August 5th, 2005

krazy koati

The spheres are in commotion

Today, we journeyed to the Singapore Science Centre, which may be less inherently quirky than the Philatelic Museum, but is organized around some nice general principles, such as that it's neat to have enormous Tesla coils laying about. We missed the Tesla coil display, alas, since we foolishly bought a (discount) Omnimax theater ticket that conflicted with the lightning. The movie was Mysteries of the Nile, a trip from the source of the Blue Nile all the way to the Mediterranean, with only a handful of spots where you notice they were re-creating events after the fact. Or else they just happened to have a brave Imax cameraman on-hand to spot and get a quick picture at a Sudanese sniper who shot at one of the boaters who was exploring a side branch. Mm-hm. But the pictures were amazing, even if I kept looking at stuff in the periphery.

I had forgotten how much of the entrance hall was optical illusions, or attempts at them, although there were gaggles of children running around so we didn't quite spend enough time on any one. The ``detached head on a platter'' illusion had a note that it was closed for repairs, although you could still poke your head up into it and have it appear to be sitting on a table by itself. We ended up more or less hypnotized by an actual science display, the Aeolian Winds, which let you turn a fan around in a meter-wide tub of sand, and stir up little dunes. spaceroo got the hang of making really turbulent air flows, complete with whirlwinds.

A Hall of Planets sort of display outside the Omnimax had a curious mix of displays that were fun -- rockets suspending in the air; a statue of some kind of big-eared Martian whose origin we just can't place; a remote-control simulator of the Mars Pathfinder, complete with pivotable camera -- and things that seem to be the result of under-funded maintenance budgets -- confused attempts at showing retrograde motion, or dioramas of the Actual Relative Sizes of planets that make the terrestrial planets way too large.

You get the sense some of these were included because science museums have to have these things. We ended the day wandering around the Kinetic Garden, wondering at things like the horizontal sundial with the adjustable time displays. I think it's for Daylight Saving Time, though Singapore either doesn't or always observes Daylight Saving Time, depending on your perspective. It's a confusing issue. The Science Centre McDonalds has an impressive display of Happy Meal Toys of the past decade. That included some superhero plush toys we couldn't identify, Hello Kitty astronauts, Birdie the Early Bird toys, and what I thought was monkeys in spacesuits but turned out to be a spaceship with McDonaldland figures inside. Statues inside included Hamburglar and one of the Fry Guys.

We ended the day hypnotized by a very complex gadget that moved balls around on tracks. It sounds like nothing, I know, but there were about 4,886 trillion alternate ways the balls could move, and we just had to watch all of them.

Trivia: In 1842 James P Espy was named the United States' first national meteorologist. Source: The Antebellum Period, James M Volo, Dorothy Denneen Volo.

Currently Reading: Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 11 (1949), Isaac Asimov, Martin H Greenberg, Editors.