It was totally a last-minute thing. Some of the the Skeptics in the Pub crowd had been talking about a weekend trip to Victoria, but that had been scheduled for mid-July, then rescheduled to… later. Then, at New Bright Lights on Friday I heard that it had indeed been rescheduled, for that weekend. Well, fortunately my plans for the weekend had fallen through, so it was an easy decision. Rides, a place to stay, a clean pair of underwear in my bag, and I was good to go.
I figured I had to be back in Vancouver by noon because I was taking care of grass dropin volleyball and I couldn’t find someone else on such short notice. Then again, it would probably be raining, which let me off the hook. Then again again, what if it didn’t? Then again again again, you only live once.
So I was up early on a grey Saturday morning, off to take the ferry to Victoria. A few other skeptics were on board, so we hung out and—well, honestly, half the time we were all playing with our respective iPhones / iPads. But in a hanging-out sort of way.
Plans for the day were left deliberately vague. We had talked about going up to the Observatory, but that wasn’t happening in this weather. So, first order of business: lunch. Then, the Royal BC Museum. I’d only been there twice, and not for a long time. When was the Leonardo da Vinci exhibit? I think I was even still in school back then. So yes, a long time.
I went through all the exhibits: Natural History, First Nations, Century Hall, and took hundreds of pictures of the fossils, the skeletons, the bugs on pins, the sculptures, everything. I drank everything in, recording (or attempting to record) every single detail of my visit. Of course, most of my pictures didn’t turn out so great, and some just weren’t that interesting the day after. Why on earth did I take pictures of rows of dragonfly specimens—pretty though they were—and the signs identifying their species and sex? I mean, points for completeness, but I think I crossed a line somewhere.
Though if I did, I think the museum crossed it too. Now that I think about it, that exhibit is called “Behind the Scenes”, and all those shelves full of specimens and fossils and snakes in jars are supposed to give us a glimpse of science as it is actually practiced. Good job!
After a couple hours of this, a few of us went to see the IMAX movie on the Hubble space telescope. Frankly I was a bit scared of motion sickness—I’d had bad experiences in IMAX theatre—but everything was fine. And the movie itself? Awesome beyond words. I don’t know what impresses me more: the guts of the people who strap themselves to a giant controlled fireball to lift themselves out into the blackness of space, the ingenuity of the people who designed said fireball, the Hubble, and all the instruments to maintain it, or the breathtaking beauty of the universe as revealed through the telescope.
Some of the Hubble images, like the Pillars of Creation, are pretty common nowadays. Others, like Saturn’s Aurora Australis, a little less common. But what this movie showed us was beyond anything I’d ever seen, beyond the wildest sci-fi because it’s not just beautiful and awesome, it’s also true. That faraway stellar nursery (whose name I forget, could have been the Orion Nebula) whose newborn stars have carved out a deep canyon in the surrounding gas with their fierce solar winds; the faraway galaxies, pretty spirals or weird distorted shapes; a fantastic assortment of light and colour, all in 3D.
And then the gift shop had to spoil it for us by selling healing crystals to realign your chakras and increase your spiritual energy or whatever else. I notice they don’t have any stone to cure your gullibility.
After that we went out to hang with Daniel Loxton (author of the excellent children’s book Evolution and editor of Junior Skeptic magazine) in his cluttered and awesome studio, where Transformers posters competed with dinosaur models and old UFOlogy books. After dinner I and a friend decided to go on a ghost walking tour of downtown Victoria—hey, I’d never been on one, and they promised “narrow streets and back alleys” and a bunch of ghosts. Sounds like fun even if you don’t believe in ghosts.
UPDATE: And here it is