The Intersection of Worlds: A Corn Maze, Trilobites, and Science


Giant trilobite crashes Wisconsin corn field

Science News —- Giant trilobite crashes Wisconsin corn field

This week, my corn maze–a trilobite in a cabinet of curiosities–was featured in the journal Science. I told the interviewer that I’d always hoped to be in Science, but I’d thought it might be for my ground-breaking research. (Perhaps that was at least ( very remotely) possible when I was actually participating in research, but it’s been pretty long since I’ve been in a lab.)

Designing our corn maze every is one of the parts I enjoy most about running our seasonal agritourism business. I spend about a week thinking about the intersections of art and math and science, and mixing in whatever I find interesting–because if it’s interesting to me, I can convey that to our staff, and our staff can engage our customers in conversation about the maze theme.

This year, the University of Wisconsin Geology Museum contacted me and suggested doing a trilobite corn maze. I’ve never partnered with anyone for our corn maze design, but Rich and Brooke were very persuasive. They are both full of ideas and are ridiculously enthusiastic about making science interesting to everyone. Initially I was skeptical about making the main figure a trilobite because I figured many people would have no idea what it was. However,  I eventually realized that it looked like a big ugly bug, and that worked just fine as well.

It’s funny how things work out. Trilobites work fine as bugs, and the path to Science passes through a maze of corn.



Living in the Future with 3D Printing

Coffee To-Go Cup in Blender

I remember the very first time I saw a computer-generated image that actually looked awesome. It was in Scientific American, I think, probably in the late 1980’s, and it was a scene with a simple sphere and a single light source.  The article discussed the “ray-tracing” software, a mind-blowing concept at the time. I think it took like a million hours to render the image–and it was AMAZING.

Fast-forward to the future, which we now live in. My son and I have been taking a class at Madison College to learn Blender, which is an incredibly robust open source 3D design software. We are going to make some projects to send off to be 3D printed at Shapeways, but Blender can also be used for animation and all kinds of 3D projects.

Look, I made a coffee cup! I love living in the future!