Star Wars at the Indiana State Museum (Slideshow}
"Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination" brings the force of technology home in a display that combines up-close props from the films with cutting-edge developments from the real world.
I have to admit that I was skeptical of the whole concept of Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination at first. Star Wars is space opera, meant for hair-raising adventures and howling through space, not exactly the stuff of hard science - how could you assemble a museum exhibit that took an honest look at science and wasn't just a glorified props display?
Turns out I was wrong on that front - the Indiana State Museum's traveling exhibit is a hell of a thing on the hard science front. Star Wars was high-flying space opera, yes, but it was also designed as a "lived-in universe," something that was meant to be recognizable and immediately familiar even with the mad science. And it turns out that attention to design detail translates nicely to the museum front, especially in the medicine and robotics fields.
The display boasts quite a share of props on display - and believe me, short of shaking hands with Dave Prowse himself, nothing drives home just how big Darth Vader really was than being right up close to Prowse's original costume - but the hands-on science is a real standout.
Particularly entertaining was a display that puts you at the controls of a real, four-foot-tall walking robot. Nothing makes clear just how hard this sort of design really is quite like actually running the controls and trying to keep that thing upright. Gives you a new respect for human legs, too. Another element that could keep a creative kid occupied for an hour or more involves creating your own traveling robot or miniature hovercraft design and putting them to the test.
My personal favorite? Driving a personal-size hovercraft around a little field. Who doesn't love hovercrafts? And the displays about real-world science really do make the connections between reality and fantasy clear - who knew John Deere built a prototype harvester that walks like an AT-AT? All told, a remarkable museum adventure, well worth the time and admission.