Travel Destinations for Science Buffs
Spring break is just around the corner. But the boozey beach adventure typical of vacations this time of year might not be well suited for the average science aficionado, as we assume they like to be called.
Vacations don't just have to be about eating and sleeping and relaxing; they can be about learning too. In this slideshow, explore some top destinations for the science-centric traveler.
Given that most of the United States is still feeling the icy grip of winter, we'll begin our list with the state where many northerners are headed this time of year anyway, Florida. Just an hour away from Walt Disney World in Orlando is a place where dreams really did come true: the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
The Kennedy Space Center launched the rockets from which American astronauts would first leave the Earth and later land on the moon. Later, it would be the launch site of space shuttle missions until the cancellation of the program in 2011. Visitors to the center can see the astronaut hall of fame, tour Saturn V Complex, and get an up-close view of the Space Shuttle Atlantis.
The Holmdel Horn Antenna in New Jersey may not look like much, but this 50-foot-long structure is what detected traces of the Big Bang.
In 1965, radioastronomers Arno A. Penzias and Robert A. Wilson were conducting experiments with the telescope to study emissions from the Milky Way. The two researchers kept getting a mysterious background noise that was interfering with their experiments no matter where they pointed their telescope.
At first believing it to be the work of humans and later considering the possibility that the mysterious noise was the result of bird droppings on the antenna, Penzias and Wilson later determined that what they were hearing was in fact microwave background radiation left over from the Big Bang.
We'll continue our list with a visit to a tropical archipelago where the weather is currently around 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Weather of course isn't the only reason to visit the Galapagos Islands, which consists of 13 large islands, six smaller islands, and over 40 islets. The diversity of the wildlife throughout the islands is the main draw. In the 19th century, Charles Darwin studied the different animals that inhabited the Galapagos and these observations formed what would become his theory of evolution. Tourism and conservation go hand in hand in the Galapagos, with money drawn in from tourism used to fund efforts to preserve the fragile island ecosystem and its inhabitants.
Alaska, Norway, Canada and other areas above the Arctic Circle might not be as warm as the Galapagos Islands. But tourists willing to bundle up have the opportunity to witness a spectacle unlike anything you might encounter on any tropical trip: the aurora borealis, also known as the Northern Lights.
Those willing to brave the likely subzero temperatures that will greet them will be treated to a somewhat eerie light show in the sky, created by agitated particles high in the Earth's atmosphere that were released by the sun.
U.S. Government Work
On July 16, 1945, the first successful atomic bomb detonated at the Trinity Site near Socorro, N.M., on what is now White Sands Missile Range, ringing in a new nuclear age. Beginning in 1995, the site was opened to tourists, who arrive by the thousands during open houses, which used to take place two or three times a year until recently, when that number shrank to once annually.
Visitors to the site will be greeted by a sign commemorating the event; the remains of Jumbo, the steel canister that housed the nuclear material when the bomb detonated nearly 60 years ago; and a mild dose of residual radiation.
In case the Trinity test site isn't enough for a science buff, a little more than two hours away by car from the Trinity test site is the Very Large Array, a complex of 27 radio antennas in a Y-shaped configuration near Socorro, N.M.
GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images
On April 26, 1986, reactor number four at the Chernobyl power plant exploded, leading to the worst nuclear disaster in history. Pripyat, the town outside Chernobyl that was supposed to be a model of the modern Soviet state, was home to 50,000 residents who had to evacuate, leaving their whole lives behind. The area within the 30-mile exclusion zone will be uninhabitable for the next 20,000 years.
Twenty years after the accident, Chernobyl started to take on a new life, with the area opening to tourism for the first time. Visitors can tour the ruins of Pripyat, which in a little more than a quarter century has been crumbled away, overtaken by nature and wildlife. There are also a number of abandoned villages within the exclusion zone, some of which are still inhabited, albeit illegally. And of course, there are the remains of the power plant itself.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN from the French spelling, in Geneva is home to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the most powerful particle collider ever built. The LHC was built to address the unsolved mysteries of physics and experiments using the LHC has already confirmed the existence of the Higgs Boson, dubbed -- much to the regret of the man who theorized its existence -- the God particle.
The LHC itself isn't open to visitors at this time as it is now operational, but guided tours of CERN, as well as exhibitions highlighting the work of the particle physics laboratory are available.
A bridge isn't supposed to be a destination in itself, but rather meant to connect places to one another. The Sidu River Bridge Yesanguan in Badong County in China is no ordinary bridge, however.
Opened in November 2009, the bridge passes over the valley of the Sidu River. At 2,952 foot long and 1,627 feet high, the Sidu River Bridge is the highest bridge on Earth.
Given the pace at which China is building roads, with nearly 44,000 miles of roads built in 2013 alone, it shouldn't be surprising that China has other impressive highways in its borders, including four of the five longest bridges in the world.
Dubai itself is a modern marvel, a regional trading hub turned global metropolis over a single generation, and the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, is its crowning achievement.
Standing at a height of 829.8 meters (2,722 feet), the Burj Khalifa is roughly 30 percent bigger than the world's next tallest building, Tokyo Sky Tree. Excavation work began in January 2004 and the tower took five and a half years to build. Over 330,000 cubic meters (11,653,840 cubic feet) of concrete, 43,000 tons of steel and more than 22 million man-hours went into the construction of the Burj Khalifa.