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Of Inner Sleuths and Outer Phenomena

Of Inner Sleuths and Outer Phenomena

By Rebecca Romani

Ready for some mysteries? Up for a puzzle or two? The Fleet Science Center has two exhibits this Spring that will challenge your perceptions of motion and space and thrill your inner Watson.

The Fleet’s latest are well-crafted, intriguing exhibits with a fun factor that extends across age groups.  Both “So Moved: The Art of Science and Motion” and “Sherlock Holmes and The Clocktower Mystery” can be enjoyed on a variety of levels, although the “Clocktower Mystery” might be a little more difficult for children under the age of seven to negotiate by themselves.

“So Moved: The Art of Science and Motion” is one of the more interesting and widely interpreted exhibits the Fleet has put on of late. An exploration of how things move and how space works in relationship to objects, “So Moved” is an intriguing mix of standard hands on experiences and work by local artists on the same theme. The Gravity Well, for example, is a simple spin the ball technique to see how centrifugal force keeps the object along the edge of the descending space, and the Anti-Gravity Mirror can be a lot of fun.

In addition, the exhibit features work by ten local artists from Margaret Noble, best known for her sound installations, to Dave Ghilarducci, who loves to use industrial materials to create work that explores play and interactivity. Seven of the works are interactive, and unlike many standard exhibits, standing, touching, climbing on, moving the various components are highly encouraged.

Noble’s “Wheel Chime” is both aesthetically beautiful and an exciting interactive. Made, in part, of a windmill like wheel with a long crank handle, “Wheel Chime” is silhouetted against a beautiful sky-like background. Turning the crank produces various pitched bell sounds that work with and against each other, depending how the wheel is cranked.

On the other hand, Ghilarducci’s bicycle requires a bit more than turning a handle. A full-sized bike connected to a wall-mounted electrical text generator, Ghilarducci’s piece, “Delayed Gratification,” seems aptly named. A bit big for younger science-curious folks, the results from moderate pedaling may be delayed, but the surprising texts that eventually appear are certainly worth the effort.

One of the most beautiful static pieces is Marisol Rendón’s “Dance With Me.” Rendón has taken a wide white underskirt and embroidered it with the strangely beautiful patterns of EEG readings, humpback whale sounds and the patterns earthquakes create on a seismograph.

One interactive that shouldn’t be missed is Chris Warren’s “Slow Mirror,” a work that challenges participants to examine their movements through an ever-expanding multi-layer real-time reflection of their gestures.

Across the way is yet another mystery, one that may be a bit more standard, but definitely an entertaining challenge. If you like puzzles and are good with detail, this is certainly the exhibit for you.

The time, the late 1800’s. The place, London. Your host? The renown Sherlock Holmes, ably assisted by the intrepid Mr. Holmes…and you.

Not to mention the body left in the clock tower…

“Sherlock Holmes and The Clocktower Mystery” is unveiled over eight chapters, each with its own clue sheet, clues, and hints. A body was found in the clocktower, the outline drawn by the police can be seen on the floor. Amateur Watsons can sleuth their way through questions of poison, a visit to a medium and questions of just how did the contortionist end up dead in the water tank? All this presided over the venerable spirits of Sherlock Holmes and his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Along the way, you learn about Conan Doyle- his second wife was a clairvoyant. Who knew? And that he tried to kill off Holmes- only to bring him back due to popular despair over the popular sleuth’s demise.

And then it’s on to clues, lots and lots of clues, from whiffs of Victorian London to recordings of testimony to odd skulls and other collectibles on library shelves.

Just who left the body in the clocktower?

Listen carefully and read even more closely. Try not to get too distracted by the red herrings that pop up not only in the rooms but also in the written reports. Take your time and maybe, when you get to the study at the end, you, too, may have the solution!

The whole process takes about 45 minutes and is compelling enough that even Junior Watsons forsake their 21st century entertainment and peer closely at the odd assortment of period clues, photographs, and police reports.

Did we figure it out by the end?

Ah, Dear Associate, I’m afraid I cannot indulge you at the present time. However, I eagerly await your report at the end of your investigation, so as to compare notes.

Yours sincerely…

Both “So Moved: The Art of Science and Motion” and “Sherlock Holmes and The Clocktower Mystery” are scheduled into the Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park until June. Admission includes all of the Fleet’s interactive exhibits and one IMAX® film. Please see the Fleet Science Center at http://www.rhfleet.org/ for times and ticket prices.

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