On The Scene

Rating: NNNNNa long corridor and then a sil-ver ball that made your hair fly away from your head if you.

Rating: NNNNN

a long corridor and then a sil-ver ball that made your hair fly away from your head if you touched it — that’s all I can remember about my own visit to the Science Centre years and years ago.Now, my eight-year-old has been asking for months if we could please, please, please go there, because the grade 4s went and they all said it was “really awesome.’

The drive to the Science Center is a horrible one. The snow is treacherous, and I would turn back, but my child’s forlorn expression in the rearview mirror is too much to bear. “Phoebe’d better get something out of all this,” I keep thinking.

Upon our arrival, I rant about how perverse it is to charge out-of-town visitors $7 to park their lousy cars when there’s absolutely no other recourse open to them.

Phoebe sits, silently enduring my tirades, because it is really, really important for her to get where she is going.

The front of the Science Centre doesn’t look at all like I remember. It’s souped-up techno-chrome now, and there are advertisements everywhere for IMAX films. But there still is unchanged, the long, red-carpeted corridor of my distant memories. Today, Phoebe remarks that it’s just like the one at the airport, only dirtier.

And there is an escalator going down, down, interminably down. Looking through the windows to the birdfeeders positioned outside, we see brilliant red cardinals, finches and squirrels.

We pass through a fake jungle that’s terrifically hot but otherwise uninspiring. In another room there’s interesting stuff on acid rain and how the Great Lakes were once dying but are now recovering. And stuff on the water we drink. And a thing that looks like an aquarium but isn’t, because in aquariums the fish are fed. This one is a completely self-sufficient eco-system. And if you look up in that same room, there’s the skeleton of a fin whale, 26 metres long. It’s neater than the one in the Halifax museum.

I realize I’m getting into this, which is not what I expected. I keep waiting for Phoebe to tell me how absolutely inspiring it all is, but she’s too busy moving on to the next thing.

Eventually, we find the Science Arcade which is our ultimate destination, and the very first thing we see is the silver ball where people line up in orderly pairs to have their hair stood on end. We’re transfixed for a full fifteen minutes by the wonder of it all.

Then we find a metal structure that’s so precisely designed that when you put a ball in it, it just keeps rolling. Some balls hit chimes and others make pendulums swing.

Phoebe declares she’d like to have a job building sculptures just like these. It’s gratifying to know she’d rather do this than sling hamburgers and fries in the very mediocre, very badly organized and totally joyless on-site cafeteria.

It’s been three hours, our feet hurt and we need an energy boost, so we pour $6 into a wall of machines. We pay $2 for a coke that costs $1 from the same machine sitting in front of the grocery store back home. We pay $1.25 for a chocolate bar that’s two for $1 in Dollarama, and I’m indignant again.

Eventually we stumble into the centre’s Food room and find out all sorts of things about the stuff we eat and the garbage we make.

I came reluctantly to the Science Centre, but find I’m strangely fascinated by all the amazing things it has to offer. As for Phoebe, she’s exhausted but wide-eyed with new considerations, and I know that the impressions made today will probably last forever.

In fact, the very next day for breakfast she requests an egg instead of Cocoa Pebbles.

Weird science

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