The Benjamin Dean Lecture Series is a continually running lecture program held in the Morris Planetarium at the California Academy of Sciences museum. Since 1989 the series has explored many different astronomical themes ranging from the early history of sky observations to the latest findings of the Universe. The most recent lecture, titled “The State of the Universe” by Timothy Ferris, occurred on Monday, February 3rd and explored modern day topics such as Dark Matter and how indirectly we can observe its influences. The last 10 minutes of the presentation, reserved for Q&A, contained a mix of interesting and somewhat offbeat comments and questions by audience members.
After the lecture, attendees were shown the new show “Dark Universe” that recently opened at the Hayden Planetarium in New York’s American Museum of Natural History. San Francisco’s version of the show was digitally remastered and it fully utilized the planetarium’s stunning visual capabilities. The show’s all-encompassing animations and visual effects transport viewers from the confines of earth, through the spiraling arms of our home galaxy, to the near edges of our universe. Concepts such as Dark Matter were visually illustrated and animated in a comprehensible and elegant manner that would keep all viewers interested. Narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson ,the content of the show allowed less scientifically versed viewers to understand complex topics without “dumbing down” and disengaging more literate science enthusiasts.
Constructed in 2008, the 90 foot tall planetarium is an appropriate venue for these lectures as the steep gradient seat layout and massive concave screen focuses attendees to either the stage below or projection screen overhead. During shows and lectures the 75 foot diameter screen envelopes onlooker’s visual senses and sometimes glows brilliantly in a multitude of colors when not in use by the presenter.
The Dean lectures are on going and are irregularly scheduled throughout the month. For more information and timings visit the California Academy of Sciences’s lecture website.