The Museum of Science & Industry (M.S.I.) in Chicago opened the new permanent exhibit Numbers in Nature: A Mirror Maze last month. Numbers in Nature: A Mirror Maze occupies the space on the Main Floor in the southwest corner of the Farrell Family Court (South Court) that formerly housed Petroleum Planet. One might recall that exhibit also featured a Mirror Maze.
It is next door to Fab Lab and ToyMaker 3000: An Adventure in Automation and close to the Coal Mine entrance. The exhibit opened on Wednesday, October 8, 2014. It is covered by general admission.
“The Museum is thrilled to open an exhibit that illuminates mathematics and numbers in a fun, interactive way,” said Kurt Haunfelner, M.S.I.’s Vice President of Exhibits and Collections. “By showcasing that fascinating numerical patterns are all around us, we hope that both kids and adults alike will become inspired to discover more about how math, as a part of the STEM fields, is a strong and important presence in our daily lives.”
M.S.I. stated, “From the delicate nested spirals of a sunflower’s seeds, to the ridges of a majestic mountain range, to the layout of the universe, mathematical patterns abound in the natural world. Numbers in Nature: A Mirror Maze is a new permanent exhibit that will expose and explain the patterns that surround us.”
As you enter Numbers in Nature, lenticular images and an immersive large-format film reveal these repeating patterns hidden throughout nature: spirals, occurrences of the golden ratio (ɸ), Voronoi patterns, and fractal branching. The exhibit’s centerpiece is the 1,800-square-foot mirror maze, where you’ll find yourself in a sea of equilateral triangle chambers that repeat in a dizzying array of mirrors. Can you navigate the maze to find the secrets within?
Complete your journey through Numbers in Nature in a gallery of interactive digital displays and stations, where you can discover even more patterns and ratios in nature – including those found in your own body and in centuries of music, art and architecture. You’ll never look at the world the same way again.
The final gallery outside the Mirror Maze has three sections called “Patterns in Nature,” “Patterns in Yourself,” and “Patterns in Music, Art and Architecture.” Hands-on activities in “Patterns in Nature” include one station where one can draw patterns on a digital screen – such as connecting dots to draw spirals and creating Fibonacci rectangles – and see real-world objects that show the same pattern; a station where one uses templates to try to align a spiral to a series of objects from nature and the manmade world; and a station where one learns how fractal patterns are used to make C.G.I. (computer-generated images) landscapes, such as mountain ranges, in movies.
In “Patterns in Yourself,” one can step in front of a large, two-way mirror and strike various poses while a projection superimposes patterns and proportions on one’s body in real time; look through an eyepiece to observe how blood vessels branch within one’s eyes; compare similar patterns, like fractal branching, that appear in the human body and in nature as a whole by viewing a plastinated human lung and a Lictenberg figure, a sculpture that captures a lightning strike in a piece of acrylic; and observe just how symmetry – or the lack thereof – is present in the human face. In “Patterns in Music, Art and Architecture,” one can compose a piece of music using symmetry; create a musical scale with mathematical proportions using a playable harp; and discover and compare similar patterns in architecture from varying parts of the world from the Taj Mahal to the Beijing National Stadium. The exhibit also features an array of artifacts—Bighorn sheep antlers, honeycomb and an aluminum anthill casting—that demonstrate real examples of patterns in objects from the natural world.