Saturday, September 8, 2012

More Than Meets the Eye

Where: National Museum of Natural History

When: through November 4, 2012

This exhibit focuses on the tools scientists use to learn more about the natural world, more than what you can see with the naked eye, and it includes some lovely photography.  In one section of the show, you can see a meteorite, which, aside from the fact that it came from outer space, is pretty dull looking.  It just seems a sort of gray color - nothing much to strike one's interest.  When viewed with a CT scan, however, it is revealed to be quite colorful.  It was formed by the collision of two asteroids and is millions of years old.  I'm always intrigued by things that are tremendously old - this may have been the oldest thing I've ever seen, now that I think about it! By examining rocks very closely, scientists can gain more information about the formation and the evolution of the planet.

In another section, there were videos playing of rituals from other cultures.  I was reminded of the video I saw at an exhibit in the African Art Museum - possibly they were the same?  Video footage provides much greater information about the way people live than still photography can.  In addition to being able to film an entire ritual, scientists can also film interviews with people and ask them questions about their lives.

Other parts of the show involved the use of tools to observe how things move, examine tiny creatures, identify specific types of birds involved in bird strikes (where a bird becomes entangled with a plane), learn about dinosaurs, examine animals' internal structure (with X-rays - I knew about this already from another exhibit I saw at Natural History) and see hard-to-see objects (like spider webs).  They even use tools to differentiate different frog calls.

Verdict: An informative exhibit - explained in language simple enough for children, or even adult non-scientists, to understand.

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