Wednesday’s events

I didn’t get back to my computer until very late at night, so it took nearly 4 hours just to go through my daily website visits, leaving very little time for video/photo uploading and blogging. And since I don’t want to write another three page entry, I’ll summarize very quickly and photos will have to come later.

Yes, this entry is backdated.

Most of Wednesday was spent in the Carnegie Science Center, on Pittsburgh’s North Shore, next to Heinz Field. Four floors and an outdoor submarine of exhibits, with an Omnimax theater, a planetarium, and live demonstrations throughout the day. There is even a UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) Sportsworks, a place to play and have some of the science behind sports explained.

Like with Seattle’s Pacific Science Center (read here), all museums of this sort will be compared to San Francisco’s Exploratorium. The first two floors were promising, with good exhibits explaining common scientific principles and a large scale model of a coal mine town, but the third and fourth floors were sparsely equipped. The shortened floors couldn’t hold much, and the four aquarium tanks were barely more impressive than a Petco (granted, it did include some lore that you won’t find at the pet store).

At the Omnimax, we saw The Deep Sea, narrated by Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet, at the first show of the day. I enjoyed it, as well as the planetarium show “A Traveler’s Guide to Mars”, a CGI short film about what Mars exploration could be like, and adapted from a book of the same title (that they also sell in the XPLOR gift shop. I would have also wanted to see the other two Omnimax films – Wired to Win and Voyage to Mars, but with a museum like this, I’d prefer to see all the floors first, since these films are at all IMAX theaters as well (here just projected onto the Omnimax dome screen), and there are some within driving distance of home. Plus, the films eventually make it to DVD, but it would be more expensive to come back to this museum if I miss something. Plus, I like to spend the entire time in there (from opening to closing), to make sure I see and do everything, while some people don’t like to want to walk that much and wait for me (similar to when you have to wait while others go shopping).

The submarine, anchored outside, was neat. It’s an older, more cramped quarters model. Not much else to say about it.

Leaving the Carnegie Science Center, we walk to the UPMC Sportsworks. Upon entering, we are told that a lot of exhibits are closed. Upon looking at what’s there, I see that it is a glorified Sportsmart, with a putting green, driving net, batting cage, pitching radar machine, and more. They had one of those full-size semi-cylindrical climbing walls that you often see at street fairs and a hockey screen similar to the driving range – two sensors detect angle and velocity of the ball/puck and project where you hit/shoot it. Pretty nifty, but with most of the exhibits full of kids in lines, I don’t get to play on anything. This means that I couldn’t make a sequel to my radar pitching video, which is my most viewed Youtube video (over 17500 views so far, and fun comments).

There is also a orbital spinner, where you get strapped in and spun in three directions (roll, pitch, yaw), a pool table and one of those enclosed hockey tables with the spinning guys (like a foosball table) to teach you geometry. All exhibits had some science involved, mostly of the “how does it work?” variety, some described the design of the equipment. A trampoline and bicycle on a balance beam (with counterweight so you won’t tip over) closes out the minimized exhibit hall. Well, technically, a second gift shop that doubles as the only exit finishes the tour.

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