Monthly Archives: July 2011

People mixing up their bath bombs

Chemistry Lates

Chemistry was the key to this month’s Lates – the chemistry of bath products, warfare, alcohol and even luuurve…

As well as all the talks and tours (cockroaches included) you could make elemental fridge magnets and bath bombs to take home. The bath bombs looked like pink/green/blue porridge to start with, but looked much more appealing after they’d started to set.  

Elsewhere there were people wandering around clutching huge bubbles full of cloudy carbon dioxide or throwing crazy shapes in the Space gallery to the music that only they could hear. You meet all sorts at Lates…

Check out Patu Tinfinger’s beautiful pictures of the evening: 

We also had a little experiment with a smartphone app called SCVNGR that gives you points for completing challenges and even lets you set challenges for other people to complete – read my earlier post for details.

After a rough count and excluding a couple of staff members, 30 people used the app and completed around 70 challenges.

We had some really nice responses – great pics of people performing loud moves in the silent disco and some thoughtful / funny responses to the ‘Object of Desire’ challenge. Most picked their favourite Museum object and explained why they love it, but someone took a picture of a bottle of beer and one guy rather sweetly took a picture of lovely lady who I suspect is his girlfriend. Now that’s chemistry in action…

I think there would have been more activity if there wasn’t already so much to do at Lates. It seemed the perfect testing ground but maybe the app is better suited to spicing up a regular daytime visit to the Museum when there isn’t quite so much going on.

The other issue was that we were trying to encourage people to create their own challenges – something that very few people did. But there’s still time…

You can use SCVNGR whenever you come to the Museum, so next time you’re here have a little play, and - if inspiration strikes – leave a challenge to inspire everyone who comes after you.

The Oramics Machine being Installed

Oramics to Electronica

You may remember back in May we were looking for musicians to help us create an exhibition focusing on Daphne Oram’s Oramics Machine. Well, this Friday the first phase of the exhibition will be opening.

You will be able to see the original Oramics Machine – a unique synthesizer – invented in the1960s by Daphne Oram – who established the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. This extraordinary device, long thought lost, is groundbreaking in the history of electronic music.

Tim Boon, our Chief Curator, said: “The new exhibition is all about the birth of electronic music and its many influences on today’s music scene and we’re so pleased to be able to showcase the amazing Oramics Machine at the Science Museum – few people have been able to see it since the 1980s and this is a great opportunity. Our new interactive also allows you to recreate the sound of the Oramics Machine – so you can compose and arrange your own music.”

Mick Grierson, Director of the Daphne Oram Collection, Goldsmiths, University of London, said: “The Oramics Machine is a device of great importance to the development of British electronic music. It’s a great shame that Daphne’s contribution has never been fully recognised, but now that we have the machine at the Science Museum, it’s clear for all to see that she knew exactly how music was going to be made in the future, and created the machine to do it.”

A new iPhone app called ‘Oramics’, has also been developed by Goldsmiths, University of London, to recreate the sound of the Oramics Machine. You can see a video of this in action below:

Earlier this morning there was a ripple of excitement and anticipation in the Museum as a team of conservationists bought the machine from its storage place in Blythe House. Our co-creators and curators looked on as this one-of-a-kind machine was placed into its case on gallery.

The Oramics Machine being Installed

On 10 October, a second stage of the exhibition will open, which will showcase an array of electronic music and sound reproduction equipment. It will be co-created by a range of individuals working with electronic music today. The Museum is also working together with employees of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and Electronic Music Studio (EMS), who produced the first commercial British synthesizer: VCS3.

You can follow phase two of the exhibition on the dedicated Oramics Facebook Page or follow us on Twitter.

Space Trail

Intrepid space pioneers

Last week we welcomed a group of intrepid space pioneers into the Museum to try out our new space trail which opened to the public on Saturday.

They were a group of family bloggers and their kids who came along to try out the trail and review it for us. You can read reviews from, Mum in Meltdown, Mummy from the Heart, Thinly Spread, and the Life and Times of a Household Husband on their blogs and see wee what the kids had to say about it themselves below.

Our space explorers were eager to tell us  their favourite part of the trail, Cavan’s favourite bit was Asteroid in our Launchpad gallery ‘when we did all the hands on stuff ‘ and Alex’s was ‘looking at the real Apollo 10’s spaceship’ in Making The Modern World Gallery

The kids in our Launchpad gallery

The kids in our Launchpad gallery

Kaede and Jacob would both like to live on ‘the Moon’ if they could pick any of the destinations on our trail and Kaede wants to be ‘the last person to walk on it.’

We also asked our space travellers who they would most like to meet if they went to space again. Kaede is hoping for green, kind aliens ‘who will like to eat human food, and have 4 eyes and 10 arms’ and Cavan would like to meet ‘Neil Armstrong on Pluto’

The kids listening to the drama character

The kids listening to the drama character

Finally we wanted to know what the best thing they had learnt was and the answer was pretty much unanimous. The arcane mysteries of going to the loo in space were what really got them going. In the words of Cavan: ’I learned a lot of things but my favourite was learning that Buzz Aldrin was the first to wet his pants on the moon.’

Find out more about the space trail.

Object of Desire challenge on SCVNGR app

Gaming the Museum

Here at the Science Museum we like to play games.

Our galleries are full of things to play with, both physical and digital. In Launchpad there are contraptions where you can build up pressure to fire a rocket, multi-player mechanical games with levers and pulleys and a rotation station that spins you like an ice-skater.

Over the years we’ve also created lots of free online games, from the physics-based blockbuster Launchball to cute Thingdom and challenging Rizk. Plus, in October we’re going to hold a live gaming festival in association with Trigger. More details on that one in good time…

We’re also interested in how we can make the experience of visiting the Museum a bit more playful on a day to day basis.

One of the things that we’ve been looking at is a mobile app that promises to create a game layer over the real world. SCVNGR encourages you to complete challenges associated with places (in this case the Science Museum) in order to get points.

There are a bunch of pre-set challenges for every place – take a picture, leave a comment, check in on your own or with friends. But you can also create your own challenges, which is what we’re going to ask you to do at Lates on Wednesday.

I’ve already set up one to get us started – ‘Object of Desire’ asks you to take a picture of your favourite object in the Museum and tell the world why you love it.

Object of Desire challenge on SCVNGR app

Object of Desire challenge on SCVNGR app

But now it’s over to you and we’re really excited to see what challenges you come up with. They can test people’s knowledge, get them to look really hard at our collections or they can just encourage some scientific silliness. It is Lates after all…

To get involved you’ll need a smart phone running the free SCVNGR app. It’s available for iPhones and Android phones.

Anvilled Stars

Anvilled Stars

Artworks, made from meteorites that landed on Earth 6,000 years ago, are now on show in the museum’s Cosmos & Culture and Measuring Time galleries

Anvilled Stars

Created by artist Matthew Luck Galpin using his blacksmith skills – heating, hammering, grinding and polishing – the mirrors are made from iron meteorites that fell in Northern Argentina approximately 6,000 years ago.

The impact was witnessed by the local people, in a place now called The Field of Heaven or Campo Del Cielo. The meteorites fell to Earth after an unimaginable journey through heat and cold, light and darkness. The artist’s making process echoes the formation of the planets, pulled together by heat, gravity and rotation, continuing the meteorites’ journey.

Matthew Luck Galpin said, “Working these iron meteorites and mirroring their trajectory, I feel closer to belonging to their journey through space and time, reaching a point of reflection of our part in it all. I have long been inspired by astronomy and cosmology and am delighted to be exhibiting this work here at the Science Museum amongst the significant and amazing objects and instruments that were invented and designed to help us explore and understand the universe over many centuries.”

The Anvilled Stars are on display at the Science Museum until 30 October 2011.

The Moon

Exploring Space – The Moon

With less than a week before our Space trail opens our curator Doug Millard is here to tell us about the six destinations you will journey through and what you will see along the way.

Read Doug’s first post where he tells you about his own trip from SW7 London to Houston Texas where he journeyed to pick up a piece of the moon which you will see on the trails first destination – the Moon.

Not long ago I couriered a/the piece of Moon rock across the Atlantic to London SW7. My son and I flew to Houston, Texas (we didn’t have a problem) to collect it and bring it to the Museum

Its one small piece of almost half a tonne of rocks brought to Earth by the Apollo astronauts between 1969 and 1972. Our sample is part of one of the largest rocks collected: Great Scott, named after astronaut David Scott picked it up off the lunar surface on August 2nd, 1971 during the Apollo 15 mission.

How cool is that, but how difficult is it for us Earth-bound mortals to picture what the Moon is really like? Before going to the States I started to read up on the mission and in particular the EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity, which in this case combined Moon walking with driving the lunar rover) which Scott performed with his crew mate, the late Jim Irwin, when they collected this and other lunar specimens.

What gradually started to dawn on me was really, I mean REALLY how old the Moon is. How dead it is. How it’s blasted and pummelled landscape reflects hundreds of thousands of millennia of volcanic bombardment from within and meteoroid attack from without. Scott and Irwin drove, bounced and clumped over the dust and debris of eons.

The Great Scott rock had probably lain there where the astronaut found it for millions of years – since before humans became human. It was formed over 3 billions years ago – when life was little more than scatterings of single cells. If our night-sky neighbour could think, he might wonder what these upstart beings are up to – late arrivals at the party and already getting restless.

Don’t miss Doug’s next post where he talks about his favourite object in the museum and the spaceships that have taken astronauts like Yuri Gagarin and Neil Armstrong into space!

Summer in Space

Spend your summer holiday in space

This summer, from 23 July – 31 August, we’re inviting families to spend their summer holiday in space.

Summer in Space

Our new space trial will take you past some of the gems of our space collection. See the original Apollo 10 Command Module – the capsule that travelled around the Moon as a dress rehearsal for the Moon landing. Plus you can see a full-sized replica of the Apollo 11 Lunar Lander that took astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the Moon in 1969.

Kids can also play games about space tourism and decide if they would actually like to spend a holiday in outer space. They’ll collect some codes to grab a special souvenir at the end.

Another destination on the journey is our huge IMAX cinema. Immerse yourself in the incredible mission to service the Hubble space telescope in Hubble 3D, or witness the building of the International Space Station in Space Station 3D.

Find out all the things you never knew about what astronauts do and meet our Yuri Gagarin drama character, who’ll give his entertaining account of what it was like to be the first man in space exactly 50 years ago. You can find out more and plan your trip to space at

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date on everything at the Museum. Check back for exclusive updates from our space curator Doug Millard.

Stormtrooper threatening an Explainer

Science Museum at West End Live

An Imperial Stormtrooper stands outside the Science Museum stall – science fiction or science fact?

That sets the scene for this year’s West End Live in Trafalgar Square, a free entertainment extravaganza featuring the best that Theatreland has to offer, and of course the Science Museum learning team was there! (The Stormtrooper came from the Forbidden planet stall next to ours by the way).

There we were armed with our Alka-Seltzer rockets, cornflour slime and carbon dioxide bubbles to protect ourselves from dark forces and of course to educate and entertain the masses in the backdrop to West End productions.

One of our tables focused on the topic of forces and motion. The Alka-Seltzer rockets experiment introduces the idea of pressure and the ‘egg trick’ helps demonstrate gravity and friction.

Another table demonstrated the property of different materials. The cornflour slime is an example of a non-newtonian fluid, which can behave like a liquid and a solid depending on the amount of force applied. We also trapped gaseous carbon dioxide, which we sublimed from solid carbon dioxide (dry ice), in bubbles and engulfed adults in our large bubble ring. Just because we can.

There were plenty of acts on show on the main stage, so we enjoyed performances by the cast of Billy Elliot and Chicago, just to name a few. The weather (us Brits are obsessed with the weather) was so predictably unpredictable. One moment there was a torrential downpour. The next, as if by magic, Bob the Builder came on stage and brought with him some loving sunshine. Can he fix? YES he can!

The Science Museum learning team will be present at two further festivals this summer: LolliBop (Regent’s Park) 5th – 7th August and at Jolly Day Out (Hampton Court Palace) 26th – 28th August.