Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What to Do When There's a Galaxy in Your Cup of Tea have a galaxy in your cup of tea?

Poor photo quality and focus due to gravitational lensing...
Stay calm, don't panic. You can get through this.

First, realize that every day we deal with matters of matter and antimatter, energy and dark energy, gigantic blobs of supercluster-filled filaments and voids. You are one of the lucky ones. Most of us don't usually think about it or come across such close and tangible evidence of other existences in places such as teacups. We leave it to the philosophers or cosmologists such as Max Tegmark (great website!) or theoretical physicists like Brian Greene (website also great!)

You have to come to terms with the fact that we could all simply exist swirling around in someone else's cup of tea. Galaxy, galaxy cluster, supercluster, filament, or whole universe!

Hypothetically, there is the possibility of existing in a multiverse - a finite or infinite set of universes, including the one we are currently experiencing. These parallel universes are also called "parallel dimensions" and "alternate universes".

If you prefer the infinite number of universes, you might eventually come across the theory that some that are phased exactly as our universe is. This goes along with the idea that our universe is not "special" or unique.

Here are some media links that Tegmark recommends that have to do with multiple universes:

Here is a link to one of Brian Greene's terrific books: The Hidden Reality
In it, he goes through his outline of nine types of universes. Makes you think!

* Side note I cannot aVOID (haha!): One of the COOLEST things I learned last year was that our Virgo Supercluster is surrounded by three voids - the Sculptor Void, Bootes Void, and the Capricornus Void. Voids correlate to the colder temperatures in the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) and they have few galaxies. Voids are found between filmental structures (and those include superclusters). You can't have filamental structures without empty spaces. I always ask my music students...can you have sound without silence?  What about audiation? I'd love to have a conversation with John Cage about his views on sound and silence and philosophize a bit. I'll bet that would be fabulous. I'd also like to have tea with Brian Greene - more fabulosity!

So, ENJOY the galaxy in your tea. GO ahead, drink it and now you yourself consist of multiple worlds. Have you ever had a close look at your eyes? You will sometimes find stars in them.....  :-)

Five Reasons We Live in a Multiverse - by Clara Moscowitz, one of my favorite writers

But wait, you say it's even worse, that there's a galaxy with multiple black holes in your tea?

How about you try drinking iced water....

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Paragliding in Slovenia

On my final day in Ljubljana, Slovenia, I went paragliding for the first time in my life! I definitely hope I'll get to do it again sometime! My experience seems to have come as a surprise to many....I guess for a couple of reasons. Many people don't know that I used to be rather athletic, train horses, bike 20 miles every other day, and compete on a top swim team, etc. Indeed. I haven't done anything except walking/hiking for several years! There are many things that don't necessarily come up in music conversations! :-) Almost every trip I've been on, I've done some sort of hiking. Sometimes, it's low and slow and other times, it's rather rigorous. I remember when came back from Brazil and remarked that I needed a new camera and mentioned that I had dropped it while hiking in a portion of the jungle down to the Foz do Iguacu and then it got super wet from the rainy falls. That turned some heads. LOL. People see what they want to see I suppose. Sometimes overweight people actually ARE active movers and shakers (and eat like the average person, but whatever).
My view from taxi on the way to the Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport (Letališče Jožeta Pučnika Ljubljana),
also known by its previous name Brnik Airport
I've always wanted to go hang gliding, but on my past two trips to Europe - while on trains between cities - I have seen a TON of paragliders over the hills and valleys. This sparked my interest and this summer, I decided to give it a try. Being a novice, I tried tandem paragliding - when you have a pilot and they really do the flying while you hold on and enjoy! I did not travel for one weekend so as to be able to afford it. When I got to Slovenia, I was also on the lookout for hot air balloon rides, but they were not available and paragliding was! A new friend of mine that I met in Slovenia, knows someone who is a paragliding pilot so I used her wonderful help and connection to meet Primož Lajevec who works for the Loop Acrocup Propilot company and team. He actually does all the extreme sports and knows Felix Baumgartner (Red Bull "space" jump). In fact, Primož helped break the balloon drop record, info here.
Paragliding in Slovenia, 2013 - I took this pic of the pilot that went just before us!
Primož picked me up at the Ljubljana airport and we drove througha small town over to the base of the Krvavec mountain. Then, we drove up to the walking point and walked a tiny bit up to the gliding site. It was steep and I quickly got out of breath. There were also a LOT of black ants all over the place on the walk up there, odd. Anyway, once up at the site of a slope on the mountain, there were several pilots waiting for the wind to be just right and to take off. We got fitted with all the gear.

Next, Primož said that when he counts down and says go, to  > R U N <
The first try, I fell after four steps and we had to start over. The second try, I slipped on some rocks and fell, bringing us both down and I scraped the HECK out of my leg. lastly, he added guys on my left and right sides to help pull up and sure enough, they did when I fell a third time. I had tried leaning more forward and that really helped, but I still fell. My legs were somewhat weak and I can only guess that it might be because I was about two months out of surgery and still occasionally feeling low on energy. Nonetheless, we got airborne and it was GLORIOUS!

I took some video for a couple of minutes and then discovered that it didn't take. GRRRR so I tried it again and was able to get about 33 seconds before I realized it was making me dizzy. We were up there for about 25 or so minutes I think and when he began to circle like a bird, I did indeed start feeling motion sick and wished I had remembered to take my medicine. Then, I remembered I'd gone through a cab ride, car ride, and now was airborne so I really should have taken it. I will never forget again. Here I am enjoying it though! So awesome! It really was like being a bird.

I saw a castle and we went toward the castle. Ljubljana looked INSANELY SMALL from up there! I was surprised at how high we were! It wasn't any cooler (it was 99 that day), but it was windy up there. I got a bit dehydrated, but it was all worth it and I really want to go again. I also want to try parasailing!

Here is the video I took. I wave my feet, haha! I also am giving a thumb's up at the very end :-)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana, Slovenia

I had been wondering where to go for my last free weekend while teaching for the UNO Innsbruck program this past summer 2013 and finally narrowed it down to two places: Budapest, Hungary or Ljubljana, Slovenia. I chose Slovenia because of the train timetables and cost and decided that I would definitely visit Budapest on another trip. Plus, I've heard and read about Budapest for years. Slovenia, whaaa? So....I thought it would be a little less on the proverbial "beaten path". I must say, Ljubljana was LOVELY and the PERFECT choice for me this time around. I had a fantastic time!

Once I decided on Slovenia, I began to search for things to do there and info about Ljubljana. I knew nothing about the country itself, its history, or what it was known for. I learned that one of the most popular things to do there was to take a hot air balloon ride and I got super excited about the possibility of doing that. Once there, I learned from various travel agencies and a tour guide that there had been a major balloon accident a few years back where someone tried to take over 30 people up in a basket and then crashed in the outlying marshes. There was a large fire, many injuries, and some people died. So, Slovenia passed an ordinance banning ALL balloon travel because it lacked proper regulation.
I understand that very recently, they have again begun to examine regulations and opening ballooning back up for the tourist industry! Maybe next time, I will get to do that!
Here is the article on the accident:

So that idea was out......and I started looking at museums. I found that Ljubljana has a Narodni Musej Slovenje (National Museum of Slovenia) that is in two locations. One location contained exhibits that were more archeological in nature and included a find that is said to be the oldest musical instrument in the world.

That sold it for me! I told myself "they'd better be open when I get there!" :-) and so they were and I went and saw the instrument. It is a flute made from a cave bear femur and said to be 55,000 years old.

Here is a link to my blog post with info about the Divje Babe flute:

The train ride from Innsbruck only contained one change so that was nice. I was able to relax, blog, and do some grading. The scenery was AMAZING going through the Alps!
Ljubljana is situated in a valley between a ring of Alps in the distance so after a ton of tunnels, the ride finally settled into a flat countryside, dotted with farms and small lakes. I arrived around 9:30 and night had fallen before I expected it so I worried a bit about walking from the train station to the hotel as I had no idea where to go except the name of its street. I would have used my phone, but it was on Airplane mode the whole summer and using wifi only, when available. Luckily, the train station was a fairly large one and lots of people were around both inside and out. I started walking down a main street and stopped at a restaurant to ask directions and lo - the street was the next one over and the Central hotel only two blocks down the street! YAY!  I checked in and bought a bottle coke (a.k.a. HEAVEN) from the bar to take upstairs. When I got in my room, I found a greeting from the hotel on my TV - nice touch!

The next morning, I had coffee with a wonderful new friend and she walked me around downtown a bit and led me to the museum. I usually travel by myself and never have the opportunity to meet friends of friends. This was so terrific! I ended up having dinner later with her and some more new friends! After the museum, I took a two hour walking tour of the city. I also usually do not do prescribed tours. I usually wander about aimlessly.....well sometimes I have a loose plan, and find the treasures the city has to offer on my own. I think because it was so damned HOT, I wanted to ensure that I would get out and do something exciting so I bought a tour ticket!

Slovenia borders Italy to the west, Austria to the north, Croatia to the south and southeast and Hungary to the northeast. The architecture in Ljubljana, the capital (300,000 people), reminded me a little of what I have seen in Romania and Bulgaria. It was mostly the tops and edges of buildings that conveyed this feeling. Here is one building, the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation in Prešeren Square.

The country has a large Catholic and Lutheran population and a mix of languages. While I was there, I heard Slovene, Italian, and French. I'm sure there are plenty of other mixes when it comes to languages. This area was first part of the Roman Empire, followed by the Holy Roman Empire and then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The State of Serbs, Croats, and Serbs merged into a kingdom of the same. Then it was the Kingdom of Yugoslavia ! Finally in 1991, Slovenia became an independent country, joined NATO and the European Union in 2004. Wars have dealt this little country a hand of being annexed and occupied by others. Amazingly, they have managed to preserve plenty of their history, culture and identity. The city itself has been rebuilt more than a few times.

The most famous rebuilding came after its earliest stages when it was the city of Aemona (Emona), occupied well before Roman times on the banks of the Ljubljanica river. It was destroyed by battles from time to time and was devastated by the Huns in the mid 400's.

Emona / Ljubljana was said to have been founded by Jason and his Argonauts on their quest to obtain the Golden Fleece....... Here is another link to a clearer rundown of the backstory. When Jason and his Argonauts sailed across the Black Sea, they supposedly got lost and into the river systems which eventually led them to the rivers surrounding Ljubljana. When they arrived, they ran out of river, took apart their ship to carry it across the mountains and back to the Adriatic sea. While they stopped, Jason defended the settlement and fought a mighty dragon which enabled him to get the Golden Fleece that it had guarded for many years. From this story also comes the use of the dragon as the symbol of Ljubljana!
The Dragon Bridge is a main city sight and there are tons of other monuments and sites, but the city itself does not have any world famous tourist attractions. I liked this because I could concentrate on getting to know the history of the place rather than feel obliged to go certain places. One important national monument in the main old town area is that of France Prešeren, a national poet and his muse. Once regarded as smutty because the muse was half-naked and across the square from the Catholic church, the statue now is simply an expected part of the cityscape.

This is located in the square on the Tromostovje bridge (Triple bridge) over the Ljubljanica river. It, along with tons of things in the city, was designed by a nationally famous architect Jože Plečnik. The airport is also named after him.

One site I liked is the Robba Fountain, the Vodnjak treh kranjskih rek - or - (Fountain of Three Carniolan Rivers) near the Town Hall. (The original is in the national gallery, but the replica is great). It has three men with jugs and three fish of differing sizes representing the three rivers flowing into Ljubljana - the Sava, Ljubljanica, and the Krka. The fountain was also featured on a Slovenian banknote and is a national symbol today.
Robba Fountain
The Robba fountain was right across from a house on the corner of the small square that had been where GUSTAV MAHLER lived for a year or so while he composed and taught and directed the orchestra there! He also presented 50 operas. MAHLER!!! I had to stop the tour, freak out a bit, and then we could go on! I LOVE MAHLER!!!!

One of my favorite spots is the Stolnica Sv. Nikolaja - St. Nikolaus cathedral located on Cyril & Methodius Square. It was originally a Romanesque and then a Gothic church, but was burned down by the Turks in 1469 and rebuilt as a Baroque masterpiece. We only had about 15 minutes there and there was about to be a mass so I planned on going back the following day, but I was unable to. NEXT TIME. At least I was in awe of the overdone décor and contrasting calm reverence for a few minutes though! I also decided to photograph the sanctuary from the point of view of the candles! :-)
                                                           Stolnica Sv. Nikolaja
The door of the cathedral was FASCINATING. It depicts Slovene history to commemorate the 1250th anniversary of Christianity in Slovenia. Our tour guide told is about every crevice and figure and that before the door was dedicated and cathedral blessed by the Pope John Paul II, Tone Demšar, passed away. Then, he showed us the camouflaged figure of the builder on the door! Sneaky, but effective! :-)  Sadly, I did not get a picture.
It was INSANELY HOT while I was in Ljubljana so after doing the walking tour, I took a boat tour to try and cool off.

That was great, but it didn't stop the heat! That night, I had dinner with my new friend Meta and some of her friends from Slovenia and France. So much fun! We attended a free jazz concert in one of the squares and then had some AWESOME GELATO. After that, we had dinner and hung out for a while. On my way out, I noticed a sign for Human fish.....

What is that? you ask....I will tell you!

Human fish is a beer, named after an unusual type of fish found in nearby caves. in the Dinaric Alps. This fish is rather translucent and has feet-like appendages! It is called the Olm.

The next day, I made plans to go paragliding and spent some time in the cool hotel wifi waiting for the weather and the contacts to work out. Tomorrow, I will post about my paragliding experience!

So, I REALLY hope to go back to Ljubljana! It is a gorgeous city, friendly to all ages groups, has an enjoyable city market, plenty of tourists, is clean and bright, has culture, has nightlife, and has an appreciation for the arts and history. I felt safe the entire time I was there. The train station is not far from's a pretty short walk. There are plenty of food places, lots of surrounding activities, a castle one can go up the hill and visit, sporting activities, and everyone I spoke to seemed happy to help with questions or directions. I highly recommend a visit!!!!!!!

Here is the Facebook album of my pictures. You do not need to be a facebooker to see the pics :-)

Oldest Musical Instrument in the World?

This summer, I had the great fortune to teach in the UNO Innsbruck program for six weeks! This allowed me to do some traveling on a few of the weekends. One of my favorite places visited was Ljubljana, Slovenia. One of the things to do there is to visit the two complexes that make up the Narod Muzej Slovenje, or National Museum of Slovenia. Part of why I chose to visit Ljubljana was to see what is being touted as "the oldest musical instrument in the world"!

Narod Muzej Slovenje in Ljubljana

Now, I have several links in this blog post referencing this instrument because there is debate as to whether or not it is truly the earliest instrument and questions concerning whether or not it is actually 55,000 years old. Yes, I did type that. Amazing isn't it?! Some sources say 43,000, but many others are in the mid 50's.

The museum itself has several collections worth viewing. It was unnecessarily hot inside on every floor so while I did spend an hour and a half there, that was all I could muster before I wilted completely. It was 99 degrees outside that day. The gift shop is excellent, offering replicas of the instrument, music played on replicas, and many other items. For those interested in archeological museums, this is an excellent place to visit.
The Divje Babe flute - 55,000 years old
The Divje Babe flute is 55,000 years old and was made by carving a cave bear femur. Discovered 1995-97, it is known also as the Neanderthal Flute. It was found near the Idrija region at the Divje Babe archeological site. There is debate as to whether or not it is also the first example of a diatonic scale use.

The flute has two holes preserved, but evidence you can see of two other holes. The pattern that is assumed to continue for most of the length of the bone. It was a juvenile bear so the bone was not that long. Was this diatonic scale an accident? Did they really have a "system" of sorts at that time or was it sheer luck and a pleasing sound to the maker of the instrument?

Here is a site with some great info on the diatonic scale theory 
Some argued that the instrument was not an instrument at all, but a naturally-occurring pattern of holes from bites by other carnivores. Later, that theory was contradicted with research saying that the holes could in no way be a natural phenomenon.

Make sure to see the video played below and info via YouTube

Interesting LINKS



- scroll down -


YouTube Video and all INFO below uploaded by Primoz Jakopin

VIDEO LINK to Divje Babe flute being played

Quote - "Short film, full title is Playing the Neanderthal flute of Divje babe, is authored by Sašo Niskač, music is performed by Ljuben Dimkaroski, scientific adviser is Dr. Ivan Turk, archaeologist. Extraordinary find from 1995 in Divje babe cave site, western Slovenia, it is most comprehensively described in the paper at, was met with great enthousiasm on one side and with great skepticism on the other side of the scientific audience, for details see Only in 2009 the dilemma if the holes in the bone were accidental or purpose-made, was finally resolved. Ljuben Dimkaroski, member of the Ljubljana Opera Orchestra for 35 years (trumpet), was given a clay replica of the flute by the curator of Slovenian National Museum on occasion of Ljuben's exhibition "Image in Stone". In his dreams, about a year later, he got a clue of how to play this prehistoric instrument. The result you can see and hear by yourself, or live, performed on a concert, at

The movie was published here by P. Jakopin on behalf of Jožek Košir (Jozek Kosir) - with permission of the authors.

P.S. A remark on the music played in the film:

A potpourri of fragments from compositions of various authors has been selected, to show the capabilities of the instrument, tonal range, staccato, legato, glissando ...

1. Fragment from Adagio in G Minor, Tomas Albinioni
2. Free improvisation, mocking animal voices, at the end the presentation of simultaneous sounding of two tones
3. Ode to Joy, 9th Symphony, Ludwig van Beethoven
4. Slovenian (Prekmurje region) etno song Vsi so venci vejli
5. Slovenian (Koroška region) etno song Rož, Podjuna, Zila
6. Nabucco, Giuseppe Verdi
7. Bolero, Maurice Ravel
8. From the new world, Antonin Dvořák

Current flute related events: Exhibition Homo Sapiens - La grande storia della diversità umana in Museo delle Scienze Via Calepina, 1, Trento, Italy, from Sep 20, 2012 to January 13, 2013, more on the site"

End Quote

A Conductor on a Train

It was on my train trip from Innsbruck to Ljubljana, Slovenia that I realized I was a conductor.....on a train! :-)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Field Trip to Salzburg

Salzburg, Austria - one of my most favorite cities in the world! I love it because it's charming, friendly, touristy, and most of all: MUSICAL! I've spent the past five weeks teaching music in the UNO Innsbruck program and on Wednesday, July 31 had the tremendous fortune to take both of my music classes on an afternoon field tip to Salzburg.
We left with  a packed lunch and our bus took us through incredibly beautiful Alpine valleys all the way there. When we arrived, we walked into the old town and met Professor Josef Wallnig at the Dom. Prof. Wallnig is a conductor and opera coach at the Mozarteum. Constanze Mozart had always wanted a music university in the city where her husband had been. When she married von Nissen, Constanze lived right in the middle of the old town. The Dom was closed for the moment because of preparations for the Jedermann play (held every evening at this time in the Domplatz).
So, he took us into the Residenzplatz - where the lovely horse fountain is and talked to us about the Dom and surrounding buildings. He mentioned that long before the original Dom was built (in 774), the area of the square, underground, had been an outstanding Roman place of worship and before that a Celtic place of worship. The Celts had been in the area first and had established salt mines. The mines around Salzburg have been in use for 7,000 years! The history of the Dom is incredible. It suffered from MANY fires and was rebuilt each time.
view of the Dom from Prof Wallnig's rooftop

Next, professor Wallnig took us to his apartment / house. He told us that it had been in his family for over 150 years and that it was here that Leopold Mozart came occasionally on business and often for the merchant theatre that happened in the area.

Just across the street lies the original Cafe Tomaselli. Leopold and Wolfgang Mozart (link is very good biography, right at one hour) used to come to this café and take coffee often. At the time, it was not ladylike for woman to be at cafés so Anna Maria, the mother and Maria Anna "Nannerl" we're notable to come. At a later time, Wolfgang's widow Constanze was given a written note from her doctor allowing her to have coffee for her digestive ailments.

Prof. Wallnig led us to the next floor where he gave us some water and elderberry juice. I noticed there was an Alpine hammered dulcimer, a guitar, a harpsichord, framed sheet music, a book from the late 1700's about Salzburg, and many old gorgeous, refined and interesting pieces of furniture. Then, he said it was time to work and gave out two bird water gurgling flutes, one wooden flute, and various small percussion instruments to members of my class and lined them up. They were nervous and giggly :-)
He told us that there was a tiny sinfonietta, the "Cuckoo" and that they were going to accompany him as he played the piano! I will try to upload the hilarious video once I get it! :-) :-)
Dr. Wallnig and my class perform!

It was joyful, fun, and HILARIOUS and there was lots of laughter!
After this, we went up to the rooftop where we had a SPLENDID panorama of the city! Unbelievably cool!
My students asked the professor a few questions and he talked to us about the festivals in Salzburg and his role in the Salzburger Festspiele. He gives pre-concert talks for all of the operas and sometimes gets to fill ion conducting! Many of his students are involved in the chorus, operations, or minor roles.
We then said our goodbyes and met our tour guide Brigitte who plays a type of folk flute and sings. She took us inside the Dom and talked to us about how it had been rebuilt several times and its architecture.

main altar of the Salzburger Dom
She also discussed the four small chamber organs up front near the main altar area under the dome. Having been there before, I had figured I had to do with small events and perhaps some polychoral music, but it was actually more to achieve a quadrophonic sound in the round. In fact, because the cathedral was just "the cathedral" for the archbishop etc. and not named after a saint or Virgin Mary, the main, large pipe organ in the rear was used only for entrances and exits of large services or for special guests. The smaller four organs up front were used for regular services, in Mozart's time, one have had strings, one winds, one brass and timpani and one soli /choir etc.
Each often had an organist and it was impossible to see each other so there had to be someone behind each organ keeping the pulse. There was also actually a fifth organ where the lowers altar is now. The four organs and various instruments - right under the main dome (73 meters) created a massive and quadraphonic sound.
We scurried off to catch the opening procession of the Jedermann play and then made our way to Mozart's Gebursthaus.

Here, we heard about Mozart's family, saw music examples from Leopold and Wolfgang and saw Mozart's clavichord. Most of the original furniture that had been in the other Mozart house (where they moved when Wolfgang turned 17) had been sold after Mozart's death. Constanze wrote a note and left it on the clavichord saying that upon this instrument, chosen for its softer dynamic, Wolfgang composed mostly at night and had written his final four pieces.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Clavichord
Our guide then walked us across the river where she told us a little about Herbert von Karajan. She told us of his large number of recordings and the story of hos he was supposedly to have helped determine normal CD length of 74 minutes due to his not wanting to interrupt a Beethoven's 9th symphony recording. Here's the snopes on that: Undetermined:
Herbert von Karajan
We ended with a walk through the lovely Mirabell gardens.
What a fabulous day!!
Salzburg, I WILL BE BACK!
Beautiful Alps on the way to and from Salzburg

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field

Westminster, MD, photo taken in 2009 by CPC
Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing,
there is a field.
I will meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase "each other" doesn't make any sense.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

ÖWF, PolAres, and Aouda Spacesuit Lab in Innsbruck, Austria

My Visit to the Austrian Space Forum

Earlier this week, on Tuesday, July 29, I had the honor of visiting the ÖWF  (Öesterreichisches Weltraum Forum), the Austrian Space Forum! Just how did I come by this terrific experience? Twitter! That's right...I mentioned something about JUST arriving in Innsbruck too late and missing an awesome European space tweetup (a meeting in person for those who have met online and share / tweet about similar interests) and the fantastic Remco Timmermans (@timmermansr ), head of World Space Week (another link explaining the event HERE), saw my tweet and wrote that while I was in Innsbruck teaching, I should try to meet a few Austrian spacetweeps and he gave me their twitter handles. As it turned out, the wonderful, witty, and sweet Olivia Haider (@olidax ), chief financial officer and social media guru of the ÖWF, wrote me back! So, after teaching a while and getting my bearings in Innsbruck, we made a plan to meet at the forum office so I could see the PolAres program and see the Aouda spacesuit lab! Needless to say, I was very excited!!!
Olivia Haider
From the website: "The OeWF is The Austrian Space Forum (Österreichisches Weltraum Forum, OeWF) is a national network for aerospace specialists and space enthusiasts. Our organization serves as a communication platform between the space sector and the public; it is embedded in a global network of specialists from the space industry, research and politics." ~

It has a history and habit of outreach to young people in Austria and beyond!
They told me some of the plans for the following day included setting up a telescope with a solar filter in the Old Town near the
Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof) for the morning and a city park for the afternoon. The goal was to give young people....or any people really, a glance at the sun and to talk to them about the sun and space! How COOL!

Some of the OeWF's recent projects include:
PolAres field simulations - In February 2013, the team went to Morocco to do testing in high temperatures and arid environment. They conducted an analogue Mars field simulation to prepare for future Mars missions.
Stratospheric balloon tests
Aouda - Aouda.X Analog spacesuit prototype for planetary surface exploration

Phileas - a rover built for robotic work and in cooperation with astronauts

When I arrived, the president of the board of the OeWF, Dr. Gernot  Grömer, and Olivia Haider greeted me. We went upstairs to Dr. Grömer's office to chat for a bit. He is charming, brilliant, funny, and very hospitable. We talked about how the ideas of space exploration, and in particular, Mars exploration, are becoming more widely accepted in places like Austria and how the forum is expanding its outreach and media efforts across all ages. He mentioned that now, instead of saying IF we go to Mars, more people are saying WHEN we go. That is a giant leap of progress!
Dr. Gernot Grőmer, President of the Board of the OeWF in his office w/ a lovely Alpine setting
Next, we went into the lab and I saw a 3-D printer that they had assembled. This was a treat for me as I had not yet seen one in person. Dr. Grömer told me that they had a previous opportunity where people could write code for the printer and send it to the OeWF. What resulted was that some people wrote code to make it move and used the different pitches of the printer's movements to create music. One such piece that someone wrote for was the Star Wars "Imperial March"!   HAHAHAHA!

Following this, I met "Dignity" the grandfather of the Phileas rover that was given to the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2009.
It was very special that I got to play with the rover. My goal was to move it across the floor and pick up a candy bar.....which just happened to be a Mars bar :-)
SUCCESS! I did it :-)
Proof that I did picked it up off the ground :-)
Now it was time to see the Aouda spacesuit!
I was able to touch it and ask questions about the suit. Analogue means that it is the practice /ground version of  the suits the astronauts wear and not the real one. Nor is it always hooked up to working cameras, air systems, etc.

Inside was a rather low-tech piece of blue pillowed cloth and I wondered what it was for.
Dr. Grömer told me that when you begin to sweat in the suit, your nose begins to itch. The stripe of pillow cloth is actually for you to scratch your nose! I also got to see some of the garments worn by astronauts. In particular, an inner layer for underwear, has a unique cooling cloth which was very interesting.
We talked a little about upcoming projects including an event for World Space Week where the OeWF Innsbruck office and lab will be the hub of activity for Austrian space events. THIS IS SUPER EXCITING!!!! They will include live feeds interacting with the OeWF for a number of events.
Mars meteorite at the OeWF
I cannot thank Gernot and Olivia enough for taking their time out to visit with me and to let me play with their rover and see the lab! I had a wonderful time. For more information on the OeWF, see the links above or contact them! Know that space exploration, serious and recognized research, and tons of science is being done in Austria at the OeWF sites! They are an inspiration!

Follow them on Twitter!!! @OEWF and @halidax