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.


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!


Bequinox 2014

by Anthony Lanni


This last weekend was the second annual Bequinox, the Los Angeles Regional Burn event. A little background:

Bequinox was conceived after the Fire Marshall at L.A. Decompression told the L.A. League of Arts that there couldn’t be a burn at Decom, due to fire hazard. With the Seraphim structure built, and the plan for the reveal of the Human Spirit in place, the leaders of LALA decided that Los Angeles deserved–nay, needed a burn. A campground was found in Joshua Tree that would allow us to burn a structure, and Bequinox was born.

This year was, if anything, better than the inaugural Bequinox. Starting Thursday night, Los Angeles Burners began to arrive and set up, and by the time I arrived Friday afternoon our little version of Black Rock City was all in place. Conversation Camp and the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, the Effigy we were to burn and the Mars Rover Art Car, all were up and ready to go. For the rest of that night until early Sunday morning, I wandered through the camp, drinking, dancing, mooping, everything a Burner does.

Home again, exhausted, I took a couple of days to reflect on the experience. Among the camps, the art displayed, the food and drinks shared, the costumes (and lack thereof), the music and dancing and singing and everything else, one thing came through to me:

These are not the things that make the Burning Man community great.

The thing that makes the community great is the community itself. Among all the activities of the weekend, among all the laughter and partying and drinking and wildness, the best time I had came Saturday afternoon, sitting in a lawn chair under the tarp my brothers and I set up for shelter.

You know that feeling; it’s midafternoon, you spent all night partying and when you got up you spent a few hours wandering around the city. Now, you’re back at camp, maybe napping or reading a book or sewing EL wire on tonight’s costume, recharging for the evening to come.

I was reading. My brothers were sleeping. Somewhere in a nearby camp a couple was making love.

And, slowly, one by one, people began to join me. First a brother; then the girl camping next door. Another girl, from the camp on the other side, and then one of her friends. My other brother. One by one, our little shelter became full of people, chatting and laughing.

And I realized, right then, that this was what Burning Man is all about. It’s about people connecting, making friends, the human connection. All the sharing, the radical inclusion, the projects, the Temple and the Burn; they all bring us together, show us that each and every one of us is connected to the other, all friends whether we’ve met yet or not.

And I love you all.


MRAC Takes On LA Decompression Party

by Phoenix della Mare


In the Burning Man community we have a cycle, much like the seasons. Unlike our seasons which change due to weather patterns and our relative distance to the sun, Burning Man’s seasons are: build-up to the event, the event, and recovery.

Events related to Burning Man occur within this cycle. There are a series of pre-Burning Man events such as Precompression, Burnal Equinox, fundraisers for various theme camps and art projects, and so on.

And then there’s the post-event event, the thing we call Decompression. It’s a chance to have one last hurrah and wind down from the year’s Burning Man event. It generally takes place about a month after Burning Man (depending on region). The main Decompression event that is put on by the Burning Man Project is in San Francisco, but most regions have a decompression event. This allows artists to bring out their projects one more time and share it with their local community. For people who cannot attend Burning Man, this is a great way to participate. For people returning from Burning Man, the regional decompression gives them a chance to share their work again.

I generally go to the San Francisco Decompression party. I’ve made the trip to Santa Cruz for their Decompression party, as well. These are both local to me so they are easier to get to.

Last year I decided to make a bit more of a trip. I went to LA Decompression to help out where I could with the Mars Rover Art Car, which was nicely placed between the Human Spirit and the Flow Arts stage, not too far away from the entrance.

LA Decom was much larger than I expected. It ran the length of LA Historical Park, not too far away from Little Tokyo and Chinatown in Los Angeles. The size of the event was impressive, considering that San Francisco Decom is only a few blocks long. For someone used to smaller scale events, LA Decom can be a bit overwhelming.

The amount of interest in the MRAC was truly awesome. In the time that I was there, we had quite a few people who came over to check it out. They asked various questions which were answered by the members of the crew. The overall vibe was chill and Camp Envy shenanigans were happening as the MRAC was streamed over the Camp Envy website.

While my health made it difficult for me to stay as long as I had wanted (I learned some important lessons so I won’t repeat the same mistakes again), going and supporting MRAC at LA Decompression was a lot of fun. The people were great to talk to. Overall, it was a great time.

And I’m curious about the thoughts of others who were there. Feel free to send me your thoughts about MRAC at LA Decom, Burning Man or any other local events to risingphoenix13@gmail.com. I might just collect them for a future post.


Do-Ocracy? What Does That Mean?

by Phoenix della Mare


Being around the Burning Man community you start to pick up a lot of new words. They are words that could have meaning in every day life, but you would have never thought about prior to that first trip to the Playa. Words like MOOP (matter out of place), using the word radical in front of self-reliance… things like this. One word that I have repeatedly heard over the years is the word “Do-ocracy”.

This is the very core of what makes things tick at Burning Man. If you think something’s missing, if you want to see something at Burning Man, you make it happen. After all, Burning Man is a Do-ocracy.

It’s such an awkward word that has a lot of power behind it. It means you can help form the reality that is Burning Man.

So, what do the Mars Rover Art Car, Black Rock Observatory or Black Rock Astronomical Society have to do with this?

It’s simple. While there have always been quite a few people who would look at the stars while at the event, it was never accessible to the masses.

That is the core of what MRAC, BRO and BRAS want to bring to Burning Man. We seek to bring science and astronomy to the Playa. This is something that hasn’t been done before. We will bring science to more people through a more hands-on and approachable manner.

Sure, it sounds like a lofty goal. It’s also an achievable goal.

It’s also the very essence of Do-ocracy. We saw something that we found lacking at Burning Man. We are making it and filling that void.

The Do-ocracy is part of what makes Burning Man an ever-changing experience. It also makes it continuously unique. The word might sound funny, but it’s part of what helps nurture the creative spirit. MRAC, BRO and BRAS are the essence of the word Do-ocracy.


The Black Rock Astronomical Society

by Wabi Sabi


The Black Rock Astronomical Society, BRAS, is a rowdy band of travellers culled together by Bo Peep and Hypnotic of New York City to build their wild desert vision of a 20” aperture Dobsonian telescope in the Deep Playa. At Burning Man, wild visions cannot consist simply of a 10’ telescope with fragile pieces sitting in solitude on the playa waiting for passersby who want to peek into the galaxy. No. Their telescope will be an elegant behemoth amidst the swirling dust, rewarding brave souls who dare to climb upon its back to contemplate her or his place amongst the supernovas, nebulas, stars and planets.

The telescope will be a beacon to travelers venturing out to the Deep Playa, calling to all the aliens, starships, spaceships and those who dream of flying–and it will do this from within the oasis of the Black Rock Observatory. This is where weary travelers will rest and learn from wise men about what lies beyond and what the stars and heavens can tell them about what lays ahead in their future. There they will meet other travelers and share their stories and describe that intimate moment when their eye fell upon a distant star…

When Bo Peep and Hypnotic came upon the builders of the Black Rock Observatory, it was explained to them that they were an observatory in need of a central telescope.  The destiny became clear to them all as Bo Peep and Hypnotic described their vision of a telescope, and they immediately set off to find a crew. The first person chosen on the journey was General Pumpk1n.  General Pumpk1n was Hypnotic’s childhood friend and now that they were grown, Hypnotic could see he had become a man with intimate, formal knowledge of the brutality of the desert.

Pumpk1n is educated in chemical and bio-engineering and knows the magic of nuclear engineering. He told tales of being a special processes engineer and project coordinator for the government. He explained that it was he who was responsible for ensuring the survival of objects in harsh physical conditions. He could control the effects of shock, vibration, and harsh environmental conditions on objects precious to the government, such as heavy rains, sand and dust. Bo and Hypnotic asked the man to join them and he accepted.

They then happened upon Wabi Sabi. She would gather people near and far to join her in her ventures and connected those who were seeking with those who were sought. Bo and Hypnotic had traveled with her and knew she could gather together those who would seek out the telescope. Wabi Sabi agreed to bring the people to the telescope and joined them.

On and on they continued and happened upon Richard Berry, known as the Idea Guy. He was a learned man and had written books on telescopes. He built telescopes and brought them and his knowledge of the stars to the  people. Bo and Hypnotic knew this would be invaluable as they began building and Idea Guy accepted the new challenge of teaching them to build one of his sought after telescopes in the desert.

Together, we will all welcome you to share in Bo Peep and Hypnotic’s vision in the Deep 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.



Mars Rover Art Car and Inclusion

by Phoenix della Mare

Burning Man is an interesting experiment in temporary communities. Each year creates a new and unique community structure. While the community itself is both temporary and amorphous, there are a set of rules referred to as “The Ten Principles”. Primary on the list is the idea of “Radical Inclusion”. In short, it means that anybody can take part in Burning Man.

 Not all theme camps are as inclusive as others. It’s rare to find a place that’s willing to be open enough to allow people in. My experience with the Mars Rover Art Car is much different feom those I have experienced with other theme camps.

I should probably start out with a little self-history to explain where I am going with my tale.

I attended my first Burning Man in 2004. I went with a group or people who thought the only correct way to Burn was to do it like them. For them it was about the party and not necessarily about the community. At least that’s what I got out of their experience.

I approach Burning Man differently. I enjoy working and gaining the experience through interpersonal interaction. There’s nothing wrong with either way, they’re just different.

My first year I wound up hooking up with a theme camp that’s local to me (the San Francisco Bay Area). I thoroughly enjoyed the years that I had with them.

In 2009 I had no job and couldn’t afford to go back to Black Rock City. It was at that point that I stumbled upon a brand new online community of fellow Burners and those that wanted to make the journey to Black Rock to be known as Camp Envy. We envied the experience that everyone out on the Playa were having.

It was through Camp Envy that I met some of the crew of the MRAC, many of them being in Los Angeles.

As you’d expect, it would be difficult for me to participate with actually building the car. It’s more difficult for me to take off for a work weekend as I’m about 5 hours (depending on starting point) north of them.

Regardless of locale, I was accepted with arms open. It’s an inclusion that I felt my first year when I found the theme camp that I wound up with for 3 years. It’s an inclusion that they continue to exceed at now. I may not be able to have a physical presence at work weekends or on Playa, but they have accepted me all the same.

A good theme camp or mutant vehicle crew or art crew, in my mind, treats all its members like family… and not just the red-headed stepchild. This is the inclusion that I found at Burning Man in 2004. This is what inclusion should be.

I may not be able to go to every work weekend. I may not be able to be a part of the flight crew at Burning Man. I am still a part of the crew.