The Third Floor Bridge: Time Travel Made Beautiful
Greeting Blogophiles! Are you partial to the Paleozoic? Perhaps you are drawn to the Devonian, or maybe you are more moved by the Mesozoic and are crazy about the Cretaceous. Well, have I got a bridge for you… The third floor bridge between the Main Building and the NRC is now open and it’s about time. Walk with me, would ya?
While we’re walking, let’s do a bit of math shall we? If you were to walk from the Main Building (Nature Exploration Center) to the Nature Research Center via the third floor bridge, how long would it take you to get there (please show your work)? Using the simple equation Time = Distance/Rate or T=D/R, if you know the distance between the two buildings (140 feet) and how fast you are traveling (1 foot per second), you could easily calculate the time it would take (140 seconds or just over two minutes).
Now, let’s say you wanted your trip to take 544 million years, how fast would you need to walk? Let’s see, R = D/T. So 140 feet /544 million years means you would move approximately a quarter of a foot every million years. You’d be long dead and hopefully fossilized, before you even took your first step. Fortunately, thanks to the beautiful artwork tiles by Barbara Page, you can now travel back 544 million years in the time it takes you to cross the bridge, and live to tell the tale.
As a paleontologist, I often think about time and about fossils, but I rarely think of them as art. However, on the third floor bridge, art and science have collided in spectacular fashion, and anytime you want (when the Museum is open and the weather is decent) you can wander to the bridge and plunge into the depths of Earth’s deep time.
The concept behind the tiles is an ingenious one. If one were to turn the layers of the Earth like pages in a book, on each page you’d see something different. But because there is no place on Earth where all of its history is represented, the tiles are a composite of representative fossils found from various geologic time periods around the world. What I find really fascinating about the bridge tiles is that rather than representing what the organisms might have looked like in life, they are images of fossils you might find from rocks of that era. It’s kind of like field work without getting dirty, and everyone is guaranteed to find a fossil.
The other brilliant part of the bridge art is there is math behind it and you don’t have to do it. Barbara Page has done it for you. Each tile represents ≈2 million years, so in effect you can travel through time without worrying about your teleporter inadvertently turning you into a fly. How convenient! Also for those budding ichnology (trace fossil) enthusiasts out there, the tiles at your feet have depictions of some of the tracks or trails you might find. How cool is that?
So next time you’re at the Museum, why not slow down and visit the third floor bridge to do a little field work? It’ll be well worth your time.
To see more of Barbara Page’s artwork please visit her website: http://www.barbarapagestudio.com/index.html