Monday, May 9, 2011

Cambridge Carnival Day

Even in the midst of a thunderstorm, Saturday’s Science Carnival was spectacular.

With rows of booths and activities as far as the eye could see, the space surrounding the Cambridge Public Library was busy with experiments and energy. There was music, swing dancing, balloons and several tiny children wandering around fully clad in the Pfizer booth’s lab coats, goggles and plastic gloves.

The range of activity options included deconstructing cell phones to check out the metals inside, playing with water hydraulics, witnessing robotic engineering at work and requesting a song from the live “Science Juke Box” chorus. This is only a small sample of the awesome spread of booths lined up by members of the MIT and Harvard communities and Cambridge-area science organizations and businesses.

The event was targeted toward young children, and they were out in droves. But even for those of us beyond elementary school age, the carnival offered a few neat new experiences.

My favorite activities were hands-on: I held a tadpole at one booth on city planning and wastewater routing, feeling him squirm in my hand before placing him into a designated mini body of clean water in the booth’s 3-D plastic model of a city.

I also taste-tested two mystery samples of water to vote on the cleanest, and was then asked to try to identify which was bottled water and which had come straight from the tap. Without knowing which was which, I preferred the taste of tap water. Judging by the other recorded votes, several other people agreed!

One of the other highlights was watching MIT scientists douse a pan full of cream in liquid nitrogen, as it steamed and hissed and smoked. The result: ice cream! Toppings were available to make sundaes, and kids clamored for a taste.  

All in all, the Science Carnival was a huge success. The sunshine may have gone home early, but there was enough to do to keep the rest of us busy there all afternoon.

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