"Across the sea of space lie the new raw materials of the imagination... Strangeness, wonder, mystery, adventure, magic — these things, which not long ago seemed lost forever, will return soon to the world..."
— Arthur C. Clarke
"There is an art to science, and science in art; the two are not enemies, but different aspects of the whole."
"I have . . . a terrible need . . . shall I say the word? . . . of religion. Then I go out at night and paint the stars."
"What a sad spectacle. If they be inhabited, what a scope for misery and
folly. If they be not inhabited, what a waste of space."
"Space and Time! now I see it is true, what I guess'd at. . ."
"We are a way for the Cosmos to know itself."
— Carl Sagan
"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."
— T. S. Eliot
see the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower, hold
infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour."
"We are drawn to where we come from."
"Listen: there's a hell of a good universe next door; let's go"
"Out yonder there is a huge world . . . a great, eternal riddle . . ."
"I do not know what I may appear to the world. But to myself, I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."
had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on
our backs and look at them, and discuss about whether they was made or
only just happened . . ."
"In the universe, the difficult things are done as if they were easy."
know that I am mortal and the creature of a day; but when I search out
the massed wheeling circles of the stars, my feet no longer touch the
earth, but, side by side with Zeus himself, I take my fill of ambrosia,
the food of the gods."
. . .suddenly there arose in me two things, fear and desire —
fear because of the menacing dark . . . and desire to see whether there
were any miraculous thing within."
"I saw some of the beautiful things that heaven bears, through a round opening; and thence we came forth to see again the stars."
"I am waiting for the rebirth of wonder."
"In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe."
which at first seem improbable will, even on scant explanation, drop
the cloak which has hidden them and stand forth in naked and simple
"Speeding through the Universe; thinking is the best way to travel."
"The Sun, with all the planets revolving around it, and depending on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as though it had nothing else in the universe to do."
"If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I'll bet they'd live a lot differently."
"I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space."
child's world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and
excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed
vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is
dimmed and lost before we reach adulthood."
up at the stars always makes me dream, as simply as I dream over black
dots representing towns and villages on a map. Why, I ask myself,
shouldn't the shining dots of the sky be as accessible as the black
dots on the map of France?"
"He has ventured far beyond the flaming ramparts of the world, and in mind and spirit traversed the boundless universe."
"I've been prepared for the reality of space travel ever since I was eight years old, sitting in the planetarium."
love the planetarium. To be without the planetarium causes you horrible
pain. All you want to do is help the planetarium thrive. To not do so
makes your stomach ache with needle-like stab—..."
"The Big Boom is a hoaks!"
Wizard of Ah's
I've been fortunate in being able to enjoy a career that blends many of my passions — writing, astronomy, education, theater, show production... One of the great confluences of my life occurred when my Master's in theater led directly to the position of Astronomer Intern at the renowned Strasenburgh Planetarium in Rochester, NY.
There's an unsung creative medium out there, an active canvas that integrates good science, media, imagination, art, music, theater, narrative — plus the elusive sense of wonder that comes from discovering how way cool the universe really is. That canvas is the planetarium dome.
A kissing cousin of documentary and educational filmmaking, and a dynamic platform for science journalism and advocacy, modern planetarium productions go way beyond the simple programs and pointers that were typical years ago when I saw my first "star show." Audiences can now experience a virtual universe created through digital imagery, computer-driven choreography, and production techniques borrowed from movies, television, and theater. The best production teams incorporate modern creative advances in video and sound, computer animation, multimedia, and performance all with one goal in mind: to bring the universe down to Earth while lifting ourselves up to the stars.
The planetarium field, when it does its job right, blends the arts and sciences to the benefit of both. So it's no coincidence that some of my best (and most enjoyable) work as a scriptwriter, educator, and creative director has come while spending time under the big top: the star-filled dome of the planetarium.
Production originally created for the Boston Museum of Science:
Visit newly discovered "strange, new worlds" orbiting alien suns ... witness the creation of stars in nature's vast artistic marvels, starbirth nebulae ... and experience a super-black-hole devouring the heart of a galaxy.
Written for the Boston Museum of Science, Cosmic Adventure presents an eye-popping primer on recent astronomical discoveries — some of the most important in the history of sky-watching. It's a Saganesque travelogue to several remarkable destinations in our Galaxy and beyond. A full-blown multimedia experience, the show makes good use of, among other visuals, sky-filling Hubble Space Telescope imagery of places where the authentic stuff really is stranger and more marvelous than what most people think of as science fiction.
Productions originally created for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry:
STAR TREK: ORION RENDEZVOUS
Written and produced in cooperation with (including technical support from) Paramount Pictures, Star Trek: Orion Rendezvous is the only officially sanctioned Star Trek planetarium show. This interstellar odyssey stars LeVar Burton, who portrays his Star Trek: The Next Generation character Geordi LaForge, and Laura Lundy as Capt. Katryana DiChario. Joining LeVar Burton are Jonathan Frakes as Commander Riker and Majel Barrett Roddenberry as the computer voice.Star Trek: Orion Rendezvous takes you on a voyage into both known and unknown territories of space with the crew of the deep-space science vessel Antares. Orion Rendezvous begins after a mysterious wormhole of apparently alien and artificial origin has been appearing and disappearing near Neptune. The audience is a shipload of Starfleet cadets aboard the Antares, which is assigned to follow the wormhole's subway-like path to numerous astonishing — and very real — places in our part of the galaxy.
Beginning in Neptune orbit, we jump from scene to scene when the wormhole appears, engulfs the Antares, and flash-warps us to places farther and farther into the galaxy. "Jump points" to fully realized scenes include...
At journey's end we rendezvous with the starship Enterprise, the ship that's going to take us to our final Starfleet training destination, and are welcomed to the beginning of our cosmic explorations.
About Orion Rendezvous:
OF COURSE using Star Trek to teach astronomy is a good idea. Produced as part of the Star Trek: Federation Science interactive exhibit, Star Trek: Orion Rendezvous has played at science centers across North America, including the Hayden Planetarium of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City (where attendance rose 85%). For me, that's like playing Carnegie Hall. It did well touring Europe too.
Because the show was sanctioned and approved by Paramount Pictures, the sound effects were cordially provided by Paramount's Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine studios, and Star Trek's head designer Mike Okuda okayed all of Orion Rendezvous's original 24th-century designs and graphics.
However, the Trekkiness isn't what I like best about this show. Orion Rendezvous gave me an ideal opportunity to offer audiences the illusion of being up-close and personal with the dynamic beauty of the universe. The character of the Antares' skipper, Capt. Katryana DiChario, is really me. For her, the universe is far more than cold equations and mathematics — it's also art and architecture and that sense of wonder that comes from seeing what's out there.
to this show, I wrote the only planetarium script that had to be
approved by Gene Roddenberry, and met a certain computer graphics
artist who is now my wife.
THE UNIVERSE & ALL THAT JAZZ!
Cosmic evolution from the Big Bang to the blues. Featuring rhythm & blues artist Curtis Salgado, local TV & radio talent Francine Raften, and a funky, jazzy musical score.
One of my faves. This upbeat, lively show — inspired by Carl Sagan's Cosmic Calendar — proved you really can demonstrate the known history of the cosmos and the fundamentals of stellar nucleosynthesis with a sense of humor and a jazzy backbeat.
Here I wanted a show that zoomed away from the trite planetarium convention of self-important narration and stilted tone. A versatile musical group was hired to create the jazz/funk/blues stereo music track, and a fun part of producing this show emerged in the sound studio when I encouraged Curtis and Francine to improvise, have fun with the script, and "be themselves." They did so in style, with Curtis accompanying himself Memphis-blues-style on his harmonica, and Francine bringing her humor, verve, and broadcast experience to the fore.
I knew this show worked when the letters and comment cards came in. A college professor from New York asked if the show could be made available for his Philosophy & Physics class. Another viewer said it was "daring" and should be distributed widely as a video. Yet another simply exclaimed (anonymously, no surprise), "The Big Boom is a hoaks!" -- and that keeps me mindful that the work isn't yet done.
DREAM WORLDS, INC.
A "holographic travel guide" for an interstellar cruise line.
This feature "infomercial" for a cosmic cruise line unfolds as a travel guide for the star-trekking vacationer. Thanks to the casting of professional celebrity impersonators for the "testimonial" parts, this show's narrators include Sylvester Stallone (explaining in comically academic detail the mechanics of supernovas), Marge and Homer Simpson (at Saturn's rings), Robin Leach (extolling the exquisite natural wonders of the Great Nebula in Orion), Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy (touring a site of new star system formation), John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart (at the Horsehead Nebula), Arnold Schwarzenegger (at the "ultimate Terminator" of a galactic black hole), Yoda, Elvis, and more such playfulness.
The original production of Dream Worlds, Inc. contained some stunning full-dome artwork and special effects,
including a scene inside Jupiter's upper atmosphere that not only
looked as though you could see for thousands of kilometers in all
directions, the big fans blowing into the audience helped you feel like it too. The scene where a planet is blasted to slag under our feet
by a supernova was an awesome laser-enhanced spectacle. And when we
speed into the galactic black hole as a dimensional shortcut back to
Earth ... wow!
THE HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE: GREATEST HITS, VOL. 1
Images and insights from the HST.
Originally created for a live presentation I gave at OMSI, a version of this show packed the house at a Worldcon in San Francisco.
If you want to see what it was all about, spend some time over at the Hubble Heritage Project. Vacation snaps should be like this.
Productions originally created for the Strasenburgh Planetarium, Rochester Museum and Science Center, Rochester, NY:
In this futuristic romp, Stella Capella and her fellow students from Asimov Elementary School earn a field trip through the solar system. On the way, they encounter the planets — including a hair-raising dive through a Martian canyon, close flybys of Jupiter's largest moons, passage through Saturn's rings, and a breakneck flight above the shattered surface of Uranus's moon Miranda. Plus, we experience the snarly busdriver Mrs. Kapok, engine failure beyond Pluto, and an endangered starship full of aliens who look like clusters of broccoli. Bold action ensures that First Contact and interstellar amity are established in time for Stella's worldwide birthday bash.
This was my first feature-length family show. It pioneered what was at the time new approaches to the integration of video within the traditional planetarium format. Marketed widely, Space Bus became popular in science centers nationwide.
Soon after I left Rochester for Pacific Northwest shores, my former boss received a rather pointed letter from representatives of the Magic Schoolbus series of children's books. Seems the books' author (or someone) saw Space Bus somewhere and noticed its similarities to The Magic Schoolbus Lost in the Solar System. The letter demanded that the show be taken off the market immediately or action would be taken yadda yadda yadda. My ex-boss had to scrounge together all the dated production notes and mail them to the Magic folks to prove that Space Bus did it all first. The Bus continues to fly. Ah, showbiz.
COLD SKIES, DEEP SKIES
tour through Winter deep sky objects, astrophotography, celestial
events, and constellation lore.
THE FALL OF PROF. QUASAR
A comic look at the Autumn stars, celestial events, and constellation lore. Both reverent and wacky. I like that combination.
A live series about comets and the ways they have touched earthly and human history.
Yours truly at the theater command console, Strasenburgh Planetarium.
Astronomy classes I've taught
The Universe Next Door
Recent discoveries and insights in astronomy and cosmology.
Stars, Galaxies, and Beyond
Behind the Sky
Sky Myths and Legends
With the universe for a backdrop: Live theater under the stars
At the Kountze Planetarium (Omaha, NE), I initiated the Theater Under the
Dome series, for which I produced and directed the Glass Goblin Theatre
Company's A Night of Delicate Terrors: 2 plays by Ray Bradbury.
The two plays were "Kaleidoscope" and "Pillar of Fire." This production
came to life with a strong repertory cast, unique visuals that placed
the actors on Mars, in a futuristic graveyard, and even adrift floating
through the deeps of space. Best of all, the show went forward with
active cooperation, encouragement, and input from author Ray Bradbury.
During the rehearsal phase, he and I exchanged quite a large amount of
mail, and spoke on the phone a number of times, with him sending me his
thoughts on theater (one of his lifelong passions), as well as articles
he'd written and even his own copies of scripts he'd created.
We followed A Night of Delicate Terrors with an entirely different production, Lunacy, a seriocomic satire about the history of women in space exploration. Its narrative follows a woman astronaut on the eve of her spaceflight. Thanks to a reporter dogging her for a scoop, she encounters an elderly but dynamic and wise woman who in the 1960s was one of the thirteen American women pilots that successfully completed preliminary physical and psychological
testing to become Mercury astronauts. They believed at least one of
their number would eventually go into space, but their testing program
was abruptly cancelled in 1962 and they faded from public view. So Lunacy is a play about "the other side of The Right Stuff," a fictional look at the gamut of women astronomers and scientists throughout history, such as Caroline Herschel, Maria Mitchell, and Russia's photogenic cosmonautrix Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space.
Science-oriented TV appearances
As media liaison for the Strasenburgh Planetarium, I was science correspondent for Rochester, NY-area television stations. Featured as "guest expert" in news specials during the launch and deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope.
Guest expert on Portland-area news programs covering topics such as the Perseid Meteor Shower, solar eclipses, and the repair of the Hubble Space Telescope.
Special guest on the Ranger Bob children's show, Rochester. Hosted Ranger Bob's visit to the Strasenburgh and a preview of Space Bus. (This was a hoot. The producers were so pleased with the final result that they sent me an official Honorary Deputy kit, a souvenir I still possess with pride.)
Astronomer Intern, Strasenburgh Planetarium, Rochester Museum and Science Center, Rochester, N.Y.
Presented live school and public shows at the Kountze, Strasenburgh, and OMSI planetariums.
"Of Starshows, Thumbs, and Entropy" published in The Planetarium Primer, Rocky Mountain Planetarium Association.
Guest speaker, New York Science Educators Workshop, Rochester Institute of Technology.
Guest educator, Science Education Days, St. John Fisher College, Rochester, NY.
Contributed to the script and production of Return of the Light, a winter solstice program performed live in the OMSI planetarium with Portland's Concord Choir.
Produced Psychedelic '60s, a popular laser & multimedia show at the Strasenburgh.
Produced Starsongs, a live presentation at the Strasenburgh featuring Michael Lasser, host of the syndicated radio show, Fascinatin' Rhythm.
Another excellent resource for amateur skywatchers and armchair explorers, eye-catchingly illustrated. The site also includes helpful guides to scopes and accessories, links to clubs and space places, astronomical software guides, astronomy books, and more. It's probably the best magazine for the general enthusiast.
Abrams Sky Calendar