Get Excited about Science - the MIT Museum. Even Lady Gaga thinks it's cool!

No doubt about it - Boston bars aren't just for drinking beer and watching sports as we discovered when we went to The Druid for fish and chips last night. It turns out that Wednesday evening is trivia night, when teams of graduate students from nearby Harvard and MIT compete to answer outrageously difficult questions. Well, they were for me at least! But then I wasn't one of the people who started clapping when the quiz master revealed that the category of the next question was "Science". Seriously, it was if the bartender had announced that it was free beer night. After lots of whistling and cheering, the atmosphere grew tense as the crowd eagerly awaited a question that would challenge their agile brains.

If science makes your heart go pitter-patter, then I strongly suggest a visit to the MIT Museum in Cambridge. And even if physics, biology and chemistry weren't your favorite subjects in high school, I would say that there's a high probability that you'll be enchanted by Kismet, the world's first sociable robot.

Created by Dr. Cynthia Breazeal, Kismet made me realize that the futuristic age of "The Jetsons" may be here sooner than we expect. As other displays show, artificial intelligence research at MIT has already made significant contributions to medicine and underwater explorations. The following YouTube video about personal robots is of Breazeal's riveting TED talk - she's got beauty, brains and "an idea worth spreading"!

The museum also has the world's largest and most comprehensive collection of holograms. By bending and focusing light, a hologram renders a subject with complete dimensional fidelity. Seeing "Parc des Folies a la Villette", an amazing three-D architect's model used to promote the science park in Paris, was an unexpected treat. As I reached out to touch the image, the focused light slipped through my fingers like water. Incredible! Even though taking photos of the holograms for non-personal use is prohibited, I didn't mind because pictures wouldn't do them justice.

This photo showing the large cloud of industrial smog hovering over China has me hoping that Stephane doesn't inhale any more oxygen than is absolutely necessary while he's in Beijing. Our world faces some daunting problems, but the "Sampling MIT" exhibition featuring current research reassured me that scientists and engineers are making great strides in understanding climate change, malaria and the way our brains work. Thank goodness for people who are excited about science - we desperately need them!

Even Lady Gaga took some time out of her busy schedule to visit the MIT Museum. In her role as creative director for Polaroid, she had her photo taken by a rare Polaroid 20×24 camera when the company donated ten thousand items to the university. The portrait of Lady Gaga is part of the small display, "Meet the Swinger ... and Other Treasures from the Polaroid Collection" at the museum.

MIT Museum
265 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139


  1. And with all the news yesterday about Higgs boson you are right on target Mary Kay!

    But Kismet looks creepy to me, I'm just not seeing 'enchanted'.

    How cool though to put your hand through a hologram--I can't even imagine.

    1. The holograms were incredible. My favorites were the ones of people's faces because they looked so realistic until I walked to the side and the 3-D image disappeared.

      Several people commented on YouTube that they found Kismet to be creepy. Breazeal's latest robot, Leonardo, is really cute but I guess it could also be scary depending what you think about AI.

      I would love to visit the CERN research center in Switzerland where they're also looking for the Higgs boson.

  2. I love the polaroid!!!
    I also love that the MIT Harvard trivia night gets pumped about science questions. You can bet your life that was not the case at Penn State. Unless it was about football... well... yeah. I agree with you. Thank goodness we have people that are so interested and passionate about science!!!!

    1. Hanging out in Cambridge is a real eye opener. I LOVE eavesdropping on the conversations in restaurants, etc. because most of them are about something significant. Since I don't have a scientific bone in my body, I'm thankful that there are people who are so passionate about their research because I certainly couldn't do what they're doing. But then again, I couldn't talk about football at Penn State either!

  3. I now have museum withdrawal. The only one I've been to in France is our local one at Gueret which mainly consists of stuffed dead animals, and has a llama labelled as an alpaca, which I tell them about each time I go. Clearly they don't trust a foreigner since they haven't updated it! I'll probably take Ruadhri again on the free museum night in May since I'm fed up of paying to see the same old things!

  4. Maybe next time you need to take one of your llamas to the museum with you as evidence!

    I've been thinking about your post on the way that teachers in France treat girls versus boys and am pleased to report that there are a large number of women scientists and engineers at MIT!

  5. Thanks for the great information for my trip to Boston re the MIT. I think I will stay away from the quiz though! Long time since I did any science.

    Love Denise from Bolton

  6. You'll have to let me know when you plan to be in Boston. If you only have a short time, I'm not sure that I would go to the MIT museum during your first visit unless you have a really strong interest in science because there are so many other things to do in Boston.

    Let's talk about it the next time that we get together in Paris.


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