Catherine the Great started it all. Back in 1750, engineers designed a wooden-frame ice slide so that the thrill-seeking Russian ruler could sled year-round. A French engineer later turned the invention into the roller coaster, replacing the sled runners with wheels and laying down track instead of ice. More than 200 years later, we're still scaring ourselves silly, and the IMAX film Thrill Ride -- The Science of Fun brings audiences up to speed. Beginning with Catherine, the 40-minute movie works its way up to today's virtual rides, in which computers fool the eyes while hydraulic seats toss bodies around. In between the archival drawings of the old roller coasters and behind-the-scenes glimpses of a graphics studio, the movie takes viewers for a ride -- a total of 12 minutes spent plunging down hills and dodging asteroids. The IMAX theater seats stay still, but the images on the gigantic screen may be enough to turn some viewers green. Thrill Ride opens today at the Museum of Discovery and Science, 401 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale. Ticket prices range from $7 to $9. For a schedule see "Showtimes" or call 954-467-6637.
If you've had your fill of ooohing and aaahing at fireworks, why not spend the Fourth checking out a show that sounds as if it celebrates another holiday? Actually, The Last Supper shares only its title with the famous pre-Easter meal. In the one-man, musical-comedy production of songs and skits, Artie Butler stars as Lenny Fields, an insurance salesman from Flatbush who has been directed by God to stage a Broadway show about a fat farm called the Velvet Door. As Fields, the rotund Butler opens the show singing the title song -- an ode to fattening foods. He also plays other characters, including Angelo, the Velvet Door employee who runs an underground snack bar. The Last Supper continues through July 19 at the Hollywood Playhouse, 2640 Washington Ave., Hollywood. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. Tickets cost $26. Call 954-922-0404.
In the Black Lab song "Throw It Away," the group's frontman Paul Durham warbles about "wasted years" -- a subject with which he's well-acquainted. "The characters in my songs are immersed in trying to find redemption, usually from the experience of loss," he explains. "They are trying to find some meaning in it, find resolution and transcendence." Durham's success with Black Lab is the end of his own long search. Raised by a Buddhist mother in Twin Falls, Idaho, he was constantly searching for a place where he could fit in. Relief arrived when he was a student at Oberlin College, where he wrote a thesis on Nietzsche. The German philosopher recognized college as a place where one studies life but encouraged readers to actually get out there and live it. Durham, who'd been writing songs most of his life, realized that music was what he was supposed to be doing. So, after graduating he moved to Berkeley and started recording demos. A few years later, in 1995, he formed Black Lab, which performs today at ZetaFest. The music festival will also include performances by the Black Crowes, Stabbing Westward, Semisonic, Candlebox, and Seven Mary Three. Local bands will perform on a separate Florida Stage. The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Markham Park, 16001 W. State Rd. 84, Sunrise. Tickets cost $13. Call 954-426-4600.
Any parent will tell you it's a kid's favorite question: "Why?" And now moms and dads can answer a bunch of whys at once with a trip to the new South Florida Science Museum exhibit "Odyssey of Wonders." The show lets viewers explore scientific phenomena such as gravity, rainbows, snowflakes, time, and color by conducting experiments. Balancing a "tricky stick" on one hand, for example, kids will learn about center of gravity. They'll also form rainbows with water droplets and light and partake in any of the 23 other hands-on learning activities. "Odyssey" continues through September 13 at the museum, 4801 Dreher Trl. N., West Palm Beach. Admission is $3 to $5. Call 561-832-1988.