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Wandering and Wondering: The Mind Museum

This month I tour you around The Mind Museum, one of the most awaited sites of its kind in the country. Five years in the making, it stands along J.Y. Campos Park in Bonifacio Global City, less than an hour away from De La Salle University.
The Museum’s architecture sets it apart from the rest; it draws one instantly to a futuristic façade inspired by the molecular structure of cells.

Image courtesy of The Mind Museum

Mind Movers, a.k.a. curators, greeted me the moment I stepped in through the sliding glass doors to begin my clichéd ‘journey of wonder’. Feeling half my age, I clock in a little too early for the 6 pm tour, where I would get to meet Aedi the robot (“Idea”, spelled backwards), which is essentially an information desk, a cyborg-guide and a Mind Museum expert rolled into one. Children run up to him/her/it – poking, giggling, shoving – as parents, armed with cameras, rush to savor the Kodak moment.
For our first stop, we enter the “Hall of the 10 Most Beautiful Experiments,” aptly named to showcase visual representations of experiments on LCD screens, all based on Robert Crease’s book, The Prism and the Pendulum: 10 Most Beautiful Experiments in Science.

Just before the main galleries is the Hall of Philippine Science, featuring prominent local scientists, their lives and achievements, and topics spanning local issues from agriculture to climate change. Interactive stations begin here, spewing out random facts and trivia questions, some serious, others hilarious: “Where is the home of the most number of math geeks in the country?” To get the answer, you have to visit the museum and turn the square board for yourself to find out!

Past The Hall of Philippine Science is the most awaited part of the museum. On the first and second floors are the Five Galleries, stretching from left to right. Their very titles capture the full range of Existence in one breath: Universe, Earth, Life, Atom, and Technology, which has the second floor all to itself. Gallery descriptions are equally profound; in respective order: “Beginning and majesty, nature across the breadth of time, the exuberant varieties of life, the strange world of the very small, and a story of human ingenuity.”

An overwhelming array of attractions leaves a crowd of people and I breathless, excited and clueless as to where to begin. Nineteen year old Darl, for her part, says “At first, I felt dizzy and lost because the information was presented everywhere, but… I got used to it and ended up enjoying it anyway.”

In the spirit of the New Age, I begin with the Universe. One of the most visited parts of the museum, the gallery takes you to outer space, as well, almost. Matched by a sudden gust of cold air, radiant, planet-like spheres turn in their orbits in the dark and blue lights twinkle over my head.

Here, the Space Shell allows one to get on the ground and stargaze as a documentary on astronomy plays out above. It is an obvious favorite. “Everything just felt so real”, says Chrissandra, 18.

Leaving the Shell, I try on a space suit replica and try out ‘pods’ that feature sounds from outer space, the phases of the moon and the lifetime of a star. Other attractions include a model of the solar system, a mechanical exhibit of how scientists calculate the distance of stars from the Earth, and more!

Near the end of the exhibit is the Tunnel Craft, a two-way revolving tunnel, with moving images of space that connects it to the Earth gallery.

There I found Stan, the Tyrannosaurus Rex – apparently the first model in the country to be built from actual fossils. Beneath the 40-foot dinosaur is an opportunity to let out my inner archaeologist. A sand box allows visitors to dig for their own fossils with pails and shovels.

Next to Stan is the photo exhibit, “What Difference A Day Makes,” which condenses 4.6 billion years of Earth’s history in 24 images.
Walking further along, I spotted a little boy, his hands on a floating globe showing the current state of the environment and the effects of climate change. Mike, 5, smiles from ear to ear as he shows his mother and I how to make a tornado. Putting his hand over a sensor, the exhibit releases a whirlwind of smoke.

To the left of the globe is the Canopy of Life, its green leaves that hang over the interactive stations point to the five kingdoms of life: Protista, Monera, Plant, Fungi, and Animalia.

Leaving the rest of the planet behind, I entered the human world. At the heart of the Exhibit of Life is the human brain, rather realistically portrayed as an interactive grey blob. Each part corresponds to certain senses, memories and emotions, which light up as my hands move over it. Pumping next to it is the human heart (“Listen to your Heart”), which translates each tap of my taps on a druminto a red-lit heartbeat.

“Incredibly squishy and fascinating,” is how Raymond describes Small Worlds Within, a poke-able model of an oversized cell and its parts. Dotting the rest of the gallery are exhibits of DNA helixes, human migration, and evolution.

Then I arrived at the Atom Gallery, merging physics and chemistry on the molecular level: from a Static Ball that throws my hair up to the Science lab, where I get to see experiments performed up close. A huge Periodic Table near the back of the gallery has locker-style cubicles, each with an item meant to represent an element.

Eliza, 19, says, “I liked the Atom Gallery the most, particularly the Light Bridge, where they showed gamma rays, xrays, ultraviolet, visible light, etc. It was colorful! It made me remember lessons from high school.” Under the bridge is the Lightwriter Pendulux, an almost mystical tool thatuses magnetism to translate hand motions into drawings on a phosphorescent plate.

On the second floor is the Technology gallery, the last and largest one of all, divided into five sub-galleries: Who We Are, How We Know, How Things Work, Here to There and How We Live.

Who We Are zooms in on communication and language, itself a form of human cultural technology. In one station, I listen to my heartbeat as I read quotes and other bits of literature on a wall – a concrete example of how words move the heart, which sings to the beat of other forms of expression from music to the arts.

How We Know unveils our sense of discovery. I tinker with a couple of microscopes and telescopes it has on display, all instruments, which allow us to reach far beyond our senses, from the tiniest glimpses of our inner world to the outermost regions of space.

How Things Work mostly stems from the products of the industrial revolution: infrastructure, manufacturing and processing.

Here to There covers transportation and ways to bridge distances. Lastly, How We Live examines the links between technology, and culture and how both affect human health, from our lifestyles to our workspaces.

The ring of a bell signals an end to the three-hour tour. I exit the museum with the other visitors – each with a look of tired satisfaction. Each one, young and old, four to forty, each having seen things for the first time – or from a different point of view.

Betina Libre

By Betina Libre

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