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Of Overhead Projectors and Planetarium Foolishness

Overhead projector.  Courtesy Alibaba.com

Overhead projector. Courtesy Alibaba.com

We don’t normally publish political articles here on Universe Today, but I’m going to make an exception here after watching last night’s presidential debate because a.) John McCain mentioned something about a planetarium, which is an area of interest for UT readers, and b.) McCain obviously had no idea what he was talking about. McCain, the Republican presidential nominee pointed out how Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, has voted for almost a billion dollars of “pork barrel” projects (money for specific pet projects in their districts) and said, “He (Obama) voted for … $3 million for an overhead projector at a planetarium in Chicago, Illinois.”

First of all, there’s a big difference between an overhead projector and a planetarium projection system. Spacewriter’s Ramblings has a great explanation and pictorial description, if you have questions.

Second, if you want to be nitpicky, while Obama requested the funding, he never voted on it.

Obviously, McCain thinks this is a big issue, since this is at least the second time he’s mentioned Obama and planetariums. A few weeks ago he said that Obama has sought money for “planetariums and other foolishness.”

Foolishness! Over 110 million people around the world visit planetariums every year! They are important learning and teaching tools that encourage a science-literate population, and have inspired young people to become astronomers and astronauts, and aspire to many other science-related occupations as well.
Children enjoy the stars and planets at the Morehead Planetarium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Davin Flateau says it much better than I can on his great post at his Perfect Silence blog.

Obama’s website has a list of his federal funding requests for Fiscal Year 2008, and clearly listed is “Adler Planetarium, to support replacement of its projector and related equipment, $3,000,000,” with a description that says the 40 year old projection equipment has begun to fail and since parts are no longer available, soon students and other museum-goers will be left “without this very valuable and exciting learning experience.” I don’t see that as “pork barrel” funding, but an attempt to maintain a long-standing (Adler opened in 1930) and important institution in his district.

And don’t get me going on Sarah Palin.


Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today's Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT's Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Adam October 10, 2008, 4:54 AM

    Holy crap…… =/

  • DestroyAllHumans October 10, 2008, 7:04 AM

    Hey dollhopf – stop trying to be coy and clever, cause clearly you are neither.

    Why do I get the feeling if this were 1932 you would be the first one out there wearing a brown shirt and in full support of a weird little mentle case with a cheesy mustache while smashing in a few store windows and beating up certain ethnic groups with your band of thugs.

    Now I wait to hear more about how wonderful, educated, and elite you and your people are.

  • dollhopf October 10, 2008, 7:42 AM

    DestroyAllHumans, you claimed that

    Germans feel love for all “except for certain groups.”

    I am realy eager to know whom they (me and the rest) do not love! Name the groups or stop your bashing! *** Are you a coward? ****

    Say clearly: “Germans do hate …!”

    (fill in name of the group or groups you claim that Germans do hate)

    If you are not able to then shut up!

  • DestroyAllHumans October 10, 2008, 8:13 AM

    No, I think I will let the world watch you try to be clever and avoid what everyone else knows what your kind did to Europe in the 1930s and 40s.

    And would probably do again, given the chance. How do you live knowing you systematically slaughtered millions of innocent human beings for years?

    Seig heil!

  • DestroyAllHumans October 10, 2008, 8:15 AM

    And boy, you Germans just can’t help given others orders, can you?

    “Tell me who you mean, or else!!”

    I can practically hear your long black boots snapping together as you raise your riding crop to strike me, a petulant inferior.

    Have a nice Krystal nacht.

  • dollhopf October 10, 2008, 8:45 AM

    Looks like it does not work with me.


    Have a nice Rosch Haschana!

  • DestroyAllHumans October 10, 2008, 10:00 AM

    And thank you for showing that 60 years has not cleansed the German people of their true dark colors.

    Enlightened, indeed.

  • dollhopf October 10, 2008, 10:07 AM

    Oh dear! In the German slang we have a phrase for folks like you: Vorurteile wie Krätze.

    Who might have taught you so?

  • ccpetersen October 10, 2008, 10:35 AM

    DestroyAllHumans, give it a rest. You’ve Godwinned yourself into oblivion.

  • DestroyAllHumans October 10, 2008, 11:35 AM

    I will – and one little obnoxious German isn’t going to erase his nation’s history of systematic genocide.

    Auf weirderinsane, dollboy!

  • dollhopf October 10, 2008, 1:38 PM

    “I will – and one little obnoxious German isn’t going to erase his nation’s history of systematic genocide. Auf weirderinsane, dollboy!”

    Sounds like World War 2 is not over yet. At least for some latecomers. If you have no problems, create some.

    So welcome Germany on the axis of evil in 2008!

  • dollhopf October 10, 2008, 2:38 PM

    John McCain: Statement on World Space Week

    World Space Week is another great example of international cooperation for a common cause. Its goal is to inspire the workforce of tomorrow and educate the public about space. Participants include NASA, aerospace companies, planetariums, museums, schools, and others around the world.


  • Waste of Time October 11, 2008, 5:23 AM

    I joined this site to learn about astronomy, not politics. Site mangers should not allow this political conversation. I am choosing to cancel my subscription and I encourage others to do the same. Let’s “send a message” to Universe Today to REMOVE this type of stuff from their site. Thank you.

  • Vanamonde October 12, 2008, 11:17 AM

    Frankly, I am shocked at John McCann. Several times in the last few months, I have thought, darn, I thought the man was better than this.

    I believe he knows the fix in in and he is just making sure that Obama wins.

  • Vanamonde October 12, 2008, 11:43 AM

    To “Waste of Time” and the others – this story is about the state of site education in our Idiocracy today and very worthly of this site. If you truly believe it is a waste of time, then why bother to comment? Why not just move one.

    I love and support Universe Today. Please keep up the great work.

  • Disgusted October 13, 2008, 2:24 AM

    This ariticle is NOT why I subscribed to UT! Stick to Science leave politics to forums that cater to people who never let facts stand in the way of poor reporting. Frazer as a CANADIAN STAY OUTof American politics. YOU Have your own elections cooming up with you own idiot candidates!!

  • DestroyAllHumans October 13, 2008, 7:39 AM

    dollboy blurts out:

    “Sounds like World War 2 is not over yet. At least for some latecomers. If you have no problems, create some.

    So welcome Germany on the axis of evil in 2008!”

    Translation into Plain English:

    “So what if my fellow countrymen and relatives helped to slaughter 6 million Jews and millions of other innocent people deemed ‘inferior’ by the Master Aryan Race?
    I don’t really care and we would probably do it again and again if we had the chance.”

    You continue to prove what a threat you and your kind are to humanity. You will never be able to wash away the blood of all those you killed, no matter how arrogant and elitist you try to act in a public forum.

    As far as I am concerned you ARE the continued AXIS of Evil. Enjoy your permanent stay in Hell one day. I am sure your many victims are waiting for you to arrive so that they may express their feelings on the entire German race.

    Heil Hitler!

  • DestroyAllHumans October 14, 2008, 7:17 AM

    I am always amused when rich, white conservatives, who run most everything in this country, suddenly play the victim card.

    Your thinking is not only BS, it’s also shows itself to be painfully outdated. Most kids today know they have to do something useful with their college educations, so they tend to aim at courses that will help them with their careers.

    Playing bongo drums? Hello, it’s not 1968 any more, dude.

    And what another load of BS that a scientist would reject a conservative if they found out that person’s political orientation. You clearly have never met enough real scientists.

    You really need to stop believing everything Hannity and Rush tell you.

    And just because McCain isn’t going to make it past November 4 to continue the utter disaster that is called George W. Bush doesn’t mean most of the country won’t still be thinking and acting like you do, sadly enough.

    As long as people remain ignorant and fearful of real change and progress, the kind of thinking as spewed above will continue.

  • DestroyAllHumans October 14, 2008, 1:54 PM

    Everything is being nationalized in this nation by the actions Bush started and you are worried about Obama turning the USA socialist?

    And oh yes, those rich conservatives are so on the side of the average Joe Sixpack American citizen – NOT.

    Wake up and take the blue pill. Otherwise enjoy the new American theocracy.

  • David October 15, 2008, 5:27 PM

    First off. I love science. I loved it in school, i loved experimenting, hypothesizing, quantifying, I still have a great love of math and its application in database management.

    Having said all of that. Chicago has a population of 2 million people, nearly 3 actually. So in 40 years they have not been able to set aside 3 million between them all?

    Before we even ask that though how exactly is funding this project a federal project? Where is the overriding interstate commerce? If this is to bring tourism to Chicago it is still a state/local function, not federal. The fact that two other planetariums managed to get money doesn’t mean they should also.

    The fact Obama requested it, regardless of his getting it, is a matter of principle.

    Raise your own money Chicago.