Saturday, October 28, 2006

Don't Waste Your Time

If you're ever in Toronto, don't waste your time at the Ontario Science Centre. I always understood that the Centre's purpose was to engage the public and particularly young people to cultivate an interest in Science. Apparently not.

The Centre's website states its mission is to, "To delight, inform and challenge visitors through engaging and thought-provoking experiences in science and technology." The current management seems to interpret this as a mission to force feed flavour of the month, political ideological ideas down the throats of their visitors. I visited the Centre last Thursday, here are a few observations:

As soon as I entered the main exhibit area, (which is 5 floors down who know's what the other 4 floors are for?), there was a survey question which went something like this, "new studies indicate that tounge piercing can cause infections and increase exposure to AIDS, would you risk getting a tounge piercing?" You could vote as many times as you wanted. The results were then posted up in lights. No mention that this was as unscientific as a survey could get, or the obvious bias in the question.

Then I entered the communication technology section. The first exhibit I entered had a black and white checkered floor and a sign that said step only on the black tiles. At the end of the tiles there was a message board that said, "Did you step on only black tiles, if so why? What are other people doing? Nothing would have happened if you stepped on the white tiles. As a society we are trained to follow signs, without questioning why." Ok, you pompous twits, I followed the directions because I expected some sort of optical illusion or something engaging. There was an implicit promise that there would be something half-way interesting when I followed the directions. In stead, you break the promise and call me a putz, well stuff it.

Next, I entered the "What is Truth?" display. It was the newest looking exhibit. It was also a complete waste of time. Just a bunch of exercises in moral relativism, truth depends on perspective crap. In a 'SCIENCE' Centre, give me a break. It would have been honest to say things are not always as they appear, but instead the message is everyone has a different perspective an no one is more right than anyone else. Oh yeah, the Earth rotates around the sun. It doesn't matter what your perspective is. That's the truth. Don't pretend it's any different.

Next we moved into the "sports" section, this is where all the traditional science centre activities were. If you have to go, spend your time here. The only problem is most things are old or broken. We looked at an exhibit that was supposed to show how an organ worked, the only problem was the motor running the fan was louder than the sound coming out of the organ pipes.

Next we saw the section on the human body. We walked in and we saw a wall of contraceptives. Wait a minute, most of the Centre is targeted to 10 - 12 year olds, I guess the human body is just a sex machine. Right beside the contraceptives was a display of how the foetus develops with impressive pictures, but the word descriptions were pathetic, 'after X days the cells form into a fluid sac that attaches itself to the uterine wall.' No human life here. I don't expect pro-life apologetics, but some more neutral language would be nice.

There was the obligatory lung display to demonstrate smoking is bad and so is second hand smoke and the stool samples that say, North Americans don't know how to eat. To be fair, the human body section looked like it had some interesting stuff, but the Centre closed before we could see it all.

There may not be anything wrong with the individual exhibits, smoking is bad for you, we should eat better, and we should be aware of our biases, but overall the preachy tone of the Centre is too much. This, along with the antiquated displays make me feel that neither donors, tax payers or visitors are getting value for their money.

Save your time and money and do something else.

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