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Discovery museum exhibit explores a world that’s smaller than small

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Opened in March, Discovery Children’s Museum is currently hosting the traveling exhibition Experience Nano.
Photo: Bryan Steffy/WireImage

To the youngsters inside the Discovery Children’s Museum, each exhibit appears larger than life. There’s a water world that functions as an interactive, kid-sized Lake Mead and a three-story summit that engages tiny trekkers in scientific conundrums as they climb their way to the top.

But the newest exhibit, a traveling installation by the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network, explores a world that’s smaller than small—it’s nano.

Stowed on the second floor, the Experience Nano exhibit is only 400 square feet, but it packs in a lot of information about the technological buzzword. Enter, and there’s a guide greeting budding scientists with a demonstration using a magnetic strip. Made of tiny nanostructures, the magnet appears smooth and seamless to the eye but creates resistance when slid across a surface. Next, a curious onlooker puts her hand on a piece of dark blue liquid crystal, leaving a handprint. The heat sensitive crystal, the guide explains, is made up of nanostructures, which are used in today’s fast and efficient touch-screen cell phones and computer displays.

But what exactly is nano? It’s a measurement of size—one billionth of a meter, to be exact, which is why nanoscale science isn’t just called the study of really, really small things. One station, “Where Can You Find Nano,” shows how these tiny structures are manipulated to make much of the technology we use in everyday life.

The exhibit places an emphasis on technology, but also discusses environmental perspectives and the importance of maintaining equilibrium. In “Balance Our Nano Future,” kids create a miniature city on a table—but place too many buildings on the surface without adding enough trees and the table may become unstable and topple over.

The traveling exhibit is also currently the only one at the museum where visitors can read in both English and Spanish, giving multicultural learners a great place to start. Visitors can also experience nano by going to whatisnano.org and downloading the nano exhibit audio description. Just make sure you download it at home and save it to your phone, because service inside the building is limited—and don’t forget the headphones.

Experience Nano Through January 3, Discovery Children’s Museum, discoverykidslv.org.

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