Here's the latest in the occasional, usually Saturday, "ToDo" series: Google Sky. It's been awhile, I know.
We all know Google Maps are among the greatest things on Earth—if you want to find anything (except Dick Cheney's house) or fly through the Grand Canyon the internet cognescenti click over to Google Maps. But until recently I was only vaguely aware of Google Sky.
If you liked having the whole earth available at the click of a mouse button you'll love Google Sky. It's utterly nifty, completely addictive, and well worth poking around some. Traveling the universe with a 12 year old has got to be one of the most gratifying things around. If you don't have one of your own go out and adopt a niece or nephew.
Here's a place to start: Kepler's Supernova Remnant, aka SN 1604...The Kepler's link takes you in at a starry sky with a brilliantly colored dot in the center. Fly your spaceship toward it in a couple in a couple hyperspace jumps (or just mundanely click into the location as you would in maps...) and a gorgeous cloud of gas emerges. If your 12 year old (or inner child) wants to know more Wikipedia will provide a simple explanation (and is the source of the image pictured). But you can also get a dramatic rendition...and the electric explanation for the irridescent colors.
Should the vastness of space prove a tad disorienting you could always take the kids to Mars (and if you thought flying through the Grand Canyon was grand, try a canyon as deep as Mount Everest and so long that it would stretch from Los Angeles to New York [available in HD--I want my fiber])...or excite them with the human drama of Apollo 14; people walking on the moon.
The net is a pretty neat place to play. It's too nice outside today to justify playing this way today in Lafayette—these cool days won't last. But after night falls and the mosquitoes come out I'll see what else I can find.