Field Trip Day!

Remember how exciting it was to go on a field trip when you were in elementary school? Instead of memorizing boring old multiplication tables and spelling lists, you got to pile on a bus and drive into the city to see a submarine or a dinosaur skeleton or maybe out into the country to pet goats or see an old mill (OK, actually the old mill was really dull, but you get my point). Now there are two new(-ish) things you can download to your pocket that help replicate the field trip experience for you.

First off is the Field Trip app from Google. Field Trip uses your location data to tell you about the cool stuff all around you, compiled from a range of sources like Arcadia Press and Eater and probably a bunch of others I haven’t run across yet. I’ve only had the opportunity to use it locally so far, where it’s pointed out a lot of Korean cultural and historical facts in my own neighborhood and a bunch of restaurants in the Loop. It’s not really made for the day-to-day wanderings around my own city, but I’m excited to give it a try the next time I go out of town, because if there’s any source I trust to provide me with way too many random facts about the world around me, it’s Google.

There’s also the Field Trip podcast (completely unrelated), in which your two intrepid guides go out into the world to learn about science as it is lived. Each episode features an interview or two at labs of various sorts, whether it’s a coffee roaster or the garage of a self-described tinkerer. The hosts are enthusiastic without being obnoxious and knowledgeable while still speaking layman’s language, and they do an excellent job of interpreting the somewhat complicated visuals involved in their stories for the listening audience. Based on their descriptions, I could easily picture the process of grinding glass into a parabola for a telescope. Plus, I have to admit, I love their little theme song, which reminds me of the educational public television shows from the 80s.

OK, does everybody have their buddy? Great. Let’s go.