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'Splice of Life' Explores Genetic Principles

August 22, 1987|WILLIAM MURPHY

"Splice of Life," an exhibit that traces genetic theory from the basic principles to designer genes, has been fascinating visitors this summer at the California Museum of Science and Industry in Exposition Park.

By means of animation, computer games and laboratory equipment it explains basic genetic principles--how human traits such as eye color, face shape and height are passed from parents to offspring. (Plant and animal characteristics are influenced in the same way.)

Undoubtedly the most interesting part of the exhibition--which is on a national tour of eight science-and-technology centers--are those sections illustrating breakthroughs in genetic engineering, and how products developed through this scientific process affect our daily lives.

In an exhibit in Edgerton Hall, the museum and aerospace industries are celebrating the 18th anniversary of the first lunar landing. The collection features displays on the space shuttle, the space telescope, the Delta launch vehicles, and photographs commemorating the 60th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh's flight to Paris. Both of these exhibits will close Labor Day, Sept. 7.

A basic knowledge of mathematics is helpful when you enter the Science Wing where an extensive array of exhibits demonstrate the magic in numbers. Here, displays provide hands-on challenges, and insights into geometry, probability, celestial mechanics and topology. Sit down at a computer where free, short classes are offered.

Across from the main building is the Mark Taper Hall of Economics. Here more than 60 exhibits, many of which are operated by computers, illustrate and explain basic principles of economics and finance. With hundreds of buttons to push and levers to pull, the visitor is confronted with a series of hypothetical questions in economics. One solves a problem by pushing the correct button.

In the Hall of Health, there are facilities for a self-administered health screen. Employing a computer card, visitors can check for proper breathing, pulse, heart rate, stress level and other vital signs. There is also a series of nutritional exhibits. Before leaving the Hall of Health, you will receive a computerized print-out of your personal health and nutrition profiles.

The Mitsubishi IMAX Theater adjacent to the Aerospace Museum at Figueroa Street and Exposition Boulevard is a part of the Museum of Science and Industry, and is within walking distance. It contains an immense motion-picture system called IMAX that projects an image 10 times larger than a standard 35-mm frame onto a screen 54 feet high by 70 feet wide. Currently being shown is "Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets," an adventure down the Colorado River and through one of the nation's most popular parks. However, you will see sights not afforded most visitors who merely gaze down at the canyon's wonders from observation points. Film-maker Keith Merrill and his crew spent 78 days on location to capture rarely seen sights, using rafts, horses, mules and helicopters for the project. Show times and ticket prices: (213) 744-2015.

The Museum of Science and Industry is at 700 State Drive in Exposition Park. It's open seven days a week (closed New Year's Day). Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. Enter the parking lot on Figueroa Street just south of Exposition Boulevard, and be sure to have two quarters to raise the gate.

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