We went up to Philadelphia this past weekend, and spent a day at the Franklin Institute science museum. The museum’s mission is to create a passion for science, and it succeeds in doing so with superb hands-on exhibits.
In its exhibit on the heart, we walked through the chambers of a giant heart, following the path along which blood flows in on the right, loads up on oxygen, and flows back out on the left. I learned that the heart pumps 100,000 times a day, circulating 2000 gallons of blood a day. I also learned that one teaspoonful of blood contains 25 billion red blood cells! I got to see what various animal hearts look like; did you know that butterflies have green blood, octopuses have blue, and sea cucumbers, yellow-green blood?
Another permanent exhibit on the brain explained that the average brain has 100 billion neurons, each one of which is connected to about 7000 others. Kids could climb around in a dark room representing a brain full of yellow “neuron” lights.
The Franklin Institute currently has two special exhibits, the first one about Ghengis Khan (1162-1227). Although known for his brutality, he established a meritocracy based on ability, and practiced religious tolerance. His soldiers all rode horses and made their own bows, which they could fire accurately while hanging from the side of the horse or seated backwards. A private collector in Mongolia loaned the museum artifacts including traditional clothing and weapons, and decked out a “ger” or yurt, a circular tent in which nomadic Mongolians still live.
The second exhibit displayed creations by sculptor Nathan Sawaya, whose medium is Lego blocks. He recreated famous art works in Legos, hoping to get kids interested in great arts via the toys they love. These included Michelangelo’s David, the stained glass window in the cathedral at Chartre, and Edvard Munch's The Scream. Sawaya also displayed his own original works of art, mainly based on the human form. And then there’s his Tyrannosaurus Rex, made from 80,000 Lego blocks, and a Maori figure from Easter Island, with 75,450 blocks. Wow!