Monthly Archives: September 2011

Computer game character with a gun

Gaming Lates

To tie in with our magnificent PLAYER live gaming festival, the theme of this month’s Lates was – wait for it – gaming.

We had the usual heady brew of science talks, silent disco, Beau Lotto’s Lab, pub quiz and so on.

But this month the Lates crowd also got to be shot at by giant avatars, to participate in an adapted and enormous game of something similar to Pong and to play super-sized Battleships in in our Shipping gallery. Not your average Wednesday night out…

These games and more will be going on until the 2 October – check out the full PLAYER programme.

We also kicked off a SCVNGR trek that will be running for the next few months. Using your smartphone you have to complete a series of challenges around the Museum – all very scientific, but some significantly silly.

If you know what a Klein bottle is, you should probably come down, maybe team up with some friends and try to imitate one…

Click on the pics below to have a closer look.

Photos all by Patu Tifinger.

Shipping Gallery

Battleships – Ocean Apocalypse

Ever wondered what to do with a room full of model boats in display cases? Play a 3D, to-scale version of Battleships of course! Greg McLaren from Stoke Newington International Airport  tells us more about the Battleships game taking place this Saturday and Sunday as part of our live gaming festival #Player11.

One autumn in the late 1960’s the finest model ship builders were summoned to the Science Museum and put to work with tiny chisels and miniature rivets. They were to create an exhibition of exquisite models to echo Britain’s naval prowess and glory, and long did they toil. But not quite as long as the exhibition has been on display.

Before the current multi-mediated, intimately interactive and well thought-out exhibitions, there was the display case. The window to the past, the incubator of time, the proud bearer of artifact. We’d push our faces against the glass, turning the object round in the mind, imagining all it’s potential uses, all the possible and impossible situations it had survived, unable to tell whether our ideas were real or no.

I was floundering in this nostalgia last week in the Shipping Gallery, the location for Battleships: Ocean Apocalypse, a live, fully dimensional version of the classic vector thriller. Next year the thousand or so models, mini-engines and bits of navigation kit will be removed to make way for a new gallery, so we’re taking this opportunity to inject a last bit of life into the hulks and the paddles and the turbines. 

This is the non-deleterious war the brittle liners have been dreaming of! Where ancient Northumbrian fishers can fight alongside Britain’s first nuclear submarine! Two teams will assemble a fleet from their favourite models and battle it out across the vast floor of the gallery. Miss! Miss! Hit!

Museums should activate the imagination and stimulate the mind, and while most of the new generation of exhibitions are excellent, I reserve a place in my heart for the simple, static object who’s history can be whatever I imagine.

Shipping Gallery

The traditional game of Battleships becomes life-sized in our Shipping Gallery 1-2 October at 11.00, 11.30, 12.00, 12.30, 2.00, 2.30, 3.00, 3.30 and is suitable for all ages.

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A question mark

What’s your problem?

Do you have an everyday problem you wish someone could solve? Annoyed by cartons that don’t pour properly or people talking too loudly on public transport?

Well now is your chance to share those everyday irritations with our inventor in residence, Mark Champkins. If you’re lucky he’ll take on the challenge of solving it for you!

A question mark

Question Mark Squircle by Xurble

All you have to do is Tweet us your problem including the hashtag #whatsyourproblem or send us an email to:

Mark will select one of your problems and then we’ll chart his progress (successes and failures) as he tries to come up with an invention to help solve your woes.

By entering you will also be in with the chance to win membership of the Museum and a copy of 1001 Inventions that Changed the World.

Visit our website for more information and the competitions terms and conditions.  You have until 31 October to enter, so spread the word and let’s solve some problems!

An Interplanetary Postbox

Games Jam

Already excited about this month’s live gaming festival? Fancy designing a game that other people will play?

Well then come along to our first ever Games Jam on Friday 30 September - tickets are available now.

Angie from Trigger has put together the programme for the festival. She’s also written a guest post about the Jam to give you guys an idea of what to expect.

The Games Jam is my favourite part of the festival. It’s a chance to get inventive by making an interactive game to showcase live at the Science Museum.

Who is it for? 

Adults who like making stuff.

Be it sewing, writing, mapping, doodling. If you have an urge to create anything on any level, and fancy making a game with makers from all backgrounds, then do this.

What is it?

A making session

We’ll arrive with no idea of what we will create. By the end of play, everyone will have made a game that can be playtested over the PLAYER festival that weekend. One team will win The PLAYER Award 2011.

The day kicks off with talks from 3 of the UK’s leading social game designers. They will tell us about what to consider when making a game. They will mentor the teams over the rest of the day.

Next up, the teams embark on curator-led tours of galleries in the museum, and learn more about the science behind the objects in the space.

The rest of the day is spent brainstorming, making and inventing.

At the end of the day we’ll try out our new games on another team.

I’m sure some of us will end up in the pub to debrief before we try our games the next day.

What can we make? 

We will have some materials that you can use to make something with. Or you might want to make a game using clues hidden in the museum. Or, if you’re more technology orientated then maybe something that can be played through phones.

Maybe bring some stuff along in case you wish you had it later on.

Book quick, we’re selling the last batch of tickets now.

An Interplanetary Postbox

Will your game involve playing with a postbox?

To book tickets call 0870 870 4868. They cost £5 plus a £1 booking fee.

Stay up to date on our daily news by following us on Twitter or joining us on Facebook.  And for exclusive news about upcoming events and offers sign up to our newsletter.  See you at PLAYER!

Person Sneaking

Take me to your scientist

With less than a month until our live gaming festival, Player we have been speaking to some of the people creating the games you can get involved with over the five days.

Read Holly from Hide and Seek’s guest post about their game Take me to your scientist  below:

There’s something really, really enticing about the idea of being in a museum after everyone else has gone home. Who doesn’t, at closing time, dream for just a moment of ducking behind a display case or hiding inside a supercomputer, then coming out when there’s nobody else around?

So the opportunity to design a game for the closed Science Museum, to run from 10pm, was astonishing. It’s a gorgeous building to play in anyway, but using it simply as that – as a building, a space – would have been a waste. We were determined to devise a game that really draws on the fact that it’s not just any building: it’s theScienceMuseum, full of exhibits and corners and strange history and great big towering engines.

It would be a shame to give too much away, but Take Me To Your Scientist will pit players against some… slightly unusual visitors to the museum, visitors who have a very specific reason for being there. It’s just possible that the future of Earth depends on you.

Person Sneaking


Take me to your scientist runs at September Lates starting at 10pm. Spaces are limited so avoid disappointment and book your tickets today.

To book tickets call 0870 870 4868 they cost £8 plus a £1 booking fee.

Stay up to date on our daily news by following us on Twitter or joining us on Facebook.  And for exclusive news about upcoming events and offers sign up to our newsletter.  See you at Player!

Alan Sutcliffe speaking at the meeting

Back to the future of electronic music

Post written by Miriam Hay.

While researching our new exhibition about the history of electronic music, we had the amazing opportunity to meet a few of the people who were there making music in the 1960s and 70s, when futuristic electronic sounds were being experimented with for the very first time.

Dick Mills, Roger Limb and Steve Marshall had all previously been part of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, set up in 1958 to produce electronic sound effects and jingles for radio and television including, most famously, the theme music for Doctor Who.

We were also joined by Peter Zinovieff and Alan Sutcliffe of Electronic Music Studio, a music research establishment formed by Peter in the early 1960s. It famously produced the first commercial synthesizer in Britain, the VCS3.

It was great to see the union of what had been two relatively independent strands of electronic music history around one table, as they shared with us their memories and experiences of working at a time when electronic music was startlingly new.

It was the invention of tape that was the catalyst, enabling different sounds to be cut and stuck together to make a recorded track. Before this, individual sounds had been recorded onto discs or spools of steel wire which meant that it was impossible for them to be edited together in advance.

Dick Mills gave us an animated description of the rather frantic work of playing multiple discs at the same time to provide sound effects for live radio broadcasts. Each disc ran for only 2 minutes, so you had to keep two running for background noise, playing one while you re-started the other, while adding in other effects such as wind and birds as needed with cries of “don’t forget the owl!”

Peter Zinovieff, founder of EMS, had been taught how to splice tape by Daphne Oram. She had been a founder of the Radiophonic Workshop and creator of the Oramics Machine, which is the focus of the first phase of our exhibition.

Peter told us that the tiresome process of ‘cutting and sticking’ inspired him to experiment with computers to create sound without fiddling about with tape. His desire was for a computer to put the sounds together all by itself. This eventually resulted in the first concert performance by a computer in 1968.

Peter took up making music again several years ago and talked about a recent concert in Istanbul. He had meant to finish his speech by announcing this new standing as a composer. However nerves got the better of him and in an ironically comic twist he actually accidentally concluded by saying: “At last, I am now a computer!”

The development from ‘computer’ to ‘composer’ was noted by the group as a whole. Nowadays, they said, the computer has become almost ‘transparent’ - a tool to get something else done - while in the pioneering 1960s electronics itself was an art - something to be studied, developed, and experimented with. Musicians also had to be engineers, testing and stretching the initial primitive capacities of the limited equipment available.

Almost in summary, the words of the late Delia Derbyshire (who worked at the Radiophonic workshop and introduced Peter to Alan) were quoted. She had realised that while the musical products of her generation of electronic artists weren’t yet the best that the medium had to offer, they would prove crucially important for what was to come. This was what the future would sound like.

The Oramics to Electronica exhibition is already partially open. It will be fully opened on 10th October, and will run until December 2012.