The Other Side of Infinity

By Phil Plait | January 31, 2006 11:47 pm

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):

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

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:

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.’

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Science

Comments (52)

  1. Congratulations on your credit, and nice work! I would love to see it, were it the least bit possible to travel to Denver at anytime in the near future. It sounds fantastic though. =D

  2. Chris

    Looks great. I’ll have to get down there and see that sometime – that looks like quite the show ( I live 45mins from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (or the Denver Museum of Natural History as it used to be called). I can’t wait to see the show.

  3. Serenity

    Hi Phil, Congratulations on the show. I’m looking forward to seeing it. Here’s one more credit for you if you have a moment to visit the link below. There’s a few more like it on the JREF forum.
    http://www.grapheine.com/bombaytv/playuk.php?id=646595

  4. Serenity, that was very silly. :-) Thanks.

  5. Jennifer

    It looks great. Is there any chance that it will be shown at other planetariums?

  6. Congradulations! :D :D :clap:

    Is it a full dome display?(i’ve heard that some arn’t)

    I wounder if they will show it the brisbane planetarain someday- that would be cool :D

  7. Roy Batty

    If it makes it to the London planetarium UK I will be soooo there! :)

  8. vbloke

    Damn right about the London Planetarium. Damn, if I can persuade the powers that be at the Royal Observatory to get you over here at the same time that comes over, I’ll probably go nova myself.

  9. Any chance that film will be available to download?

  10. Dewesy

    Don’t get too excited about your chances of seeing this at the London Planetarium any time soon. On the way to work this morning, I heard the marketing head of Madame Tussaud’s on the radio explaining why they’re ditching their entire astronomical content in favour of more celebrities. New name: the London “Auditorium”. More details here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/4666848.stm

    The black hole show sounds great, though.

  11. Cindy

    Phil,
    Gee, if it gets to the Hayden Planetarium in NYC then I’ll just have to bow to pressure from my students and plan a field trip to see the show.

    Serenity,

    Very silly movie. It was just starting on my computer when a student popped by to ask a question.

  12. trebob

    Hopefully it will make its way to the Arnim D. Hummel Planetarium in Richmond, Kentucky. Been a few years since I’ve gotten over to it myself. Be the perfect excuse for a family trip.

  13. Shame about London Planetarium, bet they are making it into a Celebrity Big Brother exhibiton.

  14. Bad Albert

    Yes BA, you’re right! The credits were the best part. So who is Dr. Ka Chun Yu anyway?

  15. CousinoMacul

    A director named Lucas doing a film about outer space? I think I’ve seen that one. ;-)

  16. “We fall into a black hole…” One of my worst fears but favorite topics!
    Congratulations *

  17. Leon

    That’s fantastic, BA! I really like your idea to add a red supergiant there to plug the “hole” between the sun and the black hole. Nice to see they took the idea to heart, too.

    And yes, I think it’d be a super idea to write a page explaining why/that the Sun will not explode at the end of its life.

  18. Patrick

    I can’t wait to check this out. Looks pretty cool. Looks like I’ll be spending some time at the museum. I want to see the IMAX of the mars rovers and this planetarium show.

  19. Kevin from NYC

    good for you….all astronomers everywhere…

  20. Evolving Squid

    Oddly enough, I’ve never actually been to a planetarium. I own an 8″ SC telescope, but just never went for a light show at a planetarium – possibly because I don’t think I live near one (Ottawa, Canada).

    It looks pretty cool though. I’m going to have to track one down.

  21. george

    Wow. First Class presentation, based on the marvelous trailer.

    [I hope the guy in the kayak was the one responsible for the yellow star I saw. ;) ]

  22. The Supreme Canuck

    BA: Congrats! I wish Kingston had a planetarium.

    Evolving Squid:

    Does the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau have a planetarium? I haven’t been there for a while. They may just have the IMAX.

  23. Evolving Squid

    Strangely enough, I’ve been to all the IMAX theatres in Canada, I think, except the one I live 10 minutes from :) I do not believe there is a planetarium in MoC.

  24. Roy Batty

    Dewesy Says:
    February 1st, 2006 at 6:43 am

    Don’t get too excited about your chances of seeing this at the London Planetarium any time soon. On the way to work this morning, I heard the marketing head of Madame Tussaud’s on the radio explaining why they’re ditching their entire astronomical content in favour of more celebrities. New name: the London “Auditorium”. More details here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/4666848.stm

    THAT REALLY *!ӣ$!!!*!
    Grrrr. Gonna complain!

  25. Eng Cher

    Beautiful! Any chance of this coming to Singapore?

  26. Rowsdower

    This looks mondo cool, Phil! Any chance it will end up in L.A.? The Griffith Observatory opens next month after three years of renovation, including the planetarium projector.

  27. EVelyn Plait

    Congratulations, BA. It is spectacular!

    BA MOM

  28. Congratulations fella!

    The trailer to the movie looks FANTASTIC!!! I can’t wait for the movie to make its way to Memphis, TN so I can eyeball it too!

    And I agree that there is nothing like seeing one’s name in a credits scroll… Nice work.

    –mf

  29. Anthony

    Phil:
    Plantetariums are a good stepping ground to a movie career. If it worked for Carl Sagan you can do it as well.
    Here’s a good script idea:
    Aliens fall through a black hole and end up stranded orbiting the Earth. In random desperation they kidnap three humans to represent our species. Unfortunately they pick Michael Behe, William Dembski and Phillip Johnson. After realizing that these three people seemingly represent the human race at its most intelligent, they decide to destroy the earth, lest we “contaminate” the rest of the galaxy with our sheer intellectual ineptitude.
    I see Steve Buscemi as Behe, Wallace Shawn as Dembski and John Goodman as Johnson. God knows he needs a good role after having been ruined on Roseanne for all those years.
    With a decent scriptwriter (Steve Kloves, Paul Haggis) a director with a sense of irony and malice (actually, Wallace Shawn might do well here) and a score by John Williams, it could be a hit. Worth thinking about….

  30. Oh, I meant to put a :-) at the end.

  31. Serenity

    There is a slight resemblance to Chris Elliot there. I mean that in the most positive way. I also think BA would go far making films. Maybe we should start a “Send an Astronomer to Hollywood” Scholarship. Just don’t jump “anything” on water-ski’s when you get there. Sorry to talk about you in the third person BA; and Cindy for distracting her class.

    Keep inspiring those minds Phil, no better way to reach out to the masses than film. I don’t count, you’ve already inspired me.

  32. Ben Skigen

    Oh this is great news. My fiance and I frequent the Denver planetarium (mostly for Sonic Vision, which is awesome in its own right). They’ve been showing previews of this show for a few weeks now…had no idea that Phil was involved with it!

    I can’t wait to see this show. Each subsequent show the museum designs has been getting better and better. Nice!

  33. *looks at images*

    Woah, duuuude.

    *pulls out imaginary cigarette lighter and waves it back and forth*

    Hope I get a chance to see more than just stills, sometime.

  34. Benji

    Hey Evolving Squid, there’s a fairly huge planetarium relatively near Ottawa, in Montréal. I hope they present the show there!

  35. SFwriter

    Great going Phil. Yep, nothing beats seeing your name in a prominent place where lots and lots of people will see it and actually appreciate what you do for a living.

    Bureaucrats in Toronto, Ontario closed the McLaughlin Planetarium years ago because it was an “unsupportable expense”. Usually it’s empty nowadays, and the last thing they did there of any note was the travelling Star Trek show. Gads…

    Located right next to the Royal Ontario Museum, with its own subway (underground/tube) stop, and regular school tours back in the 1970/80s. How they could close it was completely beyond my comprehension, especially with the LASERIUM shows to Classical, Modern, Rock, and all sorts of other variegated music. Politicians are insane…

    Sure, they needed money to make sure if I need a lung or liver transplant all I have to do is show up at a hospital and it’s free, but at the cost of less well-educated kids (and adults)? Education should NEVER be an EITHER/OR situation.

    It’s been years since I saw a planetarium show (either in NYC or the Smithsonian (DC), I forget). What a waste when there is such a huge, wonderful, empty planetarium right here. I used to see every show and the place always seemed to be at least half full. Did I mention that politicians are insane?

    gripe,gripe,grumble,mutter,curse!

  36. I want to see the show. It would be worth the trip. But the Denver planetarium’s website did not mention when it is happening. I must have missed the correct page.

  37. Went to Madame Taussaud’s a couple years ago. Pretty neat, but you can only look at so many “celebs” before they all look alike! The stars never bore me. Congrats on the credit – I know something that neat probably will never come to Kansas!

  38. Hopefully it will make its way to the Arnim D. Hummel Planetarium in Richmond, Kentucky. Been a few years since I’ve gotten over to it myself. Be the perfect excuse for a family trip.

  39. Melusine

    That looks cool, thanks for the info. I hope it comes to Houston’s planetarium.

    That would be a good idea to write about the sun not really “exploding.” I think you’d explain it well. It might be a good topic for one of your Night Sky articles, too. When I was very young I visited a planetarium and came away with the idea that the sun would explode, we’d be fried to a crisp and that’s it; the red giant was a good inclusion to highlight “engulfment.” The popular site Exit Mundi has a short, somewhat-humorous take on it. (They collect end-of-the-word scenarios, they don’t support them.)
    [/url]http://www.exitmundi.nl/exitmundi.htm[/url]

  40. Allison

    I went and saw the show at DMNS and I have to say I was blown away. The graphics were outstanding and the bit with the kayakers was great, not to mention the red supergiant =)
    Unfortunately I had to take notes so I missed out on bits and pieces but I will definitely be going back to watch it again, this time, note-less.
    Congrats!!!

  41. Jordan

    Hey, I’ve looked everywhere for this on the internet. I really want to see it, but I live in Florida, and I don’t know if there is a planetarium nearby. :) So I’ve been trying to download it somewhere, or the Nova program they had it on (Monster of the Milky Way)… Does anyone know where I can get it? :)

  42. 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.

  43. When I was very young I visited a planetarium and came away with the idea that the sun would explode

  44. The planetarium in Winchester, Hampshire, UK (a part of Intech science centre) opened this Easter 2008 weekend. Its first show: Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity!

    The new planetarium is fully digital – six projects from Norway, or was it Sweden? And the screen from America. The sound was okay – but not up to what you hear in an Imax.

    I really enjoyed the show. I thought it got a bit lost when it started talking about white holes (no kidding), though.

    My four year old liked it; my two year old and granny fell asleep half-way through (I think they were truly tired from the day’s activities, plus the reclined chairs were damn comfy).

    More on our blog site about Kids’ Outings:
    http://www.reeves-hall.net/outings-for-children/intech-science-centre/

  45. Caty

    My astronomy class took a field trip from Co. Spgs. up to Denver to see this show in the planetarium… absolutely stunning. You all did an incredible job with this :)

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »