City of Science and Industry, France

City of Science & Industry

City of Science & Industry by Katchooo. Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license.

This is a monstrous “theme park” extolling science and its applications, which must be seen to be believed. Whether one will be any wiser after a visit will be a matter of experience and temperament. It is likely to be most useful as a supplementary resource for school children taking elementary science courses and guided by their teachers. The glossy high-tech approach may appeal especially at that level.

The overall tone is set by what one sees at first entry, the Geode, a giant steel globe with a mirror surface and an auditorium within it, its tiers of 357 seats suspended from a single pillar. Scientific instructional films are shown here around the clock. Beyond the Geode is the Explora, which houses the main exhibits, divided into four sectors: “From the Earth to the Universe,” “The Adventure of Life,” “Matter and the Work of Man,” and “Language and Communication.” Headsets can be rented to pick up running commentaries in four different languages as one wanders about, and there are also informative panels, TV sets with instructional video shows, and interactive gadgetry of all kinds. Some items are very good and quite sophisticated-an excellent hands-on apparatus for proof of Pythagoras’s theorem and a clear demonstration of symmetry axes, for example, in the mathematics section at Level 1 of “Earth to Universe.” Others seem merely tawdry-a winding trail “in the eye of the microscope,” for example, in “Adventure of Life,” or a huge panel map of the earth that lights up to show where polygamy or polyandry is practised. Many of the exhibits are geared to familiar modern technology: rockets, jet planes, a submarine, particle accelerators, ecosystems, and so on.

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