Sunday, October 23, 2005

Science For Dummies

Science is fun. Sure, it has a reputation for being abstract and dull, what with the white coats, complex formulae and constant eyebrow singeing, but that's just the beneficial, practical aspect of the discipline. Purposeless, frivolous science is where the fun is at, especially if it's the kind of purposeless, frivolous science that is painted in primary colours and features lots of "interactive" buttons and knobs. The kind, that is, specialised in by the Museum of Victoria's hands-on edutainment complex, Scienceworks.

Did somebody say "hands-on" and "edutainment"? Oh, it was me. Well, that was quite perspicacious of me, because it is clearly empty neologisms of this sort that provide the ideological framework for the Scienceworks experience. We don't want the kids to be bored, now, do we? Of course not! So instead of actual information presented in a meaningful, coherent manner, let's give 'em what amounts to an oversized playground with plenty of buttons to push and things to sniff and touch, and hope their parents are dumb enough to go along for the ride. (Judging by the empirical evidence I collected at Scienceworks this morning, the latter experiment has been a roaring success.)

Some of the exhibits do attempt to educate, but they are simultaneously trying to entertain (or possibly edutate), and you can guess at which they are more successful. Most of the exhibits have only the slightest educational value, some have none. Look, a giant can opener opening a giant can! Look, a netball hoop! Look, a pianola! Are you feeling scientific, kids? Don't go nerding out on me or anything!

Scienceworks demonstrates the means and methods of science about as accurately as Indiana Jones demonstrates those of archeology. There is no reason why a science museum should be boring; there is still less reason why it should be dumbed-down to the point of worthlessness. And what the hell is it doing in the middle of a Spotswood industrial estate?

(Neil Mitchell-esque oh-what-a-world whine over.)

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