Exhibit Descriptions

Room 3

Cafe Wall Illusion

First seen on a cafe wall in Bristol, a checkerboard of black and white squares looks perfectly square if the squares are lined up, but if alternate rows are laterally displaced, the brain sees the rows as tapered. It is thought that there is some visual overload, and the brain makes a mistake in its interpretation of what the eyes are viewing.

Computer station 1 & 2

We have a variety of interesting programs on our computers. Some are commercial "knowledge" based multimedia programs, others are specially written and unique to Discovery. We are especially pleased with our fractal programs, including fractal zoom movies, fractal slide shows, and a good mandelbrot exploration program. Other programs are multiple frequency Lissajous figures, Perfect camouflage, and others.

Levitating Penguins

This exhibit demonstrates magnetic repulsion. Several penguins are standing on an “ice floe”, permanently hovering above the exhibit bed, which is 2 metres long. The ice floe can be given a push - it floats effortlessly along the bed, constrained only by the low glass walls of the exhibit. The bed of the exhibit has two linear magnets along its length, and the underneath of the ice floe similarly has two linear magnets, arranged to oppose the magnets in the bed. This exhibit is used rather too enthusiastically by some visitors!

Viscosity Tubes

This simple exhibit gives a practical demonstration of the very wide range of viscosities of commonly-encountered fluids. Acrylic tubes filled with the fluids and one ballbearing are inverted, and the user can observe the rate of fall of the balls - with surprising results - washing-up liquid is thicker than engine oil! Other fluids in this exhibit are air, water, 3-in-1 oil, gearbox oil

Roch’s Pendulum

An example of practical chaos. The pendulum is spun by the user, and three “satellite” pendulums (pendula?) spin around on the ends of the pendulum’s arms. Their movement is entirely chaotic, sometimes spinning rapidly, or stopping, or reversing. Their movement cannot be predicted.

Moving Pictures 3

A high-tech version of the earlier moving pictures. The flying birds in this exhibit are on the front side of the disc, and there are no slots to be seen! The exhibit works because the disc is spun by a stepping motor. As well as showing off moving pictures, this shows really well that, below a certain stepping frequency, a stepping motor really does step and stop. The paper disc with the flying bird drawings is advanced by the motor by exactly one drawing for each of its steps. The pause between each step, together with the very rapid movement between steps, reduces the blur that would be seen if the disc were to be spun continuously.


Smooth Roller

This is a development of rhe “Square Wheels” exhibit seen at the Exploratorium, San Francisco. The wooden cube rolls perfectly smoothly along the very bumpy track. It is normally surprising to see a cube roll at all!



A twin pair of cycloid-shaped tracks, together with two model cars. Wherever the cars are started on the tracks, they will take the same time to reach the bottom. This may be demonstrated by starting one car near the top, the other near the bottom, and by letting go of both at the same time.

Lots of Puzzles!

A favourite area, there are about ten different puzzles on this table

Giant Pan Pipes

Eight black rainwater pipes form a scale from 4' C to 8' C. The notes are sounded by hitting the open end of the pipes with a soft bat or a flip-flop. Most customers seem to try and play the theme tune from Eastenders!

Mirror Writing

Try to follow the pre-drawn lines with your fingertip. It's remarkably difficult - you are looking at the lines via a mirror, so one of the directions of movement is swapped.


See Your Voice

A microphone and an oscilloscope. The different sorts of waveforms produced by the voice are clearly seen. A sung note is quite complex, a whistled note can be almost a pure sine wave. The changes in wavelength with pitch (frequency) can be clearly demonstrated.

Marble Machine

A favourite with everyone, this is like a big marble run, approximately 1 metre square by 350 mm deep. The user uses a handwheel to drive a belt carrying ball bearings to the top of the exhibit, from where they return to the starting point in any of a number of ways. The ball bearings travel fast and slow, and interchange their energy between potential and kinetic in a variety of ways. A good exhibit for energy discussions, but most of all, good fun.

Infinity Room

This is a hexagonal box about 8 feet high with a door . It appears to be like a Dr. Who Tardis, it is bigger inside than it is outside! The walls, ceiling and part of the floor are mirrors, and one gets a an infinity of reflections of oneself, so you can see yourself from angles you never have before. (I'm afraid some men emerge from this room quite worried - they had no idea they were anywhere near as bald as they are!)

Spinning Mirrors 1,2,3 & 4

These four exhibits highlight various properties of reflections from plane mirrors. The first mirror is set perpendicularly to the spinning axis. The image seen is a normal one and there is no change to the reflection as the mirror spins (there is a slight wobble due to errors in the exhibit). The second mirror is set at an angle away from perpendicular, and the image wobbles alarmingly as the mirror is spun - quite disconcerting. The third consists of two mirrors set at right angles to each other. In this your head appears to spin around, twice as fast as the mirror is spun! In the last, three mirrors are set in a corner cube arrangement, and one's eye does not move from the centre of the corner, no matter where the mirror is spun nor how your head is moved. Lots of food for thought here! (Try reading text in the mirrors. In the third of these exhibits, the text is readable the right way round - initially a surprising result!)

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