June 10 2008

The return to Alachua was productive. As the Exhibits Coordinator for the Mayapur Temple of the Vedic Planetarium (TOVP) I had requested a meeting for June 10 with the main contributors to our cosomology team. 

Accordingly we all met at Brahma Tirtha prabhu’s house in Gainesville–Sadaputa, the main brain behind our challenge to material science; Ravindra Svarupa, who is heading up the Vedic Cosmology research team; Jayapataka Swami, GBC and Exhibits Director; Drutakarma, famous anti-evolutionist; Nitya Trpta, who helped develop the exhibits in New Delhi temple; Sraddhadevi, disciple of RVS who coordinates the cosmology team’s efforts; Vilasini and husband Anup who are the new architects and work force coordinators on the TOVP; and myself.

We kicked off the meeting with a brief update on the main dome. This will house the Deities and three levels of exhibits showing the four dhamas mentioned in Brahma-samhita: Devi-dhama, Mahesa-dhama, Hari-dhama and Goloka-dhama. Those exhibits will not come under the purview of this group however.

Hanging from the main dome will be a gigantic chandelier which will rotate and demonstrate the movement of the main planets and the sun around bhu-mandala. Sadaputa prabhu is working on a draft proposal for this but basically it will look like an inverted orrery.  Never heard of one? Check out a google search on orreries.  Here’s a dictionary definition:

“a mechanical model of the solar system in which the planets can be moved at the correct relative velocities around the sun [C18: originally made for Charles Boyle, Earl of Orrery” 

 Ours of course will show the geo-centric model presented in the SB and have the sun revolving around the earth.

Here’s a few examples:



 Here’s a crystal orrery:


And here’s one of perspex:


Interestingly enough, there are geo-centric orreries, based mainly on two different models described by ancient astronomer Claudius Ptolemy and a more recent Danish star gazer, Tycho Brahe. For an interesting Christian article on geo-centric orreries, go to http://www.geocentricity.com/ba1/094.pdf

We also had a special guest, Ken Miller, from GOTO (go-tow) a Japanese company that has made about 400 planetariums around the world. He flew in from Hawaii and spent an hour filling us in on the various aspects of planetarium design and systems, and also the development of programs and shows.

GOTO have a branch in Kolkata as it happens, owned and run by one of our life members, Mr. Kabra, a very nice gentleman who is keen to dedicate his final few years to establishing a planetarium in Mayapur.

 GOTO are offering a hybrid system i.e. a combination of traditional high res. opto-mechanical star projection with up to 25,000 stars, with a much newer digital system. Cost? About $3-5 million not counting the theater.

Opto-mechanical (OM) systems are a combination of intricate gears and refined lenses which project light at extremely high resolution, but they are limited in what they can show. Digital are versatile and you can show all kinds of special effects which is essential for what we want to demonstrate, but they lack somewhat in resolution; star images come out blurry. Digital is far easier to maintain though with much less mechanical equipement. We shall have to decide what system we want to go with.

 Our meeting was a preliminary attempt to focus the main elements for the exhibits which are to go in the west, or planetarium wing of the building. We currently have three floors including the top one, which is reserved for the actual planetarium theater.  According to our architects however, we may be able to squeeze another two floors in.

These floors are for a variety of uses:

1)   Small lecture theaters for up to 100 persons.

2)  Exhibits contrasting chemical evolution theory with the Vedic description of the universe and its causes; paranormal phenomena; aspects of Vedic culture such as social organization; intelligent design etc. 

3)  A first class research library where scholars can do serious study and investigation into the Vedas. 

In brief we all agreed that we need to show a varitey of scientific presentations covering a range of disciplines. Srila Prabhupada wanted to challenge material science on all fronts and the TOVP is supposed to be the showcase for that. Target audience will be high school and college level students and scholars. We want scholars to come from around the world and study the Vedic perspectives as a serious alternative to current materialistic mechanistic views.

We also briefly touched on fund raising. A budget of about $5 million would probably be required to establish the planetarium theater and its equipment, what to speak of program development which can hit $1-$2 million per 20 mins. show.  Possible sources of funding are a) ISKCON members b) Corporate sponsors c) grant-giving bodies.

All in all it was a succesful and productive meeting and gives us basis for moving forward.

Special thanks also to Mukhya mataji for providing a fantastic lunch for the delegates. She is one of the foremost caterers in ISKCON with years of experience in running first class restaurants.

That rapped up my visit to Alachua and I headed out to NY the next morning.

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