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Eureka! Museum of Idaho exhibits Archimedes’ innovations

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The mathematician and inventor Archimedes left a fingerprint on the worlds of science, engineering and technology that is visible today. Now a new exhibit at the Museum of Idaho highlights the innovations of the great thinker from Syracuse, as well as some of his scientific forerunners and the successors who push his advancements further.

“Archimedes: Science and Innovations” opens Friday at the Museum of Idaho. Produced by Artists of Florence International, the same people behind previous the museum’s exhibits about the military machines of Rome and the genius of Leonardo da Vinci, “Archimedes” features more than 60 separate items illustrating scientific and engineering principles, many of which are used today.

Archimedes’ planetarium. | Adam Forsgren, EastIdahoNews.com

“This exhibit is very hands-on,” Director of Marketing Deborah Chessey tells East Idaho News. “The kids are going to like it. They’ll be able to touch things and move things and see how things work.”

The exhibit includes many interactive items, including a set of parabolic mirrors that amplify sound by redirecting sound waves and a scaled down version of a giant claw Archimedes developed to destroy ships trying to invade the city-state of Syracuse. Five minutes playing with that thing will completely change the way you look at the claw machine scene in “Toy Story.”

EastIdahoNews.com writer Adam Forsgren operates the claw. | Adam Forsgren, EastIdahoNews.com

While many of these exhibit ancient machines, museum visitors may find that they resemble items they use daily.

“I think the biggest surprise (about the exhibit) is how much people already recognize and know,” says Chessey. “The idea of counterbalance or weights and pulleys that we know, but to break it down and talk about how it works and not just that it works.”

Along with the work of Archimedes himself, “Archimedes: Science and Innovations” examines engineering concepts he would refine. These include an ingenious method the Egyptians used to haul stone blocks up the sides of pyramids.

The exhibit also illuminates the work of scientists like Galileo and Leonardo used Archimedes’ advancements as a foundation for their work. For example, it’s not hard to see how Archimedes’ screw-like invention for moving water may have helped Leonardo’s early idea for a helicopter, the aerial screw.

Archimedes’ screw could have been the inspiration for Leonardo da Vinci’s helicopter design. | Adam Forsgren, EastIdahoNews.com

Chessey says a visit to “Archimedes” presents an opportunity to see science applied in a way that demystifies it and makes it less intimidating.

“When we bring an exhibit like this and can see how mathematical concepts are used to create something like the parabolic mirrors, then it becomes more relevant to me, and it’s more interesting than 2 plus 2 equals 4,” she says.

Parabolic mirrors at the Museum of Idaho. | Adam Forsgren, EastIdahoNews.com

She hopes the exhibit will capture young imaginations and spark excitement for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields in young minds.

Other happenings at the museum

“Archimedes: Science and Innovations” isn’t the only thing stoking excitement around the Museum of Idaho. The museum’s expansion will soon be completed and opening. Once that happens, the existing museum space will close and be remodeled to host a permanent exhibit on 14,000 years of Idaho history.

The museum also hosts many free programs for kids, as well as monthly “Museum After Dark” events for museum patron 21 years old and older. These events range from trivia contests or “staff’s choice” exhibits where the museum’s staff members bring their favorite items in the archives out for display. “We talk about more adult things and play really fun games, “ says Chessey. “We want the museum to be a date night. This is a great date: to learn something, interact and maybe even win a prize.”

Whether you want to bring a date or come stag, you can find more information on what’s going on at the Museum of Idaho by visiting www.museumofidaho.org.

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