This weekend we went to the first-ever SpaceUp DC, an unconference for space nerds, by space nerds, held at GWU in Washington, DC. We're curious about the universe around us, and Timmy's still on a mission to get into space, so we thought it best to attend.
Some freebies--including 147 blood-thirsty tribbles--tagged along.
Because it was an unconference, attendees were charged with determining the schedule, and it was cool to see "Games! Prizes! ThinkGeek!!" scrawled on the big white board for 1pm, but we weren't sure exactly sure what to expect.
Good thing they were such a nice bunch of people. It always amazes us how friendly and helpful and genuine geeks are, and SpaceUp DC was no exception. We watched a few Ignite sessions on what's coming up at NASA and then prepared for an innocently-conceived tribble toss.
We herded our 147 shrieking, vibrating tribbles into two piles, one at each end of a hallway, and put a line down between them. Then we split the attendees into two groups and explained that we'd give them 2 minutes to gently toss their tribbles onto the other's team side. The team with the least amount of tribbles at the end of two minutes would win.
As you might suspect, this quickly led to aerosolized tribble fur, bruises, and our apologies. At least now we know what a tribble fight looks like: ANARCHY.
Luckily we had time to catch @NASA_SDO's discussion on the public perception of science. They threw together a quick experiment on where they asked passersby on the national mall what they thought about a handful of photos, including a space view of Earth, two scientists, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, and other images having to do with space, science, and nerdery. Then they presented the same images to the SpaceUp DC attendees.
Here are a few of the word clouds their survey generated, with the public response on white and the SpaceUp DC folks on black.
The results were interesting: the space insiders tended to use jargon on images of space and equipment, which wasn't surprising, but also seemed to have less of an emotional reaction overall (except for with the scientists themselves). The conclusion from the discussion was that the public seems to have an interest in space and science--judging from "cool" and "fun" for the "Science is..." image--but doesn't seem able to identify with actually participating in science. Food for thought for those education-minded geeks out there.
We'll likely not do a tribble fight again, but it was a fun experiment and we'd like offer our thanks (and condolences) to those that participated, especially the space tweeps (like @cariann @spacesherpa @flyingjenny @spaceupdc @tim846 @VAXHeadroom @phalanx @astrogerly) we finally got to meet IRL. We hope to see you at the next SpaceUp DC, and we'll try to think of something less tribbling for 2011.