Posted by: pterofd | November 30, 2009

Wind tunnel vs General public

The “day of the open door,” or Tag der Offenen Tür, is an important event for the SMNK and is one of the main times in the year when the general public get to have a look at what actually goes on in a museum behind closed doors.

For us this was an oppertunity to give the public a short tour around the wind tunnel complex at the KIT (formally University of Karlsruhe) and explain in detail exactly what we are trying to do and why shoving model pterosaurs into an air flow was actually important.

Torsten giving an explanation on how the wind tunnel is set up and actually works.

This involved a series of talks about how the tunnel was set up and how it actually worked, as well as discussing how the models were built and what we hoped to achieve next as part of the project.


Naturally its difficult to imagine the forces acting on the models when they are fixed in the wind tunnel and so for the last portion of the tour we let a number of willing volunteers take a model and walk into the working section with the air flow on. The results of this were quite amusing but i think that by the end of this everyone had an appreciation of what we were trying to measure and, if nothing else, had a fun time struggling to keep their footing (see below).

Some members of the public experience what it was like to be a pterosaur in a 10ms head wind.

With the largest wing span of any of our models, Coloborhynchus proved a popular choice although a little more work was required to stop it carrying the younger members of the group downstream.

All in all the tour of the wind tunnel facilities was quite sucessful and everyone enjoyed themselves – well worth the long walk in the rain to see.

Events such as these are becoming increasingly important to all project workers at the SMNK as we try to make as many of our research programs visible to the general public and educate people as to what actually happens at their local museum. For many this is quite an eye opening experience as they have little idea that modern museums participate in activities beyond guiding tours of school children around rows of stuffed animals.

The Tag der Offenen Tür thus represents an important event were we as academics are given the possibility to engage with the public and explain and discuss what modern natural science is about. Scientists shouldn’t confine themselves to their “ivory towers” and interacting with the public in this way in as beneficial to us as academics as it it to those who give up some of their weekend to see what we have to say.




  1. wow!
    Where was I?! I’ll have to note the next one… I’m not that far away. Looks like great fun!

  2. (And – can we get close-ups of that Coloborhynchus?)

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