This Week in Space Episode 90 Transcript

Please be advised this transcript is AI-generated and may not be word for word. Time codes refer to the approximate times in the ad-supported version of the show.

0:00:00 - Rod Pyle
On this episode of this Week in Space, it's time to talk Archeoastronomy and Planetaria with the Wizard of Griffith Observatory, dr Edwin Krupp. Stay with us. This is this Week in Space, episode number 90, recorded on December 8th 2023,. The Wizard of Griffith Observatory. This episode of this Week in Space is brought to you by Melissa, the global leader in contact data quality. Bad data means bad business. Make sure your customer contact data is up to date. Get started today with 1000 records clean for free at melissacom. Slash twit. Hello and welcome to this Week in Space, the Wizard of Griffith Observatory edition. I'm Rod Pyle and I'm here with my illustrious pal, tarek Malik. Enter in chief of spacecom. Hello, illustrious one. How are you?

0:00:57 - Tariq Malik
I'm doing well, rod, well, well, good siring. I still sound a little bit rough, just a little bit sick. But what are you going to do? That's enough whining, okay.

0:01:06 - Rod Pyle
And we're going to be joined in a few moments by my dear old friend, Dr Edwin Krupp, the director of the Griffith Observatory, keeper of all Archeoastronomical knowledge Try saying that fast three times and a very long time ago. My boss for about eight years. So he'll be coming to us after the first break, but first you'll be shocked to know that I have a space joke. I'm so ready for it. Are you ready? Okay, yeah, hey. I took my Instagram influencer teenage to the planetarium. He was shocked to learn he was not the center of the universe.

0:01:39 - Tariq Malik
That's very appropriate, very, very appropriate for this day.

0:01:43 - Rod Pyle
Okay, and another really weak planetary joke, this one from the ancient histories comic, steven Wright. I used to work at a planetarium and we had our own softball team. We practiced in the planetarium. I played second base, so I stood under Saturn. The shortstop stood under Jupiter. Third baseman stood under Mars, and one day it was really gorgeous outside so we tried to practice out there, but everyone was just too far away. I'm sorry.

Okay, as always, we invite you to join the space Rangers and Senators. Your best or worst base joke. We appreciate it, because you really don't want me digging up more jokes like you guys do better. I just had to take a break from listener submissions today because, of course, we want to do planetarium jokes. That'll be a one off. Don't forget to do us a solid. Make sure to like, subscribe and do all that good podcast stuff, because we, frankly, really need your numbers. We're trying to stay free and clear in the public listenership and we can use your support to do that because, as you know, podcasts are struggling everywhere. So let's roll into a, oh, let's roll into our headlines. Rod, wake up. Oh, you xed out my favorite. Okay, so bad day for parachutes, huh.

0:03:03 - Tariq Malik
Yeah, yeah. Well, nasa actually kind of finally figured out what went wrong with their Osiris Rex asteroid probes landing on September 24th. Now, remember, the landing itself was a success and in fact the samples are being released everywhere. But there was this weird hiccup where the drogue parachute didn't work as planned, and it was just strange. I mean, the spacecraft managed to do okay without it, and what they found out was that they had some crossed wires on their spacecraft rod.

0:03:34 - Rod Pyle
I mean literally crossed wires. This is like a metaphorical statement.

0:03:38 - Tariq Malik
No, they got their wires crossed and it sent the wrong signals to the wrong places, which led to the. As I understand it and I could have, it's fairly complicated, so it is in fact rocket science, but it sounds as if the signal is meant to deploy the parachute, in fact cut it and then led it to being deployed so that it just went off after the main parachute went, and it was just a mistake, luckily not a fatal one, but one that is, I think, definitely going to be up there with. Let's double check this before we finish building the spacecraft for the next big sample return mission.

0:04:22 - Rod Pyle
Well, and this could have been a disaster. And of course we remember back in the 90s it was Mars Polar Lander. I think no Mars Polar Lander, because of a programming error or a sensor error. Climate Gloria's landing gear early and shut off its rockets. But it was the.

0:04:41 - Tariq Malik
Climate Observer.

0:04:42 - Rod Pyle
Climate Observer that had a unit's exchange error between Lockheed Martin and JPL and with hurtling right into the planet.

0:04:51 - Tariq Malik
But this one seems like it's more on par with the Genesis crash, if you recall, in the early 2000s, when the Genesis probe was bringing back samples from space. I always forget, because there was Genesis and Stardust and one was like SolarWind and one was the Comets, and I forget which is which sometimes. But Genesis had a device, a physical parachute ignition device, that was just put in backwards. It was in the wrong way and that prevented it from firing properly and they didn't deploy the parachutes and that kind of hardware flub where you have your wires crossed reminds me a little bit more of that than like a computational or a data input error at that one. And so that kind of stuff really shouldn't be happening. And they're going to look into how it through their double checks and their tests and going forward for the next big sample return, which is probably going to be from the moon or from Mars.

0:05:49 - Rod Pyle
So you don't want to miss that Well you definitely want to get Mars right because, even though they're rocks, you still don't want the thing to crater in. And, as they used to tell us in mathematics class, double check your work, all right, do you want to talk about the military moon articles? You guys ran.

0:06:07 - Tariq Malik
Well, we can talk about that. Yeah, leonard David, who we've had a friend of the show on the site, did a really great piece for us this week about why there's so much interest in the moon by the US military, particularly DARPA, the Defense for the Advanced Research Projects Agency, because they have about three different projects going on over the last couple of years to really start capitalizing on either commercial cooperation with moon explorations or kind of security type operations for and I quote the peaceful US and international use of the moon. So they've got. Actually, just this week they announced some contracts for what they call Luna 10, a 10 year lunar architecture capability study, which is that program that wants to look at an integrated future lunar infrastructure that you would need to have like a moon base for the military and the civilians to use on over the future or to use around the moon for reconnaissance, for communications, for all of that stuff. They also have a program called Logic, the Lunar Operating Guidelines for Infrastructure Consortium. It's really technical but it's about what are the parameters for working in the CIS lunar environment. And then they have one called I think you pronounce it Nomad, but it's a novel orbital moon manufacturing materials and mass efficient design for work at the moon and it's just interesting that they're looking at the moon as a new place of operations and this is kind of something that seems like it's out of the early days of the space race the moon as a battlefield.

We have seen the role of space increase in recent times with satellite jamming and whatnot in low earth orbit, particularly like in Ukraine and whatnot. We've seen that going on and this is kind of another step to secure that highest of grounds for military interest. In fact, the Space Force is working with Australia and some others I think UK to develop a deep space radar for observation and reconnaissance as well as part of all of this. We were just a very great read about why that's important for national security and why the Space Force is really into it.

0:08:34 - Rod Pyle
Well, and I just as a reminder for those who may not know, if you want to read about some of those crazy programs planted the early days of the space race, from a lunar base that was capable of defending itself against communist lunar soldiers, to nuking the moon, to orbital platforms and nuclear weapons and other unfriendly things like that. Check out Amazing Stories of the Space Age, my 2016 book that's still for sale.

0:08:59 - Tariq Malik
I was going to say do you have a book about it, Rod, Because I'm there for it.

0:09:02 - Rod Pyle
I actually have a couple. I also interplanetary robots and some of that stuff. But Amazing Stories, I think, was my favorite, just because writing about all the wacko stuff we thought of but didn't do, and that was a Werner von. Braun plan to put moon soldiers up there. We could talk about that all day long. Let's close on the strange case. These are all Spacecom stories, by the way the strange case of the missing space tomato.

0:09:28 - Tariq Malik
That's right. That's right At long last. The International Space Station this week celebrated its 25th anniversary happy birthday to the International Space Station and during that the Space Station National got a call to celebrate it and they finally said that they have found a tomato grown on the Space Station by astronaut Frank Rubio that he apparently lost. Like he got away from him while he was up there back in March, I think is when he lost it, when he was harvesting tomatoes, and when he landed he said he didn't know what had happened to it. And astronaut Jasmine McBelly, actually during this anniversary event this week, said that they finally found it. It was behind some equipment. It's a red Robin Dwarf tomato and it's about an inch wide, so very, very small. And they found it behind some hidden equipment.

That a lot of things ended up drifting away from astronauts, but you don't want food because, man, that can lead to a bad day later on.

0:10:37 - Rod Pyle
Although in an atmosphere that's that dry and kind of, I assume, a very low bacterial load, you probably don't get the kind of icky stuff you get down here right.

0:10:47 - Tariq Malik
Not as much, it'll just dry out, I believe, over time. They have lots of really good atmospheric controls. I mean, it's a six bedroom house, but it's all recycled, it's all ventilated over time.

0:10:59 - Rod Pyle
So yeah, just like what would happen if you left an astronaut in a corner.

0:11:02 - Tariq Malik
I'm just sad that we didn't get a picture of that yet. I will be surprised if NASA doesn't release the offending escaped tomato anytime soon.

0:11:13 - Rod Pyle
Well, if anybody finds it, it will be the sleuths at spacecom. All right, let's. Let's go to a break and when we come back we will meet Dr Ed Krupp. Stay with us. This episode of this Week in Space is brought to you by Melissa, the data quality experts.

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0:13:50 - Ed Krupp
Just a pleasure and, of course, to see you, rob. Rob, a veteran of Griffith Observatory.

0:13:55 - Rod Pyle
Well, and I've been looking forward to this for a long time, and it just occurred to me this morning. I've known you since, I believe, I started at Griffith and working for you in 1975 and I've never once interviewed you, and all the time since then, which seems shameful to me.

0:14:13 - Ed Krupp
Well, you know, there was a lot going on at the time of the Big Bang in the universe and both of us were distracted.

0:14:20 - Rod Pyle
That's true. So we're here with Tarek Malik Tarek say hi, hello.

0:14:23 - Tariq Malik
Well, to me it's a pleasure to see you again and we've actually talked a few times in the past, just you know, with spacecom stories and about the Griffith Observatory when it was referred and you and I met in 97 when Skywatchers Shaman and Kings came out, and I saw you give a great talk there at Griffith Observatory as a very young astronomy student in Los Angeles, and so it's always great to see you again.

0:14:48 - Ed Krupp
The same, of course, and delighted that you pick up the book and show people although it is out of print but you know there are, there you can. Copies can be had from secondary sources at very inflated prices.

0:15:00 - Rod Pyle
Well, if you're interested in getting it back in print, we should talk after we're done here. I may have some thoughts for you. My first memory of you in presentation, I think, was Stars over America in 1976, the Planetarium show.

0:15:18 - Ed Krupp
Good memory. That was the Bicentennial show where we we probed, in a sense, highlights of American history with astronomical twists to them. And and let everybody know that a fellow from the Colonial Times, benjamin Bannaker, actually was an astronomer at the time of the revolution and he wound up in a postage stamp eventually. But it was a fun show, of course. For that, that moment.

0:15:44 - Rod Pyle
And not to wax too too much in memory sense, but I remember you set, you created a slide montage with rapidly firing slide projectors of course, because that was the that era of the Apollo program, set to music from Hawaii 50, which I thought was just Bafo back in the day.

0:16:06 - Ed Krupp
The fact is that particular sequence and I I'm not sure that the audience really cares about old technology and former Planetarium, but it's interesting to me that you remember that, because I remember that very well and it was an indication of the transformation of technology in Planetarium that was going on. At the time. We certainly weren't quite at the realm of all dome digital animation, that. That took another what 25 years or so, but you could see that people wanted to go in that direction.

0:16:39 - Rod Pyle
Well, and John, who's on the board today, just mentioned, our audience is very interested in old technology. So, tarik, excuse me for this for a few moments, but I just want to let people know. Back in this time, the 70s and 80s and 90s, up through the renovation of the observatory in the 2000s, we had a Zeiss I believe it was a Mark 4 Planetarium projector that was completely electromechanical, supported by I don't know, things 40 ecta graphics slide projectors. Do I have that right something?

0:17:08 - Ed Krupp
it got up to be a bigger number than that.

0:17:11 - Tariq Malik
by the time we were done that, it was somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred projectors all together Wow, I just I love those, those projectors, because they look like robots coming up out of the center of the Planetarium and they're all covered in like lights and and doodads and whatever. And then all of a sudden the night sky is all around you and and then you know you're in for a show.

0:17:32 - Ed Krupp
So two things about that in that Planetarium show that Rod remembers so vividly, with the Apollo launch, with all of those projectors, and, of course, the sound effect that you got besides the, the musical soundtrack was the click, click, click of all of those projectors going, one after another, changing, so you had to get the music up loud enough so that you wouldn't hear that. But there was a moment where you were carrying the audience up allegedly into space and when you hit that crescendo of the music and of the slide projectors, suddenly everything goes dark, with all of those slide projectors and the stars pop on and you're out there in space with the Apollo capsule and it is crude as it was. It was really a wonderful emotional moment. But but let me carry that thought just a little bit farther, because that Zeiss Mark IV projector is still on display at Griffith Observatory.

When we closed in 2002 for this five-year renovation and expansion, the thing was sparking, and so the last thing you want is extraneous light from from electrical discharge from a star projector. But we knew to save it. That projector had extraordinary history. It was in fact used by the Apollo astronauts in the early stages to train on celestial navigation, and we still have, obviously, the projector and the sort of the lawn lounge that they had and the mask that they used to block out the sky to the very small window. All of those are on display here now at Griffith Observatory in the Gunther depths of space to tell that particular remarkable story about Griffith Observatory's place in space so I fear I've jumped ahead here.

0:19:17 - Rod Pyle
What I really meant to start with was your career at Griffith. So you start off as a young man. You're fascinated with museums and continued your interest in astronomy and science up through getting your PhD at UCLA and and then almost immediately, I guess actually while you were still a PhD candidate you were hired at the observatory right yeah, I grew up in the museums, chicago and it's Adler Planetarium moved out here in the 1950s and that kind of continued, just as you said, rod.

0:19:52 - Ed Krupp
But my thesis advisor at UCLA George A Bell, a really remarkable pioneer in popularization of astronomy, despite the fact that he was also a completely capable and important research astronomer. But he had a close affiliation with Griffith Observatory, himself as a guide when he was working up at Mount Wilson and then a Palomar, and he called me into his office one day and said and they've got a opening for a lecture at Griffith Observatory, I think you ought to take the job. And I dutifully nodded because he was my advisor and then I simply ignored him because, I really didn't have any interest in going over to Griffith and doing this.

I was a serious astronomer and I wasn't about to be spending my time in a planetarium. And George called me into his office again two weeks later and said Ed, they've got an opening for a planetarium lecture at Griffith Observatory and I think you ought to take it finally, I got the message and I was hired by the man who was holding forth in a period between the appointment of the new director and the retirement of the previous director, dr Clementshaw. Bill Kaufman was coming. That was a man named.

Leon Hall who who hired me as a lecturer and I obviously operated as a lecturer for two years, finished up the PhD and then went looking for a job and had no interest in staying in Los Angeles, no interest in working in museums or planetaria, and the only job opening available to me, out of maybe 40-50 applications I made, was a job for which I didn't apply, which was curator Griffith Observatory so I took that and figured I'd stay a couple years and and move on.

0:21:41 - Tariq Malik
Can I ask is when Rod's question began. You're already interested in astronomy. You're studying it at UCLA, but how did you get there? Was it something from your youth where you're like, yeah, I really dig the sky and what's in it, or or was it through that fascination with museums that led you to astronomy in the first place? What was that kind of seed there?

0:22:04 - Ed Krupp
Well, thanks for asking that question. There's an interesting side note to it that has to do with, at least in, let us say, the 20th century, the production of astronomers. I once went to a meeting of the American Astronomical Society when I was in grad school and a person was giving a presentation to the crowd of approximately 3,000 astronomers, and that was just about all the astronomers in the country at that time that you could have a meeting like that and have everybody there no longer possible like that.

But this person who was giving this program asked the audience then of assembled astronomers how many of you decided to become an astronomer as a young child? And just about every hand in the room went up. And then he said how many of you decided to become an astronomer because of a look through a telescope, a visit to a planetarium or a book? And every hand went up. And so suddenly you know how you make astronomers. You make them when they're young and you have one of those three things. Well, in my case that was eight years old, already interested in museum things. Like kids are. You know everything from dinosaurs to butterflies, whatever, and astronomy. And my parents found a book I think it was being sold door to door and they purchased it for me. It was about astronomy and that book was the thing that made me decide to become an astronomer.

0:23:39 - Rod Pyle
Well, well well, and beyond being astronomer and a planetarium director, you're also a showman and one of the things I found so extraordinary about your career and I haven't worked with that many other planetarium but you were a person that would step out of the console, out of the office, into the public eye whether it was somewhere inside the observatory, out front, and really perform, and especially for kids. And I tried to find a picture of you in your wizard garb, but I couldn't find it. I always thought that was particularly effective, but allegedly at least, as is written in Wikipedia. At one point back in back of the day you turned to your wife and said you know, this job isn't so much science as showbiz, and then later, more enthusiastically, said, hey, this job is showbiz. As if that turned out to be a net positive.

0:24:29 - Ed Krupp
Yeah, it was negative at the start, and that was when I was a lecturer especially, but a couple of things happened fairly quickly. One is you realize every day is different and that suddenly becomes valuable as an asset for life. And the second thing is, just as you said, rod, the. It took a little while, but you know the smell of the grease, grease, paint and the roar of the crowd is intoxicating. And there you go. It reminds me of another very important element, though, of all of this business, with respect to Griffith Observatory in particular. These institutions populate the world. The planetarium projector just celebrated its 100th anniversary. It was invented in 1923, of course, in Germany. But each, each place sort of got started and has its own character, and there are, there are, three things that really make Griffith Observatory what it is. One of them, you could say, is really just location, location, location.

And there you've got three right there, but the visibility of this place on the hillside in Los Angeles is the hood ornament of the city. Is is, in fact, profound in terms of public perception, but the the second thing is, in fact, governance. It's owned and operated by the city of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, which has nothing to do with research, astronomy or even the astronomical.

What institutions with which we might guess. But that ensures the populist nature of the institution, which was what Colonel Griffith originally had in mind when he thought about this place and left money in his will for it. But number three, the third thing, and this is no small deal Griffith Observatory overlooks Hollywood.

It's close to Hollywood and the bond between Hollywood and Griffith Observatory what you might think is a little odd, it we seep into each other and Hollywood storytelling, it's values in that sense, became from the beginning a part of Griffith Observatory. And then Hollywood took advantage, used Griffith Observatory over and over again, so much so that it ought to have a star on the Boulevard.

0:26:53 - Rod Pyle
Well, and you have a really good point. I want to let Tariq get his questions in, because otherwise I'll take the whole hour. But as a kid, of course like anybody who grew up in LA Griffiths was this shining beacon of science up on the hill. I used to take the bus up there I think was starting when I was about 10 or 11, grind my mirror in the basement and your telescope making workshops. But the thing that amazed me was I started working there because as a museum guide, of course, you answer the phones in the evening and so forth.

People would call up with anything that had anything to do with science questions. I think the biggest outlier I got that wasn't a crazy person, was somebody who called and said that they were down on Vermont and Hollywood Boulevard, or Vermont and Sunset maybe, and they had found a frog and they wanted to know what to do with it. And I thought you know, on the one hand, what do you say, but on the other hand, this just shows the incredible reach that the Observatory has at a people's minds and spirits, if you will about being this icon of science.

0:27:56 - Ed Krupp
Well, I didn't. I don't think I ever heard the story about the frog, but I do think that the the the principles behind it are valid. The public perception of the place is just like you saw in the billboard for the Dragnet movie years ago, which borrowed from the old Dragnet television show, the detective police show set in Los Angeles, and the words under the badge there of City Hall and Griffith Observatory is right behind it in the billboards just the facts, and that's what people want and expect from Griffith Observatory authenticity, accuracy. And so we stick with that. And I'm not surprised that we get inquiries that go to the biological realm as well, that we're totally unprepared to answer.

0:28:43 - Tariq Malik
Tark, well, you know I was going to ask a little bit about something you mentioned earlier when you were describing the projector itself. First of all, I learned a new word today, that the, the word for planetarium in plural is planetaria. I don't know how I never knew that before. So thank you for for that.

0:29:06 - Ed Krupp
Let me interrupt you and tell you there's great dispute in the planetarium community and and I'm I'm looked upon as a person who still uses a flip phone, because I use that plural- Well, I love it.

0:29:19 - Tariq Malik
I think it's a wonderful word, but I wanted to add, because you had mentioned, when you were describing the projector and its use to help train the Apollo astronauts there, and I was just, I was just curious for a little more about how that worked. I mean that that was a little bit of a surprise to me, and I can't wait to come see the exhibit, because the last time I was at the observatory there wasn't the whole expanded stuff that you have there now. But how did that? I mean, who would think you know, let's, let's go to the observatory and send our moonwalkers to learn how to chart the night sky there? How did that even come about?

0:29:55 - Ed Krupp
No fair question, and I don't think we know all the ins and outs of it. In terms of correspondence and documentation, then, that period, it's remarkably sparse, but we do have photographs and there are a couple of things that appeared in our little monthly magazine, the Griffith Observer. But the bottom line is that the NASA folks, whoever were dealing with the astronauts, realized that they needed a backup system for navigation if everything fell through, and it was understood, I think, as a sort of a natural thing. Well, where do you learn? The stars? Under the real sky, or maybe a planetarium? And there were two places that were sort of fit to do this, that were approached, and Griffith Observatory was one of them.

The other was on the other side of the country, north Carolina, and so both of us hosted a group of about seven or so, and the idea was that they would sit reclined in this sort of lawn lounge under the stars projected above them, with a mask of metal over in front of their face with just a small hole in it, and that hole corresponded to the aperture of a port in the capsule, and then the planetarium would be moved around so that they would grow accustomed to recognizing small sections of the sky in that window and therefore, no, ah, that's that star. Obviously, they're not worried about the entire sky. They're looking for bright headlights in the sky that they can use. So it wasn't a system that they had to have, but, from the perspective of prudence and planning, it was a resource that no one wanted to go without, and so that's why they came here. We have a guest book that goes back to 1935. And when you get to get to the 60s there, all of those astronaut signatures are in that.

0:31:54 - Rod Pyle
Wow, oh, that's awesome. Yeah, it's really something. We are going to take a short break and then we're going to be back to talk about the observatories, incredible renovation, so go nowhere, we're back. So since the time I met you, I think plans were being drafted at least in your mind to you to enhance the observatory, because when I was working there, when you started working there, we had a lot of very old exhibits, some stuff didn't work, the building had been heavily used for decades and the where was beginning to show and my understanding, at least the time, was that not a lot of revenue was coming back from the city in those days and you were kind of operating on a short leash and this is not meant to sound like fluffery, but I really think as a sheer accomplishment of just raw willpower. Over the next 40 years you finally got this amazing renovation in place and I know there was help from Friends of the Observatory and other groups, but this was really kind of a Sisyphusian task, was it not?

0:33:01 - Ed Krupp
I guess in perspective that's a fair assessment and thanks for that. At the time I'm not sure that at any particular point I realized just how long it would take, but the fact is that in government and certainly municipalities and in the circumstance that you describe, rob, where by the time we get to the 70s and even before, that River Observatory was sort of taken for granted and not regarded as much of an investment for the city or, for that matter, among many people Even it was visible. It wasn't really well known, but the crisis we faced was obvious, and that was in the planetarium, and we knew that, no matter what, sooner or later that projector would fail, because that's what happens and you couldn't repair it. And so you had to be thinking about what are you going to do in the future and that's where this really began is okay, I'm all right right now. The Griffith Observatory, 10 years from now, say 15,. It's going to be in trouble if we don't plan for this, and I foolishly believe that if I announced that we should plan for it, people would in fact plan for it.

But that didn't happen and, as you correctly point out, it took decades to build the infrastructure of support and of just commitment. But over time that occurred and it was really very much a product of a few people representing key institutions. And certainly you're correct, rod, that you mentioned Friends of the Observatory, which is now Griffith Observatory Foundation and one of the most unique public and private partnerships, I think, on the planet, let alone the city of Los Angeles, which had never experienced that kind of relationship with an outside foundation, and so with that tool the city was able to do things it couldn't do. The foundation had a certain kind of flexibility, not just in raising money but in leveraging particular technologies that the city could never purchase directly because of the way city systems work. So that was part of the essential element of it.

But I have to emphasize as well that there was a person in the city of Los Angeles who really is an unsung hero for all of this, and really too. One of them is Ron Deaton, a name people wouldn't know, but he was a high level individual in the city in a variety of positions, not least of which, when I knew him, was chief legislative analyst, and he looked at this at one point early in the thing and he recognized that this needs to be done and he would just send me little hints from time to time. So he operated from the side, but he really was a person that brought it in to play as the time matured. And the other person also no longer with us Council Member Tom LeBange of this district. He too was probably the best friend Griffith Park ever had, and Griffith Observatory benefited greatly from his interest and support for the facility.

0:36:22 - Rod Pyle
And when that happened it had been after a long period of time I mean somewhat separated by by a decade or a half or so. But in the 70s and 80s you went through a long period of time where a large revenue source was the show called the Asarium that ran twice a night. But it was also a source of a lot of wear and tear on the Observatory and the staff I mean those. It was incredibly well attended but it was intended to be a rough crowd sometimes.

0:36:52 - Ed Krupp
Yeah, that program and other things like it, a kind of overtake municipal institutions. They they don't necessarily have the flexibility to just pick up and move along with changes in the times, the way they're budgeted, the way their staff, the all of the changes in in the specializations that you need over time just doesn't happen. And so your reflection is very correct. We kind of exhausted the resource, some of that money, gradually there and particularly through that period, it was possible to funnel into an account, a special capital account that was created for this, and I looked upon that account as a kind of a secret weapon for the future. We would get then a percentage and it was a small percentage but a percentage from every one of those laserium tickets which were in fact really wearing out the building with those audiences and not really being able to facilitate their presence there.

But by the time we got to the renovation and contracts going out and all of that trying to build the budget, I had managed to save $2 million in that account, and that was unheard of, I mean it was. If anybody knew, was paying attention, that there were $2 million laying around an account by pergripple, the observatory, I'm sure that there would have been hands raised and then outreaching for it, but there was a moment in the various crises of financing and moving forward with the capital project, where I was able to say to people who were thinking, oh, wait a minute, we need $2 million.

Well, we've got $2 million. It worked out. It was amazing for people that we had it, but that was, in fact, one of the more endearing moments of our financial crisis.

0:38:52 - Tariq Malik
Dr Kepf is all right, hold on, let me open my wallet. Oh, look at that, there are no mods flying out this time.

0:38:57 - Rod Pyle
I just want to say you know, I know Tark's got questions about Hollywood and I want to make sure we talk about your research interests and your books.

But just in closing this section, I didn't have a chance to get up there right away after the renovation but I have to say, having spent a lot of time in that building prior to that, it was a brilliant, brilliant job. I mean, there were so many things that were talked about over the years when I was still working there, everything from how to renovate the snack bar to what are we going to do with those awful wooden ramps. We used to take three or four guys to push wheelchairs up the front stairs, which was kind of dangerous, frankly. And the renovation addressed all those concerns and so many more. And some of the things that you guys designed I'm sure is a team, but the Einstein statue downstairs, the Newmore Theater, that whole expansion under the front lawn, the restaurant, even the little details upstairs where you sort of realigned some of the traffic flow in the halls of science you just knocked it out of the park. So huge congratulations on that.

0:40:01 - Ed Krupp
Very, very sweet of you to say, and I think the point to sort of preserve from your perspective, rod, is that we did in fact depend on the accumulated heritage and understanding of the observatory, and that meant all levels of staff. This wasn't just a top down kind of project from people who weren't innately connected with it. It was bottom up from the observatory and that meant that we could be hands on and I mean at all levels in the concept and the ultimate design.

0:40:40 - Tariq Malik
Yeah, I just wanted to follow up because you earlier you described Griffith as the hood ornament of Los Angeles and yet there's this clear iconography that goes along with the observatory in planetarium. When you think of Los Angeles, you think of the observatory and when you see that picture of it, you know that that's Hollywood in Los Angeles. And Rod and I were going through just kind of like our list of our favorite what is cameos, I think you would say, of the observatory in movies like like Well, there's rebel without a cause, with James Dean and the Rocketeer and the Terminator one of my favorites, of course but La La Land and Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, and I'm just wondering that way that's a good one from Rod, by the way. I'm just wondering if you think it's the design of the observatory, the location, that commanding location there looking out over Los Angeles, what is the draw that gives it the gravitas that we see translated? You know Oscar, because you see that picture, you know where you are and what it means.

0:41:49 - Ed Krupp
I think you put your finger on it right away. One is in fact the location that it is commanding. It looks serious, it's a dignified building with a very special character. I mean, it's got domes, for God's sake, and so people recognize it as that. And that means and this is the case in the early days it was used as a set in that sense for everything from the Palace of Ming, the Merciless and the Flash Gordon serials to the Fortress of Solitude for Superman and so on.

But we held a special place in our hearts for Rebels Out of Cause in the 50s because that was the first film that cast Griffith Observatory as Griffith Observatory and in fact the spirit of that film, the theme of that film had to do with human beings and their relationship with the cosmos. It was all about human action and very personal tragedies and all. But there was a cosmic perspective built into that film by the director and the screenwriter and that actually didn't get repeated again until La La Land, and La La Land took a totally different view of the Observatory. But the Observatory was Griffith Observatory. It functioned as Griffith Observatory in that film and so we have a particular affection for that one as well. I was in the building, of course, when the filming for La La Land took place, and I knew the filming was coming, and all I really knew was this title, which I thought was lame.

And I thought well, maybe I better go up and just have a look at what's going on.

It was going to be a big crew and in fact there was stuff all over cables, cameras, everything all over the place. And I got up to the historic level, to the central rotunda now the Keck rotunda, where the pendulum is and I realized that that scene was just about to occur, where the couple come in on the side door which of course, is impossible We'd never let that happen but they come in and they make their way past the Tesla coil and then to the rotunda where this extraordinary choreography dancing around the pendulum takes place. And as that was going on, I or starting I dropped down to the stairs to watch a monitor, to see it, and I watched the camera work of this film being produced before my eyes, where the camera followed them, brought them to the rotunda and then swung around in this highly unconventional way that went up to the murals on the ceiling above the pendulum. Nobody ever includes the murals at Griffith Observatory in a movie, for God's sakes.

And it was so artfully and beautifully done that as soon as that scene was shot I went downstairs, saw the deputy director, mark Pine, and I said this film is going to do the same thing with the Griffith Observatory. That Rubble Without a Cause did, and it did.

0:44:54 - Rod Pyle
Well, and I think you know. Going back to your comments about the notoriety of the observatories had over the past decades, you've got to take some credit for that too, because you've done outreach everything from what I've already described about speaking to kids in the front lawn of the observatory and so forth, to substantial amount of TV. You cultivated the local press, as I recall, in particular ABC was a George Fishback the weatherman. Yeah, yeah, I mean that was a really valued connection for us and you worked at all like a master. So I think you need to take some credit for that. But as long as we're talking about credit, can you just give a few moments to Samuel Ocean? Who is he and how did that come about in terms of support for the observatory?

0:45:36 - Ed Krupp
Yeah, and I'm very glad you mentioned that, rod. Of course the planetarium, the completely transformed planetarium at Griffith Observatory, is the Samuel Ocean planetarium, and Samuel Ocean was businessman in Southern California, los Angeles in particular, and in the course of his life generated a fortune. And as the project was moving along and of course it was moving along without all of the money needed, there was critical mass there, but getting to the finish line is going to be a problem. So we continued that's the foundation and Griffith Observatory continued to be searching for sources and the oceans.

Sam and Linda Ocean had come by and wanted to see the place. They were looking for an opportunity to make a donation, investment and over a period of time we worked back and forth with them and then, quite sadly, mr Ocean passed away in the midst of that. But after his passing, his widow, linda Ocean, who's still with us and who is a remarkable contributor to the California Science Center as well and the Endeavour project over there with the space shuttle getting that remarkable asset in Los Angeles. But Linda Ocean continued to work with us and made a major donation to the project which helped get us over the finish line in the capital that we had to raise, and so, as part of that, in honor of Sam Ocean, we named the planetarium the Samuel Ocean Planetarium.

0:47:17 - Rod Pyle
Well, that's quite a tribute. Thank you very much. And so, tariq, we need to talk about Archeoastronomy and cultural astronomy. Yes, so let's do that as soon as we come back from this break. Stay with us. Okay, tariq? I've hogged the show too long, why don't you?

0:47:32 - Tariq Malik
do the kickoff here. Well, I did not know that archaeoastronomy was even a thing until I met you, dr Krupp, that first time back in 1997, and you had given this wonderful talk. You were dressed in your garb too, your wizard garb, for that discussion.

And so I was really. I mean, just like I didn't know that you could be a space reporter when I found out that that was a job. I didn't know that you could be an archaeoastronomer as well, and I was just hoping that you could give us like a bit of a glimpse in our listeners as well, of course about the role it has, what it is and how it is this great kind of story and path that lets us understand the people that came before us and how they had a connection with the night sky, so that we too can appreciate our connection with the night sky. And I guess the place to start there is what is archaeoastronomy and what is it that you do to try to piece it together?

0:48:30 - Ed Krupp
Well, first you have it right there in a nutshell. The examination of our ancestors' interaction with the sky is obviously interesting from the perspective of who are they and what did they do. But it also illuminates our own bond, our own relationship with the sky, which is not identical to that of our ancestors, but something that we don't necessarily think about, at least as diligently or perhaps as helpfully as we could, in understanding who we are and what we should do next, of course, which is always our crucial decision. But the whole business of archaeoastronomy is really just the study of ancient and prehistoric and traditional astronomy. So it's not modern astronomy and it's not quite the history of astronomy, although that's a very close neighbor to it. But the difference primarily with history and so-called archaeoastronomy is that the history of astronomy relies on written texts. With archaeoastronomy, your evidence is a lot looser Monuments, and that's really how it began with prehistoric monuments. And it really began with places like Stonehenge, where it was argued, and particularly effectively in the 1960s, by an astronomer, gerald Hawkins, that Stonehenge was intentionally aligned and he claimed, as an astronomical observatory and computer. Well, in the decades that have passed, I think it's fair to say we've grown much more sophisticated about this evidence and about the past, and archaeoastronomy is probably far better looked upon as something that falls in the realm of cultural astronomy.

How does the relationship with the sky affect human culture in the past and in the present? But the investigation of alignments of prehistoric monuments is certainly part of this story, but it involves, in fact you mentioned archaeoastronomers, and I'm not even sure there really are archaeoastronomers, that is, maybe there shouldn't be archaeoastronomers. It's a multidisciplinary inquiry. You've got artists, you've got art historians, you've got archaeologists, you've got anthropologists, you've got architects, you've got astronomers, you've got people who are historians of religion. All of these people are bringing their specialized knowledge to this particular focus to see if we can illuminate a little bit more about how people see the sky. So it might be the ancient Maya and where they have minimal records that have survived for us. But we can read some of that and realize that they tracked the planet Venus and others with remarkable accuracy over a period of centuries and developed calendars that were crucial for their society to.

0:51:23 - Tariq Malik
Someone say infamous calendars. I was going to ask about the Maya calendar as a popular example, because people know what that is. Could you just add to it? But was that just a quick follow-up? Was that something that sparked your interest early in your astronomical studies, or did you discover it later and then find out just how deep that rabbit hole goes back through time?

0:51:52 - Ed Krupp
Yeah, I think that archaeology is sort of like dinosaurs and astronomy, that most kids sort of come up against that and they find some romance in it. And I was no different. But I didn't really pursue that or look at it very closely until I was out of grad school and in fact working my first year here at Griffith Observatory and anticipating this remarkable thing after six years of graduate school that as an employee of the city of Los Angeles I would be entitled to a two-week vacation.

One year later and I thought I ought to use that time well, and there were a couple of snags.

It's not worth repeating the full story now, but the bottom line is I decided to go to Britain to have a look at these prehistoric monuments because a book by a gentleman named Alexander Tom a really an engineer, a professor of engineering in Scotland, and the key book was called Megalithic Lunar Observatories. Well, I knew what Megalithic is big stones I knew what lunar is that's the moon and I knew what observatories were, but I didn't know how they fit together and so I decided I'd go and have a look at them. And the charm is in those days you could take, in that case I was gone for three weeks, a three-week trip to Britain. Look at all of these sites in Scotland and England. Come back and you were an expert, and so, by becoming an expert after a vacation, it opened up a lot of doors and you find, well, there's a handful of people looking at things like medicine wheels and the Rockies, the Maya stuff in Mexico, here and there, and I started looking at the things that other people weren't looking at.

0:53:38 - Rod Pyle
Yeah, wonderful. So I have a two-part question. It's been written that you visited somewhere upwards of 2,000 sites in your career, which is a lot, and I guess my two-part question is which one of those really stand out in your mind for either being magnificent or just an incredible accomplishment for the culture of the time, and is there anything that people in the Southern California or Western States area might think of as regional? That's significant.

0:54:10 - Ed Krupp
Yeah, those are really good questions and it's impossible, given my mentality, to say, ah, this is really the place. But let me mention a couple of examples of things that might generate a little sense of the color, for one place that I really love is the village of Walpie. This is a Hopi village on 1st Mesa. This is in northeast Arizona, and we know exactly what the sunchief did at the village of Walpie because an anthropologist was there at the end of the 19th century, wrote it down, drew pictures, and you can go, you can visit to Walpie today and you can look at the places where the sunchief went the top of the house of the bear clan and out to the far end of the front of the mesa. There's nothing marked there, there's nothing there that would tell you this was the key place for doing astronomy at that village, and yet it was. And so I found it very entertaining and very satisfying to be walking at Walpie, where you're not permitted to photograph, but just being on the property of a known astronomer at that village at a particular time.

The other place I want to mention, totally different, is the temple of Hattor at Dendera in Egypt. The temple of Hattor is completely covered with astronomical imagery. The main hall filled with columns. Up at the high ceiling, 50 feet over your head, is every element of that. Ceiling maps, not like a sky map but as a symbolic device, the stars that were important to the Egyptians, names them, all, the constellations, things we can recognize, we can't, the hours of the day, and so on. And when I first went to see that place it was still pretty muddy from the smoke that had been allowed to gather up there over a couple thousand, well, multiple thousands years. The Egyptians recently have cleaned that building up and it is gorgeous. The murals have survived and it's one of those places I'd like to go back to and see now that it's in its glory.

And then, finally, you asked about what about here regionally? Here's the trouble. We know that California Indians really did astronomy. We know quite a bit about it from ethnography Right here in Southern California. Much of it is associated with places that we don't know specifically or places that are very restricted to access, places that where the tribes like the Chumash painted in rock shelters and such, and these have been explored and examined for their astronomical potential. Most of them don't have it, but a few do, and throughout the state. So some of those are exquisite places but unfortunately their fragility and the restriction to access to them doesn't make them public places. You really have to learn about them remotely and I suspect, as the years go by, more and more of the virtual reality will be bringing places like that to people online.

0:57:20 - Tariq Malik
I had the pleasure of doing some tours of the Southwest in high school. We went through Chaco Canyon and the like and I remember being struck at dwellings with windows cut in the corners that were clearly to let the night sky landmarks through or daytime landmarks through to help track this guy. I do have a question that might need some imagination for the future, but I'm wondering what, if anything, stands out to you today that in 200, 300, 500 years people can use to look back at our version of Archeoastronomy In New York. We're based in New York. People talk about the night sky on top of the Grand Central Terminal, for example, where you can see five stars right.

I know, I know, but you know what? Do you think the future is going to be? Like that? We're leaving behind to say this is how we understood it, going forward.

0:58:24 - Ed Krupp
Well, first, I do want to applaud the ceiling at Grand Central Terminal because it's really one of those wonderful monuments, and I even did a paper on stars on the ceiling, this tradition of painting the ceiling with the sky and why this makes sense in architecture that goes all the way back from the oldest period in Egypt right up to the present, and Grand Central Terminal is part of that, and in fact, it's interesting that that's in New York, where you really can't see stars and yet people like it. It's a way for them to bond, just as Manhattanhenge is now the. The fortuitous alignment of the grid plan of New York City gives you a day when the sun sets dramatically and they close the streets. For God's sake, they do.

0:59:10 - Tariq Malik
They do. It's around the corner from our office and they crowd the bridges and everything just to watch the sunset.

0:59:19 - Ed Krupp
So you know, if those, if myths of those ancient events persist somehow and the old grid plan of New York is maintained a few centuries from now, maybe people will be exploring that. And I often have speculated about people coming up to the old ruins of Palomar Observatory, long after it's stripped to its foundations, and what in the world could they? They tell about what was going on? And it would be very limited. They would. They would probably see some cardinal orientation to north, southeast and west and some curiously placed buildings, but it would otherwise be very mystifying. And so in fact it's. It's really for us, if people want to know how we remain bonded with the sky. It's probably not going to be in monumental architecture, it's probably not even going to be in places on the ground. It's far more likely to be in all of those graphic images that we wind up putting on the internet. Wow, wow.

1:00:25 - Rod Pyle
So so I have two questionaries left to address, and the first one is the the sales of, if you want to call it that are marketing, I guess is a better term of science to the public. So I think we both been contacted by and possibly worked with ancient aliens and shows of this type. There's a, there's a new spin off called William Shatner's unexplained that I've done some work with, and that that's the show. The unexplained is working a little harder to stay with science. I can't say that I think ancient aliens is doing too much, but but there is some effort there to bring that a little more into alignment with things that I think we both believe. But just in broader terms, these shows are so. Ancient aliens is on its 14th season, so clearly it's popular. It's an easy sell. When you sort of push things up to that level, people get excited and it's a lot easier than what you do and probably than what I do. How do you address that near outreach in your philosophy of educating people?

1:01:30 - Ed Krupp
Well, I think, rod, it just goes back to that same fundamental principle, which is, at least as a starting point, just the facts, that our job really is to concentrate on those things that lots of people even if it's not everybody, lots of people recognize are useful, interesting and engaging for them. And that really begins with the direct experience of the night sky for us, since we're astronomy, so we're in the business of putting people eyeball to the universe so that they have not a indirect sense of what's going on, but it's meaningful to them for being in a place with their own eyes looking at something. And I think that that is always a vehicle for expanding the individual's sense of a greater world out there and what in detail it is. There's no way you can beat back all of the idiocy in the world. There never has been.

I mean Holden Caulfield and the Catcher in the Rye put it very succinctly when he did, and we encountered the same kind of thing at a different scale back in the 60s and 70s, except then it had more to do with books that would come out and you would, from time to time you could do lectures, and in fact the Center for Inquiry, which is a national organization tries to deal with pseudoscience in that respect, and I think every time you get one of these efforts to knock down something that you know is patently false, it's worth doing, but it's not something that everybody can do all the time. You just do what you can, you just do the best you can, and we're never going to stop everybody from watching the ancient aliens or anything like that, and we contribute to this problem ourselves. Every time we talk about the supermoon, the supermoon is going to be coming out and you ought to go look at it, and in fact, there is no way anybody can tell the difference between the supermoon and the plain old regular moon Absolutely.

But two things happen. One, they go out and they look at it, which is great. And then the second thing is it's a self-fulfilling prophecy, because that moon on the horizon looking big is an illusion. It's a centuries-old known illusion and we don't even quite fully understand it. But they see the moon looks big and therefore it's the supermoon. So how are we going to make sure that people understand that correctly? I think you just keep saying it over and over and over again and some of them do and some of them don't.

1:04:08 - Rod Pyle
Well, and you just planted a seed because we're sitting here. The reason Tarik is cringing right now is the curse of sitting here with Dr Clickbait. You know it's got to happen because that's.

1:04:18 - Tariq Malik
I don't do clickbait, but I lean fully into supermoon.

1:04:23 - Rod Pyle
No, no super blood serpent, willow moon.

1:04:27 - Ed Krupp
There was one that was blue, but I'm not faulting you, you know 2015. Keep in mind, keep in mind that this is good for astronomy, and the only thing is, every once in a while we get a little subversive. And we tried to promote the mini moon for a while. We found that people didn't pick up on it and then, independently, some folks elsewhere in the country have now started focusing on that one too.

1:04:50 - Rod Pyle
So, when you got the smallest moon, but if I remember correctly, you did some I don't remember the titles but basically ancient astronomy shows at the observatory not too long after the era of crazy Vondonica, and that was both embracing the notion of archaeoastronomy but also trying to address some of these exaggerations, do I remember correctly?

1:05:13 - Ed Krupp
Yeah, you do. We did programs like that, and there were a couple of planetarium shows, lecture series and a couple of planetarium shows were organized and, in fact, the last chapter of my first book, which was one of the early books on archaeoastronomy and what was going on, that last chapter was all about these astronomical myths that are associated with ancient monuments, to try to show how you distinguish one kind of study from the other. So that is actually part of the heritage here, and it continued right up, of course, until we had the whole 2012 end of the universe Maya calendar. And I want you to know that Griffith Observatory deliberately stayed open to one minute past midnight, that is, after the 21st of December, to ensure that the world didn't end, and we were successful.

1:06:05 - Rod Pyle
Well, I'm very glad that you did that, because you probably kept it from happening. And closing, I'd just like to ask you've written a number of sensational books. Do you have any new ones on the way and any other projects planned with either the observatory or on your own, that you'd like to discuss?

1:06:22 - Ed Krupp
Well, you're very kind to ask that. Two quick elements of that. No new books on the way, but the last one. The observatory actually published a lovely book called Public Astronomy Los Angeles Style, which is about unknown history of the development of popular astronomy in Los Angeles. And of course, griffith Observatory is a key part of that, and that's available at the Griffith Observatory website, griffithobservatoryorg, or at the Stellar Emporium here on site.

No other publications really underway for me at the moment, but we do have a number of projects that are brewing for 2024. We're focusing on the major standstill of the moon happens every 18.6 years and we've got alignments here and there are a couple other places where we're going to be doing remote live stream broadcasts of those. We're producing a giant sculpture to go into Gravity's stairway which connects the historic level down below That'll come in in 2024, related to the earliest constellations. And then, finally, we're producing a film for Pacific Standard Time, the Getty Foundation Initiative, and this year it's all about art and science collide and so we're doing a rather unexpected film that will play here daily multiple times in the Leonard Nimoy event horizon, when that thing is finished late in 2024.

1:07:49 - Rod Pyle
Well, that's great and I just want to thank you and I want to thank our audience for joining us today for our discussion about Griffith Observatory and ancient astronomy. Dr Krupp, where can people keep track of your upcoming activities, books and everything else?

1:08:06 - Ed Krupp
I don't know that they can keep track of me, but they should keep track of Griffith Observatory and there at the website, which is GriffithObservatoryorg, and, of course, griffith Observatory Foundation, which is also right there at the website, and the foundation is the place that really does some of the sort of the immediate announcements and things that are taking place, and so you definitely want to connect with them. In fact, everybody should join Griffith Observatory Foundation.

1:08:34 - Rod Pyle
Just make it easier for you. Okay, you heard it here. Folks, After you've joined ClubTwit, make sure you go join Griffith Observatory Foundation, Tark. Where can we keep track of where you're wasting your time on video games these days?

1:08:46 - Tariq Malik
Well, I don't think it's a waste. It's constructive eye hand coordination, right? No, you'll find me on spacecom, as always, or on Twitter at TarkJ Malik. This weekend I'll be waiting with Bated Brett to see how the Falcon Heavy by SpaceX fares when it launches an X-37B secret mission for the US Space Force. That'll be really exciting on Sunday, and looking ahead to the Gemini Meteor Shower and the occultation of Beetlejuice Beetlejuice buy an asteroid on.

1:09:19 - Rod Pyle
December 12th. All right, you're lucky it didn't show up in your lap. And, of course, you can always find me at pilebookscom and at astromagazinecom. Don't forget to drop us a line at twits. At twittv, that's T-W-I-S. At twittv, you welcome your comments, suggestions and ideas and answer each and every email. Don't forget to check out spacecom, the websites of the name and the National Space Society at nssorg for our brand new, redesigned website. Thank you very much, rod. Everything that you want love about space is there New episodes of this podcast published every Friday on your favorite pod catcher.

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