In Raleigh, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences has been building its Nature Research Center, a brand new extension to the museum focusing not just on science but on how science is done. It’s all awesome, and it opens today, April 20. You could talk all day about it — and, full disclosure, as a member of the board of the Friends of the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, I seriously could.
But as a board member I’m still a science writer first, and so whatever’s going on INSIDE the museum, what’s charged me, especially in my role here as Plugged In’s unofficial “unplugged” correspondent, is the outside. Most especially, the outside of the three-story globe that is the museum’s signature. Called the Daily Planet, it’s filled with interactive high-tech video and sound. But outside it’s a globe — possibly the world’s largest truly representational globe, even though, pierced by a walkway and a building, part of the globe is missing.
As a science writer and producer, I’ve followed around Todd and Bill Ulrich of Worldfx Inc., the guys who have put the skin on the globe. They’ve been up and down on lifts, laying on their backs beneath the gigantic thing, and in general shaking a serious tail feather to make this enormously detailed satellite mosaic take shape on this enormous globe. The new globe joins a wonderful and complicated ecosystem of the giant globes we have known, including the Unisphere from the 1964-1965 World’s Fair; Eartha, the DeLorme globe in Maine; and the unforgettable Mapparium, the enormous inside-out stained glass globe at the Mary Baker Eddy Library in Boston.
It’s been a treat to watch the creation of the Daily Planet globe, and so I started documenting it. More than that, as people began passing by and noticing the continents taking shape, it became clear how, long before the museum opened, the Daily Planet, simply as a globe — a gigantic scientific instrument — was already teaching people science. I collected some video, some sound, some images, some context, and came up with this. A new globe — a new world.