Following the devastating tsunami that hit Indonesia in December 2004, the violent hurricanes which destroyed vast sections of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida, and the horrific earthquake in Pakistan, concern about natural disasters has soared. The Springfield Science Museum will explore the causes and effects of some of the disastrous events that plague our planet in the special exhibition Earth Attacks: Volcanoes, Earthquakes and Tsunamis, on view at the museum from February 18 through September 3, 2006.
Earth Attacks is an original, hands-on exhibition designed and built by Science Museum staff and volunteers with the assistance of students and faculty at Western New England College, Bay Path College, and the Hartford School of Design. The exhibit is sponsored by United Bank. The media sponsor is 22 News. Earth Attacks uses interactive components, simulations, three-dimensional models, photographs, video, and computer games to explain the science behind natural disasters, how experts predict natural events, and how these forces affect our lives. Children will be able to crawl through a "lava tube" tunnel inside a large model of a volcano. As they exit the tube, they can watch a simulated television newscast about a volcano. A volcano simulator lets visitors cause an eruption by making liquid spew from a "volcano" inside a see-through case. They can also create a tsunami in an eight-foot-long, water-filled tank by activating a plunger to displace the water, creating a rolling tsunami wave that washes up against the shoreline. The principles of plate tectonics are demonstrated by moving foam slabs representing the Earth's plates. Photos of geographical formations, mountain ranges, and tsunamis show the results of each type of plate movement. By manipulating a puzzle map of the ancient super-continent of Pangaea, visitors will see how the continents broke apart to create the world as we know it today. Youngsters can also identify the locations of the modern continents when they were still joined together by playing a computer game adapted from the NASA website. Visitors are invited to take a seat in the "Earthquake Café," which is decorated with restaurant-style accessories and backdrop. Mechanically driven pistons shake the "café" from side-to-side, simulating an earthquake. Would-be architects can try to create earthquake-proof buildings out of blocks and then test the stability of their structures by activating the "earthquake shake table," which vibrates to mimic an earthquake. The exhibit will open on Saturday, Feb. 18, with "Nature Untamed: Exploring Natural Disasters," an afternoon of family activities from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.