SUMMER, 2002

The return of the original Mathematica exhibit was the impetus for my first visit to the "new" California Museum of Science and Industry, the California Science Center, on July 16, 2002.

It had been many years since I visited Exposition Park, so my return rekindled an abundance of fond memories. I was quite pleased to see much of the surroundings unchanged.

Although the main entrance to the CSC is very high tech (left, above), I was heartened to see that the facade on the entrance facing the rose garden was fashioned in the old design (center). In fact, a wing of the old CMSI structure still exists, currently housing administration offices (right).

The facade still complements the view from the rose garden in Exposition Park, with the old armory (center, above) and the landmark Natural History Museum dome (right).

Amidst the high-tech offerings in the CSC's rotunda (left, above), I was pleased to see throwbacks to the old-style, turn-the-crank exhibits reminiscent of the CMSI.

In the World of Life hall, the old chicken incubator exhibit still exists, albeit in a more modern display case (center), while a brilliant multimedia presentation in the Life Tunnel (right) evokes the quiet mystery which was such an integral part of CMSI's exhibits.

Other exhibits which harked back to the old days include a sculptured display at the entrance to the Transportation hall (left, above), the "Digestion Diner" (center) which reminded me of a display in the old Hall of Health, and Tess (right), a 50-foot body simulator in "BodyWorks." I couldn't help but recall "Clearissa" in the old CMSI when I saw Tess.

The Air and Space Museum has returned in all its awesome glory! I was happy to see many of the displays still intact from the old days of CMSI.

Here it is... MATHEMATICA! This was what I came to see, and what a time trip it was! Almost exactly as I remembered it from countless visits throughout my childhood, the sight of it once again felt almost surreal.

There I am in front of the always-fascinating (and puzzling) Moebius Band (center).

I was sorry to learn that this is Mathematica's final visit, due to an impending sale this fall. As I studied these hallowed displays with a new, more appreciative perspective in my adulthood, I felt the urge to rescue the exhibit and somehow find a way for it to stay at home, where it began and where it belongs.

It was wondrous to watch a new generation of children, desensitized by technology, captivated by these simple yet so complex displays. While the Science Center is well-intentioned and fascinating, it is the ponderous introspection that was the cornerstone of the old CMSI -- and Mathematica, notably. The children exploring the old exhibit for the first time couldn't help but pause in wide-eyed wonder and actually think.

Isn't that the ultimate goal of a science center, after all?