Minneapolis is getting a new planetarium!

I’m so used to seeing nothing but bad news, it’s surprising to see a community actually making a substantial investment in its educational infrastructure. We’re adding a $40+ million planetarium to the downtown library. That’s terrific!

It also adds a useful perspective. Remember how appalled we all were (and are) that Answers in Genesis could raise $27 million for a creationist museum? Well, that is a lot of money, and it’s depressing that slack-jawed yokels would sink that much cash into an edifice to ignorance, but on the grand scale of what real educational institutions have to spend to build and maintain genuine museums and planetariums and similar facilities for public edification, it’s a cheap outfit.

Cosmic Variance brings up John McCain’s opinion of planetariums. He’s ag’in ’em. Of course, with McCain and Palin, one has to wonder if they even know what they are.


  1. says

    on the grand scale of what real educational institutions have to spend to build and maintain genuine museums and planetariums and similar facilities for public edification, it’s a cheap outfit.

    The conspiracy shall prevail!

    Just think, all that money spent to promote perspectives only because they’re supported by the evidence. It’s hardly fair, for how is ID/creationism to compete when it has neither the money nor the evidence that their opponents have?

    Glen D

  2. Mr P says

    Well, Genesis 1:14 does say that lights in the firmament are to be used for signs and telling seasons… The fundies will count this as a win somehow.

    BTW, that rebook add is annoying as heck.

  3. Doug says

    “on the grand scale of what real educational institutions have to spend to build and maintain genuine museums and planetariums and similar facilities for public edification, it’s a cheap outfit”

    I’ll say. The new California Academy of Sciences, set to open this Saturday, cost $484 million to build (and most of that was garnered with private donations).

  4. tsg says

    BTW, that rebook add is annoying as heck.

    If you mouse over it, it goes away.

    But, yeah, any advertisement that won’t stay within its boundaries ought to be flogged and shot at dawn.

  5. says

    A planetarium? Right next to the central library? Yay! Somewhere new to take the kids when we visit family is always a welcome thing.

    I can’t believe that people would actually vote against that. Well, okay, I can believe it but I don’t really want to believe.

  6. Barry says

    You should check out the Fox News site. A bit on a Ahmadinejad visit has sparked a video interview with….Bill Donohue!! Not just a name anymore! You can see him in action! What a shock, I thought he was much younger. What does that have to do with a planetarium? I don’t know.

  7. says

    Great news for Minneapolis. Now if Toronto would only re-open the McLaughlin, in moth-balls for the last decade or more :-(. The place has nostalgia value to me, being a RASC member back in high school, in the 70’s.

  8. SEF says

    I hope it’s a good planetarium with decent shows then instead of the horribly dummed down thing the, previously great, London Planetarium became.

  9. SteveM says

    Congratulations to the Minneapolisians(?).


    Regardless, good news on the planetarium! Congratulations.

  10. Qwerty says

    As Minneapolis is my hometown, I think we are called Minneapolites although I’d accept Minneapolitans.

    Anyhow, I still remember going to the planetarium at the old library when I was a child. So, here’s to the new library and its new planetarium.

    It’s also on Hennepin Avenue which has lots of bars and cafes in which you can imbide some beer and/or food before or after your visit.

  11. Dahan says

    I will never forget how the people of Minnesota voted overwhelmingly to raise their own taxes by 140 million dollars to build a new central library only to have Gov Pawlenty and other Republicans then attempt to scuttle the project and use that money to pay for other things because of their “No new taxes” pledge. Eventually they had to back down because of public anger, but it just shows you how little regard these people have for the will of the people and how beholden they are to groups like the Taxpayers League, who are happy to have bridges fall down around us as long as they don’t have to pay their fair share of taxes.
    Long live the planetarium. Another place to take my nephews and nieces when they’re in town.

  12. Sid says


    Yeah, people who oppose new taxes are happy having bridges fall down. Way to FAIL at thinking there. Meanwhile, beyond the land of Simpleminded Monochrome, it might be that some folks think they are already paying their fair share, and that the idiot politicians are blowing the existing revenue on bullshit waste and corruption. Get your fucking hands out of my wallet, your head out of your ass, and get the government houses in order before waddling up to the public trough again. That too much ask? Probably for simpletons like you who never met a tax they didn’t orgasm over and have the economics wisdom of a dead rat. Now, shouldn’t you be out somewhere chanting a slogan?

  13. Dahan says

    Sid, you are an idiot.
    What have you ever done for your country besides complain about having to pay for our way of life?
    I served my country as a Marine. I expect I work as hard as you do or harder. I’m a small business owner who understands the difficulties of such. I help out in my community. I take the time to learn about how tax proposals and other parts of legislation will effect all of us before making decisions. I have old fashioned values like “Pay as you go”.
    You rant. You hate. You act like living here is a privilege. You are a knee-jerk reactionary. You think only short term and of yourself. You, are pathetic.
    Feel free to post any other tired old cliches any time, “Get your fucking hands out of my wallet…” Snort! You are a sad little man, aren’t you?
    Oh, I do have to ask though, is this a Poe? It seems like it almost has to be, but I’ll bite.

  14. says

    That is great news! I’m now inspired to visit our little planetarium with the kids. I just have to work it around the events at the natural history museum this weekend.

  15. RJ says


    Well, maintaining infrastructure requires revenue. Perhaps corruption and waste siphon off enough to do this, perhaps not – all we have is your bare claim. You’re not clear on what you think is wasteful, but I have a feeling I would not agree with your views here.

    Lots of people are paying more than their fair share, others much less. You don’t strike me as the sort of person concerned with this – the money for those yaughts and performance cars could be going to schools instead.

    Without government spending, your wallet would not be safe, nor you (in the real world, not the fantasy of Nozick readers). By the way, tax rates were higher in the 70’s than they are now – and so was the average standard of living.

    Why do you insult Dahan so? There is plenty of evidence that on the whole, the anti-tax people are the problem, not those asking for new programs. They might be wrong, but not everyone that disagrees with you is an idiot, you know.

  16. Dahan says

    One more question for you Sid, Want to see who’s is bigger? Tell me how many years of Business School you attended and I’ll tell you how many I did.
    “…economics wisdom of a dead rat.” Lol! You only wish.

  17. H.H. says

    No, Sid isn’t happy when bridges fall. It’s worse than that. He’s actually convinced himself that the short-sighted no-tax policies of the political scoundrels he’s voted into office aren’t responsible for all infrastructure crumbling apart. He’s simply delusional.

  18. Holbach says

    Ah, a building of worth! A building for the advancement of science, and a subject which enthralls me!

    Rginald Selkirk @ 2
    That picture was on the Astronomy Picture of the Day for Tuesday. There is so much fascinating stuff out there that we still have not seen yet, but could if we did not waste time screwing around with wars and religious diversions.
    And to think that the Deranged Museum in Kentucky is bringing in the demented rabble hordes to look at utter nonsense. We have our heads up in the stars, while their’s is up their asses looking for their imaginary god.

  19. Christopher says


    The London Planetarium’s show is much more popular now – it’s absolutely packed with stars. Show-biz stars. They’ve dropped the astronomy altogether. :-(

    From Wikipedia:

    In 2006 the Planetarium was rebranded and renamed the Star Dome. The Star Dome is part of the Madame Tussauds attraction and is included in the ticket price. Please note that we no longer show astronomy-based shows.

    London has no planetarium. How great is that?

  20. BobC says

    I thought jbw in #5 was joking. A candidate for president would never call an educational science museum “foolishness”. Of course I was wrong. I forgot how brain-dead the Republicans are.

    “That’s nearly a million every day, every working day he’s been in Congress,” McCain said. “And when you look at some of the planetariums and other foolishness that he asked for, he shouldn’t be saying anything about Governor Palin.”

  21. Zop says

    Wow. That is going to be one cool building.

    I agree that the Answers in Genitals should be raised to the ground as an abomination to common decency. The really scary thing is that I mentioned it to a friend who is a muslim and he couldn’t see anything wrong with it (AiG). Even said that “fossils don’t mean much as God could have put them there”. I was speechless. Now I am on my own little crusade to educate him. Starting with this blog and The God Delusion! If that doesn’t work does anyone know of any other tried and tested techniques for opening their minds to evidence? I can’t afford to trap him on a desert island until he comes round!

    A little OT but a UK Catholic school has banned the HPV vaccine from being administered on its premises. What a sad state of affairs.

  22. LightningRose says

    McDumbya thinks planetariums are “foolishness”?

    He needs to drop a tab and go see a Laserium show featuring “The Dark Side of the Moon”.

  23. Steve Ulven says

    I used to work a block from the library, watched the old one go down and the new one go up. It is a really nice library. I do miss my parking priveledges, though. I can’t wait until it is finally finished. It really didn’t take them long to put up that library in the first place. I hope the planetarium goes up even quicker.

  24. H.H. says

    Zop, it’s razed, not raised, but an understandable mistake as they are homonyms. And secondly, in my opinion, Sagan’s “Demon-Haunted World” is a better book than TGD on why evidence matters in the first place. Perhaps your friend will realize that a god that fakes fossils is equivalent to the invisible dragon that breathes heatless fire and lives in my garage.

  25. Zop says

    H.H. You are quite correct.. shows that I sometimes get a little overly excited about these issues. I have not read Demon-Haunted World but I will be off to the bookstore shortly – thanks on both counts

  26. Alan Chapman says

    #17 Dahan: If it’s, in fact, true that the people of Minnesota voted to raise their own taxes to build a library then they already had it within their means to do this. Afterall, it makes no sense that people would impose a tax upon themselves which they could not pay. Furthermore, did not the same people who “overwhelmingly” voted for the tax increase also elect the governor and others?

  27. Jadehawk says

    whee, a library/planetarium! One more reason to someday move to Minneapolis. If only I wasn’t a Starving Artist, hehe…

    @Alan Chapman:

    that’s the difference between direct democracy and representative democracy. you only get to pick the least of two (well, usually two) evils when you vote for the governor etc. and it’s really just one big, stupid popularity contest (and the one with the richest supporters usually wins). voting on issues directly though is a different animal and actually shows what the people really want.

  28. Dahan says

    Alan Chapman,
    It is true that we voted to raise our own taxes. It was a referendum that passed easily in 2000.
    As far as it being within the people’s means because they voted for it, you’re using very bad logic I’m afraid. People often spend money they don’t have or shouldn’t be spending. That’s why we have credit cards. However, people also do things like invest in their education, looking to long term benefit, while facing short term difficulties. Could you clarify yourself here?
    Next, concerning them electing a governor; yes, they voted Pawlenty into office. However, just because you vote someone into office doesn’t mean that you will or should agree or go along with everything they will propose, as was evidenced by the public’s reaction when he tried to divert the funds. It’s not like he ran on a platform of “Take the money away from the Library!” It was only later that he showed himself to be a complete ass. If Obama was voted into office and he then said we should give Texas back to Mexico, would you say “Well, it’s the will of the people, we voted him in.”? Again, I’m a little unclear of your point.

  29. QrazyQat says

    It’s good to see Minnesota still upholds some of the ideals that made me proud to be raised there. The school I went to in Rochester — Mayo High School, the year it opened — had a full-sized planetarium. Back then we Minnesotans were proud of things like that; even the GOP-leaning Rochesterites (unusual in that Democratic-leaning time for the state) liked the idea of spending public money for education.

  30. uncle frogy says

    SIR :
    How are we supposed to pay for the services of government without paying taxes ?
    Where is the money going to come from?
    The cost of everything I have to buy seems to be high. How about you?

  31. rob says

    i am happy that we are getting a planetarium again. i was sad when they tore it down with the old library then built the library without a new one. i used to love going there on field trips when i was a kid.

  32. Frederik Rosenkjær says

    Congratulations to Minnesotans! Our planetarium in Copenhagen also show a lot of Omnimax movies about dinosaurs – which I guess is also great with regard to the Ham Museum.

  33. says

    @ #39.

    While it’s true that we pay for our services, usually lowered taxes come in the presence of economic booms (it’s a chicken and egg argument conservatives are happy to make) and government funding increases anyway as a result of excess income and profit (in terms of corporate taxes).

    Every government program requires taxes, but those taxes don’t necessarily have to be high to fund a successful program.

    That’s not to say Dahan is correct. His argument has some strawmen, it’s just a waste of time to point to taxes, where the argument is somewhat valid.

  34. Dahan says

    uncle frogy @ 39,
    “SIR :
    How are we supposed to pay for the services of government without paying taxes ?
    Where is the money going to come from?”

    I’m the one who is advocating to pay taxes to pay for services. I am having a dialogue with others who seem less inclined to believe so. You seem to be misreading something.

  35. Dahan says


    You make some very valid points. The main point of my original comment back at #17 was that our lamentable governor tried to divert money, against the will of the people, for a highly popular project.
    Sid chose to attack me over the very broad topic of taxes, where there are many shades of gray, and to propose that I’m some sort of idiot. Unlike him, you seem to be someone I could have a meaningful conversation with.
    Maybe later. I’m out of time for now.

  36. Benjamin Franklin says

    Silly McCain – Stars are for kids!

    Makes PZ’s comments even more applicable when he originally said that McCain’s responses to the science questionaire were not to be trusted or beleived. I believe the phrase “bullshit” was used, AFAIKR.

  37. Quiet_Desperation says

    Well, I’m one of those rare people who don’t mind spending on science, but I would like to see some amount of cleverness.

    I can’t help wondering if there’s a better way to do a planetarium. On another blog there was a discussion of $3 million for a new projector for the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. I’m think Imax has a $1.5 million machine that is a digital projection system. It could just as easily driven by real time CGI as a video stream. You’d have a modern, flexible and highly reprogrammable system rather than some sort of specialized and expensive traditional projector.

    And then I read, for example, that *multiple* hospitals here in Southern California was taking homeless people off the street, putting them in beds and making up illnesses for them so they could bill Medicare and Medical, and I basically give up hope. :-( No one is watching the watchers. Or watchees. Or something.


    Maybe we need to start letting GAO agents carry guns. I mean, hey, those pansies over in the Treasury Department get to!

  38. says

    I am thrilled by this news and thankful to see it mentioned on Pharyngula. I’m involved in the leadership trying to bring this new Minnesota Planetarium into the Universe. The plaudits in this thread are heartening. In case anyone wants more information here are some further sources:

    http://mplanetarium.org is the site maintained by the Minnesota Planetarium Society, which will be the non-profit, non-governmental entity charged with raising the final $18.5 million privately. Please look around at our exciting plans and know that an energetic public awareness and fund raising campaign will now begin! Like too many other worthy science initiatives, we will be depending on substantial private sponsors to make this a reality. Consider a membership (as low as $30) if you’d like to play a modest financial part in our inaugural efforts. http://mplanetarium.org/support.htm

    Thanks PZ! Ad astra!

  39. says

    I should add that if anyone has questions about the planetarium, you can post here or shoot me an email, and I will be happy to answer them.

  40. Holbach says

    If McCain should, by sheer numbers of the deranged voters, make it to the white house, I believe that relgion will have a foothold even more than it does now and we will have to go through a trial of superstitious crap in all manner of nonsense. The turnip will become our national food if not the national symbol, and planetariums may be converted into creation museums, thereby assuring that each state will have one to embalm the masses. Scary.

  41. Quiet_Desperation says

    I should add that if anyone has questions about the planetarium

    What’s the projection system? Any data online about it?

  42. Elliott says

    I wonder if the two who voted against this project voted for Hennepin County building the new Twins Ball Park at ‘Tagret Field’ a few years back when the people of Minneapolis, myself included had voted so strongly against city money going into this project.

    Interestingly enough slimy Norm Coleman is another big booster for since and a rightwing nut job. All I can say is the wrong candidate died in a plane crash here in MN six years ago!

  43. Holbach says

    Navin @ 48

    My heartfelt thanks for your work in bringing a planetarium to Minneapolis, a city that surely deserves a symbol of science. Astronomy is a real crowd pleaser, and like me, I hope people will expand beyond the photos and superlatives and delve into it more with enthusiasm. My hero is the great Hubble Space Telescope, and has been since it went up to peer into the wonders of our Universe.

  44. bernard quatermass says

    Going out on a limb here, but I suspect we might see a proliferation of planetaria as the stars become more and more difficult to see due to light pollution.

    It bugs me to think of kids camping out in the places I used to frequent as a kid, looking up and seeing nothing but washed-out grey-orange. I can’t even begin to adequately express my loathing for the overpopulation, hyperconsumption and ignorance that makes such shite possible.

    In the teaser for the classic Outer Limits episode The Sixth Finger, the super-evolved David McCallum says to a policeman who pulls a gun on him “your ignorance makes me ill and angry,” and proceeds to waste him with a gout of brain energy.

    I feel like that a lot of the time.

  45. Tom (the Belfast one) says

    I’m 50 now, and one of my most vivid memories is when I was 13. The school trip was to the small but well presented planetarium in Armagh, Northern Ireland. As the lights went down and the commentary started, I was switched on in awe to the universe and our ability through science to reach it – in our minds at least. That visit made a massive difference to my life.

    When I hear of John McCain describe planetariums as foolishness, the phrase that springs to mind is “pearls before swine” (no lipstick necessary).

  46. bernard quatermass says

    Tom @ 54:

    “I’m 50 now, and one of my most vivid memories is when I was 13. The school trip was to the small but well presented planetarium in Armagh, Northern Ireland. As the lights went down and the commentary started, I was switched on in awe to the universe and our ability through science to reach it – in our minds at least. That visit made a massive difference to my life.”

    This is great to hear. I have worked in a planetarium — a very traditional one, where we did “star shows” that were not pre-recorded — & it was unfortunate to see that for the most part the thing was considered a thing to unload the kids on/in/into. Many parents even referred to our shows as “the movie,” which led to the inevitable disappointment.

    Still, you always hope that one kid will walk away with something more, as you did.

  47. pumpkinpie says

    I work on the planetarium project also. We are not yet at the stage where have decided on projection systems. With planetarium technology changing so quickly, everyone in the industry advises to wait until about a year before the planetarium opens to make that decision. The construction will take longer than that so we aren’t ready for the decision quite yet. We are researching it though, and have been for many years.

    Currently we have a portable planetarium with projection technology designed by the Elumenati. Our programming is done with the software Uniview, developed by the Swedish company SCISS, and stemming from the Digital Universe project at New York’s Hayden Planetarium.


    Thanks for the well wishes everybody. It’s a very exciting day for the Minnesota Planetarium Society!

  48. says

    Quiet_Desperation @ 50

    I believe the projection system is still to be determined, but I forwarded your question to a colleague to see if any decisions have been made. I know it will be capable of both star shows and digital video. Also in our portable outreach “ExploraDome” that travels to schools, we are using, and are quite impressed with Uniview…


    …but that doesn’t necessarily

  49. says

    Elliott @ 51:

    I wonder if the two who voted against this project voted for Hennepin County building the new Twins Ball Park

    They both voted against the ballpark.

    Holbach @ 52:
    I feel ya. Thanks.

    Tom @ 53:
    You are not alone. Thanks.

  50. Karey says

    Some have tried to say that McCain wasn’t criticizing spending on planetariums necessarily, but criticizing that Obama wanted to get them paid for through earmarks. To which I call bullshit. Even if that was what he was doing, which I don’t believe, he seized on the planetarium example because he thinks it sounds frivolous and stupid. And sounding anti-science is a vote-getter among the cretins in our country. If the most frivolous thing McCain can can find Obama spending money on is a planetarium, I’m afraid that makes Obama sound pretty well-prioritized. Going to fun science-education places as a kid made me who I am today. For me it was the lawrence hall of science.

  51. Qwerty says

    NO, NO, NO, I think you have it wrong. John McCain is against a planetarium that Obama has earmarked for $3 million dollars, but I am sure he is for planetairums earmarked by good old boy Republicans! Or hockey arenas earmarked by born-again prolife Republican women!

  52. edrowland says

    I’d be very concerned about whether compelling programming can really be put together for planetariums in a multimedia saturated world. The general experience with planetariums and planetarium programming hasn’t been very encouraging. Even the old London Planetarium, which dates back to the victorian age was never really a success.

    I’d urge you to look at the history of Toronto’s MgLaughlin Planetarium. Built in the 70s, it lumped along for many years on mediocre programming, and mostly empty seats. By the late seventies it was clear that it would never be a puiblic success. For a brief period in the late 70s and 80s, planetarium programming virtually ceased altogether, replaced with laser light shows. It now sits abandonded, and unloved, windows boarded up, and the planetarium entirely dark. The planetarium projector is no longer; it was removed so that the building could be used as a childrens’ musuem after the planetarium ceased to operate.

    My concern: laser light shows aren’t the gee-whiz phenomenon they used to be, and I suspect that psychedelic drug use is much lower now than it was then. Even the laser lightshows were deadly dull for those of us who went without benefit of chemically-enhanced consciousness. As for planetarium programming itself, the novelty of stars projected on a domed roof lasts for all of about 30 seconds; replaced with the irritation of having to watch film projected in unnatural shaps, and angles on a surface that couldnt’ be less optimal for projecting film onto.

    Commendable intentions; but I wonder whether all that money couldn’t be put to better use for programming in a good general-purpose science museum

  53. SEF says

    The London Planetarium was extremely successful from my point of view. Which included, as an important factor, it being the only place in the world I’d ever stopped sneezing, wheezing and dripping with allergies and asthma for a significant amount of time (viz all the time we were in there). It worked almost at once, on entering the ultra-clean air zone needed for the optics. I kept wanting to go back again and again. The show was very good too, several decades back.

  54. uncle frogy says


    I apologize I saw the mistake I made in haste but I had all ready sent it.
    I live in California and once we were one of the most successful “countries” in the world with a wonderful education system and support for the arts and sciences were high. Then we elected the pretend cowboy the actor as governor and proposition 13 and things have never been the same again.
    I get a little nuts when I hear the anti-tax BS. When we turn from investing in the future to protecting the present we insure that we will be longing for the past before long.
    I hope that the new planetarium will be a great success. Los Angeles just completed the remodelling of the venerable Griffith Park Observatory.

    prepare for the future for that is where we will be living!

  55. says

    Great news for Minneapolis! At least someone with control of purse-strings in America is doing something right.

    Until quite recently I used to run a portable planetarium that I’d take out to schools around South Australia (one of the old Starlab Stardomes – the projector was basically a light bulb inside a plastic drum pepperred with holes and tiny lenses). Even a basic planetarium without the expensive digital whistles and bells can be an amazing experience as long as the presenter has enthusiasm for the subject and some decent background knowledge. As well as showing the stars and constellations, I’d talk about the stories behind them and humankind’s amazing ability to string together narratives (without which, science would be impossible) – plus, of course, good stuff on what we can tell about the makeup of a star by looking carefully at its light, and other such things. I’d always end with a brief chat about supernovae, nebulae and Carl Sagan’s ‘we are all star stuff’ – a fact that has the power to bring goosebumps to anyone willing to invest a moment of thought.

    I loved that stardome, but it eventually fell apart – 9 or 10 years on the road was eventually too much for it. But one of the best moments of my life as a science communicator was after I’d just presented a planetarium show at a public fair – one of the older gentlemen in the crowd came up and told me that he’d visited the planetarium in London a few years before and, though he was amazed at the stunning visuals, hadn’t felt that he understood any of it until my little 30 minute piece in an inflated canvas bag. I still feel distinctly chuffed remembering that.

  56. Dahan says

    uncle frogy @ 65,
    Thanks for the clarification. No worries, we all, yours truly included, do that sort of thing time to time. That’s why I didn’t jump down your throat. Yeah, I know. Frog. Throat. That sad line was intentional.
    Keep up the hard work of being rational and maybe I’ll see you in December when I’m visiting your great state… OK, um, probably not come to think of it, since it is a REALLY big state and I don’t know you… oh well.