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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

COSMIC COLLISIONS AND DINOSAURS: Day Three in NYC (part 1)

Thursday, Sept 8
During our short time in the Big Apple we managed to cover a lot of territory, and this was one of those days so I'll break it down into two parts for easier reading.

We made our way by subway to Upper Manhattan to visit the Guggenheim this morning, after sleeping in late, and arrived only to find it was closed on Thursdays. So we decided to walk through Central Park to the American Museum of Natural History instead.

This has to be one of the most famous Parks in the world, located between Ffth Avenue and Central Park North. The Park was laid out between 1859-1870 and designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Veax. It was referred to as "The Greensward Project". It's a magnificent garden park, 19 acres in total, 5% of the total area of Manhattan, extending 4 kms in length and 500 meters wide.

When I visited NYC in '68 and in the mid '70's the Park wasn't a safe place to wander about, though in '68 I definitely went there and enjoyed strolling by the lake and visiting the Zoo. Since Guilliani's reign as Mayor, the Park has been made safe and is the most pleasant respite, a cool, green patch among Manhattan's concrete canyons. We wandered the shaded paths, enjoyed a bit of time to relax, hear the birds sing, breathe the fresh air. The park is popular with joggers, strollers, cyclists. You can rent bikes or go rowing on Conservatory Lake or have a picnic under the trees. And a romantic way to see the Park is by horse drawn carriage or pedi-cab.

The Museum of Natural History is only a short walk through the Park from the Guggenheim. It happened that our ticket included a show at the Hayden Planetarium as well, making it a very interesting morning and quite unexpected.

The Museum is another one of those magnificent historical NY buildings, and happens to be one of the greatest scientific museums in the world. Besides the impressive natural history collections and dinosaur halls, it includes the Rose Centre of Earth and Space, the Hayden Planetarium show, and other space exhibits such as the Big Bang Theatre which recreates the birth of the Universe. The Museum was founded in 1869 and it would take hours to see it all, so we focused on only a few of the exhibits.

First stop was the Hayden Planetarium show "Cosmic Collisions" a virtual reality experience that takes your breath away! The show "launches visitors on an awe-inspiring trip through space and time exploring the hypersonic impacts that drive the dynamic and continuing evolution of the universe." You witness collisions past, present and future including the creation of our Moon, a re-creation of the meteorite impact that ended the Age of Dinosaurs and "a nail-biting future scenario where humanity desperately attempts to divert the path of an oncoming asteroid on a collison course with Earth." Whew! It missed by a heart-beat!

After that breath-taking show finished we walked along the spiral "Cosmic Pathway" down to the main level, chronicaling 15 billion years of evolution of the universe, to the Hall of the Universe were there's a 15 1/2 ton meteorite, to the Hall of Planet Earth which focuses on the geological process of our home planet.

By the time we'd finished viewing all this brain-numbing, awesome stuff, we were a bit too exhausted to tour too much more of the museum, but we wandered through the displays of the African mammals and the outstanding dinosaur halls were there were immense reconstructed skeletons of every type of prehistoric creature immaginable. Wow! When you see those creatures up close and personal, it's amazing. A tall man would only come up to the knee-bone of one of most of them. Pretty scary!

After we finished that tour, we decided to take another stroll through the Park to find the Strawberry Fields memorial to John Lennon. And that's when another fine adventure began...

Part Two: Strawberry Fields by Pedi-Cab.

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