Museum of Science

We took a break and visited the Museum of Discovery and Science in downtown Fort Lauderdale. It had been years since we’d last visited when our kids were young. The museum has two levels plus a gift shop, concession stand, and IMAX theater. We bought tickets to the exhibits only, bypassing the films and the flight simulator or Mars Rover experiences. There’s also an Everglades Airboat Adventure, which we chose not to explore since we’ve been on the real thing in the past.
We began our tour in the Florida Ecoscapes section. Here displays showed various South Florida habitats and some of the creatures that lived in them.
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An impressive aquarium section had colorful tropical fish and this spiny lobster. It’s a good thing the lobster and shrimp that I eat in a restaurant come without the heads and antennas or I’d lose my appetite fast.
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A section on prehistoric Florida had this giant replica of a sea creature whose only predator was the whale. An overenthusiastic young tour guide told us how its cartilage structure instead of bones meant mainly teeth were found to prove its existence. He may have said the creatures died off due to lack of food during a mini-ice age, but I was only half-listening to his rapid-fire talk. He was very knowledgeable if you wanted a thorough explanation of the era.
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The otter section is nicely done, with a rocky waterfall that gives the animals room to play.
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Naturally there’s a hurricane section where you can see a water spout form and watch news broadcasts about various storms. Downstairs also has a kids section that looks like fun for smaller children.
Upstairs are the flight simulators and IMAX theater. Models of aircraft cockpits tempt you to sit in them and push buttons to allow you to virtually cruise down a runway. I ended up blowing up my aircraft as we veered onto the grass.
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There’s a health section where you can read about various bodily functions and medical robotic techniques.
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An area with brain teasers could keep you occupied all day trying to fit the jigsaw pieces into a square shape and doing other tasks. The biggest exhibit was on The Science of Archimedes, a Greek scientist eventually murdered by a Roman soldier. He designed a great many apparatus that were replicated here.
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A brief area with rocks and minerals drew my interest, followed by the inevitable dinosaurs.
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This was a fun visit that took about two hours to roam around inside and check out the gift shop. There’s no café on premises but the museum map shows one under construction. Parking is next door in a public garage. So if you’re in town looking for something indoors to do, visit our Museum of Discovery and Science. It’ll bring out the curious child in you.
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Poison: Friend or Foe?

Poison: Friend or Foe?

At the American Museum of Natural History in New York City is an exhibit called The Power of Poison. First we entered a section on Poison in Nature, where plants and animals may use poisons as a natural defense. For example, the golden poison frog from the Chocó Forest is highly toxic. It almost looks like a porcelain figurine until you see it breathing. Native humans use the frog’s toxin to make poison darts. This poison stops nerves from transmitting impulses. But don’t fear frogs; this particular species gets its toxicity from the diet it eats, likely beetles.

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Plants have natural defenses, too. Think about poison ivy or other plants you touch that cause an allergic reaction. And some plants are so toxic that even the smoke from burning them can be harmful. So how can some animals eat toxic plants and not feel the effects? Howler monkeys eat toxic leaves, but they also eat clay that binds poisons.

The next section describes Poisons in Myth & Legend. Snow White, the witches of Macbeth, Emperor Qin, and the Mad Hatter are displayed. The latter doubtless got its name because hat makers were exposed to dangerous mercury levels during the manufacturing process. Some poisons can mimic death, hence the legend of Snow White and also Romeo and Juliet.

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Villains & Victims talks about famous people like Cleopatra. How did she really die? And was Lucrezia Borgia an infamous poisoner like her reputation claims? Who are some famous authors who employed poisons in their tales? Agatha Christie mysteries, Sherlock Holmes, and Harry Potter are some of the stories mentioned.

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Detecting Poison has a live demonstration. We moved past this to sit at the interactive displays at Poison by Accident to solve a mystery at three stations as to what had accidentally poisoned each victim. A family pet, a British sea captain named Captain Cook, and an owl were the victims. Clues were in sight for you to detect through observation at the scene. I got all three correct!

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The most interesting section was Poison for Good to find cures for diseases. For example, a drug made from a Gila Monster’s venom is used to treat Type II diabetes. While yew tree needles can be deadly, a chemical found in the bark helps provide an anti-cancer medicine. Research is providing more treatments and hope for future cures.

Visit http://amnh.org/poison to learn more about the role of poisons in nature, human history, medicine, myth and legend.

View all the photos here: http://fw.to/00nuTlP