New Museum of Science and Industry exhibit will make you think

The “Think” exhibit created by IBM takes visitors through centuries of thinking faster and improving life through science and technology. It pushes visitors to get excited about how much more we can do in the future by looking at the progress we have already made.

Sixteen seven-foot touchscreens dominate the space and explore topics such as how maps, clocks, transportation and medical advances have changed human life over time.

One of the screens shows “Mapping,” with sections exploring how much maps can do – how they track resources and epidemics, organize time and save lives through maps for weather reporting. Stephanie Anderson, corporate citizenship manager at IBM, touched the screen and it zoomed into one of her favorite examples.

“What we’re showing here is the cholera epidemic in 1854,” Anderson says as she points to a photo of an old, yellowed map. “This is an example where some person went around with a tally mark and mapped instances of cholera back in 1854.”

Compare that to the new mapping from the Haiti earthquake in 2010 that used social media and crowdsourcing to show stricken areas. The maps allow viewers to compare map technologies as information technology advances.

“Through time the exact same sort of ideas and ways to look at data occurred,” Anderson says. “But now we have ways that are more sophisticated that can help us address problems more quickly and react in a way that helps people make the world better.”

Anderson touched the screen again and a photograph of an ancient Chinese “seismograph” popped up. It looks like a large egg in an egg cup on top of a small table. Small dragons vertically line the egg, heads facing toward the table and mouths open.

“What they would do is put marbles in the mouths of the dragons. And when there was an earthquake, [by looking at how] the marbles fell out, they would be able to tell the size of the earthquake or the impact,” Anderson says. “Here’s technology way back in 132 AD and what we’ve been able to learn and improve on over time.”

Another touchscreen about “Seeing” takes a look at the tools that have changed our world such as clocks, telescopes and biomedical sensors.

The “Believing” screen allows visitors to watch videos of leaders speaking about the changes they want to make in the world. Among them is Chieko Asakawa who became blind at 14 and is working on technology that will help make the Internet more accessible for the visually impaired. In the past, Asakawa helped develop digital braille and a voice browser, which allows those with little to no vision navigate the Web with speech instead of a mouse.

“We just hope there’s something that each person sort of resonates with,” Anderson says. “Our big slogan is ‘Think’ and that’s what’s really it’s designed to do, is make people take a step back and think.”

It took IBM about a year to put the exhibit together for IBM’s centennial celebration in 2011, Anderson says. And it shows. The exhibit space is not very large, but there is a wealth of information along the walls and inside the interactive displays.

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