A Lifesize “Mousetrap” At The Carnegie Science Center

Achievement: #91. Go to the Science Center

In keeping with our ‘back in the old days’ theme of the week, we stopped into the Carnegie Science Center this Monday to check out the changes since we’d last been (estimated some time in the early 2000s) and see the fabulous traveling Lifesize Mousetrap exhibit.

The Science Center was PACKED! I guess I thought a Monday wouldn’t be too bad, but it being one of the last weeks of the summer, it seemed like everyone was bringing their kids in. There was a huge line to get tickets, which have now (surprisingly) gone up to $17.95. (This cost gets you into the submarine, the planetarium shows, SportsWorks across the street, and all the regular exhibits, but when it’s that crowded, getting to see everything is a little bit of a stretch!)

Science Center
We started the day with some lunch at the cafeteria. Standing in line makes you hungry! As it turns out, the Science Center cafeteria has a lot of variety, and much of it healthy too. Another nice detail: their trays, plates, and utensils are environmentally friendly, and you can read neat facts about compost, landfills, and recycling on the signs hanging above the tables in the dining area.

Science Center
After lunch, it was on to the main attraction: the Lifesize Mousetrap. If you remember the game we used to play as a little kid (you know, the one that didn’t exactly all fit together after the first couple of times you played it and jammed parts in wrong?), this is a massive replica of that.

Science Center
Some adjustments had to be made before the first run of the day (since it’s outside, it’s weather-dependent, and the morning performance had been cancelled). There was a bit of speculation that someone had gotten into the contraption overnight and moved some things around.

Science Center
The idea of the mousetrap is a gigantic, elaborate Rube Goldberg device. (If you’re not familiar with the term, it relates to a complicated machine designed to carry out a simple task: in this case, it’s this elaborate series of steps which cause a block to fall on a piece of cheese.) This one weighs over 50,000 pounds and takes the crew 5 days to assemble at each stop. Can you imagine that??

Science Center
As we were standing there, dodging rain drops… the downpours of earlier in the day started again. This is the mousetrap musician, Esmerelda Strange, hiding underneath a tarp fort! She still put on a good show for us, even playing under a tarp 🙂

Science Center
Here’s the man himself, Mark Perez, who spent the last 15 years creating this masterpiece. At first, I thought, “Fifteen years? How can it take that long? It’s such a big machine, it’s not like it has to be precise.” But that’s the whole problem: it’s a huge machine, so you need to have a large margin of error to ensure that each step will work correctly. I do not want to think about the amount of physics that went into this!

Science Center
I think we got a rather abridged version of the mousetrap because of the weather issue, but I’m glad we just got to see it at all! I’d say that’s the only downside to this performance piece: the weather in Pittsburgh is not always the finest, and this requires some dry conditions so the poor cast and crew don’t get electrocuted.

Science Center
Finally, once the rain paused just enough that they could get everything aligned, it was time to start the show! Here is one of the mice, turning the crank to begin the chain reaction!

Science Center
And here comes the ball, rolling down the crazy steps!

And…. well, that’s all you get to see. On this trek to the Science Center, Michael and I learned a very important thing: if you are going to be taking a lot of photos of something cool that is only going to be happening in front of you for a very short few moments… umm… make sure there is room on your camera card BEFORE the event begins.

Science Center
But I just want you all to think of it, instead, as incentive to take these last couple of days and check out the mousetrap in person! If my camera card had been stocked with enough free space to capture the whole show, what fun would that be?? (Now I feel like the parent who, when it started to rain, pulled her kids inside and said, “We’ll just have to watch the video somewhere on the internet, it’ll be just like seeing it live.”)

Seriously though, it’s worth the price of admission (although I don’t think you actually need to pay admission to the Science Center, as the mousetrap is outside on the lawn of the Ohio River).

Science Center
After the mousetrap performance ended and I had a chance to clear off some photos on my camera, we headed inside to see the model train set. (Before we started doing the blog, we went to Oglebay to see the Christmas lights, and there are about 8 thousand pictures of me posing with various parts of the model train set. I am dedicated to these things!)

Science Center
Here’s the mockup of Gobbler’s Knob. You’ll notice that it is a bit inaccurate, as no one is falling on ice.

Science Center
There was also a replica of Forbes Field, complete with full stands and little moving baseball players. I loved it!

Science Center
Here’s the miniature incline.

Science Center
This is Luna Park, which was the amusement park in Pittsburgh pre-Kennywood (it is what Lost Kennywood is modeled after). I didn’t know this until our visit, but Luna Park was apparently in Oakland! Can you imagine an amusement park in the spot that is now Craig Distributing?? (Have I mentioned how much I looooooove local history facts? 🙂

Science Center
And finally, I loved this little snowy industrial Pittsburgh scene. So much attention to detail in this model train set, and they even run the lights to make it day and night at different times!

Science Center
And if there’s one thing I love more than trains, it’s extreme weather, so we went up to the 4th floor to check out the weather exhibit. And guess what’s there? The Earthquake Cafe, which allows you to sit in a little booth and experience mock earthquakes of various intensities.

Science Center
I freaking love (minor, non-damaging) earthquakes. The biggest earthquake I’ve ever been in was a 5.4. That was exciting: some things fell over on shelves and our pictures were all crooked on the walls. Oh, and no one got hurt, and for the first few seconds of the earthquake, we actually thought it was our neighbor’s bratty kid throwing things against the wall (which they did a LOT). The earthquake we sampled at the Science Center was a 7.8. That was kind of scary. I mean, sitting in this cute booth and everything, that was fine, but if that was happening in real life, I would have been freaking out!!

Science Center
This sign cracked me up!

There were a few other things we wanted to check out, but the Science Center was PACKED. And let me just tell you: if you are waiting to see something and you are an adult, kids will not wait in line behind you, they will just run past you and cut in line. Our entire trip to the Science Center was like a lovely validation of our decision to have a Lucy and not a child.

Science Center
Our day at the Science Center was a nice one, for the most part. Yes, there were a few too many rowdy children for my tastes, and we got cut short on time a little bit because of some extenuating circumstances, but seeing the mousetrap was a one-of-a-kind experience. We may not return for normal Science Center visits any time soon, but they have added a Michael Jackson laser show, and that we may check out!

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