Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Niagara Falls and Toronto Trip: The Ontario Science Centre

Rather than engage in creative writing or play computer games, I suppose I will write the first post about my trip (in response to Kay's insistence on this).
On Wednesday, Jon, Teddy*, Roz*, and I (all floormates from first year of university) went to the Ontario Science Center. I had heard from Jon the day before that Teddy was exceptionally excited about everything that week--Ted had been staying at Jon's and being a tourist since the Saturday before--and we saw ample evidence of this at the Science Centre. As we went from one room to another, Ted would run ahead of us, and then come back and stare at us as though wondering why we took so long. He was like a kid. In fact, all week Jon got nervous whenever Ted left his sight. Roz was also silly in a controlled way some of the time.
Anyway, on to the details... I will get the order of the exhibits wrong, but I'm sure you can manage.
My experiences with a pseudo-tornado earlier in the week came flashing back when we saw the mist-tornado at the Centre. It was quite interesting; we got lots of pictures. Apparently waving your hand through it sometimes breaks it up, but I didn't experience that: when I put my hand through it, it stayed about the same. I wonder what the misty-substance was. Dry ice? Watery mist? Not sure.
One of the temporary exhibits when we visited was a spy exhibit. Some of it was sort of kiddie, but other parts were fun. At one point, there was a big wooden crate which had warnings and 'use gloves' and 'have flea powder ready' and pictures of big cats stenciled on the sides. It also had a whole in the side with a flap. The others wouldn't put their hands in. I did, though I can assure you that I pulled back a little at one point. Here's the funny thing: when I heard the purring/growling start, I thought for a second that if it were a live lion and it clawed my hand off, it would have been worth it just to pet one.
The spy exhibit also showed lots of spy gear and had assorted games you could play. There were facial recognition scans and all sorts of cool stuff. There was a large prosthetic leg which could be switched between a repelling hook and line, a shoe and leg, and a large metallic tentacle. If I ever lose a leg, I want one of those suckers. It would be awesome.
There were cases of bright poison dart frogs. I struggled to get a good picture of one. My efforts were thwarted somewhat by Jon insisting I come over to the waterfall for a picture right at that moment.
There was also a robo-fish that ran on solar power. More accurately, there were assorted types of solar-power run robo-fish, based on the movements of real fish. If you put your hands on the case so your shadow covered the solar panels, they'd stop swimming.
There was an exhibit about Middle Eastern science. I had known some of it already, but I was generally happy that they acknowledged that the Islamicate Empire made considerable scientific advancements as a part of their religious practices. Did you know that while Europe was suffering from malnutrition and thought that disease came from swamp air, a man in what is now Iraq was performing the first eye cararact surgery? For some reason, though, they included the boat of Zheng He, who was Chinese, not Middle Eastern. Still cool.

In another room, there were assorted optical illusions and sound or frequency tricks. One used angles and false optical cues, in conjuction with the two-dimensionality of a camera, to make people appear different sizes on a screen. Roz became far taller than she has been before, while Teddy became far smaller.
In the same room, Ted made weird loud noises like a heron or egret to vibrate strings. We all got videos, but Jon's has the best sound. Whenever Jon needed a laugh, he's play the video. He'd chuckle for ten minutes after that.
One of the more note-worthy exhibits (at least to my mind) was the face-fusion one. The exhibit uses semi-reflective but transparent glass. Like any other one-way glass, it depends largely on the comparative light levels on either side of the pane. On each side of the 'mirror' in this exhibit was a seat and lights arranged as in one of those mirrors for doing make-up. You could adjust the light levels on either side, changing the transparency. If the light was the same on either side, then what you saw on the glass was a 50/50 blend of transparency and reflection, or what was on your side or the other side. If you get a person sitting on each chair, and if the people line up their faces and adjust the lights, their faces 'fuse.'
Roz and I did this. (Roz is a girl.) We did it twice, actually, to see if the effect was different depending which side we sat on. Once I wore glasses and once I did not. The effect was bizarre. Actual, I might want to use the word 'uncanny,' because it was both familiar and unfamiliar. I could recognize myself in the reflection and I could recognize Roz. The strangest part was in the eyes and the brow, which blended most. Also, when Roz moved her mouth to speak, it seemed as though her teeth appeared and disappeared from my mouth. As we played with the levels, she said it looked at one point as though she was wearing glasses and had my ears poking out from her own (our heads are different sizes). I which we had a picture of it, but, alas, I didn't think to get one. Ted and Jon did it, and Ted said they looked like a monkey.

At the end we saw an IMAX movie about the Alps. Not much to say there. We also meandered through the gift shop, but bought nothing.
Oh! Nearly forgot! We saw raccoons which were surprisingly tame in a bird-watching area. They were cute big fellas (or ladies, possibly), notwithstanding what the kids thought.
That is all for now. Later, I will tell you about Niagara Falls--the Casino, the haunted house, the hotel, and the Falls themselves--and about the miscellaneous adventures we went on around Toronto.
*Names have not been changed due to general laziness.


Kay said...

yay post! yay Science Centre!

Jon Wong said...

This is a good account of our adventure. I think you should post about the rest of it.

Christian H said...

I will, Jon. In time.

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