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Published: Saturday, March 22, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Pacific Science Center displays gadgets a spy would love

  • The Pacific Science Center was built for the 1962 Seattle World's Fair as the U.S. Science Pavilion.

    Courtesy of Pacific Science Center

    The Pacific Science Center was built for the 1962 Seattle World's Fair as the U.S. Science Pavilion.

  • Assassination umbrella: In 1978, Bulgarian defector and BBC reporter Georgi Markov was waiting for a bus in London when he felt a sharp sting. He didn...

    Courtesy of Pacific Science Center

    Assassination umbrella: In 1978, Bulgarian defector and BBC reporter Georgi Markov was waiting for a bus in London when he felt a sharp sting. He didn’t know it, but a Bulgarian agent, codenamed “Picadilly,” had fired a poison ricin pellet into his leg with a specialized umbrella. Markov died four days later.

  • Robot fish “Charlie”: This remote-controlled robotic catfish was spawned in the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology. The goal was to explore t...

    Courtesy of Pacific Science Center

    Robot fish “Charlie”: This remote-controlled robotic catfish was spawned in the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology. The goal was to explore the use of unmanned underwater vehicles for aquatic missions. Charlie swims in a realistic manner thanks to a pressure hull and ballast system in its body and a propulsion system in its tail.

  • CIA pigeon camera: The CIA developed this pigeon camera in the 1970s. The idea was to exploit the pigeon’s ability to fly close to targets, potentiall...

    Courtesy of Pacific Science Center

    CIA pigeon camera: The CIA developed this pigeon camera in the 1970s. The idea was to exploit the pigeon’s ability to fly close to targets, potentially yielding more detailed pictures than spy planes and satellites of the time.

  • Shoe bug: In the 1960s, the U.S. ambassador to Czechoslovakia ordered a new pair of shoes from America. The Czech intelligence service intercepted the...

    Courtesy of Pacific Science Center

    Shoe bug: In the 1960s, the U.S. ambassador to Czechoslovakia ordered a new pair of shoes from America. The Czech intelligence service intercepted the shipment and secretly planted a listening device in the heel.

That poison umbrella.
It's the real thing.
So, too, is the Enigma cipher machine used by Nazi Germany to encrypt and decipher messages, later broken by the Allies during World War II, and a spy camera for pigeons invented by the CIA.
You can see these items up close and personal — well, not too personal — at "Spy: The Secret World of Espionage" at Pacific Science Center.
"These are the real items," said Diana Johns, the science center's vice president of exhibits. "What people are seeing are actual gadgets used in this country and other places."
There are about 250 tools-of-the trade used by spies and spy catchers at the exhibit that opens March 29 and continues through Sept. 1.
Many items are from the CIA, FBI, NRC (National Reconnaissance Office) and the collection of H. Keith Melton, author of "The Ultimate Spy" and the forthcoming "Spy's Guide to New York City."
"One of the interesting things: A lot of the technologies are pretty old," Johns said. "We just didn't know about them for a long time. People will be surprised at how sophisticated a lot of this stuff was even as long ago as World War II.
"These led to things we take for granted every day, such as satellites that allowed us in this case to see what the Soviets were doing. The satellite phone is a precursor to something like smartphones," Johns said.
Interactive displays in the spy exhibit tell stories through technologies and testimonials.
Access into the secret world of espionage isn't limited to the exhibit.
Children can have spy-themed birthday parties at the center where guests create an agent identity and use tools to reveal secret clues hidden in plain sight.
At special happy hours, adults can become a 007 agent for the evening and dance the night away with the hottest and coolest secret agents in town.
Make sure to order that martini shaken, not stirred.
Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com
Spy events
For adults, 21 and over:
"Brews and Clues: Tapping the IPL," 7 to 10 p.m. March 29. Tickets are $40 and include unlimited tastings from Pyramid Breweries and a souvenir pint glass.
"STEM: Science Uncorked," 7 to 10 p.m. April 24. Explore the science of wine straight from the vine. Find out why wine glasses come in different shapes and sizes. Learn about the chemistry of wine and the proper technique for smelling your wine before tasting. Tickets are $45 and include unlimited tastings and a souvenir wine glass.
Children's birthday parties: In addition to espionage, themes include astronomy, dinosaurs, bugs and butterflies, spa lab and weird science. Guests can tour the center after the party.
If you go
The Pacific Science Center began as the U.S. Science Pavilion during the 1962 Seattle World's Fair.
The six-acre museum near the Space Needle at 200 Second Ave. N., has hands-on science exhibits, IMAX theaters, a tropical butterfly house, science-related shows, discovery carts, a laser dome and a planetarium.
Events include summer camps, parties and parents' night out.
Admission: "Spy: The Secret World of Espionage" includes access to the center's permanent exhibits. Tickets are $29 adult; $27 senior; youth are $16 to $21.
The center is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
For more information, call 800-664-8775. Tickets are also available to purchase at the box office or at www.pacificsciencecenter.org.

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