Science Fiction, Science Future Opens At MOSH

The Museum of Science and History’s newest exhibition engages both kids and adults, using highly interactive demo stations highlighting technology just beyond the horizon, using actual science and science fiction as the inspiration.

All around the exhibition, you’ll find images from various sci-fi movies and franchises. You might not recognize them all, but Doctor Who fans will immediately spot the Cyberman at the lobby display, and there’s images in the main exhibit upstairs from Star Wars and Star Trek sprinkled around the main exhibit.

Do make sure you hit up the lobby display before heading up to the main event, because it’s a lot of fun to design a cyborg! The teleportation display in the main area has pads that bear a striking resemblance to the ones used in Star Trek, and for the older kids and adults, there’s tech info on the principles behind it. Harry Potter fans will enjoy the invisibility demonstration.

Don’t expect true experiments here. Instead, it’s all about fun simulations of what’s possible, both now and in the future. Wristbands enable you to get a “medical scan,” which is, of course not an actual medical scan, but what one might be like. The same bands also allow you to find out what your future occupation might be (mine is robot mechanic!) It’s the sort of thing that will spark young imaginations, and help propel future scientists. But the scanning tech, using visual encoding to determine content, is tech that exists right now and is being used in museums across the globe to tailor experiences for people looking at art and history. Some apps on your phone today can use these codes to activate information when you scan them next to a specific exhibit.  

Where I had the most fun was the beta brain wave competition. At this hands-on station, you’ll need two players. Each puts a band around their head that measures the relaxation of the person, tracking things like beta brain waves. Between the two players is a table with a ball in the center. The ball follows a magnetic track between the players. The more relaxed you are, the more the ball is supposed to be pushed toward other player. If you get it all the way to them, you win. It is, in labs with very specialized equipment, possible to use the feedback from brain waves to move objects, or run a computer. In 20 years, if the application is practical, this might be less specialized and more widespread. Instruments that pick up this sort of brain activity are notoriously sensitive, so anything can mess with them. But, it doesn’t actually matter, because it gets players thinking about how such tech works, and it’s fun as well.

MOSH cuator Paul Bourcier believes that the interactive nature of “STEM-based hands-on, full-body stations engages both kids and adults,” leading to learning and innovative thinking. Says Bourcier, “Exposure to science fiction sparks curiosity,” and he hopes “visitors learn from this exhibit the strides we’ve made in technology, as well as see the opportunities for the future.”

The hardest science-tech demonstration in the room is the eye-track computer mouse. This is current tech that actually exists, being used for paraplegics or those who can’t use their hands. It takes a minute to get acclimated, but is fairly rewarding. Out of all the demonstration stations, this is the one that does something real and tangible. With many of the others, it’s difficult to have a demo of tech that doesn’t exist yet, so simulations of what teleportation looks like, or how invisibility would look make it fun and accessible.

Another station entitled “Future Past” that you might find of interest is more historical than any of the others, tracing what we thought the future might be like throughout the decades and centuries. Every age has had a vision of what future tech might look like, and it’s fascinating to look back at those. You control what comes up on the big screen, choosing what time period you want to see.

Not everything is computer and audio-visual driven. In a refreshingly analogue move, considering the content of the exhibit, there’s a drawing station with paper where kids can draw what they think the future might be like towards the end of the exhibition, and where drawings can be put on display. I liked that these weren’t on a computer screen, that they were easy to use (no one would have to share a screen) and used everyday tools.

If you’ve got a range of ages to entertain, Science Fiction, Science Future engages everyone from tots to adults. Not every hands-on display hits such a wide range, but I can safely say that if you’re interested in tech possibilities, you will be engaged. Younger kids will love some of the simpler interaction stations most (like the cyborg in the lobby and the invisibility demonstration) but older kids and adults will dig into the text and some of the more complicated ideas, on everything from wormholes to quantum mechanics.

Science Fiction, Science Future will be on display through May 13th, 2018. For tickets and more info go to theMOSH.org or call 396-MOSH.

About Erin Thursby

october, 2021

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