First, I perused the “disaster” exhibits. I tested the immersive hurricane simulator, the immersive earthquake simulator, and the immersive tornado simulator. I was a little disappointed…probably for safety reasons. Next, I wandered through the human body exhibits. The section came complete with exhibits on birth, sex, and death. Many of the exhibits were little more than short videos one could watch by pressing a button, but some were interactive and they did have some object displays, such as fetuses in jars. Next, I travelled over to the “Kids In Charge” section (in a separate building) to catch the planetarium show. The exhibits in this building tend to be a little more hands-on interactive. For example, there was a rope-and-lever assembly that taught leverage through playing tug-of-war. There was also a giant, rope “spider-web.” Outside, after the show ended, I found the ropes course. I watched but decided not to spend the extra money to play. I went back into the main building, perused the disaster exhibits and human body exhibits again, watched a short video on parasomnias (one of the human body exhibits), and then discovered the magnetism section. Finally, I found the IMAX dome theater and waited for the next movie to start. I watched Flight Of The Butterflies. While waiting, I bought some overpriced Pepsi and Reese’s Pieces and sat in the lounge. There was a pool table and an arcade game there. They serve hard liquor, apparently, but I didn’t think it would mix with the steep steps of the theater. They might not have been serving it at that time. I was afraid to ask. After the show, I checked out the gift shop (packed with puzzles, toys, and so much more), the outdoor garden (packed with flowers, trees, and a large cactus!), and walked the short trail through the woods to the picnic tables. Then I went home.
Many of the exhibits there were good, but many more left me scratching my head. They were soft on the science and explained almost nothing, begging questions that no one but I was around to answer. There seemed to be a pattern of carelessness. There was a lone balloon that would fill with hot air every few minutes and rise to the ceiling, but no placard detailing why hot air rises. On one of the magnetism exhibits, an isolated phrase was thrown out that magnetism is electricity in disguise. There was no explanation of what that means. A grid of magnets and detachable pieces supposedly simulated how the brain stores memories, but begs the question: How does a mere completed circuit from the top of the grid to the bottom correspond to anything in the brain? Also, because the illuminated pictures below representing specific memories only seemed to correspond to the placement in the lowest part of the grid, rather than the combination, it is woefully incomplete to the point of being misleading (I already know something of the phenomenon). Another exhibit supposedly simulated firing neurons, but it was only a bunch of flashing lights. I didn’t get the connection (no pun intended). In one corner was a place to sit and listen to music or watch a video of a lady doing yoga. For what purpose? In one of the disaster exhibits, the term “time to get out of Dodge” was used. Not everyone knows that expression! During the planetarium show, constellations were treated as a given, never explained, and I kept expecting some kid to ask why they can’t see giant animals and people in the sky. The term “light pollution” was used repeatedly and I kept expecting some kid to ask if light made people sick. The phenomenon of precession was hinted at, but never explained or even named. It was only said that we would have a new north star in 26,000 years. It would have been nice to see that simulated on the ceiling so that somebody other than myself would know what was meant.
The planetarium there was decent, but the show was rather boring. It basically just covered how to recognize certain constellations. The only planets pointed out were Mercury and Venus. At least the presenter kept it from becoming a lecture and told plenty of jokes (not all of them bad). He was good at speaking and keeping things moving. That was a plus.
Flight Of The Butterflies might not be the most exciting movie, but it wasn’t bad, and IMAX dome theaters make everything better. It is the story of monarch migration patterns and how they were discovered. There is mystery and there is solid science content. The idea of catching and tagging insects intrigues me because it sounds easy relative to some other areas of science. If packaged correctly, I believe the movie can inspire a new generation of scientists.
I didn’t like the pricing there. The website suggested that all features (other than the special sea monster exhibit) were available under one ticket. I only later found out that all films were additional, that the ropes course was additional, and that the zip lines were a separate charge from the ropes course! The website did at least warn me about the parking fee. I assumed that either the parking was in a garage owned by another entity serving many nearby businesses, or that it was very limited. When I arrived, I discovered that neither were true. The parking lot was less than a sixth full, yet everyone was charged four dollars no matter how long they stayed. If they wanted the money that badly, why didn’t they just increase the ticket price?
I found a kid to play a game with wherein one competes in relaxation. Electrodes on the forehead measure brain waves and the person least relaxed is the one the machine moves a little ball towards, making a “goal” for the other.
There is a disk filled with fluid that creates interesting designs when spun. I played with it, making vortexes orbit each other.
While on the nature trail, I saw a dark-colored lizard high in a tree. Its tail was extremely flexible and kept wriggling continuously. Its skin had a sort of iridescent, rainbow sheen to it.
The most fun I had was while waiting for the planetarium to open, in the Kids-In-Charge building, I tried to pull a large pendulum by throwing magnets tied to strings at it and then pulling. It was quite a challenge, and I briefly worked with others to coordinate our actions.
I saw this machine in the gift shop: