Originally published Dec. 2001, Ithaca Times                                  

Word count: 732


The Sciencenter

By Tom M. Paolangeli



I never knew my skin was so gross. Magnified 30 times, it wasn’t so bad, the hairs on my arm making a pleasant forest of thin trees. But magnified 200 times? Then each hair follicle is a fierce, ugly tentacle erupting from a wasteland of rough, scaly skin. Yuck.

This is just one of the many revelations and pleasures to be found at the Sciencenter’s latest exhibition, “Look Closer: Fun with Magnification.” On display through the end of January, “Look Closer” introduces visitors to the world of really small things, and to the tools scientists use to see them. In addition to the 30 and 200 power video-linked microscopes, there is a magnification station where you can use conventional microscopes and magnifying glasses to view things like feathers, sponges, and dragonfly wings. Or you can pretend to be a germ and try to invade a giant model of a blood drop. Or see what your little sister looks like through a giant magnifying glass. Talk about scary.

Another really, really cool exhibit is called “Powers of Ten.” This features a short, utterly fascinating film by Charles and Ray Eames that takes you from outer space to earth to inside a human body, right down to the DNA inside the nucleus of a white blood cell.

In February, a new exhibition opens, called “Swirling Science.” Created in conjunction with the Rochester Museum of Science, this exhibition will feature things that twist, twirl, spin and whirl. For example, you can make art at the “Harmonograph” display. This has two pendulums, one carrying paper, and one holding a pen. When set in motion, a sketch is produced. Another exhibit will allow you to build a car and track, and make the car move in different ways by changing wheels and the incline of the track. There will also be a ripple tank for making waves, the “Wall of Motion” where you can create a sound and light show, and “Wind over Water,” where you can experiment with currents and change the swirl of a tornado.

The special exhibitions mentioned above are in addition to the more than 100 hands-on displays at the Sciencenter. They also have a museum store filled with educational and fun items, and an outdoor Science Park, open as long as the weather isn’t too nasty.

On the first Sunday of each month through March, the Sciencenter will be continuing its “Free Sunday” program, sponsored by Merrill Lynch.

“It’s a way for us to reach out to the community,” explains Melissa Marchese Gattine, Public Relations Manager for the Sciencenter. “We began it in October, and we’ve been getting a great turnout, anywhere from 200 to 400 people a day, a lot of people who’ve never been here before.”

Gattine is also quite excited about the Sciencenter’s “Write for the Radio Contest.” Middle and high school students are invited to write a 60 second essay, or “Science Minute,” about their favorite science topic. Fifteen winners will have their script recorded and broadcast on local radio stations, and thirty-five runner-ups will have their “Science Minute” posted on the Sciencenter’s website. The deadline for entries is January 31, 2002.

Other special events this winter include the “Sciencenter Showtime” series. These take place every 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month, at 2:00. Because of the ongoing construction of the new addition, the Showtime presentations for the next few months will be at the Tompkins County Public Library. On January 12, Ithaca Policeman Ray Schweiger will introduce his canine partner and talk about trained police dogs, and how they help solve crimes.

On January 26, there will be a talk about the conflicting theories concerning meat-eating dinosaurs, and how paleontologists try to resolve these disputes.

February 3, Diane Sherman from the Cornell Department of Astronomy will show a life-sized model of the Mars Rover, explain how it will get to Mars, and what scientists hope to learn from it.

Then on February 23, the Sciencenter and Discovery Trail members will have special family activities at the Library in conjunction with the Downtown Chili-Cookoff/Winter Festival.

The Sciencenter is located at 601 First Street in Ithaca. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 10a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Although usually closed on Mondays, they will be open on Martin Luther King Day and Presidents Day. Telephone 607-272-0600 for more information, or visit their website, www.sciencenter.org.



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