I took a trip to Shanghai over my two month Spring Festival vacation. I spent most of my time wandering around the city, admiring architecture and eating at Carl’s Jr. I couldn’t leave without going to at least one tourist trap though, so I went to the Museum of Science and Technology with Andrew. At a glance, the museum seemed like it might actually be home to exhibits and displays related to science and technology but upon closer inspection it was apparent that this museum is scientific in the same way that the Insane Clown Posse’s smash hit “Miracles” is scientific.
What we thought would be a relaxing and informative day at a legitimate museum was quickly turning into a surreal journey to the bottom of the chasm that is Chinese edutainment.
After roaming the lobby for a bit we made our way upstairs. We entered an enormous dark room, somewhat ironically named “Light of Wisodm.” The room featured a large collection of interactive displays that appeal to the same sensibilities as coin-squashing machines and Chicago’s beloved “Bean,” that uncontrollable, visceral compulsion to mess with shiny things and bright lights. (On an unrelated note, The Bean is probably the single greatest photobombing spot on the planet.) All in all, Light of Wisdom had more to do with science than any of the other exhibits, which is a shame.
Without a doubt, the most impressive Light of Wisdom display was a looping animation at the end, a sort of finale.
The Cradle of Design was home to miniature models of vehicles, fake schematics and horrifying faceless mannequins. Of all the rooms, this is the one we spent the least amount of time in.
The next leg of the journey took us through a room of exhibits that focused mainly on how badly we’ve screwed up the planet.
There were two notable items in this area.
One was Ecological Disasters Theater. Ecological Disasters Theater. Ecological Disasters Theater. Ecological Disasters Theater.
The other notable item was an unfortunate attempt at virtual reality gaming. Keeping in line with the theme of humans are destroying the planet, the object of the game was to sort anthropomorphic garbage into flying receptacles.
Andrew and I both tried the game. I will not be posting the video of myself playing due to Andrew’s incessant heckling and I will not be posting the video of Andrew playing due to him faring much better than I did. The controls were unresponsive, the graphics failed to achieve the retro look the dev team was clearly going for and there was just no real incentive to make progress. I’m going to have to give this one a 0/10 and claim that the only video game worth playing ever to be released was Snowboard Kids for the Nintendo 64.
The third floor of the museum was a lot like a low-budget amusement park. We followed a huge hallway from ride to ride. Some of them were definitely astronaut-themed. The best one was a spinning contraption in which you sit across from a friend in a yellow ball turret. You both have targets nearby and fire at those targets, acting as a centripetal force and accelerating the platform you’re both connected on. The staff didn’t actually tell us how it worked, opting instead to stare at us hesitantly and let us figure it out for ourselves. There was no line so we spent about ten minutes shooting at each other and spinning in a circle.
Further down there was an archery range. Here, the object was to shoot a bow and arrow at an array of targets shaped like robots. Again, there was no line but the staff member in charge refused to let us shoot more than four arrows each.
Finally, in the last room, there was an astronaut-themed ride carefully supervised by a staff member. I think space camp is probably a lot like this ride except instead of doing it one time for a minute, you do it thousands of times and it costs thousands of dollars.
If I ever got the chance to go back to Shanghai, I would go back to the Museum of Science and Technology in a heartbeat.