Courtney

Boundless Energy on Display at Birch Aquarium

Propel this mechanical fish with solar energy at Birch Aquarium

Boundless Energy, Birch Aquarium at Scripps’ new exhibit, opens Sat. July 9.

The interactive exhibit explores the science behind renewable energy with fun outdoor installations powered by the sun, wind, and waves.  The hands-on activities create a dynamic outdoor play area that offers hours of fun for the child in all of us.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps is open from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm daily. Visit aquarium.ucsd.edu for more information.

Benjamin Eastman

Highlighting SPACE in Air & Space Museum

Build your own colony on Mars!

The San Diego Air & Space Museum has an exhibition entitled SPACE: A Journey To Our Future.

A brand new selection of awesome hands-on areas make up this fun-filled exhibit! And while it is scheduled to be on display through January 2012, don’t let that be a reason for putting off this very cool experience!

While featuring lots of great memorabilia from the various stages of the Space Race (including moon rocks, space suits, and collections of mission patches, pins, etc), what really drew my attention was all of the great interactive and technology based exhibits that are featured. From their 360 degree theater to an area that allows you to build your own colony on Mars, the SPACE exhibit does a fantastic job of immersing you into all things Space. Their 3D/4D theater is even playing excerpts from the Hollywood movie, “Fly Me To The Moon”!

Motion-detection technology!

And how fun is it to experience exhibits about the future of space travel by utilizing futuristic technology? One particular exhibit uses motion-sensing technology to detect your hand movements and allows you to place parts of a rocket together to build your perfect space exploration machine. Another exhibit quizzes you on various propulsion systems and allows you to build a spaceship based on whether you intend to explore or colonize the region that you want to visit. The museum even features real-life exercise machines that astronauts use while in space!

Once again the Air & Space Museum has done a fantastic job of blending the fun and educational sides of learning together to make an enjoyable experience for future space travelers of all ages.

Guest Blogger

You’re a Good Man, Charlie Darwin

This was a big year for Charles Darwin.  First he was remembered on his 200th birthday, then he went and got a whole genus and newly discovered species named after him, and now, on the 150th anniversary of the publication of his paradigm-shifting book On the Origin of Species, he’s headlining here in town at the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa ParkDarwin: Evolution|Revolution, which opened this weekend on November 7, is the most comprehensive exhibition on Darwin and his contribution to science ever assembled.

Darwin's study

Darwin's study - a cozy place to revolutionize science

Exhibiting some of Darwin’s own original artifacts — notebooks, specimens — and re-creating some sights and sounds from his eye-opening voyage aboard HMS Beagle as well as the study and lab he spent 40 years working in, the exhibit tells the story of the life and times of Charles Darwin and how he came to hit upon his big idea [SPOILER ALERT]: natural selection, the theory that explains evolution and one that, 150 years later, remains central to all life sciences.

You’ll get all the primer you need to appreciate this advancement in our understanding of the natural world; no background in biology required.  I’ll let you discover the details for yourself, but you’ll find that, for such a big idea, natural selection isn’t very difficult to follow; certainly not compared to other great scientific theories we could mention . . . relatively speaking.  In fact, you’ll learn that many of Darwin’s peers were slapping their foreheads and saying, “Why didn’t I think of it first?”  And some almost did.  It was only a matter of time before someone would drop that bomb on science, and if it hadn’t been Darwin’s theory, it would eventually have been someone else’s.  But it’s a good thing it was Darwin who sent the memo because he was also a gifted interpreter of science; expressive and concise, like his new exhibit.  He would have turned in the best blogs here.

In the exhibition

Photos courtesy of San Diego Natural History Museum

The exhibit is filled with artifacts and displays that put you in Darwin’s world, but it also uses modern-day tools to bring it all home for us – looping videos of scientists giving perspective on the subject and interactive computer stations demonstrating basic principles of biology and evolution that even a 3½-year-old can grasp.  I know because I was accompanied by a 3½-year-old who spent half the time separating vertebrates from invertebrates on the touchscreen and, after helping some virtual bugs adapt to their changing environment, he explained to me, “If a bird can’t see a bug, then he can’t eat it.”  My boy.  He’s catching on.

I promise you that if you can read this blog post, you’ll get even more out of Darwin than he did and, like me, you might come away looking at the world with more wonder and appreciation.

Of his theory, Darwin said, “There is grandeur in this view of life.”  You said it, Chuck.

Children and iguana

This one's live!

For those of us left wanting more, Darwin: Evolution|Revolution is complimented by public programs, including lectures by experts in evolutionary science and even overnight camp-ins for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, among other extra credit events, as the museum works overtime to promote public understanding of the natural world.

I was interested to learn that the San Diego Natural History Museum, now in its 135th year, is the second-oldest scientific institution in California.

San Diego, you continue to surprise me.

With distinguished major exhibits like Body Worlds and The Dead Sea Scrolls under its belt, the San Diego Natural History Museum outdoes itself by bringing another outstanding and illuminating exhibit to town.

Darwin will be around until his 201st birthday in February, and I highly recommend paying him a visit.  See the website for prices and hours as well as related public programs.  And why not take a walk down the prado to the San Diego Museum of Man and take a look at some of the discoveries Darwin’s theory predicted?