Category Archives: Science

Seattle Focus: MOHAI Presents TOYS of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s

MOHAI Presents TOYS of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s

Illustration by Henry Chamberlain

Once a toy has become an artifact of childhood, it has reached a very special place. For the purposes of this exhibit, a look at American toys spanning three decades, the focus is upon the joy and comfort these toys provided. The context is both simple and complex as viewers are invited to study the various exhibits from their own personal point of view. Did you have a happy childhood? If not, maybe a toy helped you along the way? Sectioned off into three decades worth of childhoods, there is plenty to recollect and reassess.

Contemplating Toys and Childhood

Contemplating Toys and Childhood

“Toys from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s” is enjoying its West Coast premiere on display at MOHAI here in Seattle. Originating from the Minnesota History Center, this exhibit asks you to revisit many toys that, by today’s standards, would not be deemed suitable for children on many grounds, including common sense safety! Lawn darts, anyone?? Yep, we don’t see lawn darts sold in today’s toy market. They’re basically sharp steel projectiles. They’re not going to cut it, or rather, they ARE going to cut it! But, you see, lawn darts have a home here–on display only. Lawn darts are not subject to recall within the bounds of this exhibit. They are here to conjure up good lawn dart memories, for those who have them. And they’re also here as a subject for discussion. As much as this exhibit is a trip down memory lane, it also invites viewers to draw their own conclusions.

The Game of Cootie, originally launched in 1949

The Game of Cootie, originally launched in 1949

What are your thoughts on Barbie dolls or toy guns? You’ll find them here ready for your marvel or scrutiny. The point is that you’ll find all sorts of toys, whether or not they pass today’s safety or societal tests. The overwhelming nature of childhood memory takes over. Countless kids loved their toys and now we have the nostalgia for yesteryear and contemporary perspective to guide us. You’ll find a lot of kids attracted to the exhibits. You’ll see lots of families with their toddlers, too young to appreciate any nuances but ready to grab at anything not secured. And then there are the adults who grew up in these respective decades. For them, especially, the exhibit features living room re-creations for each decade on view. For these viewers, the couch is right there to sit and go back in time with, alone or perhaps to share with younger family members.

1960s Living Room Re-creation at MOHAI Toys exhibit

1960s Living Room Re-creation at MOHAI Toys exhibit

Toys are certainly not easy to pin down. Toys resist being dismissed even if the originals are stored away or thrown away. Toys come at you from every direction. At a certain age, they define your leisure, your means of escape. They can become your world, your identity. They’re based upon all you think you know about the world whether from books, movies, television, just about anything. What does a choice in a toy say about a child? What does a toy say about the adult who chose it for the child? The adult who created it? The manufacturer that produced it? The country that embraced it?

Atomic Disintegrator repeating cap pistol, introduced by Hubley in 1954

Atomic Disintegrator repeating cap pistol, introduced by Hubley in 1954

Alpha-1 Ballistic Missile, introduced by Amsco Industries in 1958

Alpha-1 Ballistic Missile, introduced by Amsco Industries in 1958

One of the best examples of how toys can make a difference is the American reaction to the Soviet’s being the first in space in 1957 with the Sputnik satellite. That little object in space caused shockwaves in the United States. Toy makers would definitively enter the Space Age and Space Race. Hubley’s 1954 Atomic Disintegrator, right out of science fiction, was all well and good. But now was the time to step up a focus on science and technology. Amsco Industries responded in 1958 with the Alpha-1 Ballistic Missile, “designed by missile engineers, tested in Cape Canaveral.” And, as the display makes clear, kids ate it up! There’s this priceless quote from the exhibit:

“How did I get interested in science and make it my life’s work? Kids in the late ’50s and ’60s could get toys that complemented that interest. My friends and I loved my Alpha-1 Ballistic Missile: Mix up some baking soda and vinegar, put it into the missile, put it on the launch pad, and pull the string. That baby could really fly.”

–Mike Smith, b. 1952, meteorologist

It was fun, as a discerning adult, to wander back and forth between the three living room areas: the wonder and innocence in the 1950s; the keen interest in science and exploration in the 1960s; and a full circle escape to wonder and innocence in the 1970s. It seemed like, after having landed on the moon, and the rise of the Vietnam War, Americans were ready to refocus. Instead of looking to actual stars, Americans were ready to go see the new blockbuster hit, “Star Wars,” entertainment with its roots in 1930s pulp fiction. They were also ready to buy all the Star Wars toys.

Hey, that's Han Solo's Millennium Falcon!

Hey, that’s Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon!

I have fond memories of the ’70s as a kid. And I recall seeing “Star Wars” in 1977, at age 14, at our local movie theater at the mall. It would not have occurred to me to buy all the Star Wars figures, let alone a toy replica of the Millennium Falcon. But it was really nice to see the whole Star Wars set on display here at MOHAI. Any kid would have been thrilled to have owned them back then. But I’m sure that I owned a couple of figures. And I know that I went to see “Star Wars” more than once, despite the very long lines. I didn’t question any of it back then, although I was certainly old enough to do so. I was more than happy to accept it just as fun. I didn’t think about profit motives or the future of franchises or the American spirit. This brand new thing called “Star Wars” left you with a good feeling inside. And that’s the best thing any toy can offer.

TOYS at MOHAI!

TOYS at MOHAI!

“Toys from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s” is on display at MOHAI through September 25th. For more details, visit MOHAI right here.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, Childhood, Children, Comics, Education, Family, History, MOHAI, pop culture, Sci-Fi, Science, Seattle, Toys

Review: THROUGH THE WORMHOLE WITH MORGAN FREEMAN Premiere Episode, Season Five, Wednesday, June 4 at 10PM ET/PT

Through-the-Wormhole-Morgan-Freeman-Science-Channel

We love science. We love Science Channel. And we love Morgan Freeman. So, what can be better than a whole new season of THROUGH THE WORMHOLE WITH MORGAN FREEMAN? To launch the fifth season, we explore the question, “Is Poverty Genetic?”

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Morgan Freeman, Science, Science Channel, Television

Review: BIOWARS #1 and #2

Biowars-comic-book-2013

There are so many superhero comics out there but readers are always open to a new wrinkle. How about a comic that encompasses a world made up of trillions, a hundred times more populated than Earth? That is a world that we all live in now, inside our own bodies, made up of trillions of cells. Welcome to BIOWARS.

Biowars-comic-The-Battle-Rages-Within

This is definitely something new within the superhero genre. What will first interest readers is how this comic engages with real biology. With a majority of superhero comics heavily tied to either pulp fiction or mythology, BIOWARS, published by Gabriel Creations, confidently goes deep inside a vast alien world with many possibilities. Creator Gabriel Shaoolian envisioned a comic that dove into a whole new terrain. With a story that literally takes place inside and outside, there is great potential here.

Biowars-comics

The story begins with a sounding of alarms in the first issue, aptly entitled, “Infection.” We see the emerging war take shape. Written by Mark Powers (Marvel Comics, Devil’s Due), we get a nice dose of action, and even humor. Microphage armies and B-Cell forces, given human-like form for the sake of more vivid storytelling, are deployed to subdue the enemy invader. The artwork (Lucius Cross, Joana LaFuente, and Gonçalo Lopes) brings it all to life with impressive results. The next time you get a cold, you can picture a war like this one raging through your bronchial passages.

But there’s far more going on. Whatever this virus or bacteria is, it is unlike anything the immune system A-teams have ever encountered. And things aren’t any less tense in the great unknown world outside. Out there, on the streets of New York’s Chinatown, there’s a young man, Alex Hawking, running for his life. Outside, danger looms even closer as Alex is being chased by a killer. The killer is quite familiar with what’s wrong with Alex from the inside.

The intrigue continues as more details are revealed in the second issue, entitled, “Revelations.” With two issues in, a suspenseful story has unfolded that carries the weight of a first-rate superhero tale. We know that Alex is in a lot of danger. And we have some clues as to what he might do next. Good use is made of superhero tropes. There’s Janice Lee, the reporter who gets too close to her story and is now wrapped up with Alex’s fate. There’s Alex’s classic conflict with his father, Marcus. And there are two villains: a mad scientist, Ernst Kelso, working in the outer world; and Raze, the master mold, working in the inner world. All in all, a pretty promising start to a new all-ages comic.

BIOWARS #3, entitled, “The Virus Invasion,” comes out January 14, 2014. Visit our friends at the BIOWARS website here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Biology, Biowars, Comics, Comics Reviews, Sci-Fi, Science, science fiction

‘Through The Wormhole With Morgan Freeman’ Returns To Science Channel; Premieres Wednesday, June 5 at 10:00 PM (ET/PT)

THROUGH THE WORMHOLE WITH MORGAN FREEMAN

THROUGH THE WORMHOLE WITH MORGAN FREEMAN

THROUGH THE WORMHOLE WITH MORGAN FREEMAN has proven to be a hit. And now it’s back. Taking a sneak peek at the Season Four opener, “When Does Life Begin?” we find a thought-provoking collection of stories from various vantage points. The question even includes a discussion on artificial intelligence and “the global brain” that has emerged since the internet. The series is, pardon the pun, “brought to life,” by masterful narration from Morgan Freeman, a variety of colorful backdrops, engaging interviews, graphics, and animation.

Evolutionary Cyberneticist Francis Heylighen

Evolutionary Cyberneticist Francis Heylighen

The highlight of the season opener, for many, will likely be an interview with evolutionary cyberneticist Francis Heylighen. Heylighen is studying how people fire off information to one another through the internet in similar fashion to how neurons fire back and forth in the brain.

Evolutionary Cybernetics: The Global Brain

Evolutionary Cybernetics: The Global Brain

Imagine, he points out, if only Galileo could have communicated with his colleagues as we do today, science would have developed far more quickly. The internet, he concludes, is developing into a collective brain. The study of evolutionary cybernetics dates back to the 1940s. It is a relatively young discipline and a complex one. Thanks to Science Channel, we viewers get a very engaging introduction to it.

Press release and full season description follows:

Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under Education, Evolutionary Cybernetics, Francis Heylighen, Global Brain, Internet, Science, Science Channel