MIT Museum

Though I don’t go the extra mile with wrapping paper, I do try to celebrate the birthdays of those in my nearest vicinity (aka spouse-level) with a little something special.  That’s why, after a stellar brunch at Sportello (soft scrambled eggs with duck hash and roasted root vegetables for him, poached eggs with collard greens over truffled sourdough toast for me), the Mr. and I headed to the MIT Museum. A few weeks before, a Groupon special advertised two tickets for the usual price of one, and in a moment of “maybe just by standing there we’ll sop up all the extra brainpower mucking up MIT’s campus,” I bought them.  It didn’t hurt that there’s a special robot exhibit going on right now.  We do so love our robots.

Turns out we didn’t even have to hand over our tickets, due to a program about the “design, development and impact of Project Whirlwind” starting right as we arrived.  Free admittance! We sat in the audience for part of it, slack-jawed at the sheer genius of the two speakers, Jay Forrester and Robert Everett, both in their 90s, who candidly discussed how they created the first digital computer to operate in real time. These guys are serious brains.

Afterward, we headed up (and down, and up and down and up) the musical steps to the exhibits. That’s the cool thing about this museum – you go from total huh?-moment immersion in concepts far beyond your intellectual capacity right to giggling at the amusing products of the artistic geniuses.

I won’t go deep into what you’ll find in there, but there’s something for everyone. Feats of science, art, engineering, chemistry, architecture, even a reconstructed smashed piano that MIT students shoved off a dormitory roof (they do this nearly every year. Why? To commemorate the deadline for dropping classes during the spring term). If you find yourself tiring of one topic, just step three feet to your right and continue with the next.

The robot exhibit is really something to behold. Walking, talking, emoting – it’s amazing the projections scientists have for Artificial Intelligence. One of the better interactive pieces is simply a magnetic board with markers and paper – visitors write and draw pictures depicting their hopes and ideas for robotic uses.  As you can imagine, this invites low-brow humor, but also more profound and sweet concepts from kids.

Even without free entry or a Groupon deal, this place is worth a visit.  I’m convinced we came out at least 0.0827% smarter than we went in.  And in my book, that’s cause for celebration.