My parents, Bevan and I visited the Museo Nazionale della Scienza e Tecnologia earlier this week. It is a remarkable museum gathering a plethora of scientific information into an enormous monastery in the heart of Milan. They have interactive modern displays about climate change, particle theory, space travel and enormous artworks in the shape of transformers. They have jewellery workshop installations showing the way diamonds are cut and live restoration of statues going on behind glass panels. There is a full broadcast timeline explaining all the mechanics of radio waves and how television works. They have radios, TVs, cameras and cell phones from all ages and stages (and I was horrified to spot at least one cell phone that I’ve owned – Nokia 32 10 for anyone who remembers those) in the display. And all of that is just in the first of four buildings.
There is a full-size previously operational submarine, helicopter and numerous antique cars and fighter planes are gleaming displays in another building. The original Prada emblazoned Luna Rossa catamaran that brought the Italians victory in the biggest and most prestigious yacht races around the world is suspended from the roof of one building while below you can walk around part of an original cruise ship with a fully restored deck which made me feel like I was standing on the Titanic for a moment.
What impressed me the most however was the Leonardo da Vinci Hall. Here, in commemoration of this incredible human, the museum has recreated and built every machine and mechanism that da Vinci ever drew to show how it works. It was truly remarkable to see how much one man’s mind produced in a single lifetime. Some of these instruments are the foundations for many machines and vehicles we still use today. It’s quite breath taking to realise how many cars, looms, measuring devices, mathematical engineering, planes, trains and automobiles depend on the work da Vinci produced. It certainly made me feel very small in a very large universe…and like I need to start my life all over again and do something much more productive and valuable with it!
It’s important to put yourself in positions where you realise your own fragility and insignificance in the universe. This museum had the power to throw light onto the enormity of the body of knowledge a few people are slowly adding to, tiny piece by tiny piece, day by day, to push human beings forward (or backward depending on how you look at time and space). And that pile is still so small compared to all that can be known and understood. Deep stuff!