Science Gym, Muse [
Foto: MIchele Purin, Archivio MUSE]
“The Science Gymnasium – the section of the museum dedicated to interactive science – has been one of the most popular places for visitors since the opening days of MUSE” – explains the director Michelle Lanzinger. “The possibility of direct interaction with experiments and an understanding of the workings of various devices has always aroused great attraction, interest and pleasure. For this reason, Moses periodically renews this garden of scientific experiments, and also to reaffirm the message created over time itself, so much so that it has become indispensable: Come Come back to the cabaret, there’s always something new to discover!”
Each station allows you to deepen seemingly challenging scientific concepts, and experience them in an engaging and light-hearted way. For example, by moving some springs on a treadmill, it will be possible to discover how to convert elastic energy into kinetic energy, or by building colored gears, to understand the difference between angular and linear velocity. Using colored lenses, prisms and filters, experience some of the amazing properties of light while using a rotating table, inertial forces, and reference systems. Finally, polarized screens will demonstrate the property of light at the basis of many technological applications.
The new exhibition
descent of springs
The workstation is an inclined plane like a treadmill on which the springs are placed: when you place the spring on the inclined plane, gravity allows it to take a step down. After the jump, the accumulated elastic energy allows it to begin the next step. If you move the belt up at the same speed as the spring is going down, the belt will never reach the base. Elastic potential energy and kinetic energy are constantly transformed in this “diffuse” exhibit.
Some colorful gears are placed on the wall, connected to each other: by turning the crank you can rotate the entire chain of wheels up.. which will reveal a surprise! Gears are simple machines: when one rotates in one direction, the other rotates in the opposite direction. Larger wheels spin slower while smaller wheels spin faster. In this way it will be possible to experience the physical significance of linear and angular velocity.
Electricity from the muscles
Most of the machines we normally use run on electricity. It’s normal for us to plug a light bulb or appliance into a home electrical socket and use electricity to power them, but how exhausting is it to produce that energy? To understand how much home appliances are consuming, in the exhibit at the Science Gymnasium we use our muscular energy which, through the dynamo, supplies current to the machines. In fact, most power plants do a similar job, converting fluid motion energy into electrical energy via an alternating current generator. By using the pedal or cranking the cranks to operate various electrical appliances, you can see how much power is needed to activate them. The pedals and levers are connected to a dynamo that converts the rotating motion into continuous electrical energy, which powers the equipment. When it stops spinning, no more power reaches, the current cuts off and the electrical appliances go out.
We climb on a platform, grab a leash attached to a wheel and bend it a little to the right and left. Then we spin the wheel quickly and repeat the experiment. When the wheel is in rotation, by guiding the steering wheel, we change the line of rotation of the wheel axis and this causes the entire footrest to move in the opposite direction. The faster the wheel rotates, the stronger the effect. The gyroscope is based on a physical quantity called “angular momentum”. A rotating object, if not perturbed, maintains the stability of its axis. When a force from outside intervenes forcing the axis to move, a motion called “pre-movement” is created, causing the entire system to rotate in a direction perpendicular to the axis. This movement explains, for example, why bikes fold when turning the steering and is also the same movement that is observed in turning tops when they lose speed and begin to swing.
When light encounters an obstacle in its path, depending on the shape and substance of this object, various phenomena can occur: it can be reflected – fully or partially – or it can cross the obstacle, maintaining its course or changing its direction. The light that comes out of the optical island cylinder passes through different objects. Some are opaque and some reflect light. Many are transparent, so they allow light to pass through them but with different effects: the lenses are able to bend a beam of light; The prism is able to separate white light, in a rainbow of colored beams; Finally, color filters only allow some of the colors that white light is made of. In MUSE, just press a button to launch thousands of light effects!
A button rotates the disk on the table: if we move a ball or ring on the disk, it is possible to observe what is happening. The disc rotates like a carousel: when a ball is rolled on the turntable, its motion is added to the motion of the base, describing a trajectory different from that observed on a stationary plane. When a ball is thrown along a surface, it uses the friction created by its contact with the same surface to roll: if you throw a ball at a stationary surface, it tends to go straight. On the other hand, the rotating surface of the ball gives an effect that changes its trajectory: this effect is more pronounced the higher the velocity of the base (that is, at the outer points) or the lower the velocity of the ball at that point. Moreover, in the system of rotation, the ball is subjected to a centrifugal force that gradually tends to push it out of the circle. This is how we discover the importance of illusory powers!
We observe the light through a particular polarized rotating screen. Light is electromagnetic radiation that travels through space in all possible directions. The polarizing filter forces the radiation to pass in only one direction, removing the orthogonal component. If you put a second filter, it can be instructed to pass the same component, if it’s parallel to the first, or opposite, if it’s orthogonal. However, when one of the filters blocks one of the components and the second filter prevents its complement from passing through, the light will not be able to pass through the screen.
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