Wondermind: Where art and science meet

One of the Wondermind games has Alice use mirrors to navigate light through a maze and find the Cheshire Cat. (Wondermind screenshot)

Lacey Mason, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – It seems there are two types of people: those good at art and those good at science. But today’s weird and wonderful Website of the Week brings them together.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what Wondermind is all about – and maybe that’s because it’s not about one thing. According to the UK-based site, “Wondermind is about a few things. It’s about the brilliant, amazing and truly mind-boggling stuff that’s going on inside your brain as you grow.”

By using art based on “Alice in Wonderland” – specifically an exhibit that showed at Tate Liverpool through January 2012 – and meshing it with science, the mission of those behind the site is to show that anyone can be good at both. But, if you’re looking for specific answers as to the “hows” and “whys” of this site – you won’t find them. Vague and mysterious seem to be Wondermind’s schtick – but I kinda like it.

On the homepage, the interactive site plays a quiet lullaby and shows a colorful map, with young Alice in the corner, waiting for you to make a selection.

The map is divided into four sections that respond with sound effects and animation when you scroll over them: The Hedge Maze, The Forest, The Tea Party and The Garden.

When you make your selection, be ready to read. The intro text flashes on the screen for just a few seconds. If you’re not looking, you’ll miss it.

I don’t want to ruin the surprise of the games – so we’ll just talk about one.

In The Hedge Maze, Alice needs to use mirrors and light to navigate through a maze in order to shine the beam on a sleeping Cheshire Cat. The maze becomes more complicated as the levels continue: There are more mirrors and the time speeds up.

I couldn’t make it past the third level – it’s ticking quickly! But, then again, I don’t have a “science brain.”

At the end, a woman appears on the screen to say, “This game was all about moving around spaces, understanding spaces and how to move around them. Click on the button and we’ll tell you more.” She then encourages you to continue on to a video.

In this section your hosts, a man and a woman, talk about how your brain works and educate you on the hippocampus. Not sure what that is? You’ll have to play the game to learn more. But I can tell you this: It’s not a sub-Saharan African mammal.

Speaking of animals, Wondermind also features several blogs that use themes from “Alice in Wonderland” combined with science. Animals make up most of the characters in Alice’s adventures. Two of my favorite Wondermind pieces are “Do animals understand language?” and “When is a tail a tale?

Unfortunately, no new blogs have been posted since late last year, just before the British exhibition ended in January of this year. But they still stand on their own.

Meanwhile, as you explore, always remember:

“Alice came to a fork in the road. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked.

‘Where do you want to go?’ responded the Cheshire Cat.

‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered.

‘Then,’ said the Cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.'”

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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