The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry has always been neato, but it's getting niftier by the day. At the beginning of this month, I took a quick trip down there to catch the Pompeii exhibit before it left. I will have so much to say about that very soon, plus word on where you can see it if you missed it this time round.

Even though Pompeii is gone, you should still go to OMSI. There's so much awesome stuff, including some very sweet earth science. While we were there, Pompeii was encroaching on the Earth Science space, so it'll be even better when you visit.

I'm super excited by the Science on a Sphere. It's enthralling! imagine a spherical screen showing geologic and meteorological phenomena from not only Earth, but other planets. You don't even see the projectors at first - you're too busy being immersed in watching the sphere rotate, showing you wonders.

When my friend Andi and I happened by, earthquakes were being projected on the sphere. Remember the Mexico quake from last month? It was there! I didn't get a photo of that particular one, unfortunately – I was too busy standing there with my mouth hanging open. I did eventually get the presence of mind to shoot a bit of video for you:

It's really super great to see the pattern of earthquakes on a spherical representation of Earth. It gives you a better feel for where they are, and you can see how well many of them outline the edges of the earth's tectonic plates.

Image shows a hemisphere of Earth projected onto a sphere suspended from the museum ceiling. Australia is shown in green towards the left of the hemisphere; circles representing earthquakes outline its plate.
Earthquakes on a sphere: the Australian Plate is outlined by quakes. Credit: Dana Hunter

Science on a Sphere doesn't only display Earth. Io made an appearance, too, with all of its awesome volcanoes. I've labeled this image with some of the major volcanoes. Click for a larger version.

Image shows a hemisphere of Io projected on a sphere. Pele volcano is in the center of the image, with a huge ring of red material around it. The moon's surface is mottled with volcanoes and their deposits: two of the largest show as black spots to the bottom left (Babbar) and upper left (Daedalus).
Io onna sphere. Look at the amazing scope of the volcanic debris! Credit: Dana Hunter


Once you can tear yourself away from the spherical science going on, there are some pretty spectacular mineral and rock samples. One of my faves was this bit of lunar basalt, collected by Eugene A. Cernan during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

Image shows a triangular bit of rough black basalt suspended in a clear Lucite sphere. It's resting on a background made from a photo of the moon.
A bit o' the moon. Credit: Dana Hunter

Collecting rock samples is, of course, a huge part of geology, and it is actually pretty fantastic that we were able to send humans to the moon to collect samples there. Sure, we have meteorites with a lunar origin, but I'm pretty partial to these bits that were hand-carried back home.

Have I convinced you to visit OMSI? I hope so. But if you need more persuasion, just consider that this is one of the most kid-friendly science museums I've ever seen. There are countless exhibits that allow them to explore science hands-on, do experiments, and test things. It's fun for the adult kids, too! And no matter what any particular members of your party are interested in - whether it's natural or engineered - everyone's going to find something that's relevant to their interests. This is a great place to spend a day.