Montreal’s Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium continues to be one of the city’s most educational and entertaining attractions. With its ever evolving roster of shows, this popular venue, part of Space For Life, is suited to appeal to every member of the family regardless of age or level of scientific education. This month two new multimedia shows began at the planetarium: The Secrets of Gravity and Planet Nine.
The Secrets of Gravity, presented in a 360-degree fulldome format, is aimed at younger audiences but features enough visual imagery and scientific material to keep one and all interested, amazed, and entertained. The film follows a skateboarding protagonist named Lumbadur on an after-hours adventure at the Albert Einstein Museum. The youngster, who declares himself to be a magician’s apprentice, soon encounters a curious robot named Alby who teaches the boy about Einstein and his theories on space, time, and gravity.
What stands out most about The Secrets of Gravity is its ability to reach back in history and reintroduce Einstein’s theories to a modern audience while at the same time keeping them fresh, relatable, and relevant. Accompanied by some striking visual imagery (in particular a sequence in which the International Space Station passes directly overhead) the film is able to deliver Einstein’s most famous theories regarding space, time, and the relationship between mass and gravity in a way that doesn’t talk down to its audience but rather gives viewers the feeling that we, like Lumbadur, are embarking on a journey to discover some of the secrets of our universe.
Due to the way in which its subject matter is presented, The Secret of Gravity also succeeds in bridging the gap between the past, present, and future. Because the film takes place in the Albert Einstein Museum, it’s no surprise that the famed scientist, who died in 1955, plays a central part in the movie. He also represents the history of science and how the discoveries of the past helped shape our modern understanding of the universe. Conversely, the film’s young protagonist, Lumbadur, with his zeal for skateboarding, adventure, and space, can be seen as a representative of today’s youth. Furthermore, his robot mentor serves as being symbolic of more recent advances in science such as artificial intelligence as well as the promise of future scientific discoveries still to come.
Produced by Chicago’s Adler Planetarium, the Planetarium’s second new film, Planet Nine, explores the notion of finding a ninth planet in our solar system. After Pluto was demoted from its status as a planet and reassigned the designation of a dwarf planet, astronomers have concentrated their efforts on locating another planet believed to be in orbit outside of the Kuiper belt. Guided by scientist Mike Brown, Planet Nine explores ongoing efforts to photograph and document this mysterious new ninth planet. The film takes viewers on a journey to the far reaches of our universe on an exploration of the Kuiper Belt, which extends beyond Neptune’s orbit and consists of an array of objects of varying sizes made up of numerous types of natural materials, all of which can trace their origins back to the formation of the solar system. Once here, we encounter numerous planet-like bodies that may hold the key to valuable insight concerning the history and development of the universe.