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I went to America, and all I got was High Fructose Corn Syrup (with lard)

February 5th, 2006

What a trip. The healthiness or not of the large quantities of food aside, there was much on the trip that was well worth experiencing. One of the earlier sights was the Harvard area. It was pretty cold, but nothing too untoward for walking about in. The (science building?) at Harvard had an interesting section of an IBM “Mark I” early digital computer. Lots of switches and dials, and the photos of the machine in use showed the ultimate in cable spaghetti hell at the back of it.

MIT was very interesting to visit. The campus is enormous! Apparently there are about 10,000 students, 3,000 undergraduate. Now admittedly there are 10,000 staff, but I had expected there to be more students. The facilities and campus are wildly extensive for the number of inhabitants. We had a tour around some of the more central buildings, fairly basic, but it gave an idea of the environment for those studying/working at MIT. The particular item of attraction was the MIT museum, with a fascinating exhibit on robotics (with many of the actual definitive robots encased in the room!). There was a number of other items of particular interest at the museum, for example, a quite impressive display of large holograms with various effects. Various machines were displayed in another room, including the gearing system with a drill on the end that won’t turn for a couple trillion years or such despite the motor running (by the third cog, the system is geared down so much one can’t note the movement – and there are a half-dozen or so more cogs gearing it down further!)

We spent a lot of time too at the Science Museum in Boston. The interactive displays were a major attraction in the main exhibit. For all that some of the content was geared towards kids, nice practical exhibits demonstrated all sorts of principles (particularly in Physics). The 3d theatre featured a documentary on the Mars rovers, and showed off the 3D images the rovers captured to good effect. A Star Wars exhibit was also prominant at the museum, although it too featured experiments to link the theme-park aspect to an actual science exhibition. All in all, an interesting experience, not least in showing off a quite different way of showing off science to the general public.

And as a final note, I want “Barnes & Noble” and “Au Bon Pain” to set up shop in Ireland!

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