Growing up smack in the middle of Tornado Alley, where many folks' response to storm sirens is to walk out into the yard and see if they can spot the funnel, it's probably not surprising that I'm adding the "Science Storms" exhibit at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry to my list of must-sees when I hit the Windy City this summer for the Pitchfork Music Festival. The 26,000-square-foot permanent exhibit opens this Thursday, March 18, and features six blockbuster storm stations.
Visitors can manipulate a 16,500-pound, 20-foot avalanche disk, to see all the different ways particles can shift while burying everything in their path; create tsunami waves in a 900-gallon tank of mineral oil (which behaves like water but doesn't evaporate); and summon lightning-like electrical arcs with a 20-foot-diameter Tesla coil—pretty exciting stuff, all around.
I know what I'm going to do first, though: Stroll right to the center of what the museum calls a "towering vortex of vapor" in the 40-foot simulated tornado, created by 48 "fog modules" and a bunch of vents and fans. (Bonus: It's got lasers!)
Museum entry is $15 for adults and $10 for children under 12, but on opening day it's free, as well as on the following dates: April 19–23; May 3; June 7–10; August 30; Sept. 7–14; Sept. 20, 21, 27, and 28; October 4–6; Nov. 11; and Dec. 6. msichicago.org. And if you're headed to the area this summer, keep your eyes peeled for the Chicago feature story in our May issue, on newsstands April 20!