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Monday, 20 July 2015

Canberra Stories #1: Questacon

For ten days, between July 3rd and 13th, I was in Canberra experiencing Improvention - Australia's biggest improv theatre festival (out of a total two). I had an amazing time there, and I got quite a few really interesting stories out of it. The first came when I had my first ever meeting with a blogger friend, Elephant's Child.

I'd decided to fly in the day before the festival started so I could fit in some sightseeing, so at 8:30 that morning I arrived, found my way to the hotel, got settled in and then called the number given to me by EC. I sat out the front of my hotel, eating my lunch in the freezing cold and perking up at every car that pulled up to the curb. EC knew what I looked like from the many pictures and videos on my blog, but I had no idea what she looked like. Eventually a black car pulled up and I saw someone in the passenger seat grinning and waving at me enthusiastically.
"Well, either that's her or I'm about to be abducted by the government," I thought. "Not a bad start to my trip either way."

EC greeted me and introduced me to her husband, who was driving. They were both really cute together - the way people usually are when they've been married for most of their lives. They took me to Questacon, which is a centre of science and discovery which is really interactive and fun. There were lots of games, exhibits and challenges there and the three of us wandered through each room marvelling at the wonders.

The outside of the building.

A giant glockenspiel outside the building. I could play a few simple tunes.

There were sensors in the top and bottom of that harp which sensed where your hand was. You could select one of dozens of instruments and it would make the sound of that instrument. The pitch was determined by where in the harp you put your hand.

The staff there were eager to impart some of their knowledge. This guy was teaching me about muscle memory by stroking my hand on either side of the mirror. If I watched my hand in the mirror, the man could take his right hand away and I'd still feel it stroking me. It was awesome and creepy at the same time.

This hole was only about as deep as a frying pan, but the use of lighting and one-way glass made it look like an infinite hole.

I was challenged to find a way to balance these six hammers on top of the first hammer. I'm usually not good at lateral thinking puzzles, but I think I nailed this one.


Those lower ones aren't touching the table - they're being precariously balanced on the first hammer.

Those magnets were just strong enough to not come off the wheel when you span it, but weak enough to slide across it when it was spun. The result was that it made a cool pattern when you spun the wheel.

This hourglass was filled with rubber and has been slowly seeping down to the bottom since its installation in December 1982.

They had a lightning machine. 'Nuff said.

We entered an exhibit on Earthquakes, where we stepped onto a platform which shook like a tectonic plate. We were encouraged to find the most structurally sound way to build a structure that would withstand the trembling.

It took me a while, but I think I've figured this girl out - she loves science, but she hates kids. She shot off all sorts of facts about seismology with a practiced tongue, but she also didn't seem to care if the kids could keep up and seemed to be very condescending. EC, I'd love to hear if your husband agrees.

A giant H2O Rube Goldberg machine.

I played air hockey against a big robotic arm.

There was a screen next to the table which showed what the arm sees. When the puck came towards it, it would measure the puck's trajectory...

...and hit it back.

It did all this very fast. It had played about 300 games that day, each of 90 seconds in length. It had won 294 of them and drawn 6. There had been a total of 23 goals scored against it in those 300 games. So when I came away from my game with a 1-all draw, I was pretty happy with myself.

That slide was angled in such a way that for the first half, you're just freefalling through the air. You're actually not even allowed on it if you can't hold yourself up by the bar at the top.

There was a ball bearing inside this giant ball that I had to get through the maze.


It dropped in the end :P

I'm not even sure I can describe this. It was an INCREDIBLY intricate machine where billiard balls were propelled through tunnels, levers and loop-de-loops. They would travel down all different paths depending on the positions of the other balls and sometimes the arrival of other balls would release the first ball which was being held there. It was all completely run by kinetic energy, except for the conveyor belt you can see running vertically in the middle there.

Naturally, we finished up at the gift shop. What do you think of this?

39 comments:

  1. Looks like she treated you to a great time at the science museum. You should be proud of that draw against the robot arm in air hockey.

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    1. She did and I am! I'm very competitive, so it was one of my fonder memories from the trip.

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  2. Wow! This museum looks amazing! My Other, kiddo, and I would probably lose our minds there! Very cool :)

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  3. That sounds like so much fun. I have been to a museum like that since my kids were little. I like the hat.
    Susan Says

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    1. Hey, well if EC can enjoy it, I'm sure you can too :)

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  4. Your science museum beats my science museum, hands down. I'd love to go to that place.

    When my boys were young, they had the same hat.

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    1. I couldn't get mine to fly, could yours?

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    2. A decent wind would spin it and make the boys look adequately insane and doofus.

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  5. It is a brilliant museum isn't it? Thank you - we don't get there often enough ourselves.
    You are right - we have been together over half of our lives. Not married though.
    When he gets up I will ask him about the earthquake boffin.

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    1. He tells me that he thought she was just going through the motions, that she had been doing that particular job for too long and was no longer passionate about it. Which is sad. Everyone else we interacted with seemed to be having a ball. Hopefully she was just having a bad day.

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    2. Oh my apologies, I assumed you were married.

      That sounds plausible. It is a shame, because she was very knowledgeable.

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    3. Not a problem. I just didn't want to travel under false pretences.

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  6. It sounds like you had a wonderful day with EC. It must have been exciting to meet and explore the world of science for the day.

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    1. It was one of my favourite parts of the trip :)

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  7. Always great to meet other bloggers. That sure looks like an awesome place to go too. Always enjoy when things are interactive.

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    1. That makes it exactly eight times more fun.

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  8. That place looks very cool. I could spend days there.
    I'm so glad two of my favorites met in person. Someday, lets all go back there!?

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    1. I'll probably be going back at the same time next year, so that's your deadline ;)

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  9. Looks like a really interesting place! And that's awesome that you got to meet up with other bloggers. I love when that happens!

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  10. That is creepy but cool about the hand stroking. And you got to meet the blogger behind Elephant's Child! Very cool!!

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  11. We went to a science museum in Chicago. That was my favorite museum. So much to see, and do for adults and kids. This makes me want to go back there. It reminds me of that place.

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    1. Some other travelers were laughing at me because they thought that Questacon was for kids. Pfft, get lost!

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  12. I'm still in shock after reading the words "freezing cold" in a post from Australia. What does "freezing" mean over there?

    Fascinating museum. Do you think a holiday in Australia should include a day in Canberra?

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    1. Well the lowest it got down to dieting my stay was -6°. Usually when we say it's cold, other countries laugh at us. But this time it's serious ;)

      It depends on what you like when you go traveling. It's certainly a beautiful city, but most of the attractions are geared towards a particular type of person. Things like Parliament House, the High Court of Australia and the National Gallery. Questacon is kind of an outlier.

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  13. small world moments when you can catch up with someone you've met through blog world. And very cool museum - looks like a lot of hands on fun. Not sure if the souvenir cap is quite the right color....

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    1. I'm always amazed that we love in a world where that can happen.

      Good call about the colour. I would have made a grave mistake...

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  14. wow, does that ever look fun! Especially the glockenspiel (ps I wouldn't have known what to call that). I love the excited little look on your face in all the pictures. You seem to soak up your surroundings with joy no matter what they are. Thanks for showing!

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    1. Thanks for enjoying :) Actually now I think about it, it's probably just a xylophone. Doesn't a glockenspiel have the pipes underneath it?

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  15. We have a science museum here where I've done some of those things, but this sounds like a much better version of that!

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    1. I'd still like to come and see yours one day :)

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  16. I wish we had a cool science museum like that here. Our museum is cool, but is severely lacking in fun puzzles. Also, it's severely lacking in other bloggers. You have us beat twofold.

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    1. Yeah but you make up for it by just generally being awesome :)

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  17. I love how hands on it is there! My kids like to do the Science Museum in Chicago every once in a while. My daughter has a smaller version of that maze ball. It pisses me off because it takes me too long to complete it. I'd be sitting there until my hair turned gray with that bigger version!

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    1. See what I take from that is that you never give up, which I love. I'm the same, I'd keep going until I bloody-well finished it.

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