Life & Science

So we went to the Museum of Life and Science. Partly because it’s one of our favorite places to go, and partly because I needed to buy some supplies for a project at work.

It’s always a struggle to drag My Fella away from the building toys, but especially when there’s a giant box of…I keep wanting to call them TwinkerTotters, but I’m sure that’s not right.

Ok, I did some Googling: they’re called ThinkerLinkers. I was close. Kind of.

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Anyway, because the geometry of these blocks is fundamentally, fatally flawed — Fella: comments…GO! — he decided it was his mission in life to sit down and lecture the pieces of wood about their mathematical inconsistencies while fashioning them into a circular base for a tower that, ultimately, lacked the infrastructure to stand upright.

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And thus…here’s the Leaning Tower of ThinkerLinkers.

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“It lists to the left a bit,” observed My Fella. “Like…other things.”

“Maybe don’t say that too loud in a room full of preschoolers,” I replied.

After that diverting interlude, we headed for the Aerospace exhibit, which is the BEST part.

On the way we saw this model, which (I believe) is meant to teach children about scale, but looks more like a collaboration between IKEA and Stanley Kubrick that produced a 4-piece living room set, probably called MÖNNJÅLYTT*

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Sadly, most of the machines — Hohmann Transfer Pinball*, the Black Hole Wishing Well** — were broken, so instead we fooled around with this contraption, designed to teach kids about orbital mechanics (I think).

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That is, I assume we’re supposed to be learning something about physics, but it’s hard to say.

This kajigger, which appears to be based on the kinds of carnival rides — hastily assembled and rarely inspected — that maim children at State Fairs across the nation, comes with no instructions or explanatory text whatsoever. Just some pucks, which you try to balance on the whirly-plate as it…um…whirls.

Which is why we name all the pucks like we’re at an especially nerdy dog track (Kepler’s Revenge; Gravity Assist; Runge, Lola, Runge) and then race them. Also, make them fight.

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MULTI-BODY (problem)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Finally, we went to the gift shop, which has undergone some serious gentrification since our last visit — for some reason, it’s gone from being an alcove that sells astronaut ice cream and mood rings and fifty-cent erasers shaped like dinosaurs to a sleek-paneled espresso bar that will put a latte in the $17 mug you’ve just bought as long as you also purchase a set of fair trade wind chimes made out of sustainably harvested seashells****

Which was disappointing, to say the least. Especially as we went there specifically to buy science-themed tat. Really, what’s the point if you can’t?

And this — second only to my shameful scientific illiteracy — is the utter tragedy of my adulthood: I finally possess (a small amount) of my own money to spend as I like, only to discover that I’m TOO LATE to purchase all the junk my parents refused to buy me back when I was a wee mouthy brat (on the grounds that I should “get a job” instead).

Well, I have got a job now. So where are my cheap souvenirs?

*and containing a tiny hex key that you can, during assembly, toss up in the air while making ape-howls of frustration.
**I am AWESOME at this.
***This is some P.T. Barnum $#!+ right here, because you literally drop a penny and watch it circle the outer edges of the void until it falls through the hole in the middle and disappears forever.
****10% of all proceeds benefit independent shell-seekers

One thought on “Life & Science

  1. Fella says:

    So the basic problem with the thinkerlinkers — other than just being all around lashy and poorly interlocking — is that the size and shape of the various different angle connectors is based on a fixed arc length. Each angle connector thing is like a segment of a circle, and the geometry basically assumes that each of these segments is the same size as one of the ThinkerLinker boards. So rather than having any kind of meaningful underlying geometry, the 45-degree connector just allows you to make a circle with 8 boards circumference, the 60-degree makes one with 6 boards, the 15 degree one 12 boards, etc. Since there’s no thought given to more fundamental aspects of the possible configurations, it’s just kind of a mess.

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