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Tech Q&A

Stephen and Chris Daubert

Describe your latest project.
Steve: My effort to appreciate the world of natural science is a work in progress. The more I learn of the wild world, and of the efforts of other scientists to understand it, the more I appreciate how little we really know of it all. I pursue my effort by taking long, contemplative walks through the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains, by exploring the coral reefs of the Caribbean and the South Seas, and hiking through tropical and temperate rain forests. In the process, I gather inspirations for stories like the ones in Threads from the Web of Life.

Chris: I am designing a sculptural installation that will form the entryway to Explorit, a new science museum in Davis, California. It will be an exploration of motion including chronological and non-chronological time, with images and objects that will slide into and out of focus as viewers walk by the piece.

What drives you to create?
Steve: I write on impulse. When I turn on the word processor, one of the things that drives me is wondering how the story I am working on will turn out. I never know; it's like reading new material. Sometimes, the original germ of inspiration becomes secondary to the evolving tale, and is eventually deleted from the final draft.

Chris: I see things as possibilities in my mind, and the only way I can actually understand them is to physically make them.

Did you have a favorite childhood teacher?
Steve: My favorite childhood learning experience was to stop off on the way home from school by a brook or in a vacant lot and loose myself in a plot of weeds and bugs. The older I got, the longer were these side trips; my parents started to wonder where I might be. I never grew out of this; now I find myself taking some pretty serious side trips.

Did you have a favorite childhood book?
Steve: When as a child I shared a room with my brother in my grandmother's house, I still remember reading the Sunday Mark Trail panels in the comics pages. This was ecology before ecology was a household word. Trailways was inspiring to me then, and I find it significant that this fictional, pipe-smoking, nature writer/outdoorsman is still to be found trekking through today's Sunday paper, while his surroundings have changed so thoroughly since the '50s. Environmental consciousness in not a passing trend. (Mark lost his pipe, however, with the change in social acceptance of smoking of the '80s.)

Chris: I got a paper route when I was 12 or 13. When I got my first paycheck, I subscribed to the LIFE Science Library. I loved how the pictures illustrated the concepts, and I copied them assiduously. I still have (and use) them today.

Describe the best museum of science/industry you have visited, and what made it great.
Steve: Today's innovations in tech museums and hands-on displays are excellent tools to induce young minds to pursue science and technology. Luckily for our future, there are many such institutions throughout the country now. One technology that is particularly effective has transformed our planetaria. That is the Zeiss Universarium digital fiberoptic projector. This system puts viewers in an ultra-HD three dimensional simulator, in a 180-degree dome upon which the stars really twinkle. These planetaria are not shy about lifting you from your backyard star vista straight up through the night sky in a continuous arc to a vantage point above the galactic plane. There are four of these projectors in the U.S., at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City; the McDonnall Planetarium at the St Louis Science Center; Griffith Park Observatory in L.A.; and Chabot Space and Science Center in the Oakland hills.

Chris: The Exploritorium in San Francisco is a great interactive experience. It is dark and cranky, and you never know what you are going to run into around the next corner. They have a staff of resident artists and designers who get paid to just make stuff up.

If you could go back in time for a day, what/who would you see?
Steve: I would go back just a hundred or two hundred years, right here in this country and visit the places I know now. I imagine the average woodlot would look more vital and biodiverse than the most carefully protected reserves look today. The pace at which we lose the past is constantly accelerating. I would like to see the eastern hardwood forests dominated by American Chestnut Trees, and shaded by endless flights of Carolina Parakeets. The North American Condor would glide above the Columbia River, and thousands of whales would be visible from the beach. As Joni Mitchell said, "You don't know what you've got til it's gone." It would be useful for my perspective to see the people of those past times taking it all for granted.

What do you do to relax?
Steve: My family meets my brother's family and we all walk through the shadows of a riparian corridor along a river that runs through University of California property near our homes. We discuss art and science and the congruence of the two, and anything else the surroundings suggest to us. But, when I'm not out walking, I grow an organic garden, and play my electronic keyboard.

Chris: My wife and I explore the countryside on our Harleys.

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