What’s your favourite science joke? Does it involve chemical symbols or scientific equipment? These are just some ‘Funnies’ that of our comedic visitors have come up with whilst in the Launchpad gallery. Click on any image for larger pictures.
Guest post by Apprentices Jorden, Vicki & Toni
Hello everyone! We are the bubbly young apprentices who work in the Learning department (mainly with the Explainers) at the Science Museum. We are here to gain vocational skills and experience in a working environment. This will prepare us for work in the future and provides us with a Level 2 NVQ in Cultural Heritage and Venue Operations qualification, which is widely recognised by employers.
Jorden, 17 “I chose to do an apprenticeship because I didn’t like working in a classroom environment; in college I’d get bored really quickly, even in the subjects I was really interested in. But working at the Science Museum is the complete opposite, I’ve learnt so many skills and I really enjoy helping the visitors; the best part is interacting with the children and encouraging them to have fun while they learn something new. The environment is full of surprises and there are a range of different tasks to keep me busy, so no two days are the same. The Learning team is really friendly and the Explainers in particular have a strong team, they’re really enthusiastic about helping each other out and everyone does their part to make sure the day runs smoothly.
When I complete my apprenticeship, I’d really like to work with the Outreach team going round to schools and bringing some of the excitement from the Museum into the classrooms.”
Vickie, 17 “I decided to do the apprenticeship because I love doing anything to do with the Science Museum. I feel proud to say that I work at the Museum and I love what I do. The environment at the Museum is so friendly and you learn so much without even realising. The Explainer department is so exciting and inviting; you can make friends with everyone and not feel left out. When I complete this apprenticeship I would love to stay on as an Explainer and start to do shows. I love entertaining people and showing them really cool things, such as explosions in one of our Launchpad shows!
I would advise everyone to come to the Science Museum. You wouldn’t believe your eyes if you saw some on the amazing things we have to offer. My highlight so far has been seeing Will Smith in the IMAX cinema!”
Toni, 18 “I chose to go for this apprenticeship because I always came to the Science Museum when I was a little girl. So when I saw the ad on the apprenticeship website, I got excited and quickly applied. I was over the moon when I found out I got the job! When I first started I was scared of the Explainers, however, as time went on I realised they aren’t scary and I began to have conversations with them.
I have recently performed demos to the Explainers at a meeting. One of these demos included using plastic cups and an air-zuka (the air-zuka looks like a plastic tube and handle with a plastic bag on the end). I had to pull back the bag and let go, shooting air out in a spiral vortex which knocked down the cups, in my case it knocked down 3 cups out of the 7. Performing the demos was one of the scariest things I have ever done because I was performing demos to the performers and it took a lot of practice and support to build up the courage to perform them. But once I started performing them to the Explainers, I started to feel calmer and they began to laugh because of the humour I had added. At the end of the demos, all the Explainers gave me compliments and said I did well. I now feel like part of the team and enjoy working with them. I have also learned some Makaton during my time at the Museum, which is a language to help communicate with those with special needs. After my apprenticeship, I want to apply to work as a full-time Explainer.”
Apprentice Fact: If you combined the ages of all 3 apprentices together, it’s less than the age of the oldest Science Museum Explainer.
Guest post by our Explainer Developer Dan
One of the great things about working as an Explainer at the Science Museum is the wide range of work we get the opportunity to do. So as well as working with the public in our interactive galleries and performing science shows on a daily basis, sometimes we get to do something a little bit different. A few Sundays ago, David and I had the opportunity to do one of these different things, in this case, 6 minutes of live television.
Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch, a morning magazine show, invited us along to do a segment about bubbles. This was a great opportunity for the Museum to promote our Bubbles show which we perform throughout the year at weekends and we were about to perform a lot more over the half term. We, of course, leapt at the chance.
What was really nice for us was the level of input we had over what we did, which was pretty much free range. After a few phone calls and emails with the production team at Princess Productions and working alongside our press office, we sent through what we thought would fill 6 minutes. It included a brief introduction to why bubbles have a role in science and science communication (Name-checking Thomas Young and Charles Vernon Boys), an experiment for viewers to try at home, some experiments they wouldn’t be able to do at home and our popular finale, the human bubble; A bubble so big, you can fit a human inside it. The week of the show, we discovered that the human we would be using would be Kelly Jones, lead singer of the Stereophonics along with one of the presenters, Simon Rimmer.
It was an early start on Sunday morning, the show starts at 9:30, but for rehearsals and set up we arrived before 8. After setting up and meeting the presenters for a “Block” rehearsal, where the camera crew can work out where they need to be and what they will be filming, we basically had to wait until our slot at about 11:00. We watched the show while the nerves built up, I think David was probably more relaxed than me, but I kept thinking about all the things I could say or do wrong in front of the 700,000 strong TV audience!
The segment itself went really well, David had the trickiest bit as he needed to get a paperclip to sit on the surface tension of a small bowl of water. We had prepared some already in case it went wrong, but, ever the professional, David did it on the first attempt. The demo worked really well and we followed it with some carbon dioxide filled bubbles, but had to skip our intended helium filled bubbles as we were running short on time, what with it being live, so moved straight on to the big finale.
As soon as the item finished, the presenters and main crew had to run off to the next area of the studio to continue the show, but the extra crew, along with families of the crew and guests, made a beeline for our table and had a good play with our experiments. We gave them carbon dioxide bubbles to hold and put them in the human bubble until everyone was satisfied, then we headed back to the museum.
We had lots of great feedback from the crew, our colleagues and the public via the Twitter feeds for both the Museum and Sunday Brunch. All in all a great experience, interesting, exciting and just a little bit different.
Explainer Fact: Our bubble mix recipe is 95% warm water, 3% washing up liquid and 2% glycerol. To learn a bit more about bubbles click here.
The next time you visit the Museum, not only can you witness the great exhibits and events we have on offer, you can also meet famous scientists and other characters throughout history! (Well, kind of…). Unfortunately, we haven’t invented a time machine but you can meet Sir Isaac Newton, the world’s first pregnant man and even some giant cockroaches, which are just a few characters brought to life everyday by actors inside the Museum.
Today I met Sir Isaac Newton (not the real one obviously, the actor’s name is Guy) who invented the cat-flap, named the colours of the rainbow and of course thought a lot about gravity:
Chi: Sir Isaac Newton?
Newton: Oh, call me Isaac please! What a fascinating emporium this place is. Marvellous!
Chi: Yes, thank you, um, Isaac. So, these toys you have here… ?
Newton: Toys? These, Sir, are my scientific apparatus!
Newton: Well, do you like to experiment?
Newton: May I recommend “The Early Learning Centre” then, marvellous place! Take this pink ball, for example. Smell it.
Newton: Experiment, Sir. You seem rather hard to convince. Rather like the Royal Society, I might add. Go on, smell it.
Chi: It sort of smells like strawberries…?
Newton: Yes, very peculiar, isn’t it? So if I roll it along the ground like so – excuse me, Sir, you’re somewhat in the way. Thank you – why does it come to a standstill? Don’t you go to bed at night and worry about strawberry smelling objects coming to a standstill?
Newton: Oh, is it just me then? Well, does it stop because it smells of strawberries?
Chi: Well, no…
Newton: Ha! You see. You already have a theory on why it stops. Clearly you are a natural philosopher. Marvellous! Everyone is. Also, take a look at my cheeseboard over here…
Chi: Erm, it’s a skateboard.
Newton: Really? I thought it was a cheeseboard. After all, it’s yellow. And has wheels on it so you can push it along the table. Marvellous!
Many thanks to Guy for his enormous contribution.
“Wow! It’s what I always wanted….” is the standard response when you receive presents from your friends and family. But was it really? Whether you received the latest gadget, perfume or socks – some of our visitors dream of receiving jetpack boots, a time machine and a walking toilet.
Below is a selection of inventions that our visitors came up with when in the Launchpad gallery. Click on any image for larger pictures.
Explainer Fact: The Museum is only closed 3 days a year – 24th-26th December
We love receiving letters from our visitors and we always try our best to write back as soon as possible.
In fact, most of the letters we receive are from primary schools that have just visited the Museum.
Kids being kids, they can be brutally honest in telling us their likes (e.g. big bangs!) and dislikes (also big bangs).
The pupils from South Park School recently saw the Flash! Bang! Wallop! Launchpad show on their outing to the Museum. From the letters that we received, they appeared to have a blast! They particularly enjoyed the fact that their show presenter claims to be “Barbie’s boyfriend”.
Click on any image to enlarge.
This is what Explainer Sam has to say about his special relationship:
Barbie and I are still going strong and love working together on the Flash! Bang! Wallop! show. She knows she is in safe hands and what could be a better way to spend your time with your partner than to be shot out of a cannon! I am really glad that our natural chemistry comes across in the show. Many people have likened us to Jason and Kylie, Richard and Judy – not to mention Simon Cowell and Louis Walsh. I hope that as well as learning science, the people who enjoyed our show have learnt another lesson. Love comes in many sizes.
Explainer Fact: If you would like to send us a letter, please send it to: Launchpad Letters, Science Museum, London, SW7 2DD
‘Inspire a generation’ – that was the motto for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. Some of our visitors were so inspired by the Games, when handed some colouring pencils and paper, they were only ever going to draw one thing. And in the true Olympic spirit, our visitors strived to make their drawings the very best they could be!
Here’s a selection of London 2012-inspired drawings. Click on any image for larger pictures.
Explainer Fact: Check out the Genium Bionic Prosthetic System and running blade currently being shown in the Antenna gallery.
Eric Schmidt, Google’s Executive Chairman, recently visited the Museum to give a presentation on the importance of science museums and their role in inspiring the next generation.
From the number of drawings we receive from our visitors expressing their love for science (and the Museum itself), we must be doing something right!
Here’s a selection of science-loving drawings created by our visitors when in the Launchpad gallery. Click on any image to see bigger pictures.
Explainer Fact: Web Lab (beta), a series of Chrome Experiements by Google, is now open to the public in the Basement of the Museum.
Post written by Explainer Eli
As millions descended upon London for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee festivities, a team of valiant Science Museum knights mounted their noble steed (the outreach van) and headed to a far flung region of the Great British Isle (Cumbria). Their quest, to entertain the good folk at the 2012 Whitehaven Jubilee festival using nothing but sensational science!
Over the two days we succeeded in our mission; wowing the crowds with table top science experiments including cordial cornflour slime, courtly carbon dioxide filled bubbles and aristocratic Alka-Seltzer rockets!
The London celebrations may have had a 1000 boat flotilla but Whitehaven’s Harbour was equally as splendid…
Other highlights of the festival included performances by Katherine Jenkins, The Enemy and The Charlatans.
Our dwelling for the duration of the festival was a pleasing palace with tight security (we were given a code that opened a box, which released a key that opened another box, which in turn revealed a key code entry pad for opening the door). The hotel even came complete with a trio of terriers that could rival any corgis and to top it all there was also a patriotic parrot!
On Saturday, after a days hard work, we decided to make the most of our northern adventure and headed for a drive over the very scary Hardknott and Wrynose pass to feast on a splendid Chinese in Windermere.
During the drive, the satellite navigation system kept telling us to “Turn around” and at one point we definitely smelt burning tyres! Many of the knights had become too accustomed with city dwelling and had never experienced such crazy roads. There were screams from Outreach Officer José of “Slow down Nate, use the engine!”
Reaching the summit of the mountain, blowing the cobwebs away after a hard day explaining science to the masses, was just what we needed.
On Sunday, Explainer Dominique’s impressive ‘Bubble Show’ bought the tent’s work to an elegant end, which was no mean feat as the Red Arrows were performing lots of spectacular stunts outside.
People of Cumbria we salute you! Thanks for coming to see us; we all had a fantastic time!
Thanks to the Samuel Lindow foundation and the National Nuclear Laboratory for inviting us! Hopefully we will be returning next year…
Explainer Fact: For more top science experiments, check out the Science Museum’s website or visit us in South Kensington, London.
Post written by Explainer Sarah
Hello, I’m Sarah, one of the 12 newest Explainers here at the Science Museum.
I’ve been here nearly 3 months now, and it’s true…time does fly when you’re having fun!
I can honestly say that I have spent the majority of the time smiling and laughing!
There’s a real atmosphere of FUN here and the rest of the Explainer team are great. Everyone has been a “newie” at some point and knows what it’s like, so when you’re stuck they welcome questions and are ready to help.
During our first week, induction week, the 12 of us were put through our paces doing things like presentations, going on a museum treasure hunt (honestly, it was hard work!), playing team-building games and acting out some of the “Sticky Moments” that can happen when faced with the public.
A highlight had to be watching a fellow “newie” pretending to be a very non-compliant 5 year old who was lost (you know who you are!), giving the Explainer the run-around. (This actually happened to me over the Easter holidays! A very upset 5 year old running up and down outside The Garden howling “Daddy, Daddy where’s my Daddy?!”. Fortunately for me, Dad was located quickly, although he was alarmingly relaxed about it all…..unlike his poor boy!). Although every situation we looked at had us howling with laughter, there was a real sense that we were learning something really valuable.
It was impressive that over the entire week, we were tested, observed, challenged, encouraged and supported, and we felt confident that although we had a lot to learn, we wouldn’t be thrown in at the deep end. By the end of the week we felt exhausted, but armed with our red Explainer T-shirts we were ready to get stuck into the job…Bring it on!
During our first few weeks, let loose in the museum, we shadowed experienced Explainers. My very first task was to help collect and crush dry ice for the Icy-Bodies exhibit on Launchpad. It’s hard to believe how cold that stuff is (a chilly -78°C) but stories of past Explainers accidentally nearly getting frostbite gives you the incentive to don the geeky lab-coat and specs, along with some massive mits, and treat it with the respect it deserves!
Some of the tasks have been scarier than others. Being on Launchpad schools entrance dealing with the organised chaos on a busy, fully booked day is always an eye-opener. It is a real skill being able to compassionately calm the poor harassed teacher who has battled the tube system with 30 over-excited kids (give them a medal for bravery I say!), or the teacher whose coach broke down and is now an hour late with 60 kids.
Often you feel as if you need eight arms, and eyes in the back of your head, however the experienced Explainers are a model of calm (usually!) and are full of sensible advice and tips. As each day passes and you get stuck in, it gets more instinctive.
Every time I walk into the building in the morning I can’t quite believe I work in THE Science Museum. I feel really lucky to work with such a great bunch of people and have the opportunity to help others catch the buzz for learning about science in such an exciting way.
Explainer Fact: We use over 6 tonnes of dry ice every year!