Well last Saturday evening we had one of the best library programs I think I’ve ever had the fun to participate in.  We had something over 75 people come and see AstroWizard, thanks to a grant we received from the community gift program of the Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC, the managing contractor of the Lawrence Livermore National Lab.   Last May, the Alameda County Library Foundation received $5,000 to put on four, family friendly science programs at the Dublin Library.

The inspiration for these programs comes from an article that appeared in the Valley Times last year about the burgeoning popularity of Science Cafes and Ask-a-Scientist programs.  The article notes that “The combination of a casual setting that includes beverages and articulate scientists who don’t assign homework seems to have struck a chord with everyone, everywhere.  The “cafe scientifique” movement that started in Europe a decade ago has now spead to science cafes around the world, in coffeehouses, bars and even bowling alleys.”  As we read this, we wondered, why not libraries?

Why not indeed.  Don’t get me wrong.  We aren’t totally there yet.  We got the grant but there are still some rough edges to work out — like a sane way to offer refreshments to an overflowing, enthusiastic crowd of excited children and adults.  But if last Saturday was any indication, there is an audience for this type of programming in the library. 

Our first event in this series featured Dave Rodrigues, a.k.a AstroWizard.  Dave has a great resume for doing this type of program: lecturer at the Morrison Planetarium, and the California Academy of Sciences. Program Director of the East Bay Astronomical Society at Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland.  But mostly Dave is “crazy scientist man” to me…a person so passionate about his topic that every adult I spoke with last Saturday didn’t know whether to be alarmed or amazed.  We all settled on amazed.  (The kids, by the way, just recognize him as one of their own. It was a badge of honor to have your picture taken with AstroWizard after the program.)  Dave brought two telescopes which we set up on the grassy knoll just outside the library. 

Dave Rodrigues assembles his telescope.

Dave Rodrigues assembles his telescope.

 Before beginning his powerpoint dramatization of all things astronomical, Dave dons the costume of AstroWizard, all to convince his audience that there is real magic in the Universe. Is the earth big or little? AstroWizard shows us the earth right next to Jupiter and guess what, it turns out the earth looks a little puny next to that giant.  Is there the possibility of life in other galaxies, in other solar systems?  Listen to AstroWizard rattle off the numeric potential for life in a Universe with billions and billions of stars and planets and it seems incredible that it hasn’t been discovered yet. 

At the end of the program everyone got a chance to look through a telescope and view the moon and Jupiter with its moons, in this very lovely, clear as a bell, evening sky. 

 At one point AstroWizard told us all to look up at the northwestern sky because in two minutes we would see a flash of light like a star.  It wouldn’t last long — it was the sun glancing off the antenna of a passing satellite.  We all looked and looked and saw nothing, but AstroWizard kept saying two minutes and then we started counting down and then counting up and then– yes, there it was, just for a few seconds, a twinkling of light in the sky that disappeared just as quick as it arrived.  It was just like magic.

So this is my Thank You to Dave Rodrigues for sharing his great passion with us and also to all who came Saturday night.  I especially want to thank Drake Rice, a community volunteer who is helping us put together this science series and was indispensable. As midnight approached, Drake and I were staggering after AstroWizard (whose energy was still going strong!) trying to help him pack up his stuff. I also want to thank Avi Dey, a teen volunteer who came at the spur of the moment after I called him Saturday afternoon, to ask his help.

Yesterday, I was told by our Children’s Librarian that a woman came into the library and was talking about how her husband and child went to the program on Saturday night while she stayed home with the baby. “I called him on his cell phone about 10:15 and asked where he was? He said I’m still at the Library and we are having too much fun to leave.”

Thank you AstroWizard!