Black Holes at Boston’s Museum of Science


Image: X-ray: NASA/CXC/MIT/F.K.Baganoff et al.; Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.WeissImage: X-ray: NASA/CXC/MIT/F.K.Baganoff et al.; Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

Image: X-ray: NASA/CXC/MIT/F.K.Baganoff et al.; Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

According to a new exhibit at the Museum of Science in Boston, technological advances over the past ten years have revealed that black holes play a much greater role in the evolution of the universe than previously imagined. This research is going on in sophisticated facilities from Harvard’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to the CERN Large Hadron Collider. But according to my teens, the displays in the Museum of Science exhibit Black Holes: Space Warps & Time Twists dealt with the subject on a very basic level — a museum presenter explained the make-up of black holes using a model made from Styrofoam, felt and pipe cleaners — and didn’t present a lot that was new (to them). Still, it’s got some interesting takes on this strange phenomena.

Various video stations explain the characteristics of black holes, from temperature to mass. You can take a simulated ride in an “excursion pod” to explore a wreck trapped near a black hole. And we all got a kick out of the kiosk that played clips from movie and television portrayals of black holes, including scenes from The Simpsons and Donnie Darko. (No, they didn’t include Event Horizon.)

One aspect of the exhibit that could have been somewhat cool but ended up being a distraction was the “Explorer’s Card” you can obtain at a station where you first come in. At several of the other stations you’re invited to insert your Explorer’s Card, which records some of the data you’re reviewing, saves videos you record and so on for you to review at home. As of this post, the system still isn’t up and running, and it seems to me I spent more time playing with the card than actually absorbing information.

On the other hand, the exhibit website is worth a visit all on its own, with games, information, and more.

Thanks to the Museum of Science for inviting GeekDad to its Media Day. The event included a presentation on the Large Hadron Collider and a Duck Boat tour (my favorite part of the day!).

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