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Grand Rapids Public Museum looks inside brain, shows off subatomic discoveries

New exhibit provides a hands‑on and up‑close look at the human body’s most essential and fascinating organ. A brand new original production in the Chaffee Planetarium opens October 21, 2017, taking visitors through the discovery of the Higgs boson, a scientific quest solved in our lifetime.
Subatomic particle explosion

Subatomic particle explosion /Courtesy of the Grand Rapids Public Museum

Underwriting support from:
Brain research

Brain research /Courtesy of the Grand Rapids Public Museum

Brain: The World Inside Your Head

Now open at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, Brain: The World Inside Your Head, takes you literally inside the head! Probe the geography of a giant brain and stand in the midst of the brain’s constant electrical brainstorm as thoughts and sensations are generated.

This fascinating exhibit provides a hands‑on and up‑close look at the human body’s most essential and fascinating organ by exploring its development, geography and function. Upon entry into the exhibit, walk through a shimmering tunnel of flashing fiber-optics that illuminates networks of neurons firing and communicating. 

From this dynamic beginning, Brain invites guests deeper into the brain to discover its basic workings. Trace brain development from infancy through old age, learn the evolution of scientists’ understanding of the brain’s physiology and study the re-created skull of Phineas Gage — a man who survived after his brain was pierced by a metal rod.

"Brain: World Inside Your Head is a great way for all ages to be hands-on in learning about our brains!" said Kate Moore, Vice President of Marketing & PR at the GRPM. "As the hub of science for West Michigan, we are offering an inside look at the anatomy of our heads and information on brain health."

Admission to Brain: The World Inside Your Head is free with general admission to the GRPM. The Museum offers reduced general admission for Kent County adults and free for Kent County children. Brain: The World Inside Your Head is open through January 7, 2018.

SUBATOMIC - New Planetarium Show

This Saturday, October 21, 2017 the Grand Rapids Public Museum will open a brand new original production in the Chaffee Planetarium - Subatomic - taking visitors through the discovery of the Higgs boson, a scientific quest solved in our lifetime.

In 2012, after a 48-year search and the construction of the world’s largest machine, more than 10,000 physicists celebrated the discovery of the Higgs boson, an elusive subatomic particle crucial to physics and existence itself. Learn more about this important discovery, and how it fits into humanity’s quest for unraveling the secrets of the universe.

Subatomic includes a live, interactive portion, as well as a produced portion totally 30 minutes in length. The show ties in directly with a new hands-on experience just outside the Chaffee Planetarium to demonstrate the concepts highlighted in the show. 

For scientific accuracy, the Museum worked with academic advisors Dr. Jacob Bourjaily, theoretical physicist at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen., Dr. Brian Winer, Chair and Professor of Physics at The Ohio State University, and Dr. Reinhard Schwienhorst, physics professor at Michigan State University. Numerous interns and staff helped produce the show with assistance from Kendall College of Art and Design for audio and sound editing. Subatomic is narrated by Grand Rapids’ own Adrian Butler.

"It is exciting to be part of a project like this" said Prof. Brian Winer, of The Ohio State University. "I was pleased to be one of the many experts the Museum worked with for the development of this show, which undoubtedly covers one of the important scientific discoveries in our lifetime - the Higgs boson. This show is a great way to bring a complex idea involving physics to the general public.”

The Museum also partnered with Dr. Mira Krishnan and Hope Network at the beginning of the show’s development, discussing the creation of an experience that would resonate for children with autism. Dr. Krishnan made recommendations for how the GRPM could visually enhance the show for these unique learners. As a consequence, a shorter show was developed, with some specialized graphics to emphasize complex scientific concepts in different ways, a live presentation was created to complement and reinforce the show, and hands-on activities were developed for students and Museum visitors to learn more scientific concepts in kinesthetic ways outside of the planetarium.

"I first approached the Museum looking for ways to make our community more accessible to people with differences. I was really overwhelmed with the Museum’s support for this,” said Dr. Mira Krishnan, a clinical neuropsychologist. “The Museum’s focus on universal design gave us a really common language to make Subatomic more autism and learning difference friendly. Beyond that, I did applied physics before I became a psychologist, so being a part of this particular project is an amazing dream come true for me, because it brings together so many of my passions

“This project has a great story,” said Dale Robertson, President and CEO of the Grand Rapids Public Museum. “From the very beginning, we were working with Dr. Krishnan to make this an experience that could be enjoyed by all audiences. We then brought in scientists – two of whom grew up in Grand Rapids - to consult on the content of the project. The group then took a very complex idea, physics and the discovery of a subatomic particle, and made it accessible for all learners. This is all part of our effort to embrace universal design for learning in the Planetarium and throughout the Museum.”

Planetarium shows are $4 with general admission and $5 for planetarium only. Museum members receive free admission to planetarium shows. For additional information on the Chaffee Planetarium or to view the full schedule, visit

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