Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I wouldn't have worn flip-flops if I knew I was meeting the Chilean president

Last Monday was the opening of the newest room here at the Museo Interactivo Mirador.  The room is called "Y se mueve..." and it's about the Earth, earthquakes, tsunamis, the Earth's core, and more along those lines.  It's a pretty awesome room, and I knew there was going to be an opening ceremony.  But I didn't know that the Chilean president, Sebastián Piñera, was going to be there!  If I had known, I definitely wouldn't have worn flip-flops!

Here are the important people sitting in the front row.  On the left, in the tan jacket, is Andrés Allamand, the Chilean Minister of Defense.  People at work told me he is very likely to be the next president of Chile.  Next to him, the woman is Cecilia Morel Montes, the director of Fundación Tiempos Nuevos, which is the organization that funds and oversees the MIM.  And would you believe it, sitting next to her is her husband, the president of Chile?  That happy-looking guy in the suit is Sebastián Piñera.  To finish out the row, we have Consuelo Valdés, the director of the MIM, and a woman whose name I didn't catch, who was the director of this project of the new room.

You can't see me, but I'm off to the right of this picture in the back.  Not that far from the president!

The picture below is Consuelo Valdés, director of the museum, giving a welcome speech.  Two main differences from how this would happen in the US stood out for me about this event, besides the obvious fact that the president was at the opening ceremony of a room in a science museum.  First, he got there before the event started and sat through other people's speeches before and after his.  In the US, if by some weird circumstances the president were attending an opening ceremony for something on this level, I would guess that he would show up late for his speech and leave immediately after, because of having so many other things packed into his schedule.  Second, there was no security process that I had to go through to be there. I did notice the Chilean version of the Secret Service with those curly cord ear thingies, but I didn't have to go through a metal detector or get patted down or anything.  I just showed up for work, and at a certain point my coworkers told me we were going downstairs for the opening ceremony.  In the red shirts are some small fraction of the museum guides:

Here's the president giving his speech:

The ribbon-cutting ceremony.  Apparently the two little girls who held the ribbon weren't important enough to make it into the picture:

Inside the room, there are a lot of cool things.  This, however, is not one of them.  I don't think I ever saw this potentially cool touch surface table working properly.  When people touched it, it would mostly just freeze.  Also here you can see an example of the types of uniforms that all students wear here in Chile.  There are all different color and pattern combinations, but they're all more or less some athletic pants with a jacket and some variety of shirt:

This is a model of the Earth that shows the core (the núcleo in Spanish).  There are those heaters that you see at outdoor seating at restaurants inside, so it feels hot so that you can imagine that you're inside the Earth.  I like that effect a lot!  I haven't seen too many museums using ambient temperature to convey information before:

Here's an exhibit that shows how tectonic plates moving have created the Andes mountain range:

And probably the coolest part is the earthquake simulator room, where you can go to experience an 8.8-magnitude earthquake, like the one that happened in Chile in February 2010.  That earthquake was extremely destructive and killed 525 people.  It's one of the biggest tragedies Chile has had in recent memory.  However.  Experiencing the same magnitude of earthquake in the simulator did not really do it justice.  We were sitting down, expecting it, knowing it was fake, and knowing that outside the simulator everything was just fine and not shaking.  So the experience felt more like going on an amusement park ride than truly experiencing the terror that an 8.8 earthquake really causes.  I wonder if it felt more meaningful to people who were here in Chile for the actual earthquake.  Still, it's extremely cool that the museum has such a good simulator:

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