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Mars says hi!

14 March 201503:57AMlife

This job is completely ablating whatever was left of my personality, leaving pretty much pure unadulterated space-geek. But I think I might be okay with that.

mars says hi

So here are some observations from my first time as a planetarium presenter.

I actually know quite a lot about space! Possibly this surprises nobody except me, but I found a lot of the questions I was getting was stuff I already knew, even before researching for my show. Even just the little practical things like where to get cool space pictures or what's going on in the news. Sometimes I forget that not everyone follows this kind of thing.

Despite that, having a script: super important. It is very easy to fall off into directionless rambling, and having a script - or at the very least, a direction, somewhere that you want to end up - is incredibly useful. If you're curious, this is what my first script looked like. Written the night before, as is the custom.

As opposed to this, which was my other first script:

glowing green code!

Plaentarium presenting is a this weird cross between performance and programming. You're trying to control a pretty complex computer and talk engagingly about some pretty complex ideas at the same time. Fortunately, the whole thing is programmable. So you can offload a large amount of your thinking to about the software to chunks of code - assuming you have time to think about it and know roughly what you want the software to do in advance, which is another reason having a script can be so useful. It's going to take a fair bit of practice, I think, to get properly good at this.

I guess the best way to think about it is in terms of chunks. You have discrete chunks of computer code, which you've written and debugged and so on, and discrete chunks of human-code, which you've rehearsed and fact-checked and so on, and you develop them at the same time and pair them up and then from hose chunks you do your improvising and write your larger script.

It makes for an interesting mental workout, at any rate.

I did four shows, and the one I was most nervous about was the 12pm show with 75 year 5 kids in it.

The system has all this distant universe stuff loaded on it, but I didn't really use it. Partly because I'm not super confident with it yet, but also because I feel like the solar system gets really underrepresented, mostly as being just a sun and some planets. But there is so much cool stuff out there, and what's more, we actually have a chance of exploring it. Yeah the distant universe is cool, but there really is so much awesome stuff right here in our backyard.

(I reckon there's a hard sci-fi niche waiting to be filled there.)

I think the kids show was the best, to be honest. They were responsive and engaged and interested. They asked loads of questions, which was rad. And they totally didn't notice when I couldn't find the moon, although I think that probably had more to do with the fact that we were orbiting the earth when I lost it and they were very interested in showing off their geography skills. Plus, I got to use my Trojan Asteroids button, which was, yes, that first script I wrote. I can't tell if they'll remember the specifics, but at the very least they'll walk away with a much more diverse concept of what the solar system is.

I think people should give kids more credit. They make much better audiences than most adults.

I did something good yesterday. No, that's not quite right. I don't mean morally good. I feel like I did something that is perfectly in alignment with everything I believe, and that is very viscerally satisfying. I feel like I fit in this job. It feels right.

Thank you again to people for coming and not heckling. It was awesome. I'd also like to thank the universe, for following the laws of physics instead of superstition. Because even though it was Friday the 13th, nothing went wrong.

Finally! A testable prediction of the simulated reality hypothesis. - Elliot Nunn.

This time, anyway.

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