A Preview of the Boston Museum of Science’s Numbers in Nature: A Mirror Maze

By D.A. Dellechiaie
BU News Service

“All sorts of things in this world behave like mirrors.” — Jacques Lacan

Children fidgeted and their parents, with crossed arms, compulsively checked their watches while they waited to be the first to experience “Numbers in Nature: A Mirror Maze” exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science on Saturday. 

Parents and their children wait in line for the “Numbers in Nature: A Mirror Maze” exhibit at The Boston Museum of Science. Feb. 3, 2018. Photo by D.A. Dellechiaie/BU News Service.

The exhibition’s thesis is that everything in nature is based on patterns in some way. It was interesting to see a museum teaching children about Voronoi patterns and the Golden Ratio.

A sign that read, “Patterns are visible results of nature’s forces and processes,” set the stage for the symmetrical pleasantries that headlined the exhibit.

Though good for adults and children, it would be most interesting for kids 9 and up. Any younger and the subject matter would be too much. 

In the exhibit, children can play with a touchscreen DJ turntable you can spin in a certain way to make a pattern become evident.

The famed mirror maze is fun and disorienting for both children and adults, however, the fingerprints from small children (and clumsy adults) gave away most of the dead ends.

Inside the mirror maze at The Boston Museum of Science. Feb. 3, 2018. Photo by D.A. Dellechiaie/BU News Service.

The maze’s halls were crowded, but alone and surrounded by mirrors, it did its job. Inside, there are puzzles and fun facts that illuminate behind a mirror when you step in front of it.

At the exit, the museum provides a gallery of education games. The first few you can play when leaving the maze are high tech versions of the beginning of a doctor’s check up — you can see how much you weigh, how tall you are, etc.

The next gallery of games is about whether your face, arms and legs are symmetrical or not.

There are some touchscreen games, including one that explains the basic principles of architecture using 3D imagery.

One of the most interesting games was a square of guitar strings that were crisscrossed and pegged in place. This game taught the basic principles of sound mechanics. In about 10 minutes, someone can learn everything Pythagoras and his followers spent decades theorizing.

There are a few motion-sensing input games (basically the Microsoft Kinect or those Snapchat filters you can interact with). Kids loved these. They acted like they had been gifted with the Force as they moved pinecones and other things around.

Martin Demaine’s “High Contrast” at the “Numbers in Nature: A Mirror Maze” exhibit at The Boston Museum of Science. Feb. 3, 2018. Photo by D.A. Dellechiaie/BU News Service.

Other displays are obviously intended for adults, such as “The Art of Math” exhibit. This exhibit displays sculptor Peter Randall-Page’s “The Seed” (a stone egg with Christian Louboutin spikes) and Erik and Martin Demaine’s “High Contrast” (a very trippy Escher-esque black and white layered tidal wave tied into some knots).

On one wall there is a poster of a giraffe that says, “All fashionable giraffes are sporting Veroni.”

There is a wealth of information on how our anatomy is based on patterns. Apparently coral and humans have a lot more in common than you would think.

Go to this exhibit if you have kids in grade school who want to learn why nature is so visually pleasing. Coming early would be best if you want to fully experience the maze. It’s a-MAZE-ing.

 

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