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Fuel Our Future

Off Campus | October 8, 2012

It has recently come to my attention that aquariums, history museums, science museums, and other such places seem to have fallen off the face of the earth. Where have they gone? Did something drastic happen to them, causing their extinction? Following some rather extensive research on Google, I found that they are, in fact, still around. It is my forced exposure to them, via elementary school field trips and family outings, which has vanished. Imagine then my surprise when I rode the T to Science Park and found the wonderful Museum of Science right here in Boston. I was also surprised by its massive scope; the museum holds exhibits ranging from butterflies, to X-rays, to deep explorations of time, sight, and smell. Energize!, an exhibit devoted to investigating renewable resources right here in Massachusetts, especially caught my attention.

Energize! is comprised of several interactive stations that address topics such as solar energy and other recent energy innovations (cow manure as fuel, anyone?), as well as the tradeoff between renewable and nonrenewable sources. As a visitor, you are able to learn about each resource or issue by reading the presented information or by having it read to you by a friendly woman through headphones (for those of us who are a little lazy, under the age of five, or both).

Each station also has user-friendly, hands-on activities, and informative models that show how these resources work. For example, when learning about wind turbines, you can spin mini-gears to create energy, exemplifying how the turbines more efficiently turn mechanical energy into electrical energy in real life. At the same wind station, you can track how many kilowatts of energy the museum’s Wind Lab’s seven turbines have made that day and over their lifetimes. Also, there is information available on the installation of similar turbines all over Massachusetts. This includes data on turbines’ efficiency, monetary and environmental costs, installation technology, and level of acceptance by the community.

One very popular station at the exhibit is an interactive map of Massachusetts showing businesses and homes that utilize renewable energy sources for at least some of their electricity needs. The user is able to choose the year they want to see and can zoom in or out on a particular area of the state. Starting in 2003 and making his or her way into 2012, the user can see the proliferation of sites that use at least some sort of renewable energy in Massachusetts. I checked up on Tufts’ progress, only to find that it essentially hasn’t had any.

There is also a station devoted to energy innovations such as the electrical equalizer, a flywheel system that stores excess energy to be released when needed and results in a more efficient electrical grid.  Another station is devoted to extraterrestrial energy, which is still being researched by the NASA Glenn Research Center.

If renewable energy really isn’t your thing, the Museum of Science also has much more to offer: exhibits on live animals, nanotechnology, and cosmic light, as well as an IMAX theater. This museum is one stop Tufts students should visit at least once before graduation.

The Museum of Science is located on the Green Line’s Science Park stop, just across Highway 28. The exhibit hall’s hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday. The cost is $22 per adult or free for members.