Freudian Slit, Shazaram, Penelope Asterisk, Bubble O’Kill, Behemoth Rhapsody and Berry Bad take a moment away from teaching science to pose for the camera. Photo supplied by Canberra Roller Derby League.
If you’ve been dragged to Questacon as the involuntary guardian of a screaming child you’ve also probably wished that children weren’t allowed in. A little quiet would be perfect for exploring the well-designed, accessible science exhibits. And some beer wouldn’t hurt, either.
Well Questacon has the answer to your prayers in its SciNight, a regular event where Questacon stops children at the door, drops the adult entry price to an extremely reasonable $10 and puts on a program of adult-themed science shows. It turns out that the only thing I really needed to wrap my head around Newton’s laws of motion was some gentle sexual innuendo to focus my concentration. And yes, there’s even alcohol.
With freedom to roam and gently contemplate I was able to enjoy the exhibits at my own pace (and of course there were no children to trip over). The staff were friendly and helpful, giving this incognito reviewer extra info on the exhibits I explored – I now have a much better understanding of what an equinox actually is. The staff clearly love their jobs and saved me from deciphering the text that comes with the exhibits. A pro-tip for visits to Questacon: just get the staff to explain stuff to you, it’s quicker and more interesting.
But for me as well as most children the flashy, kinetic exhibits in the sideshow are the biggest draw. I screwed up my courage and gave the vertical drop slide a go. Kudos to Questacon for simulating so effectively what it would be like to fall to my death – after that I don’t feel any pressing need to experiment with skydiving. After a day of work the temptation to switch off is pretty strong but the serenity of Questacon at night was perfect for getting stuck in and learning something too.
The special shows were the highlight of the night however. Strongwoman and professional goddess Penelope Asterix did a weightlifting show that explained some of the science behind her art. A talk by Dr. Phil Dooley on the science of cheating in sport was more like a uni lecture but redeemed by some utterly fascinating content. I was constantly scrambling to fix some detail in my memory to look up later. Thanks to Questacon I can now discourse semi-eloquently on the ethics of using the Fosbury Flop in the Olympic high-jump, and if I ever attempt it I know I can rely on energy from my body’s creatine phosphate to help me with the leap.
The best-performed show though was an adaptation of Questacon’s regular movement show to feature stars from Canberra Roller Derby. The show was essentially half an hour of roller derby players running into each other. While that sounds more like a feudal blood sport than a science show everything was tied back to the laws of motion (for example, it turns out a breast in motion remains in motion). The material was wittily presented by a Nordic gentleman known only as “Sven” (I suspect this to be an alias) while the women from Roller Derby displayed some impressive performance skills. Questacon’s science shows are normally of a very high standard and this was essentially the same kind of show with more innuendo and violence. Perfect for Friday night edutainment.
I strongly recommend giving SciNight at Questacon a go, it’s everything Questacon has to offer plus adult extras at a budget price. It turns out that the ideal way to enjoy Questacon is the one forbidden to children. And even if you hate science there’s still a slide. A terrifying, terrifying slide.