Science is not fun

Opinions personals de membres del CEHIC i alumnes de postgrau

febr. 26 2010

“Don’t teach, but tell your story!” A visit to CosmoCaixa

Posted in General |

For starters: An impressive site and a formidable building provide an welcoming feeling. Buses full of kids of different ages prove the popularity of CosmoCaixa. The entrance fee is remarkably low, similar science centres in Germany would probably cost up to five times the price. All this makes appetite for the second course.

CosmoCaixa has a theme; and it is an interesting one! Combining a natural history museum, a zoo and a science centre is quite unusual and the makers of CosmoCaixa succeeded (in general) with this idea. For example, the section on “forms” in nature (like the spiral, hexagonal structures etc. ) seem to fit easy into the overall story. This part of CosmoCaixa makes it unique and thus worth a visit (despite some criticism in detail).

However, then, with the third course disappointment starts. The section on inert matter, “La Sala de la materia”, comes across as a ordinary lesson in physics. The overall story has disappeared, and thus the motivation, why one should know all this, gets lost. Many of the interactives can be found in science centres all around the world. What makes my disappointment so strong is, that it would have been, I think, fairly easy to incorporate quite a lot of the content provided here in the overall story. You could discuss, if you wish, Newton’s law of gravitation by referring to the earth’s movement around the sun or by explaining the tides; you could discuss motion in a rotating system with reference to the atmosphere of the earth, waves with reference to the sea, hydrodynamics or aerodynamics with reference to fish or birds. There are plenty of opportunities – and it is a pity that the makers of CosmoCaixa seemed to have lacked confidence in the potential of their own great story.

What is the overall atmosphere in CosmoCaixa? To dim the light in such a “restaurant for the mind” is quite widespread, but it has some serious disadvantages: It makes visitors tired and reading difficult. Given the fact that there is quite a lot of – interesting – information to read, I am surprised why no one seems to have paid greater attention to this point. Texts are extremely difficult to read in quite a number of places. Additionally, the specific push-buttons used in CosmoCaixa lack a tactile dimension. Sometimes it is difficult to judge why some interactive does not start to run. In general, the CosmoCaixa-team have relied on too many push-buttons where in many cases a more direct “experiment”, a more interesting interaction would have been possible.

So, I would summarise: Well done! However my advise the CosmoCaixa team would be: Don’t teach, but tell your story! Have more confidence in your overall story, combining natural history, a zoo, and a science centre! You will get quite a lot of physics (or science) into it, but the visitors will then probably like it even better. Within such a perspective you would also be able to get a lot of interesting and important aspects of “the nature of science” in there. There is a great potential waiting to be explored!”

Christian Sichau

Christian Sichau trained as a physicist and holds a PhD from the University of Oldenburg (Germany), focusing on the history of physics, in particular the replication of experiments. From 2003 to 2009 he was curator for physics, geophysics and geodesy at the Deutsches Museum in Munich. In this context he participated in many international discussions on how to collect and exhibit scientific instruments and apparatuses. Since 2009 he is responsible for the development of the exhibition of the „experimenta“, a new science center in Heilbronn (Germany). This week he gave two lectures at the CEHIC.


This entry was posted on divendres, 26 febrer, 2010 at 12:36 and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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