Neat facts about polar bears & penguins.

Last week I took my younger daughter to the Academy of Natural Sciences here in Philly. It is a nice museum. They have lots of old animals – some stuffed, some just bones. All very cool. They also have a new exhibit all about polar bears and penguins, appropriately called Ends of the Earth: From Polar Bears to Penguins. Since we were there on an afternoon, mid-week, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. Which was great. We got to try out all of the new exhibit stuff – lots of computer-interative features, quizzes, videos, and so on. They had a really neat game my daughter loved where you’d push a button and then hit light-up fish on a panel to reach a quota and “feed” your own baby penguin. We played against each other a couple times and of course I won. Mostly b/c I am 5 ft.10 and have super long arms, whereas my 4 yr old daughter is way short with short arms and the coordination of a 4 yr old. As the game is sort of like a light-up version of whack-a-mole (a game I rule as champion and always win at the carnivals), she was none too pleased, b/c she too enjoys a good mole whacking and is pretty darn competitive. Probably something to do with being a younger sibling. So afterward she asked me to join her and we won together, which was altogether more pleasant for her and still fun for me too.

At this new exhibit I learned a great many facts I was surprised I did not already know. I found this surprising since I consider myself a real naturalist type through and through, but who am I kidding. So I am here to tell you some of what I learned so that we may all be smarter together. Isn’t that nice? Yes it is.

Did you know that polar bears are not just big ass scary meat-eating creatures? Me neither. They also do have a gentler side. It is called being a Mommy polar bear. The Daddy polar bears are just the mean flesh-ripping fiercesome types you were imagining. But the moms are really nice – well at least to their young. And that is good. These nice polar bears (and the mean ones too) live only in the Arctic circle. That is at the North Pole for those of you not in the know, around Canada, Siberia, Greenland. Up north. Above here. I think those liars out there who talk about Santa Claus say he also lives at the north pole. But if that were true he would surely get eaten by a polar bear. B/c He is FAT. WAy fatter than those seals. And that huge red suit would just scream TENDER JUICY STEAK!! to a hungry polar bear. But we all know THERE IS NO SANTA. Oh, you didn’t? Oh. I am sorry. …Please stop crying.

Penguins only live in the southern hemisphere. WOW. I did not know this before I went to this exhibit. Sure I knew some penguins were from the southern part of South America – like the Humboldt penguins they have at the Philadelphia zoo, but for some reason the whole “they live ONLY in the Southern Hemisphere,” escaped me. the PAST 34 YEARS. Yes, I do feel dumb. If you think about it – it’s pretty simple. If they lived with the polar bears they would be completely wiped out by now. So they must live where there simply are no polar bears. They still have to contend with the insanely sinister sea lions, but no big furry white bears. Now I am smart.

Unfortunately I let my daughter talk me into taking the computerized knowledge quizzes before we had gone through much of the exhibit and of course I scored poorly. In fact, my daughter did better on those computer quizzes at the Academy of Natural Sciences than I did. And she is 4. I normally would have laughed and thought no more of it, EXCEPT THAT I CAUGHT the exhibit worker guy watching us and witnessing my stupidity. Initially I spied him standing behind us, then once he noticed I had noticed him watching he went and courteously stood behind a pole still watching, but at least being slightly more discreet. Not like when I caught my plumber checking out my butt – YEAH YOU KNOW HE WAS – but then he still charged us over $1800 and did not take off a deduction for his eyeball ass grabs, which you KNOW he should have. Anyway, the exhibit man came over to us later and was trying to explain some facts to me since he believed I was slow. Which I didn’t appreciate. When you have been outplayed on a quiz TWICE by a 4 yr old, an adult’s demoralizing condescension IS NOT WELCOME. Oh well. You will be glad to know I do not feel stupid anymore. Thanks to that great exhibit and the nosy exhibit guy, I will never forget the whole northern vs. southern hemisphere thing. And now, neither will you.