Big Imagination’s 747 Project for Burning Man

The Desert Wizards of Mars are supporting the build of Big Imagination’s 747 Project for Burning Man. Many Desert Wizards are currently on the build site at the Mojave Airport working on the Boeing 747-400 aircraft that once flew for Yarig Airlines (a Brazilian carrier), then converted to a cargo aircraft. Presently, it is being converted into the largest art car to ever attend Burning Man.

Big Imagination IndieGoGo Crowdfunding Campaign Video from Big Imagination on Vimeo.

The lead of Big Imagination, Ken Feldman, and the founder of the Desert Wizards of Mars, Charles White, share a common history in the building of the popular Charlie the Unicorn Art Car that has attended Burning Man since 2011 under the management of Camp Charlie. In 2013 Charles White set out on his own to build the Mars Rover Art Car and in 2014, Ken Feldman also set out to begin the preliminary work on the 747 by founding the Big Imagination non-profit organization.

The Desert Wizards of Mars seeks to intermix science and art together in ways that people can understand and participate with. With the addition in 2014 of the Black Rock Observatory and the 2015 Interstellar Emissary, our goal to create exciting venues for science and art have inspired not just Burning Man attendees, but also the general public and several school programs in what we call ‘the default world’.

Big Imagination is leading the way with the huge airplane that will feature talks by thought leaders and a venue for outrageous fun. How could the Desert Wizards not be a part of this bold audacious project to inspire imaginations? “No dream is out of reach”, said Ken Feldman — and the Desert Wizards fully support this message.

Take a look at The 747 Project’s fundraiser. Help support this awesome project if you can. And come find us on the playa!



Our Mission: Make a Positive Impact on Science Literacy

The Desert Wizards of Mars came together because a group of individuals – artists, scientists, builders, and makers – wanted to make an impact on science literacy. As seen all over the internet, the anti-science groups have taken hold and it is difficult for some people to separate fact from fiction. The Desert Wizards want to inspire everyone – adults and children from all backgrounds and from all socioeconomic groups – we want to inspire people to study the sciences and become more scientifically literate. To that end, we’ve built space-themed art that is designed to inspire awe and to encourage people to ask questions. We want you to fall in love with the heavens; to discover space; and to learn even a little bit more about the universe. We want you to Dare Mighty Things with us.

Desert Wizard Pat Rapp recently gave a talk at TEDxAllendaleColumbia, showing how YOU can help make an impact on science literacy, and why it’s so important. The theme of the TEDx event was “Dare to Defy.” The Desert Wizards of Mars defy stereotypes while encouraging everyone to learn and have fun.


DWOM Charitable Gifting: Help Us Help Our Community!


A message from the Desert Wizards of Mars, Black Rock Observatory, and Burners without Borders…

The holiday season is upon us and the playa dust is gone from the last of our things but the burn is still present in our thoughts. We may be far away from our beloved city but we should always remember who we are and the principles we believe in and follow. The most powerful principle in our community is unconditional gifting and we all have fond memories and unforgettable experiences of receiving a gift from another. There are few greater joys than receiving what you need, at the moment you need it, from an intention of genuine love. These memories can be a powerful tool to inspire us to think of others less fortunate or in need during a crisis especially during the holidays.

There are Burners and others who are in need this holiday and every one of us deserves to experience festivities, have a special meal, and spend quality time together with the people we care about and love. The Desert Wizards of Mars and Black Rock Observatory, in collaboration with Burners without Borders, are on a mission. Our mission objective is to give back to the community in need during the holidays. The Burning Man census data indicates 21.9% of our community have zero income or report an income below poverty level, and Los Angeles county statistics report similar economic figures.

We are collecting contributions from our organizations and donations from you to give back to our community. If you or someone you know is going through a difficult time this holiday then message us and let us know.

IF YOU ARE ABLE TO DONATE WE ARE ACCEPTING MONEY DONATIONS THROUGH OUR PAYPAL ACCOUNT >> DonationsBRO@gmail.com << PLEASE GIVE WHATEVER YOU ARE COMFORTABLE WITH HOWEVER BIG OR SMALL. We will use all of the contributions to make gift card purchases for the holidays and help in any way we can. If you donate please give us your contact information and we will send you some surprise Desert Wizards of Mars, Black Rock Observatory, and Burners without Borders swag!

Use the Paypal account listed above or use this handy button:

It is said that those who are crazy enough to try and change the world usually do and we Burners are just crazy enough to succeed. Join us on this mission to promote our principles and make our default world a better place.

Your friends,

The Desert Wizards of Mars and Black Rock Observatory & Burners without Borders


The Interstellar Emissary

Interstellar Emissary is our newest art project! It’s an homage to the Voyager Spacecraft’s Golden Record. We’re building this as a way to entice people to think about space, future humans and other life in the universe, and our place in the vast cosmos. We’re bringing it to Burning Man 2015, but that’s not all. It’s our latest educational piece, so once we return from the desert we will be taking it “on the road” to other events, schools, science fairs, and maybe even a Maker Faire or two.

Please help us get this art built so we can share Science with the world! DONATE to the Interstellar Emissary!

Our fundraising campaign is here: http://igg.me/at/ie101010

We’re all travelers in an interstellar Carnival of Mirrors. As you venture out into deep Playa, the Interstellar Emissary will be there to make contact.

Interstellar Emissary

Coming to the Playa in 2015, the Interstellar Emissary will not only be a beacon guiding travelers to the Black Rock Observatory, it will also be a message to spacefaring civilizations.


Kickstarter Launch for Black Rock Observatory

We’re building an astronomical observatory for Burning Man 2014 and beyond, complete with giant telescope and science exhibits! The Black Rock Observatory will be a mobile observatory dedicated to the celebration of art and science and built to show the public the joy, immediacy and beauty of our solar system and universe.

The observatory consists of two 21’ domes designed by 2013 temple architect Gregg Fleishman and built by the Desert Wizards of Mars. At night, participants will be invited from miles away by high powered lasers pointing out planets and distant targets from an open sky planetarium. Our 20″ telescope will resolve the moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn and five of its moons, Martian polar ice caps, outer planets, and distant galaxies and nebulae! We also have an extensive daytime program in store including meteorites, white light and h-alpha solar telescopes, pinhole viewers and a radio telescope.

Our planetarium will be a place where travelers can rest their weary feet and dazzle the brain. An outpost for the curious and intrepid, we want to give the sky back to those who have forgotten it belongs to them. We want to give them views of the night sky they can explore again after Exodus by simply looking up and connecting.

Please check out and share our Kickstarter – funding ends July 17th!


First BRO Fundraising Event Held at Mount Wilson Observatory

by Scott Kelley

If you are not a hiker or a science geek, you may not know that one of our local Los Angeles peaks holds a number of prominent astronomical observatories. I’m talking about Mt. Wilson. You know, the one above Pasadena with all the antennas sprouting off of it.

Photo from summitpost.org

Mount Wilson

Back in 1904 when LA was just a little town of about 250,000, our skies were very dark and an our inversion layer (that traps the smog) made it an ideal place for an observatory. These days most of the real science is done with the solar and interferometry scopes. But the big 60″ and 100″ scopes are still there. And get this, YOU CAN RENT THEM OUT!

Photo by Tom Varden

Photo by Tom Varden

So our intrepid leader somehow scored a Saturday night with no moon for Black Rock Observatory crew and supporters. We met at the gate and were escorted under the strict watch of our session director. After walking up the stairs to instrument level, there it is, BOOM, a giant telescope.

Photo by Scott Kelley

Photo by Scott Kelley

We had about five hours total with the 60″ scope and the close by 16″ scope that is used for educational outreach. The smaller scope seemed to me to have better images of the planets, but not the nebula.

Photo by Cathleen Cotter

Photo by Cathleen Cotter

Some folks were a little surprised that the images don’t look like those giant super saturated pics from a book. But you are also looking directly at the light from that distant object. No computers or other funny business. Straight from the stars, across hundreds of light years, into the scope, into your pupil, down the optic nerve to be burned into your brain forever. Or at least until your puny carbon based life body crumbles back to star dust.



The Pulse Cube

by Mark Donovan


The inspiration for this piece was a series of  “light objects” that the collective Numen/For Use created several years ago culminating in a cube that “breathed” on exhibit in the Rizzordi Art Foundation, St Petersburg Russia, in 2011.

The Pulse Cube. Photo by Mark Donovan

The Pulse Cube. Photo by Mark Donovan

I saw a video clip of the cube and knew right away that it would be at home on the playa. I have done quite a bit of woodworking, but never ventured into the world of purely aesthetic art before. My struggle is not the creative aspect of purely aesthetic art, but the making of things that have no real function (Engineer, sorry!). My curiosity was piqued when I attended my first burn last summer with Camp Tsunami and the Desert Wizards of Mars and was blown away by some of the art there. Even more inspiring were the reactions and interactions that people seemed to be having while looking at it all.

When Rachel Willman mentioned BEquinox and the LA League of Arts grants my thoughts immediately turned back to the exhibit. It would be a really fun and challenging build… this could be the perfect opportunity to make something unique for a community that would appreciate it, and contribute to the making of some good memories in the community.

The Pulse Cube by Mark Donovan

The Pulse Cube by Mark Donovan

It was inspiring to see the way people’s eyes lit up and to hear the exclamations of excitement and surprise to one another as they poked and prodded the sides and watched the pattern change inside the cube. One of the best things about the weekend for me was watching people transition from a fast walk to slow their pace as they drew nearer the cube, then stop altogether, then circle back to walk 360 degrees around it with a big smile on their face. Talking to them and hearing their impressions and their personal stories was easily the most fulfilling part of the weekend.

We liked the interaction with the people and the interesting conversations that the piece helped precipitate, and were happy with how quick the setup was. We did learn, however, that we should have built the sides of the cube a little bit sturdier; a few nights of exposure to the forgetful muscles of the occasional inebriate took their toll and we had a few cracks that will need to be repaired if it is to make its way to burning man this year! The hydraulic system that was designed to flex the sides of the cube did not move them as much as we anticipated, either, and there are already plans in the for a design that will have a larger range of motion while preventing accidental damage to the piece this summer. Hope to see you out there!

—  Charles White introduces The Pulse Cube, Mars Rover Art Car, and Black Rock Observatory.



Black Rock Observatory: Yes, We Have a Model!

by Pat Rapp


The Desert Wizards of Mars are making great progress on Black Rock Observatory, the newest project for the crew that is known for its ability to create art that gets people excited about science. If you haven’t been over to blackrockobservatory.com yet, or are not yet following the project on facebook, prepare to be amazed. Black Rock Observatory (BRO) will be coming to Burning Man 2014, bringing the gift of the universe to the citizens of Black Rock City. The plan includes an architectural design by Gregg Fleishman, architect of the Temple of Whollyness, which appeared at Burning Man 2013. On Saturday, March 29, a group of seven Wizards got together to build a 1/6 scale model of the Black Rock Observatory. The model included about 300 pieces of 3-ply and 5-ply ultra thin birch. The router cut pieces each replicate what will be the full size components of the dome.

Architect Gregg Fleishman and Lead Artist Tom Varden lay out the pieces of the BRO model. Photo by Michael Tupá Engel.

Architect Gregg Fleishman and Lead Artist Tom Varden lay out the pieces of the BRO model. Photo by Michael Tupá Engel.


The BRO will be assembled on the playa using rubber mallets to fit the pieces together like a giant puzzle; no other tools will be required. Once assembled, the BRO will be a fully functioning observatory that will enable the residents of Black Rock City to see stars, planets, and deep sky objects.

Desert Wizards assembling the model observatory. Photo by Charles White.


Follow us over the next few months and watch this come together. Black Rock Observatory is going to be a beautiful site on the playa.


Pre-Launch Reflections

by Pat Rapp


Everyone says your first trip to Burning Man changes your life. For me, my life began changing before I even arrived on the playa. It started when I was picked up at the airport by Mama Overlord and taken to the launch site. Once there, I was greeted with big hugs by both Mama Overlord and Admiral Jet Burns. In those first moments while we were taking my four suitcases out of the car (virgin year – I overpacked), I didn’t feel like a stranger who had just come from the other side of the continent to meet the crew for the first time. I felt like a family member coming home for the holidays.

I’m pretty sure I had tears in my eyes when I first viewed the Mars Rover Art Car. It was a beautiful sight. Although I had been watching the progress from the east coast through online posts, I had no idea how moving it would be to see it in person. I remember putting my hands on my cheeks, Home Alone style, and saying, “Oh. My. God.” This was not something that had come off a factory floor. This wasn’t a vehicle that had a few lights thrown on it to make it look arty and fun. This larger-than-life-sized replica of the Curiosity rover was hand-built by a volunteer crew who put in long hours after work and on weekends, completely as a work of passion.

Mars Rover Art Car

Photo credit: Tom Varden

It was an amazing sight.

And it wasn’t finished yet. Motorbike Matt and Captain Everything were still working, despite the fact that it was 11 pm and the mission was set to launch in 12 hours. I realized then that the mission was not necessarily getting this thing built and hauled to Burning Man. The act of creation, and the year of work leading up to this point, was as valuable as the finished product. They were savoring this work and continuing to share ideas and tweak the Rover until 3 am, when they finally grabbed a little sleep on the couch or floor before getting up again in the morning and doing more final adjustments.

Shawna and Switch were there in the morning, as well, having arrived at some point while I was still sleeping. The build site was a flurry of activity and excitement. The Rover was prepped, the truck, RV, and trailer were loaded, and the site was cleaned up. Jet’s brother John spent hours organizing gear and packing the trailer, even though he was unable to go with us to Burning Man.

Although this was not in any way a NASA-sponsored project, we acted like it was and took our roles as Rovernauts very seriously. We wore NASA-style orange jumpsuits. We practiced our “NASA walkout” a few times before John filmed it. We launched on time.

One of the principles of Burning Man is Radical Self Expression. This crew extended that principle into one of Collective Radical Self Expression. We expressed ourselves as the science nerds we are and, collectively, became Rovernauts. We set our course for exploration of the Mars-like environment of the playa.

The large number of people who worked on this project was something I don’t remember ever experiencing before. The skill sets involved are vast and the dedication unparalleled. These are people who get things done.  This is a close group of talented people who welcome new ideas and new people, and enjoy the thrill of creation.

My life had already changed that first day at the launch site. I had discovered a group who would be my family for nine days in the desert. I discovered that each of us can be part of something amazing, and that collectively, phenomenal things can be accomplished. All this, and we hadn’t even left the house yet.