Astronomer Phil Plait Participates in Desert Bus For Hope Charity, Donates Real Meteorite for Auction

The entire universe in blog form
Nov. 18 2012 8:30 AM

The Desert Bus for Hope Charity, Featuring Me. Bid On a Meteorite!

Desert Bus for Hope logo

Today (Sunday, Nov. 18) at 1:00 p.m. Pacific time (21:00 UTC) I’ll be doing a live web video interview with the Desert Bus For Hope campaign. I’m doing this to help raise money for Child’s Play, a charity that supports kids with cancer by giving them toys and games. This is a great cause and I’m really happy to be a part of it.

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!  

This takes a wee bit of explanation. Desert Bus is a videogame produced as part of a package of minigames for the magicians Penn & Teller; in it you can drive a bus across the desert. In real time. And that’s it. Nothing ever really happens in the game, ever (I think at one point you pass a cactus, and that’s it). It’s also 8-bit, with terrible graphics. And if you don’t constantly navigate the bus you’ll drive off the road and have to start all over again, so you can’t put the controller down and get a drink or go to the bathroom or anything.

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That’s the joke. When you realize Penn & Teller are behind it this all makes perfect sense.

However, something very important has come out of it. An internet comedy group called LoadingReadyRun started the Desert Bus for Hope campaign, where they and other people play the game live-streamed over the ‘net continuously for days, raising money through donations for Child’s Play. If you wonder why they would do that, then please please please read this blog post by my dear friend Liz Smith, who is part of the campaign and who makes it very clear why this is important work. In the six years Desert Bus For Hope has run, they’ve donated over $800,000 to Child’s Play.

Liz asked me last year to participate, and I didn’t hesitate because she’s awesome, and so is this event. So you’ll see my bebearded face eating up valuable real estate on your monitor when you tune in, and I’ll chat with the people playing. I also have a big ol’ pile of swag I’ve donated to them to auction off and raise money, which includes a real meteorite and a tektite! The meteorite is a Sikhote-Alin iron piece from a meteor fall over Russia in 1947. A tektite is a piece of glass formed in a bigger meteorite impact; the heat of the impact fuses the soil into glass. That molten blob gets blown into the sky and forms weird shapes as it falls back to Earth and cools. The picture here is of the two actual pieces of cosmic debris you’ll get if you win the auction (the tektite is on the left and the meteorite on the right).

Meteroite and tektite for charity auction

The Desert Bus campaign goes on for a solid week, and they have other guests scheduled, including geek musicians Jonathan Coulton and The Doubleclicks, my friend the geek philanthropist Steve Dengler, as well as geek god and My Close Personal Friend™ Wil Wheaton, and more. That’s a lot of geeks.

This is a fun chance to donate money to a really, really great charity, and help out kids who could really use it. That’s why I’m doing it, and I hope it’ll help raise some spirits. If you can, please help out. Thanks.

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