MSI exhibit explores Mother Nature

Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) in Chicago, Illinois, is the only surviving building from the 1893 World Columbian Exposition shown on July 28, 1947. This building is known as the former Palace of Fine Arts and is a National Historic Landmark. (AP Photo)

March 17, 2010 4:45:34 AM PDT
Snowstorms, rainstorms, tsunamis and tornadoes. Is it just our imaginations, or are there really more and more of these natural disasters?

A new exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry explores the wild side of Mother Nature.

Science Storms, which opens to the public this Thursday, has been four and a half years in the making and it's worth the wait. This is a look at the not so friendly parts of the world around us. And it appears the Museum of Science and Industry has captured lightning in a bottle.

"Science Storms is the most spectacular permanent exhibition MSI has ever created. And it's really about how science unfolds everyday around us," said Kurt Haunfelner, v.p. exhibits and collections.

Twenty six thousand-square feet of exhibit space here at a cost of $38 million. It is a rainbow of science and storms and adventure. As always the exhibit is very interactive. Visitors make things work. There's an avalanche - not made of snow - but of sand and beads so we can see the dynamics of cascading deadly force.

"It creates these extraordinary visual effects of friction and flow when you rotate that disk it approximates what occurs in nature in a real avalanche situation," said Kurt Haunfelner.

The word tsunami is now a part of our everyday vocabulary and MSI has created an instant tsunami for us to observe.

"Tsunami is all about energy. In a thirty foot wave tank we've created tsunami and ocean waves. Send that wave down the tank and watch it inundate on two coastlines," said Dr. Olivia Castellini, senior exhibit developer.

Visitors will be blown away -- not physically -- but emotionally by this 40 foot high tornado. It is the only such man made twister in the world.

"The tornado is a combination of millions of tiny little water molecules combined with massive fans that create the rotational flow and then suck the whole thing up to the ceiling," said Kurt Haunfelner.

Science Storms opens Thursday. The permanent exhibit is part of general admission to the museum.