anghara (anghara) wrote,

Launchpad, Day 1

I didn't sleep all that well but by all accounts it was endemic because people were wandering around at 4 or 5 AM all over the place this morning - the hard board-like mattress I can take, really, but the pillows have been overheard to be compared to a folded up towel over breakfast this morning, and the upshot seems to be that there are pillows coming in for us later - actual pillows, worthy of the name. That will be good.

I can't seem to get the room cool enough for me to sleep well in - if I leave the windows open the blinds kind of rattle all night which is annoying...oh, and in a nice development that came as a complete surprise to absolutely everyone they seem to be bent on resurfacing the parking lot just outside our residence this week - it came on sort of sudden because one moment it was a working parking lot and the next it was cordoned off and dug up and we're bracing ourselves for the scent of fresh tar in the morning.

HOWEVER. All that aside.

maryrobinette has been filing scarily prompt notes of all the Launchpad sessions today and seems to be taking much the same notes as myself so you can go on over to her blog and read what we did - in a nutshell we did a startup overview by prof_brotherton (you know you're in the right place when the lecture contains a quote from Douglas Adams - "The Universe is BIG...") and we watched the original Power of Ten movie which takes giant steps out from the planet and away, giving us glimpses of Earth, of the Solar System, of the spiral arm, of the Milky Way, of a cluster of galaxies... "HOW big is the Universe?" somebody asked. "Where's the edge?"

"There IS no edge," we were told.

And in my mind galaxies bloomed, stretching on and on into the distance, full of the light of distant alien suns...

THis was followed by lunch, and then by a presentation on the teaching of science by Jim Verley - which was prefaced by the showing of a short film, "A private universe", in which "...graduates, staff and alumni" of Harvard University were asked what caused the seasons or the phases of the moon and came up with things that were... frightening. The depth of ignorance - and most particularly by an actual *professor* clad in scarlet doctoral robes, bless his brass balls - was staggering. And this is the place that's educating our future scientists, our future leaders. Eeeep. (Just so as not to get swelled heads, however, we were invited to look at some of our own misconceptions and private-universe theories and we weren't entirely immune to goofs, ourselves. But this was a gathering of people whose backgrounds ranged from theatre to anthropology to physiology to linguistics - none of us were active professionals in the field - and goofs aside the depth of knowledge and understanding of astronomical matters in that room was astounding. Perhaps we ought to go and offer our services for a semester at Harvard...)

A short break, and then we were given a guided tour of our own back yard, the Solar System, by Jerry Oltion. From the volcanoes of Io to Mons Olympus to Saturn's rings to the potential liquid oceans of possibly organic or pre-organic goo under Europa's ice to poor demoted Pluto, the time just flew by and the afternoon vanished.

Several of us returned to the residence and the rest repaired to a downtown Laramie eatery called Sweet Melissa's (rdeck will be inordinately pleased to hear it was a vegetarian restaurant and I had a spinach lasagna...) and then came back for Bad Movie Night - or what was supposed to be Bad Movie Night but we were pretty thinned out by this time and elected, instead, to watch a Twilight ZOne adaptation of Clarke's "The Star" (they changed the ending, the bastards, which changed the story completely...) and then another Twilight Zone episode called "The Cold Equations", based on a well-known story still discussed and talked about decades after its initial appareance on the world stage. And after that it was simply time to flake out.

More tomorrow.

Having fun.
Tags: launchpad

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