Science Storms Exhibit (Museum of Science & Industry) Review: An E.T.’s Perspective

The following article was written by Marco the Spacefarer, a small spaceman who sometimes follows me on my adventures. I hope you enjoy his… unique perspective.

Marco here. After reviewing Andrew’s photos carefully, I’ve come to the conclusion that my initial opinion of the museum may have been premature.

As I looked over the photos of the Science Storms exhibit, I was reminded at how much I enjoyed my time there, and not just because I savor the act of stalking Andrew on his little adventures, either. Even though your human technology is almost entirely pathetic, it is nonetheless amusing to watch you play with it, especially when you get shocked, and at least one of the exhibits offered this attractive possibility…

I’d also forgotten just how much crap they’d managed to shove into that space. And today, I’m excited to have the honor of pointing out the flaws and sheer atavism in six attractions within the Science Storms exhibit, complete with snarky remarks beneath each photo.

I mean, seriously. Look at how much they managed to cram in:

Science Storms Exhibit at a glance

Yet somehow that room felt spacious. Primitive, yet spacious, so let’s begin. We’re going to have some fun together.

1. The Tornado Vortex Machine

Water Vapor Vortex Machine from above

A sign beside this amusing machine explained that a tornado is a massive air vortex. Oh, really? Because I thought it was made up of wind faeries and strawberry daiquiris. Please. The sheer level of ignorance that precludes such a sign boggles my mind. I knew earthlings were ignorant, but this is child’s play, my friends.

Anyway, I have to admit that it was fun to watch, even if the vortex fan controls had the response time of a Rube Goldberg machine.

2. The Avalanche Simulator Disk

Avalanche Disk with orange sand

Now this one, while simplistic on the surface, actually had a fair bit going on underneath. Literally. As any spacefarer knows, three forces are at work during an avalanche: friction, gravity, and particle collisions. And a nearby sign even explained these forces, including the additional centripetal force of the spinning disc, as well. There was even a camera controlled by a touchscreen beside the sign.

Even after Andrew had left, I stood there for some time, admiring the rusty grains creating ever-changing patterns on the disc below. It reminded me of my own world.

3. The Wave Difference Pattern Generator

Girl playing under Difference Pattern Generator

Speaking of patterns, here’s a device that would have truly been an embarrassment were it not for one simple fact: the watery patterns projected onto the floor below were quite beautiful. In the photo above, you can even see a girl playing in the center of one.

If you’re not familiar with these (and being an Earthling, I wouldn’t be surprised), these patterns are produced by two or more waves colliding, creating a difference pattern. In this case, the effect is produced by projecting light through a shallow pool of water.

4. The Tesla Coil

Purple bolts of Tesla Coil on ceiling

A-ha! At last something moderately dangerous to look at! Even though it was woefully underpowered to be truly useful, it was amusing to see it form bright, purple bolts every few minutes. Although it was underpowered, it was still pushing more volts than the average human ever sees. (Reminder: get one of these for the ship, only bigger.)

5. Interactive Chemistry Reaction Lab Computer

Reaction Lab showing various molecules

Out of everything I saw in the exhibit that day, this was the only point of interest that really entertained me for a considerable period of time. After Andrew played with it for a good 20 minutes, I walked up, still carefully camouflaged, and tried to deduce the workings of this primitive physical computer.

What I found was surprisingly enjoyable. On the surface of a long table were small black discs. When placed over a projected image of the periodic table of elements, the disc would “become” any atom that you placed it over. And when you combined different discs, different molecules would result, often prompting the machine to show a short video of that element in action. After a short time, I had produced Potassium Carbonate, but was sadly unable to extract the material from the machine. Clearly, it was in some state of disrepair.

6. The Delightfully Dangerous Ferromagnetic Fluid

Ferromagnetic Fluid in porcupine shape

Lastly, I stumbled across a truly intriguing material: ferromagnetic fluid. If you’re not already familiar, this is a fluid that responds to magnetic fields, which causes the unique shape you see above. Those pointy ends are actually where the magnetic field waves are the strongest, and I had endless fun adjusting the strength of the magnet and modulating the porcupine-like shape (if endless fun is roughly two minutes, that is).

Anyway, that concludes this brief tour of the Science Storms exhibit. If you are coming to this museum, you would indeed have a solid argument for punching yourself in the face if you missed this exhibit.

An Open Letter to the Museum of “Science” & Industry:

Man up and buy/rent/steal a bigger Tesla Coil, put it in a room, and create lightning that actually scares people. You humans are too unaware of your own mortality, not to mention the beauty of an electric storm. Experiencing both up close would help you cultivate a healthy respect for the true power of electrons and do you all a world of good.

Also, record it and share the videos. That is all.

(More photos await you in: The Science Storms photo gallery.)


3 Highlights of the Henry Crown Space Center (Museum of Science & Industry Review Pt. 1)

When I first laid eyes on it, the Museum of Science & Industry reminded me more of a governmental building than a museum.

The lawn was perfectly manicured, of course; and the façade of the building just screamed neoclassical.

Do you notice how it looks a bit like a court building? Yeah, that’s neoclassical. Yet far more interesting than any court building, this was a renowned museum containing many treasures. Treasures we are about to see.

Front of Museum of Science Industry building

There was A LOT to see in this museum, so I’m breaking it up into multiple articles. Today we’re going to explore the three highlights you absolutely cannot miss within the Space Center wing, one of my favorite spots in the entire museum. It’s beloved by geeks and growth-oriented travellers alike, so let’s begin!

1. See the Apollo 8 Command Module up close

Apollo 8 Command Module behind glass

As the sticker on the exhibit signified, this behemoth is the real deal. Launched in December 1968, Apollo 8 was actually the 2nd manned mission in the Apollo space program and became the first manned craft to reach the Moon and return to Earth.

You’ll see this ahead and to the right just as you walk into the space center. It’s hard to miss, and the years (and miles!) were written all over its hull. If it could talk, I imagine it would have a deep, wise voice and tell many stories of lunar exploration. Speaking of space exploration, right nearby I was able to:

2. Behold the History of Rocketry at a Glance

NASA Rockets display incl. Saturn V, RL-10, Titan 2

As you can see, this section offered a concise history of rocketry in one glance, spanning the Apollo rockets all the way up to the Space Shuttle program. Best of all, a display in the opposing wall was playing the most famous space speech ever given (and what I consider the most inspiring presidential of speech of all time), that being JFK’s speech in Rice Stadium when he declared that America would go to the moon before the end of the 1960s.

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…”

~ John F. Kennedy [1962.09.12]

And we did.

3. Experience the Omnimax Theater featuring “Hubble”

Hawaiian Islands from low orbit

A visit to MSI is only half-complete until you experience their Omnimax Theater. Think IMAX times IMAX. The screen literally fills your entire view and stretches to absurd heights above your head, creating a really cool immersive experience.

When I was there, the film simply entitled “Hubble” was playing which was all about the mission to repair the Hubble space telescope in 2009. In the film, we saw the very human story of the repair mission and how close the Hubble came to becoming space junk before its time (pretty close); and then explored what the Hubble allows us to see, diving into nebulas and exploring the accretion disks of black holes deep within them.

I never thought that a movie about space could ever move me to tear up, no matter how large the screen was. But when I saw what the astronauts went through — the stress, the uncertainty, and the eventual success… Seeing the world from their perspective in low Earth orbit (including a beautiful view of the Hawaiian Islands) actually got me a little misty.

Of course, since the film concluded with a magnificent view of our fragile planet from high orbit while hearing “Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, I shouldn’t be entirely surprised that I left the theater a little misty-eyed. 🙂

Since you may not be familiar with this incredibly moving version of the song, I’ve included a video the song just below. And perhaps while you listen to it, you can close your eyes and imagine the awe-inspiring beauty of our blue globe from space.

How thankful I am. How thankful I am…

Coming soon:

We explore the amazing atmospheric exhibit, complete with a vortex machine over 10 meters tall! Also, tons more photos that I wasn’t able to include in this article are over at the Byteful Gallery in the MSI Space Center photo gallery. Share & enjoy. 🙂

Billions of Galaxies like blue spider webs