Life: A Cosmic Story Debuts at Morrison Planetarium

If you're in Petersburg, Kentucky, you could visit the Creation Museum's Stargazer Planetarium, where creationists' "young earth" concept is revealed in HD. Here, Christian scientists "refudiate" (as Sarah Palin would put it) the Big Bang theory. In Palin's "Real America," a shockingly large percentage of Americans believe that 6,000 years ago, after a whirlwind six-days, man and dinosaur co-existed.

If you're in San Francisco, you could visit the California Academy of Sciences, where the new show Life: A Cosmic Story just opened at the Morrison Planetarium.

The creationists and their "Bibles not Big Bangs" notions alarm Greg Farrington, the director of the Academy of Sciences, to no end. Farrington gets irked when folks (probably not too many San Franciscans) say they don't "believe" in evolution. Evolution, Farrington stresses, is not a religion, so it's not a "belief."

Jodie Foster narrates the Academy's third planetarium show, which begins in a stunning grove of towering redwoods. Then the audience shrinks -- Fantastic Voyage-style -- and zooms into a single redwood leaf and then a redwood cell, learning that despite their unique appearance, redwoods are composed of the same basic molecules as all other organisms on Earth.

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"The show's core concept is that all life on Earth is related, having evolved from a common ancestor," says Ryan Wyatt, Director of Morrison Planetarium and Science Visualization. "Taking an even longer view, we see that life's origins begin with dark matter and the first stars -- our pedigree is actually 13.7 billion years in the making."

The show goes on to demonstrate our shared primordial ooze -- dipping deep into the ocean and into the fossils of our early slug-like ancestors. But the closest thing to modern-day life that we see is that redwood. There's no clear statement about human evolution.

And perhaps I'm being paranoid, but I wonder why they didn't go there. Or maybe I just needed a post-mid-term-election palate-cleanser.

But the Planetarium really does what it does best in Life: A Cosmic Story -- blasting us into the cosmos for a totally mind-blowing ride through time, focusing on key events that set the stage for life on Earth.

Morrison Planetarium is one of the most wow-worthy stops at the California Academy of Sciences; it's the world's largest all-digital planetarium. With a surround-scope dome screen providing a 360-degree immersive experience, the shows pan out from our worldview to infinity and beyond, certainly putting Google Earth in its place.

And it puts Big Bang-deniers in their place too.

Life: A Cosmic Story plays 7-10 times every day in Morrison Planetarium through late 2011. The Planetarium is located within The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. The Benjamin Dean Astronomy Lectures in December 2010, January 2011, and February 2011 will provide in-depth discussions of topics covered in the show. For more information visit calacademy.org.

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