Yesterday was Astronomy Day. I had been asked to speak at the Astronomy Day event at Harper College in Palatine IL. My presentation was The Universe According to Monty Python in which I spend an hour explaining the lyrics of the two minute long Galaxy Song which was featured in the movie The Meaning of Life.
I must say that for a bunch of comedians they did a pretty good job of getting their astronomy right but they did have professional help. During the course of my talk lots of big numbers get thrown around. As a rule the best laugh comes with my follow up to the line about the sun being the source of all our power where I segue into an explanation of nucleosynthesis. Whereas Carl Sagan looked at the situation through rose colored glasses when he said that we're all made of “starstuff”, I level with the audience and tell them the truth: that we're all nothing more than nuclear waste. Folks really seem to like hearing this.
Also, as a rule, people do not raise questions about the astronomical aspects of my talk but do ask questions when the subject turns to cosmology and relativity. To me this is only natural as those concepts are more alien to our everyday experiences and touch on the very nature of the universe.
For contrast, this Tuesday I'll be giving a talk to all the third graders at a local grade school. My talk is The Solar System in 3D and the kids get to wear geeky red-blue anaglyph glasses. Believe it or not, third graders are a great audience. They are very curious and not at all afraid to ask questions.
Ad Astra, Jim