Last night, a few hundred lucky readerfolk and museum fanboys got the chance to steal away into the American Museum of Natural History for an after hours, behind-the-scenes tour of one of the great nerd meccas in the world.
The evening's revelries began in the Hayden Planetarium, where we got a quick tour of the Digital Universe Atlas. Pluto drew raucous applause (the open bar had started by then), and we all did our best to sully the experience by tweeting through presentation (check out #AMNHTweetup), thereby inserting shadows of our heads into the farthest reaches of the universe.
Then it was time to break off onto the private tours. I got to see the Cryogenics facilities with Dr. George Amato, Director of the Center for Conservation Genetics and self-professed baby-crocodile wrangler. I was expecting a real world Jurassic Park, but it's actually more like modern science's Noah's Ark, as one reader put it. They have 70,000 tissue samples from various species around the world, which are kept cool (-160 C) by a freaking 6,000-gallon tank of liquid nitrogen that sort of looks like a humongous septic tank. A few readers even got to take a peek into the cryo-tanks and risk falling in and having their heads crack off like the T-1000.
I also got to tag along to the Computational Biology presentation, where Dr. Ward Wheeler, the Invertebrate Zoology Curator, talked about the mind-breaking amount of computing power that's involved in sequencing genes, and what that information can tell us about evolutionary patterns. Then we got to see—and feel!—the AMNH's giant squid specimen. That's right: Roll with Giz and io9 and you get to touch the Kraken.
It's too bad everyone couldn't get in on all the great tours going on. The stuff I missed and wish I didn't included a tour of the microscopy imaging facilities; an astrophysics discussion; a look into the MorphoBank, the crowdsourced database of datapoints and images of all life on Earth; and highlights of the ways that the museum uses technology in its exhibits.
Thanks again to the AMNH for letting us party in the museum after hours, and thanks to all the readers who came out and made the night so great.