Pine Cove historical marker commemorating the 1926 speed of light experiment that began here. Photo by J.P. Crumrine MS folder Larry Kawano

Larry Kawano, chief scientist and outreach coordinator at Idyllwild’s Astrocamp, makes science interesting as part of his current job, explaining and enlivening scientific mysteries for young students at the Hill’s science camp. He does the same for older Idyllwild residents as a popular speaker for Idyllwild Community Recreation Council’s long-running speaker series. He returns for the series on Thursday, Feb. 21.

A cosmologist by training at Cornell University, University of Chicago and CalTech, Kawano easily navigates from macro to micro and complexity to simplicity. The micro in Kawano’s presentation is Idyllwild and its connection to the macro universe of scientific mysteries and experiments.

He noticed a curiosity that got him thinking about the subject for his talk. Although Idyllwild is known primarily for the arts, said Kawano, there are many relatively unknown echoes of scientific importance that for several moments in the past made Idyllwild and its environs important science centers.

Larry Kawano, ICRC speaker on Thursday, Feb. 21. Photo by Marshall Smith

Kawano calls his presentation “The Short History of Physics and Astronomy Explorations in and near Idyllwild: The Pine Cove Speed-of-Light Marker, Palomar Observatory and What Could Have Been Under the Mountain.”

And, for anyone who knows Larry and his dry wit, it won’t be surprising that the moments of which he speaks did not result in anything of significance for Idyllwild. “It’s still interesting although the results were not successful,” said Kawano.

He first acknowledged the Pine Cove to Mt. Wilson speed of light experiment that was an exciting attempt to refine light’s speed but that failed because of smoke and haze. Nobel Prize-winning scientist Albert Michelson sought to reflect light from Pine Cove to a measuring station 82 miles away on Mt. Wilson. The marker still exists in Pine Cove.

Although Mt. Palomar can be seen from Idyllwild, it is not on our mountain. Nevertheless, Palomar was the world’s best telescope for many years after its installation in 1948, and contributed greatly to our understanding of other galaxies and the universe. The 200-inch telescope now ranks 19th among the world’s most powerful instruments.

Finally, we’ll leave as a mystery Kawano’s third topic — what clandestine activities Stanford University might have pursued under our mountain and the scientific experiments that might have been conducted there. As a clue, just ask Kawano about dark matter, which, at least at this time, does not yet have a CIA connection.

Kawano speaks at Creekstone Inn at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21. The event is co-sponsored by Astrocamp. There is a wine and cheese reception at 5:30. Both are free to the public.