The Science of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! at The Great Lakes Science Center

Ripley's Great Lakes Science Center

My family loves The Great Lakes Science Center.  We have been members for the past 5 years and frequent the museum often. The Science of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is my absolute favorite special exhibition that the Science Center has ever brought to Cleveland, and they have brought some pretty fabulous special exhibitions. I took my 5-year-old one Friday afternoon expecting to see the exhibit and then visit our favorite parts of the science center in 90 minutes. To my surprise we were both so engrossed in The Science of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! that we had to rush through the second half of the exhibition. It is so engaging!

Albert Einstein Toast

Albert Einstein Toast Art

There are a few smaller displays before you enter into the main exhibition, such as this portrait of Albert Einstein made using 110 slices of bread, toasters, knives, and a blowtorch. There is also the “Flying Saucer” car (a car so small it can fit an a standard elevator, yet seats two adults), a giant chair (located upstairs), and a python made of 300 pounds of recycled metal washers. These displays help set the stage for the wonder inside the exhibition.

The Science of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is loosely divided into six sections: Extreme Biology, The Wonderful World of Ripley, Weird World, Cultural Practices, Gallery of the Unexpected, and Perceptions and Illusions. My 5-year-old definitely liked Extreme Biology the best. I was most intrigued by Perceptions and Illusions.

Two-faced calf ripleys

Two-faced calf

We started with Extreme Biology and saw some of the most extreme animals ever to live. The best part was, that you didn’t just view these animals but you learned about the biology behind their appearance through interactive displays. The displays not only boasted videos of the animals while they were alive, but taught you about the cellular processes that brought about their unique development. You also learn how genetic mutations can sometimes be beneficial to a species.


Worlds Smallest Animals Scavenger Hunt


How many of the worlds smallest animals can you spot?

Another highlight of Extreme Biology is the World’s Smallest Scavenger Hunt where you get to hunt for some of the worlds smallest animals hidden around a typical desk. My daughter loved finding the animals then flipping the cards next to the desk to learn more about them.

Extreme biology also includes a life-size model of Robert Waldow, the world’s tallest man.  This was the only exhibit that my daughter did not like. She was slightly frightened when the incredibly realistic model stood up and towered over her at 8’11” tall. However, she was amazed at the size of his shoes!

My 5-year-old also enjoyed crawling through the life-sized model of the titanoboa, the largest snake to ever live. We learned about snakes of today and viewed an anaconda skin. It was also fun to look at X-rays of some unfortunate snakes and trying to figure out what they had swallowed


Enough said!

The next area we explored was The Wierd World which was also extremely engaging. My daughter loved trying to beat me at Amazing Adaptations, a trivia game about our planet. There is also an extensive paleontology exhibit that includes fossils (including some poop from the past) models of dinosaur skulls, and dinosaur eggs. Stepping inside the Megalodon Shark jaw really brought home the size of this enormous pre-historic shark.

We also learn about some animals that emerged after the dinosaurs such as the elephant bird, which was the heaviest birds that ever lived and disappeared in the 1600s, and sabor-toothed cats.


Elephant Bird Skeleton

The Weird World also includes an area to learn about a crystal cave and why the same conditions that allow the crystals to grow are also harmful to humans. You can climb inside a replica of a cooling suit used by scientists to explore such caves. This is one of the many fabulous photo opportunities in the exhibition.

You can also touch a real iron meteorite and compare it with granite found on earth as you learn about how an meteorite’s impact affects our planet. A meterorite from Mars is also viewable.


Mr. Ripley began his career as a cartoonist.

The next area we explored was the Wonderful World of Mr. Ripley. I loved looking at some of the old Ripley comics that I remember from my childhood. Near the end of the exhibition there are some of Ripley’s cartoons featuring the city of Cleveland.You can sit next to an old-fashioned radio and listen to segments of Mr. Ripley’s radio show. Some of the artifacts that Mr. Ripley collected from around the globe are also on display. This was probably the least interactive of all the sections, and my 5-year-old’s least favorite, but I observed many older kids and adults spending a great amount of time exploring this area.


Learn about entomophagy at the Bug Bistro

In Cultural Practices, we spent a lot of time at the Bug Bistro. My daughter became an expert in entomophagy, the practice of eating bugs, with this interactive food truck. Did you know that entomophagy is both nutritious and environmentally friendly? The Bug Bistro even claims it is delicious.

We also learned about the science behind sword swallowing and touched an actual sword used by a famous sword swallower.


Sword swallowing is not a trick!


I feel like no Ripley exhibit would be complete without a shrunken head. Of course, this exhibit goes far beyond the theatrical display. You learn about the science behind this practice as well as the cultural beliefs associated with it.

You also learn about different types of body modification from around the world. My daughter loved learning about why a temporary tattoo is removable while other tattoos are not.


Insect sculptures made from human hair

The Gallery of the Unexpected is much more viewing with a little less interaction. However, my 5-year-old found this part fascinating. It is one of those exhibits that makes you just think Why? There are tiny sculpture that sit in the eye of a needle that you view through microscopes, insect sculptures made from human hair, a Rolls Royce made out of matchsticks, phone book sculptures, and more.

My favorite area is Perceptions and Illusions. First there is no joy like that of a child dancing front of a screen watching her computer-generated “shadow” dance with her in bright, changing colors. I must admit. I had to join in the action as well.


Illusions are Fun – and sometimes a little creepy

There are also interactive optical illusions as well as an auditory illusion. Have you ever heard of the McGurk Effect? Visit the exhibit to find out. It will blow you away!

Obviously, we loved this special exhibition. I can’t wait to share it with my older 3 kids as well. One of the best things about the exhibit is that admission is included in your admission to the Great Lakes Science Center. The Science of Ripley’s Believe It or Not is in Cleveland until April 24, 2016. You definitely don’t want to miss it!


Four-legged Chicken from the Science of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

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