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Culture

New Science Center Makes Technology Tangible

Housed in a building designed by Zaha Hadid, a public-private partnership between the city of Wolfsburg and a number of large German companies is opening "Phaeno," the country's largest science center, on Friday.

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Phaeno's director hopes visitors leave with a new interest in science

The "experiment center," located in a spaceship-like building with barely a straight wall to be seen, was designed by star avant-garde architect and Pritzker prizewinner Zaha Hadid, who said she hopes visitors see the building "as an invention and as an experiment to take hold of and discover."

Phaeno officials said they hope the center will awaken a sleeping spirit of innovation and pique people's interest in the sciences with its 250 hands-on experiments presented in the 9,000 square meter (96,875 square foot) complex.

"People are amazed and then start playing and asking questions," Peter Rösner, one of the center's experiment leaders told reporters.

Hands-on learning emphasized

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The rodeo circle is a first-hand momentum demonstration

Phaeno backers are hopeful that 180,000 people a year will decide to visit the center to, among other things, undergo a crash test with their own bodies, create ice at four degrees Celsius (39.2 degrees Fahrenheit) and see how tsunamis form in a wave tank. The five-meter (16.4-foot) flame that shoots into the air every 15 minutes is expected to be another crowd favorite.

"Phaeno is especially about having a good time, being curious and deepening knowledge," director Wolfgang Guthardt said of the 250 exhibits brought together by an American curator, Joe Ansel. "We want to make the natural sciences understandable in a hands-on way."

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A massive spring keeps students' interest

Rösner added that the center would focus on answering visitors' questions, not preaching science to people who aren't interested in it. "No one is going to leave here with a degree in physics," he said.

The project, which began in 1999, cost 79 million euros ($93 million) and is run by a foundation made up of the city of Wolfsburg as well as a number of large German corporations, including Volkswagen, EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg and electronics company Sennheiser.

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