Bring the Family

Science of beating the heat

(Hayley Kaufman/Globe Staff)
By Hayley Kaufman
Globe Staff / July 30, 2011

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It was that week when every day felt hotter than the day before. To cool off, we had bodysurfed in the ocean (chilly but refreshing), plunked our behinds in inner tubes and lounged at a water park (kinda icky, but the kids liked it), communed with neighbors at the town pool (comforting in its predictability).

One morning, Nate - sunburnt and itchy - counted 57 mosquito bites he had acquired on our outdoor adventures. We needed an inside day. We needed air conditioning. Hours of air conditioning.

We headed to the Museum of Science, where there’s simply no way for children to get bored. We did it all: saw an IMAX film (“Tornado Alley,’’ which was a bit less exciting than its title promised), visited the terrific new and improved planetarium, took in the dinosaur exhibit, learned about physics in the Science in the Park display, and . . . yes, I could go on.

Around the time the thermometer on my husband’s phone hit 103 degrees - he had gone outside to check - the kids and I were happily ambling over to perhaps our favorite MOS display: “Archimedean Excogitation,’’ the audiokinetic sculpture by George Rhoads.

If you’ve been to the museum, you have seen it. At 27 feet tall, it’s hard to miss. But maybe you have never stopped and sat down on one of the benches and watched. And listened. And watched.

Seemingly unstoppable, delightfully complex, Rhoads’s moving sculpture features a quirky labyrinth of chutes and courses through which billiard balls roll and loop and fall. Along the route, they trigger a hammer that taps a drum, plink down a xylophone, and swish down a corkscrew. Stacked on top, another section includes croquet balls that trip swinging weights and brightly painted, Calder-esque sculptures.

Adults stood nearby, as transfixed as the children. Devin, Nate, and Rachel pointed and chatted, following the path of one ball and then another. Next to me, a tiny toddler exclaimed, “Up! Up! Up! Up!’’

Through the soaring window just behind the sculpture, the Charles River glinted in the sunlight. It was sweltering out there, but here we could forget all about it and just watch.

Hayley Kaufman can be reached at

WHO: “G’’ editor Hayley Kaufman, her husband, Chris, and their children, Devin, 16, Nate, 7, and Rachel, 4

WHAT: Examining “Archimedean Excogitation’’

WHERE: Museum of Science