One of the most annoying things Millennials tend to do is to assume that people of previous generations were less clever than they. In fact, I shouldn’t be picking on Millennials: this is and has been true of every generation since Aristotle complained about “kids these days”.
It does, in truth, seem odd that some of the most respected scientists of only a few hundred years ago didn’t believe that the heart makes blood circulate and used astrology to predict the weather and political developments. However, they didn’t have Wikipedia or even Matlab. Instead, much of the “knowledge” they had was simply whatever was taught to them, some of which turned out to be wrong. Unless you’re studying at a very high level or have severe geek tendencies, this will be the same way you learned 95% of what you know. How many experiments have you done lately, or in fact ever?
At a basic biological level, a person born in the Renaissance or in fact the Stone Age was just as smart as we are today. The major difference is that we have much better and cooler toys and tools, from iPhones to dictionaries. The problems engineers and experimenters wanted to solve were often the same, though, and many of the solutions they came up with were not just ingenious but simply brilliant.
Some of these are still in common use, even though enthusiast websites like Vinyl Vintage don’t quite explain why some people still prefer vinyl over digital or shortwave radios over cellphones. Several other technologies have basically lapsed into obscurity, but many of these are still available for the interested public to view.
Deutsches Museum, Munich
The largest science and tech museum in the world, parts of it will unfortunately stay closed to the public until 2020, when current renovations are expected to be completed. The numerous exhibitions run the entire gamut from reproductions of 28,000 year old cave paintings to nanotechnology and 3D printing.
A series of exhibitions illustrate the history of physics from the heliocentric theory up to quantum mechanics, including several antique instruments and interactive experiments. With nearly 30,000 historical and presentation items in its collection, and several educational workshops and live demonstrations to experience, anyone interested in science and technology will find a single day too short to explore this institution.
Technisches Museum, Vienna
Known for its thrilling presentations on everything from high-voltage experiments to the finer points of building and operating a steam locomotive, this museum is well worth a visit if traveling in Austria. Other exhibitions have a more philosophical and speculative bent, such as one exploring how technology has changed human behavior and everyday life, and another examining what the city of the future may look like. This museum has a strong inclination towards technology as opposed to pure science, with subjects like manufacturing, communications technology and energy use taking pride of place.
Hanger 7, Salzburg
Housed in a building that’s straight out of science fiction and sponsored by Red Bull, this establishment is worth including on this list as an example of one direction museums may pursue in the future.
While the museum houses an impressive collection of racing cars and aircraft of all types, the management makes no secret of how important the various restaurants and bars on the premises are to Hanger 7’s identity. Ikarus, as the primary restaurant is called, has a new guest chef and menu every month, while visitors have three other dining choices offering spectacular interior design and views. The building also hosts an art gallery, with exhibitions often focusing on the museum’s technological slant.
The star of the show remains the museum’s collection of aircraft, including rare historical planes that allow the visitor to see how the art and science of aeronautics has evolved through the decades. The pilots and mechanics who curate the collection have extensive knowledge of their subject and frequently participate in air shows, not only in Salzburg but all over Europe.