Los Alamos ScienceFest Brings Science, History To Life

A participant in ScienceFest 2015 prepares his drone for flight. File photo
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ScienceFest News:

Now in its ninth year, the Los Alamos ScienceFest is unlocking the mysteries behind the enigmatic Manhattan Project with three days of spy themed tours and activities, fascinating STEM exhibits, live music and entertainment, drone competitions, a rare hike on LANL property and much more July 14-17 in Los Alamos.

The once “secret city” of Los Alamos will unleash the mystery surrounding the Manhattan Project of World War II, beginning at 1 p.m. Thursday, July 14 with the guided New Mexico True Atomic City Spy Tour. The tour is also available at the same time Friday, July 15 and Saturday, July 16. Spaces are limited. Guests can set foot in the very location where the first atomic bomb was assembled, as well as view buildings along Bathtub Row where Manhattan Project’s top spies lived, worked, and played.

The Historical Society will also lead WGN’s “Manhattan” Fact or Fiction tours at 11:30 a.m. Thursday–Saturday, which distinguish fact from fiction within the popular TV series, “Manhattan.” The NM True Atomic City Tour and Fact or Fiction Tour are $10 each and are led by the Los Alamos Historical Society. The historic WAC housing facility from the Manhattan era will be open to view at no cost between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday. NM True Spy Tours take place at 1 p.m. in the Plaza in Santa Fe as part of ScienceFest. The Spy Tour is limited to only 15 people per tour. Register for the Spy Tour in Santa Fe online at eventbrite.com/e/spy-tour-sciencefest-secret-city-unlocked-tickets-26084914682?aff=eac2

The Historical Society will lead Los Alamos Historic Walking Tours at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday for $10 per person. A free supplemental 3D app, developed by Los Alamos National Security, is available on ITunes. The app can be downloaded via the losalamosciencefestival.com site.

Then on Friday, July 15, a full day of spy centered activities continues with two spy films at Fuller Lodge from 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Two films depict rarely seen footage and interviews with experts familiar with Soviet espionage. Also, see 3D graphics recreating air photos show over German territory during WWII. No charge.

For the first time at ScienceFest, and rarely offered to the public, a LANL approved hike into Los Alamos Canyon along Hidden Canyon Trail will be offered to 25 people only on Friday at 9:30 a.m.The Hidden Canyon Trail sneaks into the canyon on LANL property, offering a glimpse at cultural, biological, ecological and historical resources of the area which is normally off limits to the public. Participants must be U.S. citizens, and be in good enough shape to handle a 1.5 mile hike. Be prepared for climbing over obstacles such as fallen trees. Must register in advance by emailing trails(at)lanl(dot)gov. The hike is available weather permitting.

At 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., laugh a little with the hilarious 10-minute show, “Spies,” at the Los Alamos Little Theater. The hilarity continues with an encore performance at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Keeping in line with the spy theme, speakers Alan Carr and Ellen Bradbury Reid will lead a talk and interactive panel discussion and answer questions about “Espionage” as they delve into the profiles of three known spies involved in the Manhattan Project. The discussion will be 3:30 to 6 p.m. at Fuller Lodge.

Also on Friday, science and math based art entries for the SMART Contest (science and math based art) that goes on display 5–6 p.m. at the Los Alamos Nature Center Planetarium. This is an international competition that links science to art.

Wrapping up the evening, award winning Celtic band Runa takes the stage at 7 p.m. at Ashley Pond Park.

The biggest day of ScienceFest – Festival Day Saturday, July 16 – begins at 11 a.m. at Ashley Pond Park with dozens of STEM and spy related activities. Register for a chance to win an Apple Watch, Hover board, Spy watch for kids, and Polaroid camera. Also, enter the raffle drawing for a chance to win a vintage typewriter from the WGN “Manhattan” set. Other spy themed giveaways will be awarded at 3 p.m. at Ashley Pond Park.

At 10 a.m., author and WWII historian Nancy Bartlit will share fascinating photographs and archives illustrating how Navajo Code talkers transmitted messages to help advance America’s tactical advantage against Japan during WWII. Bartlit will speak at the Bradbury Science Museum Auditorium. There is no charge.

For tech geeks who own drones, a Drone Zone Obstacle Course will give drone pilots a chance to win prizes by flying drones through a timed obstacle course. First place winner receives $300; second receives $200; third receives $100. The Drone Zone competition takes flight at 11 a.m. at Ashley Pond Park.

Children interested in learning how to become a spy can test their skills at the Spy Academy, Secret Agent Training Center – an obstacle course for future spies. There is no charge to participate. Spy Academy is 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Ashley Pond Park. 

Other special Festival Day events Saturday, July 16 include:

  • PBS Science Cafe “Black Holes” – 10 a.m. to noon – watch a segment of NOVA’s “Monster of the Milky Way,” and hear astrophysicist Dr. Richard Wallace talk about a massive black hole that threatens our galaxy.
  • Lyrics and Libations – 12:30–6:30 p.m. – bands include Higher Ground and Bus Tapes at Ashley Pond. A beer garden is available 12:30–6 p.m. featuring handcrafted brews from participating breweries including Bathtub Row Brewery, Tractor Brewery, Don Quixote Distillery and Wine, and Santa Fe Cider Works at Ashley Pond Park.
  • Science and Suds – 2-4 p.m. – interactive science discussions with LANL scientist Nick Generous (2 p.m.) and Manhattan Projection National Historical Park Superintendent Tracy Atkins (4 p.m.) at Ashley Pond Park.

ScienceFest also includes science demonstrations, arts/crafts vendors, hike to Bandelier Upper Crossing, movies and films, a Scavenger Hunt, discussions with LANL scientists on new discoveries, and more.

Finally, Sunday, July 17, ScienceFest comes to a close with an uplifting rocket launch by the Zia Spacemodeler Rocket Club, just eight miles north of Española. The Club has FAA clearance to launch high power model rockets up to 5,000 feet. Launches are 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. A launch controlled facility will be available for those who want to launch their own rockets. Visit losalamossciencefestival.com/schedule for directions. Launches are weather and wind permitting.

Los Alamos MainStreet is the facilitator of ScienceFest with more than 200 volunteers and a core team of community leaders in science, history, marketing, education and the arts, along with a panel of advisors are responsible for organizing the event. Last year, there were more than 10,000 attendees at ScienceFest over the four day event.

Special thanks to our sponsors and partners which include: New Mexico True, Los Alamos National Bank, Los Alamos Medical Center, Compa Industries, Regional Development Corporation, Los Alamos County, Los Alamos Creative District, Los Alamos Historical Society and Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation.

For complete information about Los Alamos ScienceFest, visit http://www.losalamossciencefestival.com/ or email rose@losalamos.org.

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