The word paludarium comes from the Latin word ‘palus’ meaning marsh or swamp and ‘–arium’ meaning enclosed container. How many species did you find in the Paludarium in the museum lobby? Did you see the big angelfish? Were you lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a crab hiding in the moss on the rocks? The Paludarium is a living ecosystem where all of the living elements (mosses, plants, crabs, and fish) and non-living elements (the water, air, and rocks) interact with one another and are linked through nutrient cycles and energy flows. The balance of the ecosystem is supported each day with just a little food for the fish.
Fossils are clues that tell the stories of plants
and animals that lived millions of years ago.
Paleontology is the study of fossils and
seeks to map out how life evolved over
geologic time. Using clues from biology,
biochemistry, geology, mathematics and
engineering, paleontologists construct ideas
of how animals looked, behaved, interacted
Step into the Fossil Dig, grab some
excavating tools and use the skills of a
paleontologists to unearth the unique stories
of these amazing creatures! How many
fossils can you find in the Fossil Dig?
Cell Phone Disco
Use your cell phone to transform an entire silo into a dazzling light show! Several thousand lights illuminate when you use a mobile phone in the vicinity of the exhibit.
Every single mobile phone transmits radio waves to connect to a cellular network, and every day millions of people around the world broadcast their conversations across these invisible waves. Tiny sensors in this exhibit detect and convert the invisible electromagnetic waves from a cell phone into another frequency, the range of visible light. Thousands of sensors incorporated in the display are tuned to detect the phone’s electromagnetic radiation.
African Spurred Tortoise
African Spurred Tortoises, native to the Sahara Desert, are unique reptiles known for digging extensive burrows in the ground to escape the heat. Their name comes from the enlarged, pointed scales on the hind limbs. These animals can reach over 200 pounds in size and can live up to 150 years! At the Science Mill, we have two Spurred Tortoises who live in an underground burrow. Speedy is an 11-year-old male weighing 60 pounds, and Tortilla is a nine-year-old, 40-pound female. Both tortoises enjoy lounging in their burrow, exploring their enclosed habitat and eating plants (they are herbivores). Stop by during our tortoise feeding hours at 2:15 on Wednesdays and Saturdays to help us give them leafy greens, fruits and veggies. If the tortoises are resting in their burrow, you can watch them on our 360-degree tortoise cam in the lobby. Don’t forget to bring your great-grandchildren back to see Speedy and Tortilla, who may still be going strong at 100 years old.
Colossal Robotic Hand
The Colossal Robotic Hand is quite a sight: a 30-foot-tall, stainless steel robotic hand constructed from more than 500 individual, custom designed, stainless steel triangles. It is impressive in a stationary position, but with a remote joystick mimicking the robot hand, visitors can easily operate the Hand, making each of its giant fingers move, much like their own. This exhibit, in our Science & Art Park, is a powerful, interactive icon of creativity, engineering, and design.
The Story of Water
Movement of underground water through big caves and tiny cracks and crevices in rocks is the often invisible part of the water cycle. In this exhibit, while in a 40-foot-tall silo, you will be immersed in an aquifer and experience the great cycle of water – from the air to the ground, deep into the earth and back into the sky.
Put mathematics, art, and biology together and you get this model based on Romanesco Broccoli. The broccoli takes the form of a fractal – a complex geometrical shape that looks the same at every scale factor. Though the exhibit has an infinitely increasing perimeter, you’ll be surprised to know that it has no area as the dimensions of each fractal become so small they advance into nonexistence! The unique structure of the Fractalarium will tempt your curiosity as it conveys the geometric rhythms of energy that harmonize the universe into pattern, life and consciousness. Looking at this masterpiece is quite literally looking at infinity!
Silo of McKays
Enjoy the peace and serenity within this silo created by Wimberley artist, McKay Otto. It serves as a multidimensional space for meditation, reflection and self discovery. Tapping into elements of Eastern religion, the seven chakras of the body are represented in paintings with corresponding Tibetan singing bowls. Explore the ways in which Otto experiments with light and sound vibrations to create a complex and beautiful exhibit that fills the entire 40-foot silo. Learn more here.
Step up to the control table and accept the challenge to manage the supply of electricity across homes and businesses in a virtual town. This interactive game will keep you on the move with quick thinking while teaching you the pros and cons of energy resources such as coal, natural gas, wind, nuclear, and solar power. Slide the levers and rotate the dials as you experience firsthand how our power grids, along with a variety of energy inputs, are used to supply electricity across the nation.
Play and experiment with tiny building blocks of life by mixing atomic combinations of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous, fluorine and chlorine. Enjoy the surprises as you create a variety of molecules found in nature and see their animations unfold on screen. Your chemistry concoction could do anything from allowing us to breathe to creating an explosion!
Virtual Body Table
A visit to this exhibit allows you to interact with the human body like never before. The Virtual Human Body is a unique tool that allows people to explore different structures of the body. Using hand gestures and a 60-inch touchscreen display, viewers can swipe, zoom and slice the images to gain a deeper understanding of the functions and processes inside the human body. The visuals on display were collected using computerized tomography (also known as CT) scan technology that captures a series of image ‘slices’ to create the overall 3D image.
Do you love robots or have you wondered how they work? Sharpen your robotic skills at this exhibit by giving computerized commands to robotic animals and watch as the critters rattle, scratch and bellow their way into your heart. Each animal will move according to the instructions you give through blocks of text or computer commands, called a program.
Build a custom race car at the pit garage and race against others on a 25-foot track in this exciting design-build challenge. Learn the basics of simple machines and think like an engineer to build a speedy car. With this exhibit, you’ll build an awesome 3D puzzle that comes to life with speed when placed on the track!
Something’s gone wrong with your avatar! Can you find the DNA contaminate in it? Computers and DNA make the perfect team to help you with this mystery! This exhibit is designed to show you how scientists are using super-fast computers to unlock the genetic code of living organisms.
Create an Explosion
Bang! That’s the power of Chemistry. In this explosive example of water electrolysis, you’ll experience firsthand the transformation of electrical energy into chemical energy. Start the electrical current flowing in electrodes inside the clear flask of water. The electrical current splits the water molecules into two elements: hydrogen and oxygen. Once the hydrogen gas has been collected and loaded in the launch chamber, prepare to be amazed. The hydrogen gas combusts in a chemical explosion that launches a ping-pong ball up with a surprising bang!
Run your hands through real sand, forming mountains, rivers, lakes and dams in this interactive, augmented reality exhibit. Bring the concepts of geology, watersheds, erosion and topographic mapping to life while you create virtual topography in real time. Hold your hand above the sand to cast a shadow, causing virtual rain to fall from a virtual cloud. Carve a river in the sand and build a dam and watch as the water flows according to your design.
Go With The Flow
Come play with electricity at our AC/DC electricity exhibit. This station offers an introduction to designing electrical systems through creating and controlling electrical circuits. Choose from a series of "experiments," built around the basics of AC and DC electricity. You’ll be SHOCKED at how easy, cool, and safe the experiments are! (ba-dum-dum)
The word “pendulum” derives from the Latin pendulus, or ‘hanging down.’ However, the Wave Pendulum takes hanging down to a whole new level--12 new levels, to be exact. Twelve pendulums of increasing lengths are simultaneously released but have radically different outcomes as time progresses! The laws of physics artfully construct changing patterns with the 12 silver balls. Can you figure out why this happens?
Wind Turbine Test Bed
The classic, old-fashioned windmill of rural backdrops gets an overhaul in this experimental exhibit allowing you to change the size and shape of turbine blades to generate maximum power. You will get to explore the amazing power of wind, an important resource for energy. Your challenge is to find the blade configuration that produces enough power to light up all three houses at once.
Ahoy, matey! Come set sail with us and experiment with wind and air pressure. Be the captain of your own boat by controlling the wind and sail positions to watch your vessel journey across the sea. Shiver me timbers, that’s one fast boat!
If you’ve ever wanted the power of telekinesis, this is the game for you! But can you control the electrical signals in your brain? Square off with your opponent in this exciting challenge that measures your ability to FOCUS and RELAX. Slip on the bio-sensor headband and watch as a small white ball travels across the table according to the brain waves of you and your opponent. A large monitor will display both players’ brain activity in this ultimate game of mind control. Mindball is sponsored by the Burch Family Foundation.
Challenge your friends to an old fashioned match in tug-of-war on this giant lever exhibit. As each side tugs the rope you’ll quickly learn that the two sides are not equal. Can you figure out why?
This mini architectural scale model of the Science Mill allows visitors to input the amount of rainwater surface collection area and simulated rainfall to see how many gallons can really be collected from the roof. The stunning detail of the model and representation of water conservation are complemented by the Science Mill’s 9600 gallon rainwater collection tank that can be seen right outside the window. The real rainwater has important uses such as outdoor irrigation and in the Zebrafish and Paludarium exhibits. This exhibit and our rainwater tank are sponsored by the Lower Colorado River Authority.
Remember Spirograph? Come try our new WonderGraph, a mesmerizing combination of physics, art and math!
Connect, Spark, Flow--These are the names of each of the three panels comprising Realms, the digital holographic display created by Austin artist Sally Weber for the Science Mill. She thinks of matter as dense light, which is why finite points of light compose the objects in the panels. Solidity is displayed as translucent in this exhibit as light is manipulated. These images were created using a circular grid modeled from an astrolabe, the first instrument to map the dome of the heavens on a flat surface. Looking into each panel reveals an image that extends far beyond the frame, and infinity seems to fall away below the viewer’s feet!
Incredible Ball Machine
Step inside and surround yourself with a maze of ball chutes and loop de loops. As you try each pulley, pedal and wheel explore how gravity, velocity and acceleration all affect the ball's trajectory. Navigate a giant labyrinth, create musical stylings in the sound garden, flip and teeter your ball on the kinetic seesaw and so much more!
This exhibit will blow your mind as you put on special glasses and are suddenly thrust into an awesome 3D virtual reality! Our zSpace 3D Virtual Reality exhibit allows users to learn in one of the coolest ways imaginable as there are a multitude of different realms to explore. Users will have the opportunity to investigate unique architecture, robotics, the life cycle of a butterfly, a human heart--the fun and discovery is seemingly endless!
In the biology lab you see what some real-life biologists do in laboratories. These biologists discover new ways to treat diseases, see how these tiny beings can make electricity, and how microorganisms that share our world have developed completely different ways of breathing and living. All this is experienced in our biology lab and is only a sampler of all the amazing and exciting things biologists do.
Gases Of Life
The Gases of Life exhibit makes the invisible visible! Four stations display different gases that are necessary for survival. Watch plants exhale oxygen as little bubbles floating to the surface of the water due to photosynthesis. Explore the breakdown of sugars by yeast in fermentation by checking the carbon dioxide sensor. How does the carbon dioxide level outdoors compare to indoors? Discover for yourself by reading it on a different sensor in the lab! The last station takes you on a gases journey as you climb onto a bike and pedal. What happens to the level of carbon dioxide in your breath? Check by breathing into a tube that will digitally measure it before and after exercising!
Take The Pulse Of Zebrafish Embryo
Zebrafish are very special and important for scientific discovery! Scientists study them and their genome to better understand cancer, heart disease, and brain function. Their fertilized eggs are perfect for studying as they are transparent and develop rapidly, allowing the fish to hatch in days! Using the app, you are the scientist and can gather data by taking the pulse of a developing Zebrafish embryo with the video microscope. How close was your recording compared to the rest of the data?