I would finally be able to stop using my dad's). There was also an art gallery which housed space-related painting. However, we didn't buy these because they're super-expensive. But some were pretty good to see; my favorite was called "A great mistake for mankind" or something like that, and featured the lunar soil with car keys which were left behind by an unlucky astronaut. That tickled my funnybone.

The parts I really enjoyed were the great number of talks that were given. The first one I attended was "The Origin of the Moon" by William K. Hartmann. Dr. Hartmann is an engineer who is also an artist. The talk spanned from the birth of the solar system to the future of mankind, and was essentially guided by the paintings he made of the events over the years. At the end, he tied his whole talk together by saying that the events of the solar system are so connected that these needed to be included even when discussing the Origin of the Moon (at least, that's what I think he said). Dr. Hartmann was one of the original developers of the impact origin of the moon (where the moon was created from the debris of a large object smashing into the Earth early in its history), which is now the leading theory in its field.

Next came Seth Shostak, the director of the SETI institute. His talk was called "SETI-the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence". He basically gave an overview of what we're looking for in space, why we're looking for it, and what we should expect. He is a really great speaker, and I highly recommend going to a talk given by him. However, I was surprised to learn that SETI(at)home was not really directly contributing to the actual SETI work. They're two different projects which have roughly the same objective. Eh, but I'll still proudly run SETI@home on my (home) computer.

The next talk will be the last, but most certaintly not least one I will discuss. It was Phil Plait's talk "The Great Moon Hoax Hoax". This was by far the most entertaining talk that was given (and I'm CERTAINLY not biased towards him). Of course, this stuff was covered on his web site and his book, but hearing it from the actual person in a multimedia presentation has it stick much better. Plus, he has a LOT more pictures in his presentation than his web site, which makes it a lot more fun. Now, as you've seen me emphasize on this blog several times, community is very important; I believe that the community of this talk added a lot to the lecture. Since this was in a convention WITH some of the Apollo astronauts in the OTHER ROOM, most people who came to the talk already knew that the moon hoax was utter crud. So we could all essentially laugh at this silliness together. After the talk, I bought (another) copy of Bad Astronomy, and got it autographed by Phil too. I feel very content today! And there are two more days of SpaceFest, so prepare for more awesomeness!

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