Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Why Gondolas aren't straight

I didn't know until recently that gondolas weren't straight shaped boats. I mean gondola shapes aren't something I give a great deal of thought about. Occasionally I do think about being pushed gently though the Venetian canals as I eat an ice cream with an Italian gondolier (or me) singing as we glide gently along.

I visited the Deutsches Museum in Munich recently. This is the biggest Science and Technology museum in the world. I spent a glorious day there with my family but such is the size of the exhibition I doubt if we saw even 30% of the museum. Technology from World War 2 such as a V2 rocket (the precursor to modern rockets), U-boats and the highlight of the exhibition for me, the enigma machine, broken by Alan Turing and the crew in Bletchley Park (the story was recently made into the film The Imitation Game).

We enjoyed a fantastic electric display. One of the museum staff sat inside a Faraday Cage (a metal sphere) and was hoisted high in the air.

Electricity sparked across the room and hit the cage. When the cage was lowered my kids were amazed to see the man walk out unhurt (I'll admit I was disappointed that I couldn't have a go myself). This was a van der Graaf on steroids. The noise was incredible. I thought about how lucky the kids are who can get to visit a place like this (or any science museum for that matter). Speaking of which there is a dedicated Kid's Kingdom with a working Archimedes screw (yep, I played with this for ages), water paddles, sound rooms and a remarkable thing called a Tanagra Theatre.

You can walk inside an animal cell and look around. Also on view are human plasticised lungs. It's incredible to see the multitude of networks running thorough each lung.

So to answer the question at the top of the page. Gondoliers steer and row from only one side. The asymmetry of the boat allows the gondolier to do this. And like the Model T it can be any colour as long as it's black.

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