‘It’s all about ex­plo­ration’

New Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre open­ing in Hal­i­fax Sun­day

Cape Breton Post - - CAPE BRETON / PROVINCE - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

It’s hun­dreds of mil­lions of kilo­me­tres from Earth, but Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is luminous in­side a theatre-style im­mer­sive dome at the Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre in Hal­i­fax.

Many corners of the uni­verse are ac­ces­si­ble from the com­fort of the plan­e­tar­ium’s 65 cushy chairs — ev­ery­where from Sin­ga­pore’s night sky to Orion’s Belt.

But there’s one place au­di­ences are al­ways ea­ger to see: Earth.

“You can show peo­ple any cool sim­u­la­tion or im­age of space, but hon­estly, noth­ing is as stag­ger­ing as the hov­er­ing above Earth,’’ said Japna Sidhu-Brar, the dome’s full-time pre­sen­ter who uses data from the Hub­ble Space Te­le­scope to cre­ate cus­tom-built au­dio and vis­ual ex­pe­ri­ences.

“The soft­ware is amaz­ing. You’re get­ting a very ac­cu­rate sim­u­la­tion of the so­lar sys­tem, of the plan­ets, of the uni­verse it­self.’’

The new three-level Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre —which bills it­self as a hands-on science cen­tre — is set to open Sun­day.

It was a sta­ple on Bar­ring­ton Street for more than 25 years be­fore mov­ing into the newly con­structed $20-mil­lion fa­cil­ity on the Hal­i­fax wa­ter­front.

The old cen­tre was aimed pri­mar­ily at chil­dren and their fam­i­lies, but the new Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre is seeking to at­tract peo­ple of all ages with trav­el­ling ex­hibits, in­ter­ac­tive astron­omy shows and in­ven­tion work­shops, said Dov Ber­covici, pres­i­dent and CEO of the cen­tre.

“There’s ex­pe­ri­ences for ev­ery­one,’’ said Ber­covici in the atrium, which of­fers ex­pan­sive views of the cen­tre’s three lev­els and is il­lu­mi­nated by sev­eral large, beach­ball-es­que lights that pe­ri­od­i­cally change colour.

“We want to en­cour­age the pub­lic, of any age, to un­der­stand the science of their daily lives. Peo­ple can even come here on date night.’’

The cen­tre’s bot­tom floor is where trav­el­ling ex­hi­bi­tions will be set up for three- to four­month stopovers.

The first ex­hibit is one that ex­plores the sci­en­tific side of mu­sic — from the physics of gui­tars and drums to why cer­tain notes sound more pleas­ing than oth­ers.

“We re­ally be­lieve that science and art are es­sen­tial to each other,’’ said Ber­covici just after strum­ming a G chord on an elec­tric gui­tar in front of one sec­tion that de­tails the his­tory of the six-stringed in­stru­ment.

Tucked into the back cor­ner of the bot­tom floor is a work­shop-style room dubbed the “in­no­va­tion lab.’’ In­side on a re­cent day sev­eral peo­ple are sit­ting on stools and hov­er­ing over long wooden ta­bles. Dozens of simple cir­cuit boards — made from nails and blocks of wood — are scat­tered through­out the brightly lit space.

It’s here where vis­i­tors will be able to learn how to in­vent and fab­ri­cate things like a potato bat­tery or drone.

“It’s all about ex­plo­ration,’’ said lab co-or­di­na­tor Ryan Jame­son just be­fore show­ing off some newly 3D-printed art, in­clud­ing a scor­pion equipped with a mov­ing tail.

“The whole cen­tre is about be­ing cu­ri­ous and stay­ing cu­ri­ous be­cause that is the first step to dis­cov­ery.’’

On the sec­ond floor guests are greeted by a life-size yel­low Piper J-3 Cub, a light­weight air­craft first pro­duced in 1938. It’s part of three themed gal­leries: flight, health and en­ergy. Each sec­tion fea­tures in­ter­ac­tive and hands-on ac­tiv­i­ties that teach about the science be­hind our so­ci­ety, such as har­ness­ing tidal power and hu­man anatomy.

Light pours in through large win­dows over­look­ing the Hal­i­fax Sea­port Farm­ers Mar­ket and the Hal­i­fax har­bour on the top level of the cen­tre, where the kids-only sec­tion is lo­cated.

“Be­cause it’s hands-on, peo­ple want to stay longer. They’re not just walk­ing through and look­ing at things. They’re get­ting in­volved and stay­ing ac­tive,’’ said Ber­covici, de­scend­ing noisy stairs that act like pi­ano keys.

CP PHOTO

Dov Ber­covici, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre, en­ters a static air­plane ex­hibit re­cently at the Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre, an in­ter­ac­tive science mu­seum in Hal­i­fax.

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