Science-palooza!

The Science Museum is presenting two new exhibits and preparing for the immensity of Omnifest.

Aquaphobes beware. PHOTO COURTESY SCIENCE MUSEUM OF MINNESOTA

Ashley Goetz

Aquaphobes beware. PHOTO COURTESY SCIENCE MUSEUM OF MINNESOTA

WHAT: Science Museum of Minnesota WHEN: Times vary WHERE: 120 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul TICKETS: $16 for Omnitheater and exhibits Now is the perfect time to head to St. Paul and get some knowledge at the Science Museum of Minnesota. The Museum is currently showing two new exhibits, âÄúWaterâÄù and âÄúGoose Bumps!,âÄù both of which are enlightening and fun. And if that isnâÄôt enough, the Science Museum is preparing for the start of Omnifest 2009, a month-long film festival displayed on the OmnitheaterâÄôs glorious 90-foot domed screen. Prepare to be informed. Water Sure, the idea of an exhibit centering on something as bland as water sounds boring, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, âÄúWaterâÄù is one of the most edifying exhibits in recent memory. Not only does it highlight the fascinating ways in which water shapes our world, but it also elucidates how our water usage affects the globe, both ecologically and socially. The exhibit builds up slowly with a couple of fun displays that show how some animals survive arid climates and how dams are used to harness the power of waves. Then, without warning, it becomes a heavy guilt trip that illuminates the alarming rate at which people are destroying the water supply and polluting the Earth. Everyone has seen the heart-wrenching images of polar bears stuck on melting ice; this exhibit evokes all of the same feelings with the endangered species display that features the Chinese Sturgeon and the adorable river dolphin found only in the Yangtze called the Baiji. âÄúOf course weâÄôre trying to encourage environmentalism. Water problems are of major concern worldwide,âÄù said Tom McCarthy, an SMM worker running the water filtration display. âÄúThe idea is to promote water quality and look at water problems around the world and how we can eliminate them. One of the things we try to tell people about is disposal. Pharmaceuticals used to tell you to throw cosmetics and complex chemicals down the toilet, but, even with filtration, there are still a lot of traces of pollution that go into the water.âÄù Overall, the exhibit is extremely revealing. As one woman who enigmatically called herself Linda said, âÄúItâÄôs shocking; you see whatâÄôs happening to the Earth because of our population. [The exhibit] has taught me so much about other parts of the world. WeâÄôre so used to everything we have and we donâÄôt realize how people spend their day just trying to survive. It makes you think, âÄòWhat can we do to fix this?âÄô âÄù Hopefully others will heed the clarion call. Goose Bumps! Last Friday marked the opening of âÄúGoose Bumps!,âÄù a decidedly different exhibit that looks into the science behind fear. Instead of simply displaying how and why people become afraid, the exhibit shows how the fear response is oftentimes what keeps us from harm. As you walk into the exhibit, your senses are immediately heightened by the mere thought of terrors, and you are presented with two options. The faint of heart can take a right and look at some impressive displays focused on fright. The bold, on the other hand, can take a left and enter the challenge course of four common fears. The course isnâÄôt exceedingly frightening and it seems that the expectation of a scare is the worst part. The first stage causes many people to pause as they debate whether to stick their hands into an ominous black hole purportedly containing a number of creepy critters. The second station forces the riled visitors to administer an electric shock to their own fingers, the third tests the fear of loud noises by blasting a gunshot sound and the final station allows people to test their fear of falling by getting strapped into a giant padded chair and dropped back when least expected. While all the challenges are sufficiently daunting, many people found the shock to be the most frightening. As one young man named Rob said, âÄúThe shock was probably the worst because I didnâÄôt know what to expect; I thought it would be like a tazer, but it wasnâÄôt that bad. It was just the anticipation of the shock that made it scary.âÄù Following the challenge course, visitors can make their way through the exhibit to see fear presented in a number of ways. There are a couple of interactive games that really push the point that fear is a mechanism geared toward keeping us alive, but the exhibit also delves into the social implications of fear, namely Nazism, Cold War hysteria and the current climate with regards to terrorism. Even the mid-century fears regarding the evils of rock âÄônâÄô roll are touched upon by these phenomenal displays. Omnifest Every year one monumental event comes along that casts an epic shadow over the legions of mundane affairs that litter the rest of the calendar. No, it is not Toyotathon nor is it the WookiesâÄô Life Day; it is the celebrated Omnifest and in just a few short days it will begin. This yearâÄôs line-up consists of a wide variety of spectacular movies presented in neck-breaking Omni-vision. The movies to be shown are âÄúSuper Speedway,âÄù a look inside the cockpit of an Indy race car, âÄúLewis and Clark: Great Journey West,âÄù which tells the story of the fabled explorers, âÄúAdventures in Wild California,âÄù a view from the top of tallest mountain in the continental United States, âÄúMysteries of the Great Lakes,âÄù a stunning look at the majesty of the humbled waters and âÄúGrand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk,âÄù which is currently playing. âÄúGrand Canyon AdventureâÄù is a breathtaking adventure down the Colorado River. The film follows author Wade Dav is and river advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr . as they battle their way downstream and wax introspectively on how the river has changed in just a few decades. The film ties in nicely with the âÄúWaterâÄù exhibit because it shows the decline of water levels that will soon cause massive problems for the ecosystem. The film is overdubbed by Robert RedfordâÄôs velvet purr and features the music of Dave Matthews Band. The movie is particularly striking and the beauty of the Grand Canyon seems to come alive; it is the perfect segue into Omnifest 2009, which begins March 6.