Date of Visit: March 25 2013 (runs until June 15 2013)
Entry Fee: RM$20
Time taken: 1 hour
“You’ll be amazed at how many notable discoveries and inventions currently attributed to Western scientists were, in fact first made by Muslim scholars.”
Petrosains Discovery Center is a small discovery museum on the 4th floor of Suria Mall KLCC, this mall is under the famous Petronas Twin Towers. Currently on show is the ‘The Sultans of Science: Islamic Science Rediscovered’ exhibition, a global touring exhibition celebrating the contributions of Muslim scholars in science, mathematics and technology during the Golden Age of the Islamic World (700-1700 CE).
There are more than sixty exhibits providing visitors of all ages with a hands-on, interactive and state-of-the-art family-friendly experience with different zones dedicated to Engineering, Medicine, Astronomy, Mathematics, Geography and Agriculture. The aim is to highlight the many ways in which Muslim Civilisation helped lay the foundations for the European Renaissance and has had a profound impact on the modern world.
The entrance to the exhibition with an Arabesque theme, complete with carpets and arched walkways sets the tone for my journey to discover the geniuses if the Islamic Golden Age. On the walls are pictures of the ancient Muslim notable figures in the fields of science and technological breakthroughs.
Many a times, what you see and think of as ‘magic’ is actually science. Al-Jazari’s ‘ Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devises’ (1206 AD), is a a manuscript describing 50 machines such as animal and humanoid automata, automatic gates and doors and also his famous clocks.
Some of the Trick Devices in the exhibition illustrate the mechanisms that are presently used in modern engineering.
The Wudhu Machine is a central part of the Islamic rite of cleanliness. The contraception releases a fixed amount of water at regular intervals for washing, this is perhaps the earliest use of automated system. Examples can be found in Muslim landscaped gardens, and the famous Al-Hambra comes to mind.
Water told time by changes in water level, however, it was not very accurate. Early water clocks were simple devices but by the 8th century Al-Jazari’s clocks were work of engineering skill by adding automated control systems and craftsmanship.
ROBOTIC ELEPHANT CLOCK
The highlight of the exhibition is the six-meter-high replica of the robotic kinetic-powered 13th-century Elephant Clock, invented by master engineer Al-Jazari. It is the equivalent of a mdern day Grandfather Clock, big, decorative and announces time. This is an inspirational piece of mechanical genius that pioneered automation by incorporating technologies from various ancient innovations.
It was fascinating watching the clock work: “Periodically, a metal ball drops out of a magazine at the top of the device. Triggered by the metal ball, a bowl inside the elephant slowly sinks into a bucket as it fills with water. As this float descends, it powers the clock’s mechanisms and time-signals. At the end of the cycle, the bowl empties and returns to the top to repeat the process. The clock will keep running as long as there are still metal balls in the magazine.” Watch the video here
PIONEER OF FLIGHT
When it comes to flying, Leonardo da Vinci comes to mind (link to his exhibition in Hong Kong), but mind you, he had never flown but only designed ornithopters, gliders and helicopter. It was actually an Kurdish Arab by the name of Abbas Bin Firnas who took off from a hill near Cordoba, Spain over a thousand years ago.
The picture in the bottom panel is a walk-through whereby the visitor walks across the the bridge with his/her arms stretched out to imitate the pattern of flight, no – you do not flap your arms up and down, but in a figure ‘8’! It IS tiring!
TRADE AND TOOLS OF NAVIGATION
Trade runs deep in the blood of Islam. There is a section in the exhibition exploring the rich history of their nomadic and trading society, where travel and exploration were fundamental to the Arabian way of life.
Here is an interactive instruction panel whereby the visitors can lift the panel and discover for themselves information and sights and sounds of trade.
HOSPITALS AND MEDICINE
Muslim physicians were one of the pioneers for modern medicine. There is a huge section on the rich history from the building of the first sophisticated hospital, the inventing of surgical instruments and procedures to the huge strides made by these scholars in understanding how the human body works!
Kudos to the team of sweet smiling young volunteers who are all very pleasant and eager to offer explanations without prompting on the various exhibits there. They also organise a fun-filled activities section for children adn the young at heart!
SOME FUN ACTIVITIES:
How do you transfer the water from the top vessel to the bottom one in the fastest way possible? Think the washine machine
Quiz: Remember the scene in ‘Die Hard with a Vengeance’ where Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson had to diffuse a bomb by placing 4 gallons of water on a set of scales? Well, how do you distribute 4 litres of water equally from a 3 litres and 5 litres bottles? If you decide to give up, here’s the answer.
I am most definitely recommending this educational and activity filled exhibition, after all it has been personally endorsed by HRH Prince Charles! The exhibition will end on June 15 2013 – get there quick! Not to be missed!