Sunday, September 30, 2007

Despite Its Excellent Furniture Prices, I Have Yet to Visit Pluto

One of the things I found charming and bemusing and bizarre when I first moved to Peoria was that every so often, you walk into a local business and sitting in the foyer or hanging from the ceiling or stuck on a wall is a gorgeous model of a planet.

It took me a little while to figure out what the heck was going on, but it turns out that Peoria has the world's largest scale model of the solar system. I was thinking about this today because for the second time in a week I was reading a commentary complaining about the difficult of teaching the solar system because it's "impossible" to do an accurate scale model.

Well, Peoria has one, and it's sort-of incomparably neat-o. It begins at the Lakeview Museum, with the dome of the planetarium, 36 feet high, serving as the sun. (There's a 36-foot-high sun painted on the outside of the building as well, since the planetarium dome is protected by the building, which means you mostly can only see the sun from the inside, which is a fairly neat trick.) Radiating out from there, the planets are located at local businesses or other establishments, accurate scale models beautifully rendered. So Earth's located a titch down the road at a BP station, while Neptune's way out at Roanoke Motors some 24 miles from Peoria.

Bradley, which has Jupiter, has a nice page with pictures and driving directions and all the rest. Discover had an article about it 12 years ago, but like the real planets, the planets in Peoria's solar system move from time to time, so many of them are not where they were when Discover's article was published. I know none of this is news to native Peorians, but for out-of-towners and newcomers like me, this is really cool.

There are comets and asteroids for this thing all over the world. (I keep thinking they should shoot something to the moon or put it on the ISS, like maybe the moon would be the right distance away in scale to be a very nearby star or something? But sending something 36ish feet in diameter would probably be tricky and expensive. Or maybe (since distances between stars are almost incomprehensibly vast) the moon is much too close. I'm too lazy to do the math.) If you're of a mind, you can bike the entire solar system every summer -- lazy people do the inner planets; hard-core bikers ride all the way to Pluto. Either way, you get to say you've biked several billion miles.

Tiny little Pluto is about an hour away by car, at Good's Furniture in Kewanee (if you've ever been in Central Illinois for more than 10 minutes, you've seen a commercial for Good's on television). I haven't been there yet, but the combination of low furniture prices and going 3 billion scale miles away to visit poor little rejected-planet Pluto is definitely tempting.


anon e. mouse said...

I have been convinced. I don't think Pluto is a planet.

Josh said...

I never thought of Goods as having low prices.

Vonster said...

I understand Uranus is breathtaking.

Jennifer said...

I have always wanted to do the bike ride, but am too lazy.
I should at least do the drive and take the kids to see all the planets. It's such a cool thing.
Oh, and for any of the readers that have kids, in the summer Lakeview has a free program called the science treasure hunt. It's really fun and exposes the kids to a lot of local science (you get to visit the Peoria Ag building, an end morraine, llama farm, etc).

Lola Takes Pictures said...

This is way cool, especially considering yall still count Pluto as a planet. We New Mexicans were pretty peeved when it was downgraded from it's planet status. I could hear Clyde Tombaugh rolling over in his grave!

Thanks for posting this.

PeoriaIllinoisan said...

I'm with Josh on this- We went to Goods a few years back to find out the phrase "low prices" is highly dependent on your income level. Nice place. Nice stuff. Low prices? Hardly.

East Bluff Barbie said...

Why do you think they have the wine cellar? They gotta get you drunk enough to pay their prices!