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Three ways to see science as entertainment

Image from ''Beyond'' at the Worcester Art Museum. Image from ''Beyond'' at the Worcester Art Museum.
By Geoff Edgers
Globe Staff / April 5, 2009
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Good news, kids: It's never been easier to embrace your inner geek. Gone are the days of math club beat-downs and nerds taking over the science fair. Thanks to the increasing presence of the high tech and high concept in museums and innovation incubators such as the MIT Media Lab, Bostonians understand the idea of science as entertainment. That's in part why this month will offer so many geek-sweet activities within driving distance. We picked three in particular that offer kids and their parental guides ample opportunity to explore, examine, and enjoy.

A virtual Berlin Wall
Ever wanted to shout, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this virtual wall!" Yep, now you'll get a chance to play a tech-savvy President Reagan, circa 1987, thanks to technology and the work of artists Tamiko Thiel and Teresa Reuter. The piece is titled "Virtuelle Mauer: ReConstructing the Wall" and you can walk through it starting later this month at the Goethe Institut in Boston as part of the annual Boston CyberArts Festival, which runs from April 24 to May 10. Look on the festival website (www.bostoncyberarts.org) for a complete list of events, which take place at institutions across the region, including the DeCordova Museum & Sculpture Park, the Longy School of Music, and the MIT Museum.

But one thing you don't want to miss is the virtual Berlin Wall. Visitors use a joystick to travel the 3-D re-creation of the Wall, which separated East and West Berlin from 1961 until 1989. "What excites me is I can go back and be there," said Annette Klein, program coordinator for the Institut. "I can talk to people who were there. I can get a feel for what it's like to live near the Wall. It's like a time machine essentially. You get to experience something you will never get to experience in real life any longer."

Also don't miss the "human{+n}" project," which is a walk-in kaleidoscope designed by Carmin Karasic and Rolf van Gelder. Located at the Museum of Science, it mixes prerecorded video with images manipulated as visitors walk through.

617-262-6050

170 Beacon St., Boston

www.goethe.de/ins/us/bos/ver/en4078680v.htm

Space is the place

There aren't any bells and whistles in "Beyond: Visions of Planetary Landscapes," an exhibition on view at the Worcester Art Museum through May 24. But the massive photographs from outer space, some 5 feet wide, should still rank high on the "wow" scale. The pictures come mainly from NASA and European space agency missions, many of them unmanned probes that clicked away as they orbited particular planets. Journalist and artist Michael Benson worked through the pictures and, using a series of digital tools, turned the raw data into mind-blowing images.

"They're just amazing," says David Acton, curator of prints, drawings, and photographs at the museum. "They're pictures of things that are absolutely, astonishingly huge. All in one frame, you get Saturn. In another, you get the surface of Jupiter." The show comes from the Smithsonian and stops in Worcester as part of a 14-city tour that runs through 2011.

508-799-4406

55 Salisbury St., Worcester

A growing science festival

As it enters its third year, the nine-day Cambridge Science Festival is growing. The big event is the opening science carnival, which has become too popular to stay at Cambridge's City Hall. This year, head over to MIT's Kresge Auditorium on Saturday, April 25 (noon-4 p.m.). What can you expect to see? Just about anything and everything you can think of at the 50-plus booths. That includes live crocodiles, instruction on how to build a soda bottle rocket, and instructors offering to teach you special dances, including the the Solar System Shuffle and the Constellation Tango!

Kresge Auditorium

48 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge

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