China Science and Technology Museum

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Beijing, China

China Science and Technology Museum Beijing Reviews

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5 reviews
Science and Technology with a Chinese twist Jun 09, 2011
This is a huge place near the Olympic Park on the North Side of town, very new, opened up around the time of the Olympics.

Did I mention it was huge? We spent over six hours there, and barely got through half of it. Reid’s favorite part was the space exploration section, with simulated moon walk seat and gyroscope. We all tried it.

Not too expensive, 30 RMB for adults, and nominally 20 RMB for children, although our 10 year olds got in for free on the day we went.

Since it’s so new, I wasn’t too surprised at the extent that it is loaded with hands-on displays. Even though we skipped the part for the youngsters (i.e., the pre school to 3rdgrade set), there was plenty to like beyond the moon seat. I really liked the newest part, about traditional Chinese science. Some interesting stuff about gunpowder, and especially about bell making. I found out that oval shaped bells actually produce two different tones. Well, I thought it was cool, anyways.

If you’ve been to Science and Technology museums in the United States, you’d find most of the material here fairly familiar – giant models of human body parts, a dinosaur skeleton, a full size mockup of a train, some plants growing, etc. But there were certain twists that were not quite familiar, not the kind of approach you’d expect to see in an American museum.

For one thing, there was a heavy emphasis on public health. Which in general I’m definitely in favor of – you know, diseased lungs next to acrylic columns of cigarette stubs. But I definitely enjoyed the giant AIDS virus (at least they are getting serious about informing the public). Especially when right next to it was a video game, “battles to protect the human body”

Then there was the exhibit about cloning: “Let’s Clone Dolly!”

Which kind of gets at the other emphasis which feels a little different. Many of the exhibits seem to have a certain kind of slant – that science and technology will save us. Like cloning. Not so much the reverence for nature that you often get in America, a sort of “let’s admire the beauty of undisturbed nature without those messy humans.” No, the dominant tone in the Chinese museum seemed to me more of a “how nature can serve us humans” kind of a vibe.

You could see it most clearly in the omnipresent exhibits about energy. Of course, finding new energy sources is an understandable preoccupation over here. China recently passed the United States as the largest consumer of energy in the world (although with four times the population, it is still far behind on a per capita basis), and the reliance on coal has had a lot of negative consequences for the environment. Pretty much every energy alternative you can imagine (and some I couldn’t) was on display there, from the common alternatives (wind power, solar) to the more far out (wave power, a form of solar power that creates hot air which is then sucked into a 1000 meter tall column and used to drive turbines), to the politically incorrect (offshore oil drilling will save us!), to the seemingly bizarre alternative I’d never heard of (“combustible ice”??)

The cumulative effect, as far as I could tell, was to assure museum goers that new forms of energy would save us all. Now, maybe they are right. And at least the museum designers are serious about global warming in a way that the U.S. hasn’t been. But I was a little surprised by the general lack of conservation practices to go along with all these new energy sources.

Maybe my favorite part was an exhibit that really didn’t go the way the designers intended. We found yet another interactive game, involving two laser guns, and a large screen with wolves, sheep and rabbits. The intent of the game was to show how the elimination of predators can have a devastating impact on the ecosystem, leading to rampant overpopulation of the herbivores, and the ultimate crash of their populations too. To do so, one had to shoot the wolves. After eliminating some or all of the wolves, the screen is populated with an increasing number of sheep and rabbits and such. I can see the point, but the designers really didn’t think about their target audience (preteen kids, especially boys). I saw the fatal flaw in their plan right away. This was confirmed when, at the end of the game, Reid turned to me and said, “Dad, let’s shoot some more wolves!”
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