In mid-April, my wife and I and friends visited the fascinating Perot Museum of Nature and Science in downtown Dallas, Texas. After it opened for the first time in December 2012, The Dallas Morning News pronounced it to be “a world of wonder.” Even before we entered, we were greatly impressed by the 14-story-high modernistic, overlapping, cement-slab edifice with a glassed-in exterior escalator rising at a 45-degree angle. Gardens with Texas Plains vegetation surround the outside of this museum in Victory Park.
Ross Perot (1930-), famous for his independent presidential bid and his campaign adage for the reality of things—“when the tire hits the road…”—funded the lion’s share of money for the construction in order to “inspire our children to be the scientific leaders of tomorrow.” The 85-year-old Mr. Perot, a scientist in his own right, founded Electronic Data Systems (EDS) in 1962 and in 1988 Perot Systems, which he sold to Dell in 2009 for 4 billion dollars.
The museum has 11 permanent exhibition halls on five floors, which include a children’s museum, Dynamic Earth, Energy Hall, the Expanding Universe, and a Science of Sports Hall (the 6th floor contains administrative offices not open to the public). We elected to focus on three of the 11 exhibits, the first being the Expanding Universe with its marvelous digital image tour of our solar system beyond Earth to Mars. It was amazing to feel as if we were actually standing on the surface of the orange planet and looking outward to the king of planets: Jupiter, with its giant red spot and slurry of rocks and ice chunks held together by a strong gravity. The high-tech digital projection then took us to the ringed planets of Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. It took us a moment or two for our minds to reconnect with the here and now, where “the tire hits the road.”
The second exhibit, The Dynamic Earth, quite literally shook us up with a replication of the recent 9.7 South American earthquake. Thankfully, we had a steel railing to hold on to and experienced only a fraction of the time of the actual quake, which lasted ten minutes! We then entered another room where a monster tornado began to howl with images of flying branches, pieces of roof, and cars being tossed like match boxes.
After a tasty lunch in the museum’s clean and bright cafeteria, we went to the Science of Sports Exhibit to be captivated by a racing zone for kids and adults. They didn’t race against each other but against a digitally-projected, giant T-Rex, which growled before the race started. Each time a child listened to the count down, anxious to burst off with all the speed he or she could muster, the T-Rex thumped three giant steps to complete the 50-yard dash. It would take any sprinting human hundreds of steps to get to the finish line. Participants could then choose to race against digital projections of track and football stars to lose again.
It was time to catch an undersea movie at the museum’s giant screen theater for a 4-K digital projection of the sea bottom, with all sorts of marvelous creatures in 3-D. Not only were we astounded, but we constantly found ourselves dodging oncoming sharks and scores of other fish while sitting in our seats. We sometimes chickened out and removed our 3-D glasses to avoid any “collisions.”
Anyone who visits Dallas for a few days should set aside time for the Perot Museum of Nature and Science at 2201 N. Field Street.