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Fire, Lightning and Avalanches: Museum of Science & Industry Presents “Science Storms”

Have you ever wondered how lightning works? Why the sky is blue? Maybe you just want see what a thermal imaging camera is all about?

All these answers and many more await you in a new, permanent exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry titled “Science Storms.” Patrons can learn about the natural processes that define their world in a new, novel and extremely interactive way.

“I absolutely love it,” said Angela Patnode, a 26-year-old engineer. “I like the scale of everything.”

The sense of scale is a large part of the exhibit, and it makes the interactivity that much more intriguing.

The exhibit, which opened to rave reviews in March, is dominated by a large, floor-to-ceiling tornado and a large wave pool in which patrons can set the size and frequency of waves and observe how they react with different shorelines.

Further into the exhibit, one can attempt to control a large flame through the use of mist, controlling everything from the size of the flame to the size and density of the water droplets falling on it. Illuminate the mist with lasers for extra fun and insight!

The exhibit offers an activity for everyone, even those who are less interested in the “fire and ice” aspects of nature.

Kids will love learning about parabolas by firing tennis balls clear across the exhibit, setting the power and angle of each shot.

“It’s good to see lots of interactive exhibits for the kids, gets them interested in science and technology,” said Australian tourist Matthew Dunwoodie, 45.

The range and amount of interactivity associated with “Science Storms” is revolutionary. There is hardly an activity in the exhibit that cannot be manipulated, and every station is likely to be filled with excited people learning about things they have previously only witnessed.

It’s not often that an institution, even the renowned Science and Industry Museum of Chicago, is able to get so many people interested in and learning about basic processes of nature.

The use of thermal imaging cameras, prevalent throughout the exhibit, is also new and exciting to many patrons.

You can heat and release your own hot air balloon while watching the air change temperature and swirl about within through the use of thermal imaging.

Witness the sunlight’s effect on water molecules, as you control the intensity and angle of a sun lamp and view the water in the thermal wavelength.

“I really enjoy it,” raved Steven Osborne, 18. “I think it’s fantastic. I really enjoy the physics stuff.”

All the freshness and novelty of this exhibit has led to some problems, however. With such large focus on public interaction, combined with the very large crowds in the opening weeks, several activity stations have had to undergo repairs.

“It’s good when it works, but there are a couple exhibits that aren’t working that are kind of frustrating,” said Patnode.

Even with the minor technical difficulties, the exhibit still shines. A match for nearly any other permanent installment at the museum, it is certain to draw in museum-goers with its sleek and flashy style, grandiose exhibits and a touchy-feely aspect rivaled by very few other exhibits, either in or out of the Science and Industry.

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