My first visit to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry was as a fifth grader on class trip from my hometown in Indiana, and I’ve been in love with the place ever since. I recently revisited the museum and, despite the disappointing absence of the Dippin’ Dots kiosk, I had a pretty marvelous afternoon. What’s not to love?
They have the only Nazi U-Boat captured by the United States, the U-505. It’s a mammoth, awe-inspiring piece of metal, and the exhibit surrounding the ship draws you deeper and deeper (literally and figuratively) into the fascinating story of how the nabbing of the U-505 meant turning the tide on Germany’s technological advantages, and ultimately, the war itself. Also, one marvels that men can endure a terrifyingly tiny living space with sweaty unshowered men and the lingering odor of sauerkraut for long periods of time without going bananas on each other. Or should I say bananen?
Then there’s the Henry Crown Space Center, where my companion and I nibbled on the cosmic deliciousness of freeze dried ice cream sandwiches, the favorite of astronauts and cosmonauts alike. (Wait, cosmonauts are still around, right?) And don’t leave the museum without taking your turn on the shuttle simulators that allow you to heroically land a spacecraft with your cool nerves and steady hand, or, like me, make three attempts to grab space cargo with a giant robotic arm and instead push it helplessly tumbling out into space every single time.
And finally, as my photo choice suggests, my favorite exhibit, the Genetics and the Baby Chick Hatchery, where you can walk through a huge 3-D model of a human genome and peruse other features I sped through to get to the cute part: the tremulously hatching eggs and resultant little yellow fuzzy-butted chicks running around squeeching at each other and napping together in adorable little clusters. But please don’t scoff — there is a lot of hard science behind cute, and I’ll be happy to explain it to you as soon as I finish chapter three of my latest Hello Kitty fanfic.
Photo by Bryan Bowden.