, who has a membership, took me to the Museum of Science today. There were the usual awesome things, like the room of math and the dinosaurs and the lightning fossil, and an unusually large number of geckos, which were the current special exhibit and the chief excuse for this visit, and also some new things that struck me as particularly nifty:
- A basin with rice in it, which could be mounded into hills and valleys. An overhead camera monitored the height of the rice, and a projector projected images onto it: colored maps of elevation, slope, water flow, shadows, and...a fifth thing that escapes me at the moment. The result being that you could form a mountain and a lake with your hands, then a moment later see them painted orangey and blueish, respectively, in an instant topo map. Above the basin, a video screen displayed a POV image of the landscape someone standing on the edge of the basin would see.
- A big thermal-imaging screen, which displayed a moving image of my heat map. I saw that my moustache was cooler then my face, and turned it invisible by breathing on it, and jogged in place for a while and watched my chest turn orange, and drew designs on myself with a fingertip. Very fun.
- A nice implementation of a tabletop cloud chamber. These are commonplace, but, despite having a degree in physics, I'd never seen one in person, and stared at the vapor trails of alpha particles and beta particles for a good long while. We saw one alpha trail that took a sharp corner, which presumably marked an impact with one of the
water alcohol molecule nuclei in the cloud.
- The museum has five different models of wind turbine on the roof, connected to a big bank of screens and buttons and diagrams that allow you to see how each one is performing at a given moment, and how they've performed over time. One model was clearly best at high wind speeds, producing power scaled to wind speed all the way up to 60 mph; another clearly gave the best performance at moderate speeds, but shut down above about 30 mph; another crept along with very little output, but was able to output something even at speeds as low as 5 mph.
- They have a singing Tesla coil now, like on the internets, that played a very creditable William Tell Overture. You can see a video of an audience volunteer playing a tune on it on the Wikipedia page for singing Tesla coil.