One thing I love about the Exploratorium is that the folks there always like to have fun. That means they want to do all sorts of cool stuff themselves, not just talk about it. So, they get to travel to China for the eclipse, or the Arctic to see research in action. Their latest project (for International Polar Year) didn’t involve many Exploratorium people going to the Arctic, but they did send cameras out with scientists working in the Arctic, so they can document their work and lives in real time. You can even ask them questions via email. I’ll be curious to see how this works — stuff like this always *sounds* cool, but the question is, how many people actually participate and learn something from the project, and how meaningful are their exchanges? I’ve been reading a lot of blog comments lately and, honestly, a lot of the “global conversation” is just a low background hum…

Here’s more information on the Ice Stories project:
Ice Stories: Live Reports from Polar Scientists
Exploratorium Webcast Series
Live from the Arctic
May 22-June 22, 2008

On a spit of land that juts into the sea near the Arctic town of Barrow, Alaska, anthropologist/archaeologist Anne Jensen is recovering and studying ancient bodies and artifacts before they’re swallowed by the sea.

Here’s a post from the Exploratorium’s Mary Miller about Ice Stories:

Maybe you noticed I haven’t been posting lately; the last few months have been a blur as the Explo team, with fresh funding from the National Science Foundation, launched a major Web project about polar research. Called Ice Stories it features the research of scientists working in the Arctic and Antarctic. We launched the site last November and equipped some Antarctic scientists with video cameras to document their work and send back dispatches.

We got first-hand reports about flooding of penguin nests from melting glaciers in the Ross Sea, heard a raging storm from a glacier camp in West Antarctica, and, in a live webcast, spoke with scientists collecting sediment cores at a sea-ice drilling camp out of McMurdo Station.

What’s really wonderful about Ice Stories is the personal connection with scientists working in such remote, challenging field sites. It’s a thrill to get a call from a glaciologist in the middle of Antarctica updating us about a close encounter with an ice crevasse (her exact quote: “one of our team discovered a crevasse with his foot”). The combination of adventure and current research in these ongoing narratives gives a real picture of what it’s like to be a polar scientist. In most cases, they’ll tell you it’s just plain fun.