Slices of science in the Big Apple

New York has a number of science centres offering dinosaurs, space and maths for all

The statue of Theodore Roosevelt at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.

The statue of Theodore Roosevelt at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.

 

If you are fortunate enough to be planning a holiday in New York city soon, be sure to factor in some science on your travels. The Big Apple has plenty to offer, from dinosaurs and space exploration to hands-on maths activities that visitors of all ages can get to grips with.

Natural history

One of the best known scientific attractions in the city is the American Museum of Natural History. Sited at Central Park, the museum is one of the largest in the world and is replete with static exhibits, interactive displays, shows and exhibitions.

The price of general admission covers the basics (you may need to pay extra to visit special exhibitions) and you could easily spend the full day exploring at the AMNH. As you do, be sure to check out the dinosaurs, meet the famous early hominid “Lucy” and expand your brain at the Hayden Planetarium’s movies – the current offering, Dark Universe, explores what we don’t know about the cosmos. There are plenty more details on the website (amnh.org/) and app, and a little advance planning doesn’t go astray.

The AMNH, which was the inspiration for the Night at the Museum movies, also hosts “sleepovers” on site, complete with guided tours by flashlight. Tickets get snapped up quickly, but if you can book in advance it is certainly a different kind of nightlife to explore while in NYC. For prices and dates, see the website.

Hands-on maths

A much more recent addition to Manhattan is the National Museum of Mathematics, or MoMath, where the curious and even the “math-phobic” can have fun and learn along the way. The building on East 26th Street (between Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue) is packed with objects, puzzles and games designed to get you moving and thinking.

“MoMath’s exhibits and programmes don’t ‘look’ like math to most people,” explains MoMath executive director and CEO Cindy Lawrence. “There are few numbers or equations in the museum, and no chalkboards or calculators.

“Instead, there are mathematical sculpture studios and paint palettes, full-body rides on oddly-shaped solids and on trikes with square wheels, and opportunities to play with everything from puzzles to spinning chairs to a digital floor that knows where you are,” she says.

“ Because this doesn’t look like the math we all learned in school, visitors, even those who are maths-shy or maths-averse, don’t feel intimidated. Instead they are drawn to play, explore and create, and in the process they are doing maths.”

Among the most popular activities (and my kids agree) are the square-wheeled trikes that you pedal around a ridged circuit and a grid of patterned lights called Math Square that sets maze challenges for you to solve on foot.

“Most mathematicians see math as an elegant, beautiful, creative, and enjoyable endeavour, and we aim to bring out those facets of mathematics in the museum,” says Lawrence. “MoMath is all about showing the wonder and beauty of mathematics, and I would encourage every single person – from maths fans to maths phobics – to come in and see what the museum is all about.”

See momath.org for opening times and to book online for the best value in tickets.