Northwest NEWS

February 25, 2002

Entertainment

Use of interactives makes 'Genetics!' accessible to visitors of all ages

by Deborah Stone
   Arts and Entertainment
   Currently on display at Pacific Science Center is the exhibit, "Genetics!"
   Created by the museum and presented by Immunex, "Genetics!" is a 6,500-square-foot exhibition featuring thirty hands-on activities that explore the basics of genetics, from cloning to solving crimes.
   A variety of fun and interactive experiments make this complex subject accessible to visitors of all ages, allowing them to gain fundamental knowledge of the specific aspects of genetics that affect everyone.
   At "All About You," visitors can enter information about their inherited physical traits, such as eye color, and then compare their results to other visitors.
   "Design-a-Dog" is a giant pachinko machine on which people can select four traits in a dog to explore how selective breeding manipulates varying genetic characteristics. After selection is made, a ball follows a path through the machine and ends up at the picture of the dog breed that displays those traits.
   At "Mendel's Mini-Golf," visitors use a small putter to sink a ball in one of three holes. Balls and holes represent pea plants with different genotypes for green or yellow peas.
   A display then lights ups to show the genotypes that result from crossing the ball genotype with the hole genotype.
   Other interactives include see-through cell models; large microscopes to show real specimens, such as fruit fly chromosomes and various plant and animal cells; a map of the world showing the flow of human genes across the globe through history; an enormous DNA double helix model with three other smaller models to show different aspects of the DNA structure; a protein pinball machine to explain industrial genetics; interactive computer games, videos on cloning and others on the process of screening for genetic diseases; and a DNA Crime Lab, set up to allow visitors to use DNA evidence to solve a fictitious crime (in this case, the theft and consumption of chocolate chip cookies!).
   There are also opportunities for visitors to learn about the innovators in the field of genetics and the type of education needed to become a genetic scientist or technician. Special activities and larger-than-life displays exist for tots, children four and under.
   To many, the science of genetics is a distant subject and one that holds many misconceptions. PSC's exhibit with its hands-on orientation makes genetics approachable and easy-to-grasp.
   "Genetics!" will run through the summer and then tour nationally. For more information, call (206) 443-2001.