As is true with much in life, the things most important to us are often those we take for granted. And in no arena is this truer than with our environment. For example, did you know that 80% of the air that we breathe is actually composed of nitrogen as opposed to oxygen? And when it comes to energy consumption, did you know that neon lighting uses 75% less electricity?
These and a myriad of other elemental mysteries are brilliantly unlocked and explored within the exhibition It’s a Gas! The Bright Side of Science, which opened in June at the Alden B. Dow Museum of Science & Art and continues through September 18th. Indeed, gases are vital to our survival and give our world brightness, energy, and power. Through this interactive exhibition, visitors to the Midland Center for the Arts can explore the important role that naturally occurring gases play in our lives.
The exhibition explores eleven atmospheric gases from the periodic table, including the oxygen we breathe to the nitrogen that forms a critical building block for all living things, to substances such as key mobile gases like hydrogen, helium, chlorine, radon, Xenon, Argon, Krypton, and the neon gas that has helped make Las Vegas one of the top and most colorful tourist destinations in the world.
According to Director Bruce Winslow, this latest exhibit is part of the museum’s goal to entertain and engage the public as well as educate. “In this day and age kids are wired differently than in the old days when we grew up,” he explains. “This changes the complexion of what we do in the museum in terms of the ways we educate. Plus it’s our responsibility to uphold Alden Dow’s philosophy that where there is science there is art and where there exists art, there exists science. Science is fact and art is feeling and it’s the merging of facts and feeling that creates value.”
Visitors to It’s a Gas! Will additionally have the opportunity to measure various levels of light delivered by various gases as opposed to levels of power; feel the lifting power of a giant helium balloon and see how elements like chlorine and fluorine help keep us healthy, as well as learn the science behind how neon gas makes possible the beautiful and iconic signs that light up our cities.
The exhibition includes nearly 4,000 square feet of displays, live demonstrations, and interactive activities for all ages, as well as one-of-a-kind works of art and classic neon signs in a darkened gallery that literally glows from the array of neon works.
“In addition to the educational component, we are fortunate to be able to feature the neon artworks of Mundy Hepburn, continues Winslow, “whom by combining technology with art creates a new breed of sculpture called ‘luminous plasma sculptures’, which essentially exist as organic glass sculptures that emit a kaleidoscope of moving patterns from the interaction of gases, electricity, and even the touch of the viewer.”
“It isn’t often that we get to darken the museum and display works with ambient lighting,” notes Bruce, “and I believe audiences will find these organic bio-morphic sculptures to be amazingly cool. Young people will be fascinated by the luminous wonders of neon and plasma light as the galleries glow with the magic and coolness when mixtures of gases are activated by electricity.”
With Hepburn’s sculptures, he creates colors using different gases and creates different lighting effects by using different pressures. “Helium is very resistive to electricity and not too good except in small concentrations,” explains Hepburn. “Neon is really good and makes up most of the gas mixtures, except it tends to make a boring blue grey haze if you use too much of it. Krypton is tricky – too much and the lamp runs hot, but just enough makes a pattern of flowing dots that I love. Xenon makes bright wiggly lines, but too much raises the resistance of the lamp. So mixing gases is a very interesting pursuit.”
“Electricity is put into these lamp sculptures using special wires called Dumet that can be welded right into the glass,” he continues. “I crimp aluminum flashing from the hardware store onto the Dumet and that’s what you see inside the lamp because the aluminum doesn’t burn out like copper or nickel.”
Additionally, this exhibition coincides with the 2011 International Year of Chemistry, which celebrates the achievements of chemistry and its contributions to the well being of humankind. www.chemistry2011.org.
It’s A Gas! is produced by Las Vegas-based Exhibit IQ in partnership with the Henderson Space and Science Center and the Science Museum of Western Virginia.
The Midland Center for the Arts is located at 1801 W. St. Andrews Rd., Midland. Admission to It’s a Gas! is $8 adults | $5 children ages 4 – 14 | FREE to Museum members and ASTC members.
What follows is a list of special activities associated with this exhibition:
June 30, July 14, August 25 • 4 – 7 pm
Chef Cool visits the galleries to give demonstrations of superCOOLed gases in action!
FREE with Museum admission.
SCOUT DAYS • July 30 & August 27
One scout in uniform gets in free with each paid regular adult admission.
THURSDAYS ARE A GAS AT THE MUSEUM!
Visit anytime on Thursdays for these extras!
June: Enter into a drawing for a Science Gift Basket – one winner drawn weekly!
July: Receive a FREE neon glow item! (while supplies last)
August: Receive a FREE science coloring book, including science experiments you can do at home (while supplies last)
SPECIAL THURSDAY EVENING PRICING: 4 – 8 PM ONLY! “Fuel the Fun” Family 4-pack (2 adults + 2 kids) = $21 (SAVE $5!)