Tuesday, July 20, 2010

July 19, 2010: Washington - National Geographic Society

First, a quiet morning at home, finally cracking open my French lessons, in preparation for Grenoble this spring. It's starting off quite basic, but I'm due for a refresher.

In the afternoon I visited the National Geographic Society headquarters, where they had two exhibits. The first was Leonardo da Vinci - an institution in Italy has created models of the many machines described and drawn in his sketchbooks. They're quite fascinating: clocks, gears, weapons, flying apparatus. There was also a section on the Mona Lisa, showing information gleaned from new types of photographic studies - the most surprising thing was that there is evidence that she originally had eyebrows.

The other exhibit was 'Design for the other 90 Percent', with design solutions for clean water, generating energy, inexpensive housing, etc for the developing world. A fairly wide range from practical (energy and water) to improbable (much of the housing solutions). The most memorable was an O drum - a drum for toting water, which is shaped more or less like a doughnut - the result being that you can tie a rope through the middle and tow it behind like a tire, rather than having to carry it. So simple, yet so counter intuitive to design a drum in this way.

To get to the National Geographic building I got off at a different subway stop: Farragut North. I've now used most of the subway stops in the downtown core, and am getting fairly well oriented. I've realized that, for all its monumental buildings, Washington isn't very large. If the weather was more pleasant it would be very walkable. As it is, I'll keep using the subway to get as close as possible from one point to another, so that I don't melt away in the heat and humidity.

Photo: exhibition of reproductions of Leonardo's drawings and models of his mechanical inventions and ideas

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