Pacific Science Center

Seattle, Washington

Reviewed by Zach Johnson

During the spring break week I traveled to Seattle on a house hunting with my fiancée to search for townhouse we might live in after graduation. While we were up there we decided that a site seeing day was needed and thus we found several interesting places to visit in Seattle. Among them was the Pacific Science Center. The center is set in down town Seattle and is a fairly drab gray building with only one clue to its interesting content. Once we found our way into the building we saw there were a few different sections. The center had different sections but no real distinction between them.

When you walk into the building there are a few interesting lever exhibits, an exhibit on siphons, and on locks. The exhibits were fun to play with but there were few continuations of the thought. The level exhibit talked about how having a longer handle helps with lifting the mass. Walking up the stairs there were two exhibits on locks, tumbler and combination. Next to it was an exhibit on siphons which was interesting but had no description.

Entering the technology section of the museum, you see a large amount of exhibits. There is a remotely controllable-ballasted submersible, just sitting there. No goal or explanation. Next it was a bear on a bicycle, with a weight below it, I guess it somehow relates to the balance of the submersible. The most interest exhibit in this area is a tic-tac-toe (shown left). It had a computer interface to let the kid pick which place the X will be place and the arm is the O. It acts like its smart until the last few moves and then makes a mistake. The exhibit right next to it did try to draw some conclusions. Previously they stated that the tic-tac-toe playing device was a robot. Then they had a backhoe that the kid could play with to dig in some balls. The only description was a question, "Is this a robot?" Which I feel was a good question to ask but still very limiting. From there the section diverged into random multimedia presentations on musical instruments and the printing press. There was one more interesting exhibit that was not done correctly was a laser printer. It was a laser printer incased in plastic. It looked as if it was ready and raring to print; yet nothing was hooked to it. There was only a description of the stages of the printing. They really missed it, they could have just been printing. That way the stages would at least be seen.

Tic-Tac-Toe Robot

The main room of the Science Center was a mixture of random exhibits. Very few of the exhibits were even worth looking at.

The best part of the building was the mathematics section. I was scattered just as the entire center was but the exhibits stood by themselves. Archimedes' Mental Note was beautiful but poorly explained. The Poincare and Cayley-Klein Model had a decent description but didn't draw any conclusions (109). Hyperboloid of Revolution also had a very beautiful implementation but a horrible description. Plateau's Problem (minimal surfaces) was a good exhibit that drew much interest and the text was semi-useful. My favored exhibit is Probability which was a representation of a normal distribution it took a while to fill and had several kid entranced while the balls dropped. The description again was useless. And last but not least was the butterfly room which had no descriptions whatsoever.

Archimedes' Mental Note

Plateau's Problem of Minimal Surfaces

Hyperboloid of Revolution


Over all the science center had some good exhibits and sections but nowhere in the building was a there a focus. If the coordinators would take the time to make exhibits and work on descriptions that flow a flow and teach the visitors something it might be a useful visit. In fact if you just replaced the descriptions to each exhibit you would improve the entire center by a factor of 10. A reordering of the exhibits would complete the model and at least get them to a semi-education level.