Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Hong Kong Science

I am sure that if the little pieces of girl, Shark, Squirrel, Tiger, attended school in England, and we had pleaded for special dispensation to be released from that commitment to bring them with us to Hong Kong, when we returned to the UK an adult from their school world would say, with meaning, Tell me, what did you learn in Hong Kong?

Shark, Squirrel and Tiger would whitter on about doors and parks and long necked turtles and chopsticks and Buddhists who buy fish swimming in tanks outside restaurants, then pop round the corner and release those slippery saved prisoners into the harbour, but the squint-eyed fellow peering at them would say again, Yes, yes, but what did you LEARN?

And that school tuned adult would mean, of course, What reading, writing, arithmetic, what school work did you do?

Well despite the fish freeing Buddhists, and I am ashamed to admit it, but a small part of my brain squeaks that too. But what are we learning?

There is only one cure to relieve this oldschool pressure in my head and that is to take Shark, Squirrel and Tiger to the Hong Kong Science Museum.

Science is good. Science is learning. It has things like electromagneticsoundwavecompression. After today I can claim our schoolwork is all done and dusted. Tomorrow we can go stare at stars and eat lotus on Lamma Island beach.

So here we are, visiting the Hong Kong Science Museum. I can scrounge lessons in windpatternisobarspressure. Because science crosses all borders. And when Mr Squeers stares disapprovingly down at us, I can prod Shark, Squirrel and Tiger into action with leveragesublimationmolecule.

But fifteen minutes in, I discover science is not universal at all. It is quite local. The Hong Kong Science Museum has a large section of one floor given over entirely to horrible ways to fall over and die on a building site.

In Hong Kong, building a skyscraper, knocking it down, building a new one, taller, smarter, shinier, more marble, more glass, more glitz, more ambitious, is a favourite pastime. Hong Kong island edges closer each year to Kowloon mainland. More land is reclaimed, the working harbourfront swells, the skyscrapers rise, the sea is swept away. Don't bring fondness. The 1950s Star ferry pier with its modernist clock tower was blasted away in 2006 to make way for a swanky line of terminals, poking their noses further into the water. And if last year your business spent several million dollars securing prime harbour front space, consider it money well spent on the ad budget, because you'll be outshone next year by a new shoreline development, in progress now. Everyone in Hong Kong will be touched at some point by the construction industry. So here, in the Science Museum, there is a large section devoted to different ways of dying in building site accidents.

But Hong Kong is prepared. Meet Dr Safe and his talking chemicals. There is Uncle Flammable, Auntie Irritant, Brother Corrosive, Harmful Junior and Little Toxic. Just like a real family. I might adopt them as blognames. The animated chemicals describe several horrible ways to be poisoned, mutilated, lose hands and set yourself on fire thanks to careless practices on the building site. And if you are not warned enough, here comes Uncle Explosive with his very short fuse to blow everyone up.

But no! Because Dr Safe with his Material Safety Data Sheets talks reasonably to the hazardous chemicals, we need not lose our hands in building site accidents ever again. Are you unconvinced? Glance at the exhibit next door of the foolish migrant worker plunging to his death after falling from an unfinished building. Take that as a limbering up exercise for scanning the Occupational Disease Databank to realise how you will die painfully and slowly in your job unless you take action now. Then at least you might have enough life left in you to head upstairs for your near-death experience with crash test dummies slamming into trucks and losing limbs in the Automotive Technology Gallery.

But science is universal, right? Hong Kong is just strangely driven in its obsession with falling over.

And the fact that everyone on the streets today looks like they are extras in a medical drama, striding about walkways wearing face masks and surgical gowns, merely tells us the responsible population is taking correct and proper preventative action over swine flu.

Which sort of makes it ironic that as we emerge into the Medical Sciences Gallery the first game we can play is how to extract medicine from a pig.


Rubberbacon said...

Darn it, I knew I should have gone there instead of going to see X-Men on Sunday!

Wife in Hong Kong said...

We hit the pig extraction game too a week or so back and I was wishing I'd bought my camera. I could only answer one of the questions about which part of the pig do you use to make X so my education is clearly full of pig shaped holes! Did you drive the fork lift truck? And the crane? More things I was rubbish at!!