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A Trip to the Science Center

21 November 2014

This past weekend, we took a trip to the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix. It requires a bit of a drive for us, about 2 hours from Tucson without the additional traffic on the freeway. We decided to go after I had found out that my boyfriend never had the childhood science museum experience, whereas that may have been one of my favorite things as a kid. Honestly, we had started watching Cosmos with Neil de Grasse Tyson on Netflix and completely nerded out. The visualizations got to us. Preceeding that, he’s taking an astronomy class, so there isn’t a better excuse to go.

Naturally, it had a number of things that were child-oriented. I think that actually encouraged us. We’re both very pro-education, so getting kids excited to learn is awesome, getting them excited to learn about science is even better. The topics had a good range, as one might expect. There were exhibits for earth science, anatomy and physiology, neurology, flight, sound, technology, solar power, and, of course, astronomy.

The neurology ones were particularly interesting, we thought, with my boyfriend majoring in Psychology and all. They had exhibits about the changing of the brain as a person goes through childhood and into adulthood. There were puzzles and explanations about what your brain goes through to solve them. There were displays about addiction and how behaviors can be just as addictive as food or drugs. They had a true multitasking game that he tried. He got up to the third simultaneous task before having trouble and the fourth one killed him.

The technology section was a little mediocre, but I’m probably a harsh critic. They had a nanotube building activity and a few visual feedback exhibits where you could stand in front of a screen and “catch” sand or interact with robots. There was a programming activity, using visual programming to help angry birds find the pigs in a maze. There was a musical exhibit where you could play a song using lights that you would interrupt using your hands or feet, but that exhibit was out of order.

Then there was the main reason we went, the Planetarium. The tickets cost extra money, but we didn’t want to spare expense, it was the planetarium after all. We got tickets to see the show about our solar system and the show about ice worlds, a topic we’ve been fascinated with for awhile. On the subject, if you get a chance to see the Europa Report, try to avoid it by stepping on legos for an hour and a half instead.

The solar system show went through each of the planets and some of the solar system’s moons. I had anticipated it to be very movie like with great sound and visuals to accompany the great facts, numbers, and layman’s comparisons. I was surprised to find we had a real life narrator manipulating the visual presentation. He would ask questions that we could answer using the interface on the arm of each seat and would answer any of the questions we had. Some of those kids were really inquisitive, but he answered with no problem and loved doing it.

The second show about ice worlds was great. The video explained the importance of finding water ice on other worlds and exploring those as a means of finding other sources of life. It went further to talk about how hydrocarbon ice could be just as important, a question I always had as a kid. It also explained how important it is for us to observe ice cycles on other planets as we try to understand the impacts of global warming and our ice here on Earth. At this point, I felt like the video had to push the idea that global warming is a thing harder than it should have had to. I understand though, it is Phoenix, Arizona after all, a city and state filled with global warming disbelievers. I know, its oxymoronic.

The ice worlds show was supposed to end with a special on black holes. We were subjected to what is probably the greatest melding of dubstep and science anyone has ever heard when Monsters of the Cosmos played on the big planetarium screen and sound system. We left the show saying “millions and millions of black holes” to each other and it has now become an oft repeated phrase. Slacker was down yesterday so I just watched the video on YouTube five times in a row. What obsession? For Science.

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