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The Sciences

The Other Side of Infinity

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitFebruary 1, 2006 10:47 AM

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I just got back from the premier of a new planetarium show "Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity" at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. I worked on the script of this show. My group at work has grants to do education and public outreach for various astronomical satellites. We gave seed money to director Tom Lucas to create a NOVA show for PBS about black holes. He used that money to get more money from the National Science Foundation, and he used that to make a planetarium show. Since I dabble in writing, I helped edit the script and check it for scientific accuracy. It was great fun working on a real planetarium show, especially this one. The graphics are truly amazing. I have never seen anything so cool! A few months ago I flew to Denver to see the show as it was at that time. There was a scene which talks about the Sun, and then cuts to black holes. I said we needed to put a red supergiant in there, to segue from stars like the Sun to ones that can explode (the idea that the Sun will explode at the end of its life is a common misconception, and one I didn't want to promulgate... hmmm, maybe I should write a page about that). So they did, and the scene totally rocks. You see the Sun, embedded in a 3D grid representing space-time (I took a couple of pictures during the show which is why they're not high quality):

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Then the scene backs off from the Sun, and an enormous red supergiant rises below it:

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This was one of the most compelling scenes visually in the show. It was really tremendous. In the final scene, we fall into a black hole, which was also great. The effects are stunning. But of course, the very bestest part came up in the credits:

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That's the first time I've ever had a credit like that! Woohoo! The show premiers for the public on February 10, and we hope to have it going to other planetaria around the country and the world very soon.'

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