Press-Republican

October 26, 2013

Family-friendly exhibit opens at Montreal Science Centre

By STEVEN HOWELL
Press-Republican

---- — 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.”

Keep things vague and the concerns universal — friendship, money, romance — and you’re bound to evoke an emotional response. 

BUYER BEWARE

Finally, Zone 3, “Information or Manipulation?” investigates the art of the smooth talker, conspiracy theories and sensational news.

For example, using a few techniques may help you get elected, or sell a product. In the “Mad Men” world of advertising, one station lets you choose snake-oil-style jargon to lay claim to some persuasive but all-purpose promises. The visitor gets to create an ad campaign that professes the most amazing product results this side of sliced bread. One such product offers the wonders of LookAir Volumizing Shampoo with Quadruple Regenerative Action made with harianamelis extract from Brazil, which offered a “More Intense, More You” slogan and pledged “improved focus and response time through direct action on the prefrontal cortex.” Sounds pretty fancy and convincing.

The only problem is that the same jargon could have easily been used to emotionally sell two other prompted product choices as well: an energy drink or underarm deodorant. The lesson learned? Let the buyer beware.

“Truth or Lie?” continues through March 10, 2014.

Also screening at the Science Centre IMAX Theatre is “Titans of the Ice Age 3-D,” a big-screen adventure that travels back 10,000 years when saber-toothed tigers, giant sloths and woolly mammoths ruled the world.

Steven Howell is the author of Montreal Essential Guide, a Sutro Media iPhone travel app available at iTunes.com.

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IF YOU GO

WHAT: The Montreal Science Centre

WHERE: At the King Edward Pier in the Old Port, Montreal.

WHEN: Exhibit hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.

COST: Admission to "Truth or Lie?" is $14 for adults, $13 for seniors and teens ages 13 to 17, $8.50 for children ages 4 to 12, and $39 for a family of four. IMAX viewings cost extra.

CONTACT: For more information, call (514) 496-4724 or visit www.montrealsciencecentre.com.