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October 26, 2013

Family-friendly exhibit opens at Montreal Science Centre

MONTREAL — Perceive or deceive? Skeptics to the front of the line.

The Montreal Science Centre presents “Truth or Lie?” a three-zoned interactive exhibition that separates fact from fiction by exploring — and exposing — themes such as magic tricks, pseudoscience, optical illusions, counterfeit money and goods, and the art of (less than) gentle persuasion.

SPOTTING PHONIES

Zone 1, dubbed “Reality or Illusion?” tackles the likes of magic tricks (not magic acts) and a few outright fakes.

The world of “genuine imitations” has created everything from phony money and goods to world-famous paintings.

One display asks visiting young detectives to see if they can spot the fake painting by artist Claude Monet. While the works of art (not the real deals, mind you) look authentic on the surface, a closer inspection — specifically in Monet’s signature — provides the biggest clue. Experts discovered that the pigment on the painting and that of the signature was convincingly close but not the same. A further scientific investigation revealed that the neighboring paint had different chemical compounds.

Another side-by-side console compared everything from Nike sneakers to Barbie dolls to a Canadian $20 bill. But selecting the ones that were real versus the phonies was not so easy to detect upon a simple glance. On that note, the exhibit explains that while the world of technology has made it easier for counterfeiters to fool us, advances in detecting the fakes have also made great strides.

MAKING PREDICTIONS

Onto Zone 2, where “Science or Pseudoscience?” questions the likes of everything from levitation to predicting the future.

How can one float on air? Just take a seat — attached to a pole, of course. Cover up the seat with a billowing dress so it becomes “invisible,” and voila, you’re “floating” on air.

Want to predict someone’s future? Make like a smooth-talking charlatan and repeat some general statements using your most mysterious voice. One suggested example offered: “This is your lucky week! Don’t miss any opportunities.”

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