Nature’s Fury: The Science of Natural Disasters at the American Museum of Natural History

Ananda Kimm-Drapeau ‘18

Nature’s Fury: The Science of Natural Disasters, a new exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History is an astounding presentation of hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and volcanoes. With it’s enthralling graphics, dense history, and innumerable opportunities for interactive learning, it’s an adventure that’s easy to underestimate. You get to see how science can explain the development and effects of natural disasters, and predict them in time for people to reach shelter, saving millions of lives each year.

Upon entering the exhibit, you are faced with enormous screens displaying compelling photos and clips of natural disasters, with rich details and vivid colors. You see a hurricane from a bird’s eye view in outer space, powerful black smoke engulfing its surroundings, and heart-wrenching depictions of damaged homes and flooded towns. You learn about the recent Tohoku Earthquake, the largest earthquake ever in Japan, all the way to the Gavelstone Hurricane, the deadliest natural disaster in United States history.

The exhibit’s brilliance mostly lies in its collection of interactive experiences. You can push, pull, and slide rocks to witness the formations of different faults, and push or pull springs to view the movement of an earthquake’s waves. Learning about magnitudes of earthquakes became enjoyable, as jumping on a spot near a seismometer projected your motion. You can also “make” your own volcanoes by using levers to control the amounts of silica and gas, while your finished product forms on a large and screen, producing chilling roars as it erupts.

On a more serious note, there is also a touching and informative interactive screen that tells the story of Hurricane Sandy from an elevated view of the five boroughs. It entails everything from the science behind Hurricane Sandy, the power outage, and flooded areas, to the effects on different subway lines. At the end, you can select areas like Jamaica Bay or Coney Island to read about people’s experiences there. You can go back to the onset of the 2012 catastrophe and understand more about what happened.

The exhibit also brings art and real objects into the already stunning visuals in the room. Newspapers, paintings, and posters damaged in Hurricane Katrina demonstrate the reality of the exhibit in front of your very eyes. The power of natural disasters is even more alarming, as shown by a display with a crushed stop sign, bent basketball hoop, and destroyed classroom chair, showing an earthquakes’ ability to bend metal. The exhibit also provides in-depth explanations of artworks like Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” (1893), elaborating on the background of red skies and the Krakatoa eruption. And if you happen to walk into a tight elevator-like setting with five screens showing vigorous winds in a spiral around you, you are seeing the view from inside a tornado.

The richly historical, visual, and audible exhibit, Nature’s Fury, will be ending in August, so don’t forget to stop by the next time you are on the Upper West Side, and interested in an incredible learning experience.

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