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Imagine a world without pavement, paper or the pill

The traveling exhibition "101 Inventions that Change the World" opens Friday, June 14, at the Leonardo. Courtesy photo

By Scott D. Pierce

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Jun 12 2013 05:32PM
Updated Jun 13, 2013 04:09PM

What are the 101 inventions that changed the world?

Fire. Birth-control pills. Cellular phones. Light bulbs. Television. LEGO.


"Well, the list was chosen by a panel of eight advisers," said Bryton Sampson, a spokesman for The Leonardo, which is hosting the exhibition "101 Inventions That Changed the World" beginning Friday, June 14. "I can’t help but notice that one of them is Danish, and that might have played a role."

The exhibition, which is making its American debut at The Leonardo, is much more than just a list. The centerpiece is a multimedia presentation that’s like being inside a high-definition movie. There are 40 screens, horizontal and vertical, on which the story of those 101 inventions plays out. The system, dubbed SENSORY4, employs 40 high-def projectors, multichannel motion graphics and cinema-quality surround sound.

The producers, Grande Exhibitions, call it an "immersive display," which is an apt description.

"It’s pretty stunning," Sampson said. "Just calibrating all the AV — projectors, files, audio and all that — is a huge task. There are 6,000 video files."

The presentation runs about 40 minutes, and you can enter at any point.

"You might walk in and it’s on No. 82, and then you just stay until you’ve seen all of them," Sampson said.

Seeing the entire exhibit will take between one and two hours. In addition to the main multimedia gallery, "101 Inventions" includes an Inventors Den, where visitors experience specific inventions like maps, microscopes, paper and the electric motor through hands-on activities and touch screens.

And there is the Explore with LEGO room, where kids and former kids can put their inventive skills to use in a variety of challenges — simple machines, robotics, powered mechanisms, renewable energy and NX Robotics.

In keeping with The Leonardo’s mandate, the "101 Inventions" exhibit is aimed at visitors of all ages.

"Even really young kids who don’t quite understand the importance of the inventions will enjoy the scenery and the colors and the sounds, because it is such a sensory experience," Sampson said. "Everyone is going to get something different out of it. The big one for me is seeing the building blocks of the technology we have today."

For example, the smartphone isn’t on the list, but pretty much everything that goes into making a smartphone — including digital photography, email, Internet and wireless communications — is.

And there are inventions we take entirely for granted that changed the world we live in. Like macadam — aka blacktop.

"Without that, we wouldn’t be able to drive down the streets comfortably. We’d be driving on dirt roads," Sampson said. "This exhibit is a lot of fun, and it will make you think."

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