This is the story of a noisy museum.
It's noisy because, in the process of making ideas visible, it also makes them exciting enough that people feel compelled to discuss them. And it makes some ideas audible. Its contraptions - balls dropping, a jet engine firing, a heart thumping - add enough sound to the visual razzle-dazzle that as soon as you enter you know something is happening here that is unusual for a museum.
The place is the California Museum of Science and Industry in Exposition Park. What's happening there is symbolized in its location directly between the University of Southern California and the Coliseum. Midway between idea and action, it expolits showmanship to translate abstruse scientific or technological principles into the fun of the toy at its best - the gadget that functions both to instruct and delight.
The key to its success is participation: individual, business, community. You push a button or pull a lever and a display performs. The display in each case is a contribution of some private industry or profession in Southern California. Among the varied fields represented so far are computers, aircraft, gas, electricity, telephone, railroads, automobiles, and medicine. And the contributors have drawn on first-rate design talents to set the stage.
There's more than you can see in one visit without gallery fatigue, but you can return almost any day. The museum closes only on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the only fee charged inside is optional: a dime for the turnstile to the model trains.
The front door is in the original 1912 building (remodeled in 1951) opposite the Rose garden on State Drive. The main parking lot is behind the new Hall of Health annex. Another is north of the old armory, which now houses the museum's rocket and missile collection and will be expanded next year to accommodate a working nuclear reactor exhibit.
Don't expect every display to be operating when you go, for this is the most heavily attended museum in Southern California, and moving parts get hard use. One show that doesn't wear out is also the most popular: the giant egg, where each day under glass 150 chicks peek out of their shells before your eyes.
Then, nearby, look into the halls that still remain from the old days. These are quiet, even nostalgic, but the contrast makes it evident that the art of museum display has come a long way.
"Halls of Wonder and Excitement" might be a more descriptive label for the California Museum of Science and Industry at Exposition Park, Los Angeles. We wonder how many thousands of Southwest football fans have walked up the ramp of the Coliseum without even knowing about the fine exhibit halls not more than a hundred yards away.
You'll find all the displays in the remodeled State Exposition Building. And you'll find plenty to keep children busy and delighted. By merely pushing buttons and dialing instruments, they can make exhibits revolve, buzz, flash, heat up, and come to realistic "life."
A drink is more than a drink when a child can push a button by a water drinking fountain and watch a lighted display that shows the course of the water from a mountain reservoir to the fountain spouting up in your face. This intriguing drinking fountain is in the Water Resources Exhibit.
Southern Californians will be particularly interested in the relief map of the Colorado River-Southern California area also in the Water Resources Exhibit. This five-ton map was originally built to facilitate construction of the aqueduct from Hoover Dam to the coast. As the map lights up by sections, a recorded voice describes how water is brought hundreds of miles from the Colorado River to 66 coastal cities. The map is so accurate in topographic detail that engineers use it to plot microwave paths through the mountains.
If you have a small boy along, you may find him pulling your arm to hurry you to the Transportation Exhibit. Along 400 feet of miniature track, accurate replicas of steam locomotives and diesels pull passenger and freight trains through California valleys and mountains. Miniature cars, trucks, and buses travel the highways; an airplane taxis on a runway; and ships move slowly in a harbor.
In Industry Hall, you can press buttons that start all kinds of mechanical devices, and displays that move and hum. The processes of artificial rain and snow-making are illustrated with colored slides in the Water Exhibit.
By turning a dial, you can locate mineral deposits on a California relief map in Mineral Hall.
In Agricultural Hall, a push-button identification panel tests your knowledge of California agriculture. Mechanized replicas of an old-fashioned pear peeler and a walnut stamping machine are on display.
The museum is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The only admission charge is 10 cents to get into the Transportation Exhibit.
Children and adults, mathematicians and laymen alike are fascinated by the mathematics exhibit at the California Museum of Science and Industry in Exposition Park, Los Angeles.
Mathematical concepts and their relationship to man's life and environment are explained and demonstrated in simple, visual terms by a series of working models, films, and pictorial displays. The result seems part carnival, part magic show, part science laboratory.
The laws of probability, which have applications in such areas and activities as insurance, telephone exchanges, traffic control, games and strategy, and intelligence tests, are graphically demonstrated by a 12-foot-high machine. Periodically, 30,000 plastic balls cascade down through a maze of evenly placed pins to form a "probability curve."
Children will enjoy putting in motion such devices as the "celestial mechanics" machine, which illustrate how planets rotate around the sun, and the "cube of lights," which visually explains multiplication and the squaring and cubing of numbers.
One wall presents in pictures a history of the science of mathematics, chronologically relating its advances to the story of civiliation.
The IBM-sponsored exhibit was designed by Charles and Ray Eames, with Raymond M. Redheffer as consultant. It is located in the new Science Wing of the museum, and is open to the public free of charge from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Parking space (10 cents for 90 minutes) is at the rear of the building. The park is located at Figueroa Street and Exposition Boulevard.
A colorful exhibit called "The Turning Wheel" at the California Museum of Science and Industry in Exposition Park makes a manful effort to explain the complexities of today's automobile and very nearly succeeds. It is good fun even when it doesn't. We tried it our on a 10-year-old, who enjoyed pressing buttons to make the moving exhibits move, peering into cut-away engines and other machinery, and watching films that show various aspects of car manufacturing. The overall effect is to make the sophisticated modern car somewhat less baffling.
Some displays describe the basics, relating the simplest machines (lever, pulley, inclined plane and screw, and wheel and axle) to their applications in an automobile. Others describe the way in which automobile systems convert energy from fuel to motion, and how cars are produced in modern factories and safety tested.
Photographs and full-size models illustrate achievements in automobile mechanics. Side by side are the bulky Kettering self-starter of 1912 and a working model of an Oldsmobile instrument panel with circuit diagrams that light up as you operate the dashboard controls. Exhibits explain manual and automatic transmissions in all their detail.
You can observe the part the automobile plays in our urban lives by pressing a button to start a film of Los Angeles freeway traffic. When the film stops, surrounding back-lit transparencies show how the sudden disappearance of cars from the road would affect businesses, schools, and families.