QUOTE(Owen Phairis @ Dec 31 2008, 09:47 AM)
I have been thinking about what you have said here, and have some thoughts....
In my opinion, the average planetarium goer is much more interested in a stunning audio/visual experience than they are in the educational value. The most important duty, again in my opinion, of a planetarium operator is to see that the visitor has the most enjoyable visit possible. Leave them wanting more and wanting to return again, and again. From the moment they enter the planetarium with the lights and music, to the time they leave it should be all presentation and theater. By far, again in my opinion, the most important concept is INSPIRATION. If the planetarium director can inspire one individual per show to take an interest in the sciences than it is all worth it. Inspiration can last a lifetime.
Education in the planetarium is in my opinion less important. Try to teach the visitors the names and locations of the 10 brightest stars and see how far you get. If one can get across one or two simple concepts you are doing well. Recently I went to see "Extreme Planets" on a Digistar III which was followed by the "Night Sky". Can you believe that a professionally packaged show called the Big Dipper a CONSTELLATION? What ever happened to Ursa Major and aster isms? I do not believe one should sacrifice scientific accuracy for showmanship.
I think you may have misunderstood my point about using computers. Instead of using a GEAR TRAIN to position the planets, it makes a lot more sense to use a computer to position them with individual motors. One still gets to see the planet projectors and watch them move, it is just a computer positioning them. Again, there is no way with a gear train to move to the distant past or future and then return to tonights sky during the course of a planetarium show.
I know and realize that in many ways I am odd man out with my ideas on this forum. However, the future of planetariums is charted and there is no turning back the pages of time to the old days. We all cherish planetarium past, but I embrace and live in the future.
Just my thoughts,
In a lot of ways I feel your both right. Owen is certainly not an "odd man out" as the way each of us presents our presentations is viable. I have always liked that big "ant" sitting in the center of the chamber and Nathan put it very well about such a complex machine. Accuracy is very important to me and I find no excuse for the presentation that Owen saw.
Now I love movies, heck I've made a few, but I personally find the planetarium chamber and presentation to be a very special place. A whiz bang trip in a spaceship might get the adrenaline going but in my mind will not get many interested in the night sky or science in general. It is a pure entertainment and treated so by the audience because deep down they know they can't make the trip.
The slow pace of a classic planetarium can also be entertaining but in a different way. True, most people won't remember names of the stars (heck, I can't remember the names of most of them) but they will realize that they can look up any night and see what they saw in the planetarium. Perhaps walking into the house from their car (after a trip to the movies) they look up and see, "what was it that guy talked about, oh yeah...Orion was a hunter...". This perhaps gives pause and they look around a bit more and wonder. Perhaps some will come back and get hocked by this unique science. I could be very wrong but I think more will look up after a simple star show then after a major entertainment.
Of all the statistics that I've read, star shows (if given the choice) remain the most popular, probably because this is something the audience can do on their own in their own back yard with their own families.
Perhaps I like this approach because it was how I got hooked. I must admit that I got hooked on the machine long before what the machine did. Even after being away for many years, the memories of that very massive and complex machine brought me back and it's something I want (no, need) to offer to others, even if it's just my own family. Hopefully more will partake of the simple wonders of a simple star show, but who knows.
As far as quick positioning of the planets goes, the computer wins hands down. But it is not that hard to have set marks to align the various planets with a mechanical projector. True you would not want to do it during a show but how many epochs must you visit for any one program? We all know (and agree) that most audience members won't remember much anyway so one epoch per show is enough.
Again, no approach is wrong, each has its pluses and minuses, each will hopefully open minds and install wonder and curiosity. The only request I have is that we don't give up and continue trying.