Friday, August 26, 2011

Some Sights around Colorado

A few things you might see if you came out to the Boulder/Denver area:

The National Center for Atmospheric Research is in Boulder, CO, and does work of all kinds on weather, climate, global warming, and obviously, the atmosphere. There is still a surpringly large amount we still don't know or understand about the atmosphere- no one is yet able to predict weather with 100% accuracy. There are these things called 'blue jets' in the sky that pilots often report seeing, giant flashes of blue laser-like light shooting out from the TOPS of clouds into outerspace, and yet little is known about them. The building for NCAR is very modernist but surprisingly sensitive to its environment. It was designed by I.M. Pei, of the Louvre 'Pyramid' fame. Inside NCAR there is the equivalent of a science museum, but it's mostly about the properties of weather. However, there is also a supercomputer inside the building that takes up a large part of the basement. That computer is Super!

In Denver, about a half-hour drive away, you can find the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. It has a great rooftop cafe and a terrace garden which is my new favorite place when I'm not back at Pittsburgh's Mattress Factory café. There is currently an art piece on the roof that shines light down into the stairwell and bounces sunlight off of a sucession of mirrors, all the way down to the basement several floors below. A complicated take on a skylight, but a beautiful study on light and reflection. (To see it work, best visit on a bright sunny day.)

There are beautiful rock formations at The Garden of the Gods, which is actually about a two-hour drive from Boulder but close to Colorado Springs and definitely worth the drive. A strange outcropping of sandstone and red rock among a lot of granite and harder rocks around it.

The top of Pike's Peak is barren and treeless, but beautiful (except for the tourists and parking lot part). But the view is still spectacular. At over 14000 feet, it will literally take your breath away. Maybe the view isn't really that great, it just feels like it when your body's not getting enough oxygen and you feel dizzy and dehydrated.

There are lots of rock collections in Boulder and Colorado- it is a geologist's dream here (except for maybe Iceland, if you are a volcanologist!). A surprisingly large amount of geodes and sparkly crystals come from Colorado!

There are also lots of ye-olde-America buildings too, some dating back to the Gold Rush, when communities near Boulder sprang up overnight. This also led to a lot of abandoned towns and many ghost towns, when the money ran out (or never materialized in the first place). I can't wait to visit some of these old remnants. For now, I see mostly tavern signs and western facades of storefronts. And lots and lots of buffalo iconography, for the famed bison of an America long ago.

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