Places that showcase knowledge

Never been to museums much, atleast in the last few years. Visited a few as a kid and hardly remember anything from those visits, I do have some faint memories of the Nehru Planetarium and Rail Museum in Delhi. Thought let’s give it a shot one more time.

Visited the MIT museum in Cambridge last month. Seemed like going there was a big thing, the kind of thing which becomes an experience that you remember. The place seemed geeky, well that was something I had expected. Stepping through the halls in the museum area, it seemed like you’re leafing through various topics, and running through the chronology of events and milestones in the past decades. Real models, machines, theory explained and a proof of concept demonstrated. Well, that’s what engineering really is: see an issue, identify the problem, devise a solution and provide proof that the solution works. That’s what education does for us, teaching us to solve problems. And each problem we solve conditions the mind for newer problems.

At MIT museum, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics were the halls that mesmerized me the most. Going through the AI & robotics hall, seeing that the greatest challenges are comprised of attempting to solve problems that can be stated simply these are the kind of problems that are most complex to solve. Early models demonstrated on getting machines to do predictable tasks, but tasks that required accurate coordination….making a machine walk, run, perform a somersault. Some of the newer research explored a whole new paradigm, that it’s not just about wiring a machine to do a fixed thing but the future lies in building a machine that is capable to learning and adapting to changing conditions. The robotics hall had some models on display that attempted to solve these problems. AI has the potential of making a huge impact by having humans spend time on tasks that make full use of human faculties and let machines take care of mundane tasks that machines can be taught. In a way, automation is happening all around these days, and is directed towards achieving the same results … reducing manhours spent on performing repetitive work.

The other section that was impressive was the Holography hall. About that, I won’t say much….you have to see it to experience it 🙂

Science Museum in Boston is another museum that I visited. Massive place, 4 floors and a diverse range of topics, from wildlife to flora fauna to mathematics to computers to engines, a whole day isn’t enough to cover the museum and absorb what it has to offer. From what I got a chance to watch, the best things I liked were the Abacus (finally got to see it after seeing so many pictures of it) and Aibo, the robotic dog from Sony. Aibo sure is an interesting machine, the form and shape makes you forget it’s a robot and not a real dog.

There’s so much to see and learn in these places and it really opens up your eyes wide and mind wide open. Sometimes, it makes you think there’s only a small percentage of people in this world who’re impacting how the rest of us live our lives and to a great degree, the future too. Makes you want to contribute too, in whatever way you can. But for now, I’m back to my usual life with a MIT pen as memorabilia and a T-shirt from the MIT store that reads “There are 10 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who don’t”. Geeky, eh?