Science at the End of the Tunnel

Science at the End of the Tunnel

A new interactive exhibition hopes to inspire a new generation in understanding how science affects us all.

Published: June 5, 2013 (Issue # 1762)

Evgenia ostroumova / SPT

The exhibition is divided into eight sections, each housed in futuristic capsules reminiscent of an alien spaceship.

“Insight must precede application.” So said Max Planck, the German theoretical physicist who originated quantum theory, which won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918.

Now, a new multimedia science exhibition bearing the physicist’s name and bent on raising awareness of the latest scientific discoveries has opened at the St. Petersburg Military-History Museum.

The Max Planck Science Tunnel is an educational initiative from Germany’s top research organization, the Max Planck Society, and is in the city as part of its world tour, having previously visited Moscow and dozens of other cities around the globe.

Offering a glimpse of how science and technology will affect our lives in the coming decades, the exhibition is divided into eight thematic sections which cover the scientific research that helps explain fascinating topics ranging from the origins of space to the workings of the brain to what society will look like in the future.

Each of the different sections are housed in sleek futuristic capsules reminiscent of an alien space ship, whose blue, plasma-like glow offers a captivating sight in the dimmed museum gallery.

The presentation of otherwise inaccessible scientific material is both colorful and dynamic, offering a range of sensory information including visual diagrams and interactive video-response programs, as well as interviews, films and physical objects. Programs include a machine that describes the movement of visitors’ skeletons as they pass by, a tablet predicting emotional states based on facial expressions, and a spherical model of the globe showing the formation of clouds and the effect of global warming on the polar ice caps.

Today, many scientific museums and institutes are faced with the issue of how best to visualize abstract concepts and the latest scientific achievements. Allowing exploration through both the mind and the senses, the multi-touch technologies and contactless interfaces of the Science Tunnel bring the real and virtual worlds closer together while interactive exhibits open up “social” realms of experience and personalized insight for visitors.

“As a research institution, we feel it is our duty to make our research transparent and to enter into dialogue. However, the public also has a duty to participate and to seek dialogue with us,” said Peter Gruss, President of the Max Planck Society, in a speech titled “Science Should Serve Humanity.”

Evgenia ostroumova / SPT

Sensory and interactive programs are used to present the scientific material.

Since its establishment in 1948, no fewer than 17 Nobel Laureates have emerged from the ranks of the Max Planck Society’s scientists, putting it on par with the best and most prestigious research institutions worldwide.

By addressing the megatrends of the 21st century, the Science Tunnel examines how fundamental discoveries in one discipline can lead to crucial advances in completely different fields in the future. With knowledge increasing at an incredible speed today, development cycles for applications are being reduced and as a result, research and development have become factors that play a key role in determining how productive, flexible and future-oriented a society is.

Throughout the exhibition, visitors encounter the challenges that are faced by scientists today. These range from researching new materials and exotic phenomena to the building blocks of life, the causes of disease and the secret of our consciousness. It also includes how to try and find solutions to global problems besetting humankind – be it the fight against disease, securing food and energy for a growing world population or ways to deal with the global issues of climate and the environment.

The genius of the exhibition, however, is that the information is presented in an easy-to-digest format for those with minimal scientific background, and visitors are offered the services of a qualified bi-lingual guide to take them through the exhibition, as well as a number of iPads — though visitors are encouraged to bring their own QR-code reading devices.

Designed to awaken the interest and understanding from a new generation of the importance of science, the exhibition aims to help form a responsible attitude to the problems facing humanity in its forward progress and development of civilization.

With the search for knowledge in the fields of bytes, atoms, neurons and genes becoming far removed from the everyday experience of most people, the Max Planck Science Tunnel makes understanding the world around us as easy as a walk through a fascinating exhibition.

The Max Planck Science Tunnel is on view until July 9 at the Military-History Museum of Artillery, Engineer and Signal Corps, 7 Aleksandrovsky Park. M: Gorkovskaya. Tel: 238 0704.

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