Monday, May 30, 2011

Bradbury Science Museum

This post is part of a series called the Great New Mexican Adventure, where I detail the things to see and do in New Mexico and determine if they are worth the time, effort, and money.
From Wikipedia
After Stef and I moved her stuff into her apartment in Los Alamos we went for a quick drive around the small town to see if there was anything interesting to do. Literally a 30 second drive from her apartment we came across the Bradbury Science Museum and I joked that we should check it out. Back then I was close minded (this was two months ago) and we both scoffed at the idea.

Then I came up with the Great New Mexican Adventure. I was up in Los Alamos again on Friday night into Saturday and the thought popped into my head. Only instead of it being a joke, it was a necessity. This time, in the spirit of openness, I had to go visit the museum. And we did.

The museum is pretty small, which makes sense for a small town, but I feel like it should have encompassed more. After all so much scientific history has taken place in the labs there, and just the science of nuclear technology could fill a space twice as large. Unfortunately the museum limits it's coverage probably due to funding limitations. On the other hand, the exhibits inside are actually quite interesting.

The main exhibit details the construction, transportation, and mechanics of the first two atomic bombs complete with full replicas of Fat Man and Little Boy. There are some cool demonstrations that compare plutonium to other metals, and explain radiation safety and promote understanding. There are also some replicas from other generations. The museum features a movie on the stewardship of our nuclear arsenal which I did not get to see (missed the start time by a few minutes). There is a side exhibit hall that features the history from the era from a cultural standpoint as well.

The most entertaining exhibit is a small corner of the museum that is dedicated to two factions that exist in Los Alamos (and the surrounding areas). One side is a proponent of maintaining and developing nuclear technology, and the other is adamantly against it. Sadly neither of the competing exhibits intelligently focus on the education of their presentations. Rather, it felt like I was in the middle of an intense debate of mudslinging. To cap it off there is a sign up book that allows patrons to voice their own opinion. Also unfortunately people take the opportunity to write rather tasteless remarks one way or the other instead of creatively writing something useful to add to the debate. But I wouldn't expect anything less in a public forum.

There were a couple other exhibits in the small hall. First there was an exhibit that talked about the technology of super computing, which is probably a waste of space in a small museum like this. There were a couple of circuit boards and a lot of writing, which are generally big no-no's when presenting information to such a mass audience, but when you are talking about computing what else can you do? The reason behind this was clear though, Los Alamos is home to one of the world's fastest super computers. The other exhibit talked about human genetics. There was even a cool quiz that asked you to specify which traits you had. Out of the ten traits that were questioned (hitch hiker thumb, attached earlobes, curled tongue, etc) I was pretty unique. Out of the 73,000 people who took that quiz only 86 had the same traits as me. Stef was more common matching a little over 300 people.

I have to say I really enjoyed the nuclear history and science exhibits, but wish the whole space was more geared toward this. This space seemed really thought out and executed properly. The rest of the space seemed a little rushed and less impactful, which is probably why I wish the space was entirely aimed at nuclear science education. If you are visiting Los Alamos then you are probably looking for something to do and there aren't many better options to spend an hour. The museum alone probably isn't worth the trip though. Since I haven't been to the Nuclear Science Museum in ABQ, I can't compare the two, but I guess I should add that to my list of to-do's...

Admission: Free
1350 Central Ave
Los Alamos, New Mexico 87544
(505) 667-4444
Final Rating: Eh...
(Editor's Note: I added a third rating between "Awesome" and "Awful" because neither rating could define this review)

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