'Star Wars' exhibit gives visitors a taste of real science and imagination
A short time ago in a galaxy very, very near ... a "Star Wars" exhibit opened in Indianapolis.
It is a period of civil unrest, with children out of school bored and frazzling their parents.
But there is a new hope in the Midwest: Indianapolis is only 110 Earth miles away, and the whole family can enjoy an exhibit that mixes original "Star Wars" props and videos with insights on what science knows about our universe.
"Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination," sponsored by Bose Corp., is the biggest traveling exhibition to grace Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis' White River State Park.
A collaboration between museums, including major work by one in Boston, and Lucasfilm, which has made all the "Star Wars" movies, the exhibit features more than 9,200 square feet about the 1977 blockbuster, its sequels, and what they can teach us about its universe, our universe and possible future scenarios of science.
Yoda's behind glass, but Clone Troopers and Princess Leia, played by volunteers, will be lurking about and available for photos.
Indiana State Museum Director of Collections Traci Cromwell said you'll find the various princesses in white gowns.
Not that gold bikini Carrie Fisher will never fit into again. Tusken Raiders will be represented.
Oh, and Darth Vader will be walking around the museum.
He won't talk, but "he'll breathe heavily," Cromwell said.
You can visit Tatooine, Kashyyyk, Coruscant or Hoth if you have light years to spare, but Indianapolis is only about 90 minutes away.
Cromwell was only 7 when she saw 1977's "A New Hope." Her husband is a stalwart of the Harrison Ford era.
She's actually more of a fan of the recent entries — and not at all ashamed to say she likes Jar Jar Binks a lot.
"(The 'Star Wars' movies) were ahead of their time in many ways; they reflect the time and expectations of when they were made, but also predict things like better prosthetic limbs," she said, referring to Luke Skywalker's hand appendage. Vader chopped it off with a light saber. But even the dark lord's nefarious work could be undone by a medical robot.
In her own recent surgery, Cromwell said she was taken care of by a robot. She's all better now.
The military has developed a robot named Da Vinci, not as cute as 3-CPO but very well-trained. No human touches subjects during the Da Vinci surgery, Cromwell said.
Near Luke's and Anakin's prosthetic hands — and a Darth Vader costume — you can see real-world robotic legs, as well as neural and muscular implants that might become commonly used in decades to come.
Such devices can replace lost or damaged human functions with complex implant systems, some of which are being developed at the University of Illinois, including wearable electronics.
Devices allow the brain to control a computer. The prosthetics combine metal, tissue and bone.
The "Robots and People" section also has displays of kid-friendly robots C-3PO and R2-D2.
Visitors can try to make a robot walk or test a robot that balances on two wheels. They can design facial expressions for an emotional robot.
Visitors can also try building a droid.
"It's all very hands-on," Cromwell said. "Kids will enjoy doing the robot tasks and not realize how educational it is at the same time."
Scientists from the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind., will deliver lectures on the scientific aspects of the displays, Cromwell said, including lasers, robotics and jet cars.
"We also have a couple staff members writing blogs about hovercrafts, how maglev trains work on some of the same principles" of Skywalker's Landspeeder from Episode IV, she said.
Visitors build a floating speeder, then test the vehicles they create on a magnetic track.
And they can see a real Lucasfilm Landspeeder on display.
Cromwell said visitors can also try out a floating chair powered by air to personally experience hoverocity.
The full experience costs an adult about $25, including the museum entrance, the exhibition itself and a $5 Millennium Falcon flying simulation in a theater.
June 20 is Stars Wars Fan Day, where visitors are encouraged to visit in their favorite Star Wars costumes. (I double-dare you to come as Jabba the Hutt.)
On that day, you can try a Jedi mind challenge or put on a sumo wresting suit, Cromwell said.
For fashionistas, the exhibit has Princess Leia's original white costume.
If you go
What: "Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination"
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays; 11-5 Sundays (through Sept. 2)
Where: The Indiana State Museum, 650 W. Washington St., Indianapolis
Admission: Tickets for the exhibit are $10 in addition to general admission ($10 for adults); advance reservations are highly recommended
More information: 317-232-1637; indianamuseum.org.