Museums of Today and Long Ago

It’s nearly impossible to predict what we or our children will retain as important memories. Duh. One of my best (strongest and postive-ist) memories is of the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Back then, before whizz-bang, interactive museums, it had proto-things to do. And chicks hatching under red lights. And an echo chamber. And a walk through the heart. And jars of human fetuses (long gone, I imagine). But right about the time I hit adolescence it opened Mathematica.

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What you cant’ see in this picture is the exhibit about conic sections, or slices through a cone:

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This exhibit was a large enclosed tank into which you looked through portals in the sides. It was dark, filled with strings and colored narrow beams of light played over the strings and showed you the sections. Bach organ music was in the background. More than 40 years later, I still remember this. I still love both Bach and conic sections. That’s why when they announced a new museum in NYC I knew I’d have to go (even though they didn’t have a lot of cool pictures on the website).

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3 thoughts on “Museums of Today and Long Ago

  1. Actually, that Mathematica is in the Museum of Science in Boston, MA. I’m sure Chicago is lovely too though 🙂 My favorite part is the normal distribution that’s just behind the main case there.

    • Glad I wasn’t the only person to immediately realize that image is from the MOS. I wonder if Chicago’s is the exact same? And I am with you, Paula – I’ll watch the balls fall and form a bell curve any day.

  2. Ah-ha! Clarification:
    The exhibit at Chicago was actually 2nd. There was one in California first (CMOS) – both in 1961. Boston was later. The image I posted was from the Chicago MS&I website. I believe the two exhibits are nearly identical.

    The new museum of mathematics IS in New york: http://momath.org/ at 11 East 26th Street in Manhattan

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