Easily The Best Science Muesum Ever

Tue 5 June 2018

Today is our last day in Canberra, (cue the sad violin music). Wait, wait, no, don’t. Come on, it’s not that bad! Well, anyway, sorry about that. *Cough*

Because it was our last day, we had already decided on going to an attraction that I had heard a lot about, Questacon! Or, for those who haven’t heard much about it, it is the National Science and Technology Centre, and it is a vast science museum with interactive displays for kids. Well, sounds good already, doesn’t it?

So, after completing our morning routine, and making a packed lunch to take, we all bundled in the car, ready to set off to our destination. Now, most commutes are annoying, as you probably already know, and I don’t want to make you fall asleep, so… How about I explain the origins of Questacon!

In the 1970’s, Australia and Japan were working quite hard at fostering a diplomatic relationship between the countries. In 1975, a doctor of physics, Dr Mike Gore, muses how useful it would be for Australia to have a hands-on science centre.

Little did he know that his idea would become a reality. Fast forward to 1982, when the Australian Bicentennial Authority decides to ask the Commonwealth Government for permission to build an interactive science centre, just like Dr Gore suggested those years ago.

Their idea is approved, and an architect is appointed, but then there is the question of money. Sure, they were given a grant of $50,000, but that’s not going to fund the whole building! Well, don’t panic, a saviour comes in the form of the Japanese Government.

In 1986, the Japanese Government donated one billion yen towards the project, and that amount will cover more than half of the costs. (One Billion Yen is Twelve Million and Ten Thousand dollars!)

Construction was completed in 1988, and 25 years on, the place still continues to amaze people. Anyway….

We arrived there, and I don’t mean it in a bad way or anything, it’s not that impressive on the outside… Well, it’s just that I imagined a science and technology centre would be an architectural wonder, and maybe a bit more colourful?

It’s built around a series of cylinders, and mostly white. But never mind, after all, it’s about what’s on the inside that counts, literally. 😉

We walked in, and while Mum paid our admission fee, I scanned the foyer. A particular thing that caught my eye was a robot, that was in human shape, that some kids were playing with.

When Mum had finished, we headed over there, and it turned out the robot would make impressions from Popular Culture, such as C-3PO from Star Wars. (Being the complete nerd I am, of course, I pressed it.)

Anyway, moving on. We decided that we would go up the ramp to the main galleries. We were halfway up the slope when I saw a thing that was shaped like a harp, but there were no strings! How where you meant to play it?

Being curious, I put my hands where the strings should be, and it made noise as if it had strings! Turns out it was a light harp, and it was controlled by lights and a computer. Cool, right?

The first gallery we came to was the semi-permanent exhibition that changes every one to two years. The current show is all about colour and the way we perceive it, and it was called, Colour: See The World In A New Light. I had heard about it before coming here, and it seemed really cool. Well, my expectations were correct, it was terrific!

There was an overload of information in the exhibition, but here are a few highlights. There was an ultraviolet camera there, and it showed you what it would be like if you could see in the invisible spectrum.

(I don’t know if you know this, but humans can’t see that spectrum, but bees can.) I had a look at myself, and boy, my face was covered with tons of dark freckles. I knew I had quite a few, but honestly, I didn’t think I had so many! (That’s because freckles appear a lot darker under UV light.)

There was also a series of videos on the quite rare condition, Synesthesia. It’s a condition where people have sensory experiences that aren’t considered normal, such as feeling, smelling and hearing colour.

Yeah, it’s real! It was cool to see what these people experienced, many consider it a blessing, not a curse. I’ve read that people say it’s excellent for helping with memorisation.

Another highlight was showing the fluorescence (bright colours in the dark) of many different elements and rocks, under UV light. It was really cool to see how different they looked!

Anyway, the next gallery we went to was called Fundamental, where it introduced the basics and fundamentals of science in hands-on exhibits. It was quite cool too. Highlights included:

There was a kaleidoscope, but instead of being a thing that resembled a telescope. It was a series of mirrors, positioned so that when you looked into them, they looked like there was an infinite number of mirrors, and you.

Another thing was called Recollections. It was a screen hooked up to a motion detector/camera, which was in turn connected to a computer. If you stood in front of it, and danced or waved your arms, it would trace your movements with a colourful silhouette. It was amazing, period.

Gallery No. 3 was called Awesome Earth, and it had all sorts of exhibits on the earth and how it worked. One thing that was amazing was an exhibit called “Caged Lightning”.

(It was a giant Tesla Coil, which looks like a big coil that emits large voltages of electricity, and when it does, it seems purple, as it emits plasma. It is named after it’s inventor, Nikola Tesla.) It goes off every 15 minutes, and boy it gave me a shock! It’s quite loud, and it gives off 3,500,000 volts! Wow!

(Those of you who are panicking about safety, don’t. It’s inside a highly sturdy cage that protects everyone from the high voltage. No, I’m not going to arrive in Mildura black with soot and hair sticking up everywhere. 😉 )

The next gallery, (There are 8 of them by the way, we’ll be here for a while) is called QLab… But wait! Hold up! We can’t go there just yet. In 10 minutes, there is going to be a science show on Colour. It sounded pretty tempting.

We arrived there, with time to spare, so we found a good seat.

The show was being done by a young woman called Ash, and she turned out to be an entertaining person to watch. She explained all about how our eyes perceive colour and how that helps us gain information about the world around us. All in all, it was interesting, and a good show.

Once that finished, we didn’t see the rest of the galleries. Why? Come on guys, gotta have a lunch break!
Anyway, I’m back. Where were we? Ah, yeah, the QLab. There were a few things of interest, a few maths puzzles for the life of me I couldn’t solve, :), things to view under microscopes. I had a look at several leaves, it was fascinating to see the individual cells that make up the leaf.

There was also a thing where you had to roll a ball down a ramp and try to get it to fly through a series of hoops. (I failed miserably at that.)

Kid was fascinated with a video of all sorts of things on earth, and you could rewind and fast forward the video as you pleased. It was quite cool.

If you’ve ever heard of Questacon, you’ve probably heard of the vertical slide. And the question arising from that thought is, did I go down it. You’ll get your answer soon. Anyway, the vertical slide is in Gallery 7…

(Wait, what happened to 5 & 6? Well, No. 5 is called the Shed, and Kid had a ball there making helicopters out of paper cups. 6, is for 0-6-year-olds. No way am I going there.)

Gallery 7 is called Excite Q, and there were all sorts of high energy exhibits, which were lots of fun. One thing I really like was playing a game of air hockey, but against a robot, that has deadly accuracy I have to say.

I was determined not to let AI get the better of me, but it did, several times. Hey, I can’t make some 120 calculations a minute, can I? There was also a high air pressure series of pipes, where you could put coloured scarves in, and try to figure out where they would come out, that was fun.

But, the vertical slide? No way, Jose. Call me a chicken, I don’t care, but there was no way I was doing it! Kid and Mum had a go though.

Last Gallery, was number 8, called H20, is Questacon’s permanent exhibition on water. One thing I found quite interesting, but also disturbing, was an interactive screen telling you how much “hidden water” is in everyday objects.

Hidden Water is an amount of water it took to produce something. For example, consider a kilo of beef. How much do you think? 15,000 litres, on average. (The vegetarians do have a point, guys. *Awkward laughing*)

A few other stats for you, there’s around 1000 litres of hidden water in a litre of milk, and 10 in an A4 piece of paper.

Anyway, I could go on for days, but you get the point, Questacon is terrific, but the amount of information there is staggering. It was so incredible! We stayed there the entire day, but it still left me hungry for more.

Talk about intensive learning!

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