Laughter experiment at the Science Museum. Credit: Science Museum.

What makes you laugh and cry?

Professor Sophie Scott explains her latest experiment at the museum, exploring the science behind laughter. 

Last year, we had a mouse somewhere in our flat, and we were all stressing out about it a bit. I was at home on my own when I thought I felt something running over my foot. It was a hair pin falling out of my hair, but before I had realized this, I screamed out loud. I screamed loud enough and long enough for me to have time to think things like “Why am I screaming?”, “I am not afraid of mice” and “Pretty sure that was a hairpin”.

The really interesting part of the mouse incident was that my scream was involuntary – I really did not mean to do this (there’s a great example here). Involuntary vocalizations are produced via a neural system we share with other mammals, but a separate network in the brain controls speech. This speech network, which evolved much later, allows us to produce the complex movements which underlie speech and song and to do so voluntarily – we choose when to speak.

A spectrogram of the sentence “the house had nine rooms”. The horizontal axis is time, the vertical axis is frequency.  This shows the acoustic complexity of speech.

A spectrogram of the sentence “the house had nine rooms”. The horizontal axis is time, the vertical axis is frequency. This shows the acoustic complexity of speech. Credit: Sophie Scott

The older, involuntary system is associated with emotional vocalizations in humans – like my screaming or a cry of surprise. These emotional sounds (such as crying, screaming, laughing) are more like animal calls than they are like speech.

This shows laughter. Note how much less complex the sound is. Credit: Sophie Scott.

This shows laughter. The sound is much less complex than speech. Credit: Sophie Scott.

This shows a spectrogram of a cat meowing. As with the laughter, we can see  spectral structure but this does not vary much over time. Credit: Sophie Scott.

This shows a spectrogram of a cat meowing. As with the laughter, we can see spectral structure but this does not vary much over time. Credit: Sophie Scott.

Our more recent voluntary system is associated with speech and song (and other vocal skills such as beatboxing). If this system is damaged, for example, due to a stroke, people can be left with aphasia – a persistent problem with talking. They very often can still make emotional noises, such as laughing, suggesting that the stroke has not damaged this older pathway.

For my research, we are studying what it means to make voluntary and involuntary vocalizations – for example, laughter is used a great deal during conversational speech. Even babies use emotional expressions like crying and laughter in extremely sophisticated ways.

This all suggests that there may be both voluntary and involuntary kinds of emotional sounds. Are laughs and sobs produced in a voluntary or an involuntary fashion really different? How do they sound to us? How does this change as we age?

Laughter experiment at the Science Museum. Credit: Science Museum.

Laughter experiment at the Science Museum. Credit: Science Museum.

To help discover the answers to these questions, we are running an experiment at the Science Museum. We ask people to listen to ‘real’ and ‘posed’ laughter and sobbing sounds to find out how they sound to people. So if you are interested in knowing anything more about voices and emotion do please come along and take part in our research – we promise not to make you scream.

Equations in Action

Ben, an Explainer at the museum, looks at some of the equations in action in our Launchpad gallery.

In Launchpad, if there’s one scientist we can’t get enough of, it’s Sir Isaac Newton. Although he lived around 300 years ago, the influence of his brilliant ideas still pervade many of our interactive exhibits and, if asked to name a famous scientist, his name is never far from people’s lips. A true giant of maths and physics, it wasn’t until Einstein that scientists found a different set of shoulders to stand on in order to see further.

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Portrait of Sir Isaac Newton Image credit: Science Museum/SSPL

Much could be said about his work in optics (he named the spectrum, for example) or his work in aiding the entry of pets into the home (supposedly, he invented the cat flap), but it is his work into classical mechanics that we constantly refer to in Launchpad, i.e. how stuff moves.

The Water Rocket is a perfect example of his laws of motion. In this hourly demonstration, a mixture of air and water is pumped into a plastic bottle, leading to an increase in pressure inside the bottle, so that, when the launch button is pressed, the “rocket” speeds down a track at up to forty miles an hour.

It is Newton’s third law of motion that is most obviously in evidence here: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. When the air and water fly out of the end of the bottle with a certain force, this pushes the rocket in the opposite direction with an equal force.

Newton’s second law (The force moving an object is equal to its mass multiplied by its acceleration, or F=ma) sneaks in too, as the fact that the bottle is lighter than the ejected air and water means that it undergoes a greater acceleration from the same force, and so it flies further and faster down the track.

All of these laws, as well as many other scientific ideas, were written down by Newton in his impressively named book, Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica. This book (understandably often shortened to simply Principia) was written entirely in Latin, as was the style at the time, and was published in 1687. And there is a copy in the Science Museum, in the Cosmos & Culture gallery.

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Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica Image Credit: Science Museum/SSPL

It is difficult to appreciate how important this book was to the world of science. As well as being ground breaking to physics, it also introduced the world to mathematics involving calculus. Rarely has a book been packed with so much!

Although there are controversies surrounding Newton and his work, particularly regarding his treatment of contemporary scientists Hooke and Leibniz, there can be little doubt that the impact he had on physics deserves recognition. So go and see the book in which the principles were all written down and then go to Launchpad and see this exciting physics in action.

If you are a teacher planning a visit to Launchpad with your students, you can find out more information here

Hooke’s illustration in Micrographia, 1665. © Science Museum/SSPL

The Micrographia Microscope

Jane Desborough, Associate Curator of Science explores our collection of Robert Hooke microscopes as we celebrate 350 years since the publication of a truly remarkable book. 

2015 is the 350th anniversary of the publication of Micrographia by Robert Hooke.  A contemporary of Sir Isaac Newton, Hooke was Curator of Experiments at the Royal Society and Professor of Geometry at Gresham College. In January 1665, Samuel Pepys described Micrographia as “…the most ingenious book that ever I read in my life….”

Illustration of a flea in Micrographia by Robert Hooke. © Science Museum / SSPL

Illustration of a flea in Micrographia by Robert Hooke. © Science Museum / SSPL

Pepys’ enthusiasm was genuine. For many readers in the mid-seventeenth century this was the first time they had seen large-scale illustrations of tiny creatures from everyday life. These were beings such as fleas, mites and ants that appeared as specks to the naked eye, but were revealed by the microscope to be as intricate as larger animals.

Hooke’s illustration in Micrographia, 1665. © Science Museum/SSPL

Hooke’s illustration in Micrographia, 1665. © Science Museum/SSPL

One way of celebrating this anniversary is by presenting two modern copies of the microscope illustrated by Hooke in Micrographia. For me their existence represents our enduring fascination with both Hooke and the history of microscopy. The Science Museum’s Journeys of Invention app showcases a microscope believed to have belonged to Hooke in 1675, but this was not the one illustrated in Micrographia in 1665.

Microscope 1927-437 is part of the Science Museum’s permanent collection.  It was purchased in 1927 from Thomas Henry Court, who had a great interest in early scientific instruments and presented a large collection to the Museum in the 1930s.

Full-size reconstruction of Robert Hooke's compound microscope. © Science Museum/SSPL

Microscope 1927-437. A full-size reconstruction of Robert Hooke’s compound microscope. © Science Museum/SSPL

A memo written in May 1927 by a Curator at the Museum records a meeting with Court. In this document the microscope is described as a “…full-size copy of Robert Hooke’s original compound microscope as described in his ‘Micrographia’, 1665.”  According to Court, it was previously owned by Mayall.

We know that John Mayall made copies of seventeenth-century microscopes in the 1880s, which suggests that he may have made this one.  Mayall shared his deep interest in the history of the microscope in his Cantor Lectures (published in 1889).  Although a replica, this object is useful to us because, unlike the illustration, its three-dimensional form enables the viewer to rotate it and look at it from different angles.

Taken alongside Hooke’s words: “I make choice of some room that has only one window, on a table I place my microscope…”, we can imagine Hooke using it while making notes and illustrations of what he could see.

Microscope A601160 is part of the Wellcome collection and was made by W.G. Turner between 1901 and 1917, of whom no further information was found.  We do know that Turner, like Mayall, made a number of replicas of early microscopes.

Microscope A601160. © Science Museum

Microscope A601160. © Science Museum

Within the Wellcome collection are replicas of Campani’s microscope and two of Cherubin d’Orleans’ microscopes.  Although, not as ornate as microscope 1927-437, it is important as it represents a desire to understand Hooke’s work within the context of other seventeenth-century individuals such as Campani and Cherubin d’Orleans. It also suggests an attempt to compare the microscopes of England with those of Italy and France in the period.

For the authors of London’s Leonardo: The Life and Work of Robert Hooke, Bennett, Cooper, Hunter and Jardine, Hooke was immensely optimistic about the future and human capability. This was an important characteristic of the beginnings of modern science. I think it was this great enthusiasm and optimism, which later historians strove to get a glimpse of when they made and studied copies of Hooke’s microscopes. In this particular case replicas were not intended to deceive; they were made as an aid to thinking about early science.  

Dot Everyone

Baroness Martha Lane Fox, co-founder of Lastminute.com and chair of the digital skills charity, Go ON UK, delivered the 2015 Richard Dimbleby Lecture from the Information Age gallery at the Science Museum. This is an excerpt from her speech. 

We need a new national institution to lead an ambitious charge – to make us the most digital nation on the planet.

I don’t say this because I’m a fan of institutions. I say this because the values of the internet have always been a dialogue between private companies and public bodies. And right now the civic, public, non-commercial side of the equation needs a boost. It needs more weight.

Martha Lane Fox rehearsing for the 2015 Dimbleby Lecture at the Science Museum.

Martha Lane Fox rehearsing for the 2015 Dimbleby Lecture at the Science Museum.

We have an opportunity to make Britain brilliant at digital. We’ve been going too slow, being too incremental – in skills, in infrastructure, in public services. We need to be bolder.

A new institution could be the catalyst we need to shape the world we want to live in and Britain’s role in that world. Today, we’re letting big commercial technology platforms shape much of our digital lives, dominating the debate about everything from online privacy to how we build smart cities.

In fact, I probably wouldn’t call it an institution at all. This is no normal public body.

It’s time to balance the world of dot com so I would create DOT EVERYONE.

I would prioritise three areas, that I think best demonstrate the opportunities we should be grabbing with both hands: education, women and ethics.

Firstly, DOT EVERYONE has to help educate all of us, from all walks of life, about the internet. The internet is the organising principle of our age, touching all our lives, every day. As the late activist Aaron Swartz put it, “It’s not OK not to understand the Internet anymore”.

We need to make sure that those in power understand how the internet can help us redefine public services, improve the lives of the most vulnerable, bolster our economy. Leaders and legislators cannot lay claim to grasping the power and potential of the internet just because they’re on Twitter.

Crucially, we must ensure that no one is left behind; that the 10 million adults who can’t enjoy the benefits of being online because they lack basic digital skills, no longer miss out.

Secondly, DOT EVERYONE must put women at the heart of the technology sector. Currently there are fewer women in the digital sector than there are in Parliament.

Something that is for everyone should be built by everyone. Do you think that social media platforms would have done more to stop abuse if they had more women in senior positions? I do. And how about the Apple Health Kit that went to market without anything to do with periods? Building an awesome cohort of female coders, designers, creators would help make us the most digitally successful country on the planet and give us a real edge.

Finally, we should aim for a much more ambitious global role in unpicking the complex moral and ethical issues that the internet presents. For example, what are the implications of an internet embedded in your home appliances? Do children need online rights? What is an acceptable use of drones?

Our rule of law is respected the world over; we should be world-leading in answering these questions.

DOT EVERYONE is new – it won’t and shouldn’t feel familiar. No grey suits, no dusty buildings. It will be an independent organisation. It will have a strong mandate from government, but also from the public – we will be setting its agenda, we will be informing it and taking part in it. It might produce written reports but it would also prototype services. It should show what is possible when you put the internet at the heart of design.

We should be making sure that the original promises of the internet – openness, transparency, freedom and universality – are a protected national asset, as integral to our soft power as Adele, JK Rowling, Shakespeare, or even Downton Abbey.

Britain invented the BBC, the NHS – let’s not have a poverty of ambition – we can and should be inventing the definitive public institution for our digital age.

You can find out more about DOT EVERYONE here.

A new vision: the influence of early scientific photography

With a major new exhibition at the Museum exploring the fertile ground in photography where science and art meet, Co-curator of Revelations: Experiments in Photography Dr Ben Burbridge looks at how scientific endeavour has had a profound effect on the visual languages of art.

The new Media Space exhibition, Revelations: Experiments in Photography, tells the story of artists’ changing engagement with early scientific photography, tracking a path through modern, postmodern and contemporary photographic art.

The first room of the exhibition, entitled ‘Once Invisible’, draws on the rich holdings of the National Photography Collection and the Science Museum collections to explore how early scientific photographs expanded the field of vision during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

'Once Invisible', Revelations: Experiments in Photography at Media Space, Science Museum © Kate Elliott

‘Once Invisible’, Revelations: Experiments in Photography at Media Space, Science Museum © Kate Elliott

These photographs show the astronomically distant and microscopically small, reveal the nuances of rapid motion, and record the presence of invisible energy sources such as radiation and electricity.
After installing this part of the exhibition, it struck us once again how truly strange these images still seem, and quite how alien the world can appear within them.

Highlights include William Henry Fox Talbot’s exquisite photomicrographs, Arthur Worthington’s innovative use of flash to study the forms produced by splashes, Henri Becquerel’s photographs demonstrating the radioactivity of uranium salts, which border on abstraction and photographs by Étienne Jules Marey.

“Unlike Eadweard Muybridge, who had no interest in science, Étienne Jules Marey was a qualified doctor and there would have been no Italian Futurist movement without his extraordinary influence. Marey’s representation of locomotion and the movement of animals and human beings is wonderfully exhibited here – perhaps for the first time publicly. There are very few exhibitions where you can see his genius.” – Sir Jonathan Miller, speaking at the opening event for Revelations: Experiments in Photography

The pictures can be understood as both product and emblem of an extraordinary moment when new technologies changed experiences of the world in fundamental ways. They are best understood in relation to a wider technological landscape, which included the development of telegraphy, telephony and inter-continental rail travel.

The second room is entitled ‘The New Vision’. Here, visitors are presented with art photography made during a period spanning from the early twentieth century to 1979. It provides a rare opportunity to see iconic and lesser known works informed and inspired by the types of scientific imagery presented in Room 1.

The New Vision, Revelations: Experiments in Photography at Media Space, Science Museum © Kate Elliott

‘The New Vision’, Revelations: Experiments in Photography at Media Space, Science Museum © Kate Elliott

Drawing on numerous loans from museums in the USA and Europe, ‘The New Vision’ includes work by László Moholy-Nagy, Man Ray, Laure Albin-Guillot, Carl Strüwe, Alfred Erhardt, György Kepes, Harold Edgerton, Berenice Abbott and Hollis Frampton. Seeing these important works come out of shipping crates and onto the walls was a memorable experience.

Many of these artists were drawn to scientific photographs based on the formal principles they suggested, particularly the radically abstract language they made available. For some, the photographs were also symbols of broader changes to culture and society: in the scientific photographs, technology helped to reveal and record things that could not be seen by the naked eye. The abilities of man were surpassed by those of machines.

‘The New Vision’ maps a course through twentieth century art, revealing a gradual shift in the meaning of science and technology. Painted in crude terms, it signals those ways in which an initial enthusiasm gave way to pessimism and uncertainty during the period after the Second World War.

Entitled ‘After the Future’, the final room focuses on the resurgence of interest in the revelations of early scientific photography within areas of art photography today. It includes works by Walead Beshty, Ori Gersht, Sharon Harper, Joris Jansen, Idris Khan, Trevor Paglen, Sarah Pickering, Clare Strand and Hiroshi Sugimoto.

After the Future, Revelations: Experiments in Photography at Media Space, Science Museum © Kate Elliott

‘After the Future’, Revelations: Experiments in Photography at Media Space, Science Museum © Kate Elliott

By setting the contemporary work apart from that of the modernist artists in Room 2, we highlight the gap that separates our own moment from theirs, and the fact that the earlier photographic experiments no longer represent the vanguard of visual culture.

The exhibition thus concludes by posing a series of questions: If the early scientific photographs no longer symbolise the new, what do they mean for artists working today? And what should we make of the widespread interest in the earlier forms and techniques evident in the work of so many contemporary practitioners?

In reply, we point to the wider contexts that may have informed this ‘scientific turn’, particularly the rapid expansion of networked digital technologies, and the profound changes to photography and culture this has involved.

By reflecting on artists’ glance back to photography’s past, we hope to gauge something important about photography’s present.

Revelations: Experiments in Photography is at Media Space until 13 September 2015. Click here to book tickets. An accompanying book edited by Ben Burbridge, entitled Revelations and co-published with MACK, is available to buy online from the Science Museum Shop. The exhibition transfer to the National Media Museum, Bradford where it will run from 19 November 2015 to 7 February 2016.

Access All Areas: Family Events for Visually Impaired Visitors

Lucy Minshall- Pearson and Adam Boal from our Special Events Team write about developing a new series of events for families with children who are visually impaired.

In the Special Events Team we write, develop and present a large programme of events for families during school holidays and weekends. Our aim is to make the museum as accessible as possible. Part of this is running events like SIGNtific, where stories and workshops are presented in British Sign Language, and Early Birds, mornings where the museum opens early for families with children on the Autistic spectrum.

To build on the successes of our SIGNtific and Early Birds events, we wanted to improve visits for families with children who are visually impaired (VI). Having identified our target audience, we did as much research as we could about how to best tailor our events. We set out to talk to as many people as possible, sharing ideas, experiences, and best practice. We looked into how science is taught at schools for partially sighted and blind children, how organisations that work with partially sighted and blind children run workshops and activities, and we sought out the best events at other amazing museums and galleries. Suddenly every visit to an exhibition involved asking around ‘what activities do you do for families with visually impaired children?’, every visit to a website involved scouring their accessible events pages, every meeting with a fellow museum professional involved asking them about what they were doing for this audience.

Visitors enjoying our newly developed workshops

Visitors enjoying our newly developed workshops. Credit: Science Museum

Most of the programmes for blind and partially sighted people we found were aimed at adults not families. This made us redouble our efforts, and that’s when we met Barry Ginley, the Disability Access Manager from the V&A, and his lovely Guide Dog, Skye. He gave us training on working with people with visual impairments and information on the issues children with VI can face. He had us walk around the Museum blindfolded, an experience which helped us realise how much more aware we became of our surroundings; objects, people and the giant Rugby Tuning Coil all became potential hazards.

With the research done, the activities developed, and miniature tactile versions of Mars built we were finally ready and the date, 15 March was set, Mother’s day, a perfect day for family activities. The day included four events: a touch tour and audio described ‘Rocket Show’, a hands-on workshop called ‘Backpacking to Mars’, a touch table of Information Age gallery objects, and a tour of the Information Age gallery.

Visitors enjoying our newly developed workshops

Visitors enjoying our newly developed workshops
Credit: Science Museum

Did the families enjoy it? Would further events like this be welcome at the Science Museum? It is a resounding yes for both. The feedback we received was extremely positive which made all of the hard work worth it. If you are interested in attending one of our future events for families with blind and visually impaired children, please drop us an email at familyprogrammes@sciencemuseum.ac.uk saying you’d like to be added to our ‘VI mailing list’.

The Special Events Team will be running a programme of events for families over the Easter holiday.  We’re also staying open until 19.00 (last entry 18.15) every day during the Easter holiday, from 28 March 2015 – 12 April 2015, although our interactive galleries will be closing at 18.00. 

What Makes a Winner?

On 16 March 2015, the Longitude Prize brought together a range of speakers to discuss what makes a Longitude Prize winner in an event at the Science Museum.


The event was hosted by Steve Cross, UCL’s Head of Public Engagement and 2010 Joshua Phillips Award winner for Innovation in Science Engagement. The speakers and panellists included:

·         Roger Highfield, Director of External Affairs at the Science Museum and Longitude Prize Committee Chair
·         Prof Mike Sharland, Professor of Paediatric Infectious Diseases at St George’s University and Longitude Prize Advisory Panel member
·         Imran Khan, CEO British Science Association, Longitude Prize Committee member
·         Melissa Sterry, Renowned Futurist
·         Prof Chris Toumazou, Regius Professor of Engineering at Imperial College

The event covered a range of topics and there were some great questions for the panel from attendees. You can listen to audio from the event here.

Scientists Meet The Media 2015

By Sian Worsfold

The most eagerly-awaited science party of the season took place a few days ago in the Science Museum once again, after a gap of more than two decades.

The first was held in the museum in 1992 and, last Tuesday, the ‘Scientists meet the Media’ party  returned as a joint venture with the Royal Society and with the support of the Observer newspaper and Guardian Media Group.

The event brings together the great minds of science and science journalism and is a unique meeting of the most influential opinion formers and thinkers, including  researchers, museum STEM experts, Nobel laureates, science journalists and editors, best-selling authors and broadcasters.

Speeches to  the audience of several hundred were given by Ian Blatchford, SMG Director, Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, and John Mulholland, editor of The Observer.

Ian Blatchford took the opportunity at the party to announce the international physics journalism prize of the Institute of Physics and the STFC to Lisa Grossman of New Scientist, who had flown in from Boston.

To mark the approaching end of his presidency of the Royal Society, the museum’s Inventor in Residence Mark Champkins created a present for Sir Paul.

An engraved beer glass presented to Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society.

An engraved beer glass presented to Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society. Credit: Science Museum.

He designed an engraved beer glass with the help of fellow laureate Sir Tim Hunt and Roger Highfield of the museum to celebrate Sir Paul’s work on  Schizosaccharomyces pombe  yeast  that earned him the Nobel prize in 2001.

The glass was presented to Sir Paul by Dame Mary Archer, Chairmanof the Science Museum Group’s Board of Trustees.

To the delight of the audience, Highfield filled Sir Paul’s glass with champagne rather than millet (S. pombe) beer, an acquired taste.

An empathy experiment was also conducted on partygoers in the museum’s Information Age gallery by Prof Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire, who has carried out many experiments at the event over the decades.

You can read the tweets shared at the event here.

Chancellor and Sir James Dyson Announce New School of Design Engineering

Chancellor George Osborne today visited the Science Museum with Sir James Dyson who announced plans to create the Dyson School of Design Engineering at Imperial College London, basing it in the museum’s Post Office building.

The Chancellor (l), with Sir James Dyson and Science Museum Director Ian Blatchford (r). Credit: Science Museum.

The Chancellor (l), with Sir James Dyson and Science Museum Director Ian Blatchford (r). Credit: Science Museum.

The museum will use the proceeds from the sale of the building to Imperial to catalyse the biggest transformation in its history. In this way the sale will help the museum inspire the next generation of young scientists and engineers on whom the economy depends and who could go on to study at the Dyson School.

The new School has been made possible by a £12 million donation from the James Dyson Foundation. The Chancellor and Sir James were shown around the building by Science Museum Director, Ian Blatchford and Imperial Provost Professor James Stirling.

George Osborne, said: “Backing Britain’s world leading science, research and innovation is a key part of our long term economic plan.”

The Post Office Building is located next to the Science Museum and had been used by Royal Mail until last year as well as housing staff offices, which will be relocated to other parts of the South Kensington site.

The reinvestment of proceeds, approved by the Chancellor, will allow the Science Museum to invest more than £20 million in transforming around a third of the museum over the next five years. It will allow the museum to bring the standard of its buildings and infrastructure in line with the world-class visitor experience offered by new permanent galleries being created that include a new interactive gallery that will open in 2016 along with a new mathematics gallery as well as new medicine galleries due to open in 2019.

Ian Blatchford said: “Alongside the significant support we receive from our funders and DCMS, this investment will support bold plans for our museum to fire up the imagination of our million young visitors annually, inspiring a new generation of scientists and engineers. We hope many of them will aspire to study at the Dyson School. This is a win, win, win announcement for young people, our institutions and the UK economy which urgently needs more engineers to fuel growth.”

The Dyson School will teach a four year MEng course in Design Engineering with a curriculum, developed in partnership with Dyson engineers to give industry relevance, blending technical discipline with creativity.

James Dyson said: “We want to create engineers who are bold and commercially astute. They will use their skills, nurtured in the Dyson School, to develop future technology that will catalyse Britain’s economic growth.”

Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London, said: “Design combines the best of technical expertise with creativity and the Dyson School of Design Engineering is uniquely placed to bring these together in its student experience and research. Imperial and Dyson passionately share a vision for educating engineers to elicit innovative thinking and problem solving. The James Dyson Foundation’s generous donation, along with Dyson’s industrial expertise, gives us the opportunity to create a world-leading School for a new kind of engineer to design the future.”

Last year 450,000 young people visited the Science Museum on educational trips or benefit from its outreach programme, more than any other UK museum. Among 3.3 million visitors to the museum last year, around 1.7 million people visited in family groups.

Fireworks And Fun For British Science Week

To mark British Science Week, the Science Museum hosted a special event with the British Science Association for over 400 children from the Kids Company London Centres. Kids Company Team Leader Lycia reflects on a day of science based fun

Bang! Whizz! Pop! What a fabulous time we spent at the Science Museum earlier this week as we joined forces with the British Science Association to give a group of young people a wonderful day out to celebrate British Science Week.

Matthew Tosh entertains an audience of children from the Kids Company's London Centres in the Science Museum's IMAX theatre

Matthew Tosh entertains an audience of children from the Kids Company’s London Centres in the Science Museum’s IMAX theatre. Image credit: Megan Taylor

On arrival we were welcomed into the Museum’s famous Launchpad gallery, which we had entirely to ourselves and where the children were allowed to roam around playing on the various exhibits before being taken to the IMAX theatre for a special science show. The children adored exploring the Launchpad exhibits and the room buzzed with excitement with comments such as, “This is awesome!”, “I wish we could spend a week here!” and “I’m going to get my mum to take me back!”.

It was particularly wonderful to see the reactions of children who normally report to not liking science, enthralled by the mass of exciting experiments to explore.

We were then lead into the impressive IMAX theatre where we were greeted with soothing music and comfortable seats as one of the Science Museum’s Explainers gave a warm welcome to Matthew Tosh, our entertainer for the morning. For the next hour Matthew captured our attention from start to finish with an array of bangs, flashes and pops, all interspersed with digestible nuggets of fascinating science. His enthusiasm for his work was infectious and it was great to see the children listening attentively as he spoke about the importance of following career paths which excite them.

Matthew Tosh explains the science behind fireworks in his show in the Science Museum's IMAX. Image credit: Megan Taylor.

Matthew Tosh explains the science behind fireworks in his show in the Science Museum’s IMAX. Image credit: Megan Taylor.

After being dazzled by an incredible show, we left the IMAX feeling uplifted and inspired. On leaving the theatre, it was great to hear some of the comments from the children – “That was so good!”, and “I really want to be a scientist in the future!”

We wish to say a big thank you to the Science Museum and the BSA for such a memorable day.

British Science Week is a ten day programme of science, technology, engineering and maths events and activities across the UK for people of all ages and runs until Sunday 22 March.