City_science_trail.jpgEureka You've foud the city science trail
Compare the streets around 1900 streetscape around Casselden Place with the streetscape in this trail, in terms of the technology that has infiltrated our 21st century lives.

Science Walking Trail


The trail is in the north-east corner of the city and has been put together with the assistance of the City of
Melbourne. It commences at the Gold Treasury Museum, adjacent to Parliament Station (see Figure 1.1), and finishes at Melbourne Museum next to the Royal Exhibition Building. It follows Melbourne’s Golden Mile Heritage Trail and is marked with brass markers in the footpath every 1.5 m. Along the way are 32 ‘science objects’ and seven ‘science activities’.

Enquires about Science by the Mile:

Science by the Mile is supported by the Department of Innovation, Industry & Regional Development.Fig 1.1. Science by the Mile Trail


1. Push button pedestrian crossing at Lansdowne Street

This crossing’s control device makes a noise as well as showing a green and a red man. Why does it do that? How many different sounds does it make? Can you mimic them?

2. A large fountain in Gordon Reserve

Do you know why the fountain was turned off for most of 2003? Why had Melbourne ‘run out‘ of water even after a few months of significant rain? What could we do about water shortages?

3. The float-valve in the base of the Stanford Fountain

When there is water in the fountain, how does the little black ball attached to the pipe in the fountain base control the flow of water? Is there anywhere in your own house where you might find one of these?

4. Security surveillance video camera on top of Parliament House

See if you can see any other surveillance cameras as you walk the trail. How many can you count? How does the council attempt to hide them?

5. *The screeching noise of trams rounding the Bourke Street corner
Listen to the noise the trams make as they round this corner. How would it be possible to prevent the tram wheels from making this noise?

6. Bluestone in footpaths, building foundations and bases for fences

Melbourne sits on one of the largest bluestone plateaus in the world. Bluestone is a volcanic rock, which is also known as basalt. Melbourne’s basalt originated in lava flows from small
volcanoes to the north of the city. Can you see any signs of air-pockets in the bluestone?

7. Golden Mile plaques showing brass surface has tarnished

Exposure to air (especially polluted air) causes brass to tarnish.

8. Cast iron picket fence

What is the difference between cast iron and wrought iron? Cast iron contains up to 5% carbon making it very hard, but brittle. Wrought iron contains a glass-like material. It resists corrosion and is more malleable, making it useful for outdoor furniture and porch railings. What causes corrosion? What does malleable mean? Why is it useful for wrought iron to be malleable?

9. Silhouettes of former buildings

Standing in front of this vacant site on the eastern side of Punch Lane, can you see any clues on the adjacent buildings that tell you that there was formerly a building here?

10. *Traffic light induction cables Lonsdale/Exhibition Street intersection

Do cars pressing on the rubber tapes cause the flow of electricity that triggers the lights? No, it is triggered by the induction effect of the metal in the cars moving over these live cables.

11. Overhead car parking vacancy sign

What might trigger a change in this parking space indicator?

12. Early pharmaceutical apparatus display – Exhibition Pharmacy

Years ago, chemists used instruments like these to make medicines. Nowadays chemists buy most of their medicines ready made. Do you have any implements like these in your kitchen and what are they used for?

13. Electronic parking ticket machine Spring Street

How many different functions does this meter perform?

14. Historic markings – bluestone slabs, edge of the Royal Society garden

What do you think these markings mean? Do you notice anything inherently wrong with the numbers written on the first and second stones?

15. Glacial boulder from Antarctica

Why do you think the Royal Society of Victoria has placed this boulder here ? Can you find any scratches on it caused by moving ice?

16. Horse drinking trough

In the 1880s, there were 20, 000 horses stabled in Melbourne City.

17. Outdoor weather station – Victoria Street

This site is near traffic and tall buildings. Would this affect any readings obtained here?

18. Possum guards on the trees in the Carlton Gardens

Why do some trees have possum guards on them and not others?

19. Trig point in Carlton Gardens (# 313 Q 4)

To what area of science do trig points belong? What is ‘trig’ short for?

20. Rain sensor switch for the Carlton Gardens irrigation system

Can you find the aerial shaped pole on the top of the green box. This is a device that detects rain or recent rain. It prevents the sprinkler system from coming on and watering unnecessarily.

21. *Moss growing on trees

Why does moss grow predominantly on the south side (not the north side) of trees in the Southern Hemisphere?

22. Anemometer to control operation of fountain

The little anemometer on the light pole just west of the fountain measures the wind speed, and turns the fountain off when the wind gets too strong. Why would the council want to do that?

23. Hochgurtel Fountain scientific reliefs

Fixed to the underside of the bowl at the top of this fountain are a number of reliefs (mouldings) depicting various areas of knowledge. Identify the two that relate to science.

24. Gold on the top of the Royal Exhibition Building dome

There are 14 square metres of gold on the top of the REB dome. How big an area is this? As big as a School desk, a car parking space or a school class room?

25. *Royal Exhibition Building dome

In the 1960s, the Royal Exhibition Building was one of Melbourne’s highest points and therefore housed the Tramways radio base station.

26. 1880s sandstone obelisk, SE corner, Royal Exhibition Building

Here’s a real science experiment still going on. Read about it on the plaque at the base.

27. Swipe card vehicle barrier, SE corner, Royal Exhibition Building

Science has enabled us to use alternative security measures and ways of controlling access. Look at the physical structures near the Nicholson Street car entrance. What has this swipe
card barrier replaced?

28. Statue featuring kangaroos in anatomically impossible poses

What is wrong with the way these kangaroos are sitting in this statue? Could dogs or cats sit this way?

29. *Colonial Square featuring early architectural building material

These old stone blocks were once part of one of the grandest buildings in the city. Read about them on the sign and see if you can determine which parts of the building they came from.

30. Expansion joints in the plaza’s concrete paving

Why do large areas of concrete like this have expansion joints? Why don’t large areas of asphalt have expansion joints?

31. Lighting projectors to illuminate the Royal Exhibition Building

The light bulbs in these projectors are not ordinary bulbs. They are 1,800 watt metal-halide bulbs. They create light by passing an electric charge through gas and metal particles. How do
ordinary light bulbs work?

32. Electronic entry sensors on Museum’s front doors

How do these overhead sensors know when somebody wants to come in? Would they trigger the doors for a dog or a cat?

For more information on the topics marked with an asterisk ’*’ visit the Melbourne Museum home page and place your key words in the search box

Alternatively, visit http// and place your keywords into the resource index search box.
For information about the Science by the Mile Trail, contact Justin Francis at Museum Victoria Tel. 8341 7388)