Back to the Future

We've all watched Back to the Future - at least the original one.  (Bonus points if you've watched the sequels, or are they considered prequels if they go back in time?)  Now that it's 2015, we find ourselves looking back at the movies and the depiction of the now present "future."  Having grown up in the Back to the Future generation, 2015 was the year we were supposed to dress funny and fly around on hover boards.  

 

Know who else felt the same way?  The folks at the Carnegie Science Center.  

 

The Science Center hosts 21+ nights throughout the year where they close their doors to the younger science enthusiasts, queue up some fun activities, and let the adults have fun.  Because it's 2015, they dedicated October's 21+ night to Back to the Future.  And, it was an amazing mash-up of geekery, shenanigans, and science!

 

As advertised, the Steel City Time Machine was parked out front (along with a time-paradoxical cast of three other decked out Deloreans).  I saw many attendees dressed in puffy vests a la Marty McFly, but I have to admit I was a definite fan of one guest who donned a poodle skirt and ponytail.  And, then there was the guy with the Matel hover board and glow boots.  You get the idea - there were tons of people doing amazing things to document the arrival of the future!

 

(And, I hadn't even made it into the Science Center yet)

 

The mass appeal led to a line that was out the door.  Again, we didn't mind, because it was a nice autumn night - and there were Deloreans to keep our attention.  By the time we actually passed through the ticket counter and were on our way, the place was rocking.

 

For those who may not have been - the Science Center is HUGE!  They have four floors of exciting things.  And, all four floors had fun and exciting events planned for attendees.  

 

The ground floor had a range of movies playing between 6:00 and 9:00.  The Science stage aired Back to the Future Part II at 7:30.  The second floor was open with the Science Center's display of robotics, the Robot Lounge, and a live performance by iNCO FIdO.  And, we can't forget the Buhl Planetarium on the second floor!  Winding up the walkway to the third floor, yielded more science with the Body Stage and Fruit Flambe show, before topping things off on the fourth floor with the Jumping Jigawatts presentation in the Works Theater.  (And, that was just what was printed on the handy-dandy program.  

 

I, like most attendees, just wanted to see all the things.  Sorg and I took our time exploring.  We checked out the ground floor displays, bypassed the movie in the Science Stage (primarily because we didn't want to miss out on everything else that was happening), and headed straight to the second floor.  The line for the Buhl Planetarium was almost as long as the line had been getting in the doors of the Science Center.  (Even though we had just passed throngs of guests, the attendance was astounding - and no matter which way you turned, there were people having a blast.)  The doors for the planetarium opened, and guests filtered into the theater.  

 

We all remember the planetarium visits from when we were in school.  The presenter points out the planets, and the starts, blah, blah, blah.  Although the name of the presenter/speaker currently escapes me - he was phenomenal.  To clarify: instead of showing the traditional stars over Pittsburgh as the planetarium normally does, we travelled to the skies over Hill Valley - the setting for Back to the Future, for the night.  The dude with the laser pointer got bonus points for his entertaining presentation of the 3° change in latitude between Pittsburgh and Hill Valley.  And, we did the traditional stars and constellations presentation - for the most part. The best part was when we sped up the sky way, way, way into the future to show how the stars are constantly in motion.  In what looked like a nod to Star Wars, the stars shifted with those little white lines showing their path, and the constellations we just mapped out were no longer recognizable.  (Truthfully, I'm so excited in my recollection of the night that I really want to go back to the planetarium and just sit there under the stars again - and watch them without the traditional Pittsburgh cloud cover and light pollution.)

 

After the 20-minuteish(?) presentation, we found ourselves back to the task of exploration.  We headed up to the top floor - where we found the BLUE! display (and the rest of the toys).  Let me just start out by saying how fun it was to watch the adults playing with the Exploration Station set-up.  There were adults crawlingthrough tubes on the floor, playing with the water flow simulation area, sitting on giant teeth (yes, I'm not kidding - GIANT TEETH), and so many more things it would take me three days to write about just by themselves.  

 

We eventually worked our way over to the Jumping Jigawatts presentation.  Again - kudos to the presenter on her amazing presentation.  She took what could have easily been a ho-hum presentation of how we, as a species, have discovered and developed and adapted a variety of energy sources.  When a presentation starts out with audience volunteer participation where the volunteer thought he'd be doing cool science, and she adds commentary to the effect that he should have waited until he knew what he was volunteering for - we knew it would be a great experience.  (BTW - the go-get-'em volunteer got to emulate a prehistoric plant, waving in the primordial breezes before wilting and decaying into what we now know as oil.  It was truly fun watching the interaction when the presenter would tell him he needed to be more like a plant, or more dead, or not quite as decaying.)  Follow the timeline of historical energy sources, and we touched upon the science behind the hover board.  Although we're not quite there yet - we're closer than you'd think.  And, she showed us HOVER FROG!  (Again, I'm super excited about the thought of hover frog.  BUT, I did get some video of hover frog that I can keep watching over and over on loop.)

 

From there, we checked out some of the other displays and took in the experience in general - landing on the robots floor where there were displays of some of our favorite big screen robots.  (I'm looking at you R2!)  But, even cooler were the robotics that were interactive and on display for us to play with for the night.  


The moral of this story kids is this:  If you have the opportunity to check out the Carnegie Science Center's 21+ Night - FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD IN THE WORLD, DO IT!  It was one of the best nights I've had (and I was learning things at the same time).  I am already considering options to go with a larger group of my friends for more fun.


http://www.carnegiesciencecenter.org/

http://www.carnegiesciencecenter.org/programs/adult-programs-21-plus-night/