Alberta and the Mythbusters. Eh?

Alberta and the Mythbusters. Eh?

Alberta and the Mythbusters. Eh?

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Oct. 22 2007 9:55 PM

Alberta and the Mythbusters. Eh?

I got back from the Alberta Science Festival in Fort McMurray, Alberta (Canada) last night pretty late. I was exhausted, but it was so worth it. I had a blast.

Stick with this blog post; there are good pictures below!

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  


Fort McMurray is a smallish town basically in the middle of nowhere, central Alberta. The area is entirely beautiful boreal forest. Oil was found a few hundred kilometers northeast of Edmonton, so the companies swooped in, and a town blossomed. This year, those companies sponsored the Alberta Science Foundation's Science Festival, where they get lots of folks to come in and talk science. I was invited, and didn't even hesitate. First, they sounded like a good group trying to do good things. Second, they accepted my fee without even hesitating. :-)

When I got there, it didn't take me long to realize I was a lot farther north than I'm used to. This sight greeted me:

The Moon was just past its high point in the sky; but look how low that "high" was! Fort McMurray is at 56.5 degrees north, a full 16 degrees north of my house in Boulder. Later that evening I could see Polaris was higher in the sky, too. Even if the temperature hadn't been cold, and all the signs been in metric, and the folks didn't all say "Eh?" after their questions, I would have known I was in a foreign land.


I gave my Moon Hoax and general BA talks, which went pretty well. I had lots of questions from kids afterwards, which I love. They were so enthusiastic! It makes me hope for the future.

A month or so before the festival, when I was asked to come up and talk, they also asked me if I'd be interested in MCing the Mythbusters Build Team (Grant Imahara, Tory Belleci, and Kari Byron) in a discussion and audience Q&A. "No way!" I said.

Or I might have said "YES!" I think maybe that's more accurate. I may have said "W00t!" too.

I met up with the group on Saturday afternoon. I had met all three before, though briefly (all of them at Dragon*Con last year for a few minutes, but also Kari and Tory at previous TAMs). We went over what we'd talk about and then just chatted for a while. Then it was time to go on!


A friend grabbed my camera and said "Let me take a picture!" I said sure, not really thinking about it. I felt a hand on my shoulder, and this is what turned out:

Cooooool. Click it (and the one below) to embiggen.

Of course, that's not really proof I was anything more than a hanger-on. So I provide this:


We did two panels, and it was really fun. The three of them obviously get along really well, and were happy to hang out with each other and with a bunch of us science edumacation types, even though they had a grueling schedule (and a difficult flight into Canada I hear). Tory and Grant are almost exactly like they are on TV, much like Adam and Jamy are WYSIWYG, too.

Kari, however, is, um, a wee bit different. Don't believe the sweetness and light routine you see on the show. It's not like she shot a man in Reno just to watch him die or anything (or at least she didn't mention that specifically), but she told a couple of jokes that, well... they'll never get on TV, I'll say that much. But that's all I'm gonna say about that. Like Grant and Tory she was personable and cool, even though she made fun of me a few times at the bar. However, I'm used to that from women. I always chalk it up to deep-seated feelings of repressed desire. That's as good a reason as any.

But all good things, as they say. Eventually it was time to go home. My flight was delayed due to a strong upper level wind blowing south which held up the plane from Denver, but kicked our tail heading home. As we went up to our cruising altitude we went through some thin clouds, and I was greeted by a beautiful halo outside my window:

I was trying to think of some way to get the words "Halo 3" gracefully into this post to get better ranking in Google, but grace is not my forte. So: Halo 3 Halo Three Halo III. There.

I had a fantastic time in Canada. I met a lot of great folks (Hi Julie and Tamara and Kaya and Heather and Ashley and Emilie -- hmmmm, now that I think about it, all the organizing-type folks from the Science Foundation were women. That's interesting... seriously, I wonder why that is? But also hi to BABLogee Sean -- I was hoping to see you at the hotel bar after the talk!), I had a lot of fun, and I certainly would love to go back up. Next year, maybe, I'll be able to see the northern lights...