A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about science

Tokyo - more bots!


View RTW Oct - Dec 2014 on tdeits's travel map.

On Saturday we headed out to Odaiba - an artificial island that is a tourist destination and office park that looks just like the future. Our first stop was the National Museum of Emerging Science It's a spectacular hands-on science museum that has quite a bit of material that is at a fairly adult level as well as stuff for younger folks. Here's the really amazing live globe that is a good 20 feet in diameter that displays various global features such as weather, temperature, ocean currents and more in a mesmerizing format.

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The exhibits have a decidedly philosophical tone in part and just plain cool tech as well. Here are a couple of faves - a mechanical version of the internet that routes messages to destinations in the form of black and white balls

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and Asimo (more bots!) who gets decidedly more agile every time I see it - in this picture it is hopping forwards and backwards on one leg.

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Even more bots! Another exhibit explored the 'uncanny valley' - the idea that as robots become more lifelike they actually look creepier than more artificial constructs. Here's an example from the exhibit. This robot is controlled by an operator who converses with the audience; the robot can move, breathe, has facial expressions and is really, truly creepy.

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There are arcades, giant ferris wheels, shopping malls, auto museums and other attractions within walking distance so this is really a cool place to spend a day. So we did - then ate some sushi and crashed again. The good news is that Robin and Michele were just as tired as I was so I knew I had had a good workout as well as good fun.

Posted by tdeits 17:00 Archived in Japan Tagged museums science robots odaiba Comments (0)

More Perth

and Science!

sunny 79 °F

I took another day to explore Perth. I had two goals; one to visit the Perth Art Gallery and the other to visit Scitech, Perth's hands-on science museum. Science first, naturally!

Scitech is a very nice facility, probably a bit larger than Impression 5 in Lansing, but then it serves a metro region of about 1.25 million folks. Here are a couple of shots of some of the activties

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The air cannon target shows the air vortex from the cannon pretty clearly and the hive is fun to watch. The tube to the outside is full of bees coming and going; I watched for a while and I don't think I ever saw a bee change her plans and reverse direction. They also bump heads with oncoming bees almost every time; I'm guessing it's a recognition thing.

I thought this was quite a cool activity. It uses a projector and some clever software to create a live contour map of the material in the table below.
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They have a new exhibit coming called Innovation Central

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so naturally I chatted with some of the staff about this exhibit, which it turns out will be an exhibition of innovative items. I learned a new word as well; Chindōguz, which is Japanese for completely useless inventions designed to solve real-world problems. They will be a major facet of the new exhibit. We also had a chance to talk about our Innovation 5 project and agreed that keeping kids engaged as they age out of traditional science museum activities is a worldwide challenge.

There was one exhibit that puzzled me - not the exhibit, just the credit

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So I had to find out what a 'Men's shed' was. It turns out to be a community of Australian maker spaces which (with government funding !) are for blokes only!

On to the Art Gallery of Western Australia. (since it's no longer Tuesday). A pretty interesting collection very much focused on the art of Western Australia. There are some pretty iconic Australian images such as this

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and frankly, some real drek, like this

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There is a fairly limited selection of early work by indigenous artists, but they are better represented in later eras and some of them are pretty pointed criticisms

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This is a reference to the tragic history of Rottsnest Island that we visited just the day before. Prior to becoming a tourist destination, Rottsnest was used to incarcerate indigenous peoples, often on the flimsiest excuses, and keep them indefinitely. It was a terrible chapter in Perth's history and clearly not forgotten by some today. Indeed, the issue appears to be live today; here is a protest sign I found stuck by the side of the sidewalk when I was strolling around Perth

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I wandered back to my place with a lot to think about.

Posted by tdeits 07:18 Archived in Australia Tagged art museums science innovation makerspaces rottsnest Comments (0)

Paris

I visit a science museum - with robots !!!

overcast 49 °F

Had an early morning flight from Athens to Paris (economy class - oh, the horror!) and then negotiated the train and met with my host in Paris, Jean Jay. Settled into the apartment and did a bit of blogging, shopped for some food for breakfast and got ready for the first day in Paris.

Of course, the first place you go in Paris is the hands-on science museum, right? I Googled it up and when I got into the vicinity I thought to myself - 'interesting- they put the science museum right next to this enormous basketball stadium..'

My bad - the enormous building was the Cite des Sciences et de l' Industries

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And unlike the Tardis, it's just as big inside as outside.

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Fortuitously, there was a special exhibition on Robotic Art

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so I headed there first. It seems that there are two major universal challenges in the world of robotics that everyone is trying to solve and the rest of us can't figure out why. The first is a robot that can bring you a bottle of beer. The second is to make a 'real' Transformer. The exhibit attempted to tackle the second - but really, a mighty robot that transforms into..... a Citroen sedan?

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They were doing a video shoot while I was there so I got to see it transform. It took like 10 minutes; Megatron has nothing to be jealous of.

Here's a display from my favorite robot art exhibit

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The exhibit, complete with mad scientist video, describes some truly amazing thrill rides. Rather than try and shoot video of video, I strongly encourage you to visit the website of the Institute for Centrifugal Reseach, whose motto is "Gravity is our Enemy" or "We are spinning people around for future generations" or "Unpredictable since 1976" or something. Watch out, Cedar Point, you have some real competition!

A couple of other cool displays were a robot painstakingly drawing a 10 foot long mural of the surface of Mars using an image from the Curiosity Rover and a weird installation of 20 robotic hospital beds that slowly and subtly change elevation to ethereal music.

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You may have seen videos of Theo Jansen's 'Strandbeest's as they march down beaches. They had one of his creations on hand and I got to see it in motion

The other exhibits were quite impressive, very well designed and pitched to an older child/adult audience. There was an interesting exhibit on risk assessment that explained some of the techniques and pitfalls due to personal psychology to accurate risk assessment, a large exhibit on molecular biology and evolution and another on transportation. You can see the scale of the exhibits from the picture below of part of the transportation exhibit.

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They also have fablab. It's downstairs from the main exhibit hall and accessible without paying museum admission. It really has no interaction with the rest of the museum, either in space or in programming. I wandered in when it was opened and was basically ignored; I guess they get tired of tourists sticking their noses in, but I hope we can be sure that the outcome of the Innovation 5 project will be a more immediately welcoming place.

There are also separate areas for kids 2-7 and 5 - 12. I wasn't able to visit those on this day but I contacted the staff and they gave me permission to visit later. They normally don't let adults without children into these areas, understandably, but I used my Impression 5 credentials and, as they say, voila! There is even a third area for older teens and adults which I also haven't visited yet.

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Of course, there is a gift shop to exit through, but again, as in Perth essentially no branded merchandise. No doubt there is a career for some marketer to go around and teach museums overseas how to exploit their brands for revenue!

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Of course, given the scale and quality of the Cite, it may just be that they don't feel the need for more money - weird, right?

Posted by tdeits 03:53 Archived in France Tagged paris france museum science robots makerspaces Comments (0)

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