The World's Best Places to See Science in Action

From bird-built bachelor pads, to a 2,000-year-old pill, to a city filled with self-driving vehicles, here are 8 spots where discovery is happening in real time.

By Mara Grunbaum, Will Hunt, Victoria Tang|Monday, February 21, 2011

From a lush Australian coastline to an ancient seabed in Kansas, the research behind the year’s top 100 stories extends far and wide. But why let the scientists have all the fun? Here we present a selection of places where enterprising travelers can experience some of the discoveries for themselves.

#38 Guatemala City’s Sinkhole 
 To witness the phenomenon of sinkholes, you need go no farther than Florida; abundant shallow limestone deposits and a wet climate make the state one of the most sinkhole-ridden places in the world. At Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park, travel back in time while descending 120 feet into a bowl-shaped sinkhole. Hike to Cherokee Sink, a water-filled sinkhole at Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park. Or scuba dive into Leon Sinks Geological Area and explore more than 30 miles of subaquatic caves. Nearest airport: Jacksonville or Tallahassee —Will Hunt

#50 Giant Prehistoric 
Filter Feeder 
 The 75-million-year-old remains of the massive Bonnerichthys are in the collection of the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays, Kansas. The jumbled bones, still nestled in sediment, include the fish’s ribs, fins, and skull. The fossil is currently accessible to the public only upon request, but the museum’s curators hope to have it on display by early 2011. The museum also features other creatures that shared the oceans with this filter feeder. Nearest airport: Wichita  —Victoria Tang

#52 The Large Hadron Collider  While the Large Hadron Collider is at work smashing protons to help physicists understand dark matter and other mysteries of the universe, you can visit CERN, the organization masterminding the operation. The 
$10 billion collider itself is off-limits, housed some 300 feet below the Swiss-French border in a 17-mile-long tunnel, but a free half-day tour includes a film, a short lecture, and a visit to an aboveground accelerator. Nearest airport: Geneva  —W.H.

#53 Two-Thousand-Year-Old Pill
  The medical kit salvaged from an ancient Greek shipwreck is among many Mediterranean treasures housed at the Archaeological Museum of the Territory of Populonia in Piombino, Italy. The museum traces the coastal region’s history with exhibits of ancient ceramic vases; antique gold, silver, and bronze coins; and a sixth-century b.c. reconstruction of an Etruscan banquet hall. Piombino is a short train ride from Rome or Pisa, and a ferry will take you to beautiful Elba Island, where Napoleon lived out his exile. Nearest airport: Pisa  —Mara Grunbaum

#86 Great Australian Bowerbirds 
 Examine the elaborate courts that bowerbirds build to seduce mates during a visit to Townsville on Australia’s northeastern coast. Just after July, the birds openly decorate their courts with stones, bones, shells, and man-made objects found around town. Or drop by during the mating season, from September to December, to see the males wooing the ladies. With patience, discretion, and a bit of luck, you may even observe a female swoon at the sight of a sufficiently grand bower. Nearest airport: Townsville  —W.H.

#93 Masdar City 
 Although Masdar City’s network of self-driving vehicles is not yet up to speed, you can drive a conventional car to the green city’s entrance and stroll around the first completed section. A few retail stores and places to eat are open in Masdar’s public squares, but the real attraction is the architecture, which combines Middle Eastern traditions with modern sustainable design. Check out the building facades based on traditional privacy screens and wind towers that cool outdoor plazas. Stay in neighboring Abu Dhabi for museums, gardens, and white-sand beaches. Nearest airport: Abu Dhabi  —M.G.

#94 Glacier Melt Check out these frozen giants up close in the glacier mecca of the United States: Alaska. At Glacier Bay National Park, behold vast tidewater glaciers from your kayak in the tranquil Muir Inlet. Or head to Kenai Fjords National Park, about 120 miles south of Anchorage, where a well-maintained trail takes you alongside the dramatic blue face of the Exit Glacier. Nearest airport: Juneau for Glacier Bay; Anchorage for Kenai  —W.H.

#98 Rocks of Death Valley  
To commune with the mysterious boulders of Death Valley National Park, which seem to move on their own, hop in a four-wheel drive and cruise over to Racetrack Playa, a dry lake bed about three miles long and two miles wide. On the north end is a rock formation called the Grandstand, where spectators can view the scooting rocks and furrows left in their wake. The park has nine campgrounds for extended stays. Nearest airport: Las Vegas  —V.T.

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