Category Archives: Families

Costume design for The Energy Show

This summer, our IMAX theatre will be transformed into a steampunk world for ‘The Energy Show’. This theatre show for families explores the different forms of energy through some explosive experiments live on stage. It stars futuristic science students Annabella and Phil plus their lab assistant Bernard.

Science student Annabella. Credit: Janet Bird

Science student Annabella. Credit: Janet Bird

These initial sketches from designer Janet Bird demonstrate the distinctly steampunk feel to The Energy Show.

 

Science student Phil

Science student Phil. Credit: Janet Bird

Science Museum Live presents ‘The Energy Show’ at the Science Museum from 22 July – 31 August. You can find more information and tickets here

T. Alva Edison and his Amazing Phonograph!

Jared Keller, a researcher and former Science Museum Explainer, discusses some of our hidden objects and the science behind them. 

Today we’re looking at the Sound Section of Launchpad and one of my favourite exhibits, “Sound Bite”. If you’re a bit rusty on your Sound Bite science, HERE is an old BBC refresher course on the principles of sound travelling through a medium/solid.

Launchpad’s World Famous ‘Sound Bite’ – Credit: Man Chiwing

The important thing to remember is that sound waves can travel through a solid material like a metal rod the same as they can through the air. Proof of this lies in the fact that you can feel the rod vibrating if you pinch it with your fingers. When you bite down, those vibrations are passed up through your teeth, through your jaw, and up into your ear where they vibrate the same bones in the inner-ear that normally vibrate from sound waves in the air.

Edison stares intently at his new invention - Credit: Science and Society Picture Library

Edison stares intently at his new invention – Credit: Science and Society Picture Library

In 1877 a very ‘bright’ man named Thomas Alva Edison put this principle to use in what he called a phonograph. Whereas the more familiar gramaphone ‘records’ are flat two-sided discs of vinyl, Edison’s original phonographs used 10 cm cylinders made of soft tin-foil (and later wax).

Edison's original phonograph cylinders - on display in the Secret Life of the Home gallery

Edison’s original phonograph cylinders – on display in the Secret Life of the Home gallery – Credit: Science and Society Picture Library

Whatever you call them, the science is simple: he knew, just like you, that sound travelling through a metal causes it to vibrate. His great insight, was in realising that vibrations in a metal could then be turned back into vibrations in the air – what we normally hear as sounds!

The first words spoken into Edison's new phonograph recorder? ... "Mary had a little lamb" - Credit: Science and Society Picture Library

The first words spoken into Edison’s new phonograph recorder? … “Mary had a little lamb” – Credit: Science and Society Picture Library

In the drawing above you can see Edison speaking into one of his phonographs. As he spoke into the cone and tube, it captured his voice and funneled it down until it was intense enough to vibrate a small, incredibly sharp piece of metal. As the metal vibrated with the sound of his voice, the soft tin cylinder was rotated underneath the vibrating tip which caused the tip to cut into the tin. If you want to see a real phonograph player and its cylindrical record, simply head to the ‘Secret Life of the Home’ gallery in the basement.

Closeup of the grooves on a phonograph cylinder - Credit: Science and Society Picture Library

Closeup of the grooves on a phonograph cylinder – Credit: Science and Society Picture Library

Edison knew that once the vibration of his voice had been carved into the soft tin, passing another tip through those grooves in the now hardened tin would make the needle vibrate in exactly the same way! All he had to do then was take those vibrations and amplify them so they were loud enough to be heard by the human ear. But being the veteran Sound Biters that we are, we know that if Edison had simply attached small metal rods to that vibrating tip we could bite down on them and let the vibrations pass up our teeth, through our jaws, and up to our ears, just like with Sound Bite!

A dapper Edison pumps music directly into our skulls! – Credit: Matteo Farinella

Though maybe Edison was right: listening to a song through the air is much more satisfying than biting down on a metal rod!

Introducing Enterprising Science

Micol Molinari, Project coordinator for the Talk Science project writes about the launch of Enterprising Science, the largest science learning programme of its kind in the UK.

Today is a big day for us. It is the official launch of Enterprising Science, a five year partnership between the Science Museum, King’s College London and BP, bringing together expertise and research in informal science learning.

This new project builds on our Talk Science programme. Since 2007 we have worked with over 2,600 secondary school teachers across the UK to support STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) teaching and learning. The main aim of Talk Science was to give young people the confidence to find their own voice and have a say in the way science impacts on and shapes their lives. The core our work was with science teachers, because of their important role and ability to make a difference in young people’s lives.

So what did we do for Talk Science? We delivered a 1 day teacher CPD course, in over 30 cities across the UK. We developed physical & digital resources to support teachers in the classroom; ran student and teacher events, delivered communication skills training for scientists working with young audiences and held seminars for other museum educators on informal science learning.

This year we began working with King’s College London to develop, test and share new tools and techniques to engage more secondary schools students with science. The tools and techniques are all grounded in research from Kings College London’s five year ASPIRES study of children’s science and career aspirations, combined with our experience from five years of the Talk Science project. Our partnership with Kings is really exciting: it makes Enterprising Science the largest science learning programme of its kind in the UK.

As part of Enterprising Science, we will be working closely with small groups of partner teachers, to collaboratively develop and trial new tools and techniques for engaging students with science both inside and outside the classroom. These new resources will be shared through our work with schools across the UK and online.

But it is not just about science in the classroom. In fact, research shows that one of the strongest indicators of whether a young person will choose a career in science is the type of support they get outside of school from their families. We will be working with teachers, young people and their families to help create a supportive learning environment for students. By raising the value that young people place on science, we hope to help students develop a genuine interest in science and understand how it is relevant to their lives.

We are excited to see where this project will take all of us. Here’s to the next 5 years!
Micol & the Enterprising Science team.

Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton drama character

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.

Isaac Newton Drama Character

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!

Chi: Really?

Newton: Well, do you like to experiment?

Chi: Yeah!

Newton: May I recommend “The Early Learning Centre” then, marvellous place!  Take this pink ball, for example. Smell it.

Chi: Huh?

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?

Chi: Errr…no.

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!

Explainer Fact: Fancy meeting Sir Isaac Newton and other drama characters?  Check the Science Museum website for further details.  School groups can book their own drama character session.

Many thanks to Guy for his enormous contribution.

Blue Marble

Apollo 17 – One last view of the Blue Marble

Forty years ago today, on 7th December 1972, Apollo 17 and three astronauts, Commander Eugene Cernan, Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans, and Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt, blasted into orbit. The three-day trip was to be the final mission of the US Apollo space programme, and forty years later, humans are still to leave low earth orbit to return to the Moon.

Launch of the Apollo 17 mission

This Saturn V rocket carrying astronauts Eugene Cernan (Commander), Ronald Evans (Command Module pilot) and Harrison Schmitt (Lunar Module pilot), lifted off from the Kennedy Space Centre, Cape Canaveral, Florida, on 7th December 1972.
Credit © National Aeronautics & Space Administration / Science & Society Picture Library

The Apollo 17 crew carried out many scientific experiments and broke several records – the longest time in lunar orbit, longest extravehicular activities on the lunar surface and the largest lunar sample return – as well as producing one of the most iconic and widely distributed photographic images in history: the Blue Marble.

Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt collecting samples

Schmitt is seen collecting Moon samples by a large lunar boulder, with part of the Lunar Rover in the foreground.
Credit © National Aeronautics & Space Administration / Science & Society Picture Library

Five hours into the Apollo 17 mission, the crew looked back at the Earth, some 45,000 km away, to capture this famous image. The photograph is one of only a few to show a fully illuminated Earth – the Sun was behind the astronauts when the image was captured – and to the crew, our planet appeared like a glass marble, hence the name. 

Blue Marble

This picture, known as Blue Marble, was taken by the crew of Apollo 17, NASA’s last manned lunar mission, on their way to the Moon in December 1972.

Aspiring astronauts of all ages have plenty of opportunities to see iconic space objects when visiting the Museum: A sample of Moon rock, brought back with Apollo 15 is on display in our exploring space gallery, with the Apollo 10 Command module – complete with re-entry scorch marks – on display in Making the Modern World.

Apollo 10, carrying astronauts Thomas Stafford, John Young and Eugene Cernan, was launched in May 1969 on a lunar orbital mission as the dress rehearsal for the actual Apollo 11 landing.
Image Credit: Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

Families can celebrate the 40th anniversary of the last man to walk on the moon with the Legend of Apollo 4D Experience. Feel the impact of a Saturn V rocket launch and join the ground-breaking Apollo mission crew through NASA film archives and 3D computer animation. Legend of Apollo is suitable for ages 4+, flights take off throughout the day and can be booked here.

[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kftRol_RtA']

 

Science Museum Halloween Guests

Halloween at the Museum

By Claire Hunt, Development Team

Ghostly goings on dominated our Flight gallery last Friday as over 400 corporate members and members of the museum dusted off their finest spooky outfits to join the Development Team for their annual Halloween Evening. You can tag yourself in images from the night on Facebook.

The ghost of Albert Einstein

The ghost of Albert Einstein

Guests were greeted by the ghosts of Albert Einstein and Amy Johnson and treated to a delicious Halloween inspired menu of autumnal stews served from witches cauldrons and jellied eyeballs. Our creative choreographer transformed the younger guests into dancing zombies whilst they rocked out to Michael Jackson’s iconic song: Thriller and our resident DJ ensured the tunes flowed all night.

Science Museum Halloween Guests

Located in the dark depths of our fourth floor Medical Gallery was the terrifying torch lit treasure hunt where our guests tackled a series of questions with only a torch to unearth the answers. Guests also had the opportunity to make, and understand the scientific properties of, slime as well as create some Halloween inspired fridge magnets and jewellery.

The terrifying torch lit treasure hunt

The terrifying torch lit treasure hunt

Overall the event was a huge success with over 1,000 members applying for our limited, and much sought after, tickets. The Development Team is already planning next year’s event which looks set to be the biggest yet.

Green Babies

Green Babies

Walk into any baby shop and you will be bombarded by products claiming ‘green’ or ‘eco’ credentials. It no longer seems good enough to bring up a happy, healthy child; you now need a ‘green baby’!

Green Babies

A glance through the message boards of MumsNet shows there is a lot of debate about sustainable parenting: Disposable or renewable nappies? Organic cotton or hemp based baby grows? Bamboo fibre nursing pads (called banboobies!) or toys made of recycled plastic? It can be tough to know where to start.

At the Science Museum this Thursday (27th September) you can join our ‘Green Babies’ workshop to try and work through some of these issues. Journalist Annalisa Barbieri and other experts will be on hand to answer questions from new and expectant parents about how to reduce your baby’s carbon footprint and environmental impact.

It should be an excellent opportunity to pick up hints and tips, and debate with leading eco-experts on how to navigate the perplexing world of green parenting.

Join us on Thursday at 11am (with or without your tiny tots) in the Things Gallery on the basement floor of the Science Museum – visit the event page to book your free place.

Science Museum Live on Tour

Post written by Explainer Amanda

A spotlight follows a child as he or she makes their way to the stage. The audience chants “Push the button! Push the button!” A giant red button is pushed, thus beginning not only a chain reaction machine, but also Science Museum Live on Tour.

Science Museum Live On Tour Poster

Science Museum Live, the Science Museum’s first ever live theatrical tour, toured theatres throughout England and Wales from January to May 2011. Mark McKinley and I (Amanda Mahr) performed almost 100 shows in just under 50 venues.

Incorporating Key Stage 2 (7-11) and Key Stage 3 (11-14) science, Science Museum Live was aimed mainly at families on a night out to the theatre with school groups largely attending during matinees.

The show flip-flopped between silly scenarios and serious science with fun as the underlying element to both. For one scene, Mark and I dressed up in sumo costumes as Robert Hooke and Isaac Newton in order to wrestle over who truly discovered gravity. In another, I played a magician while Mark played my glamorous assistant (complete with feather boa and heels of course) as we demonstrated the “magic of science” through a series of experiments.

Amanda and Mark demonstrating an experiment

Amanda and Mark demonstrating an experiment

More serious scenes included using liquid nitrogen to create a banana hammer (proved by its competency at hammering a nail into a block of wood) and by building a hovercraft onstage using a slab of wood we “just had lying around” and a leaf blower in order to help an innocent volunteer re-enact Christopher Cockerell’s (hovercraft inventor) maiden hovercraft voyage from Dover to Calais!

Using liquid nitrogen to make a banana hammer

Using liquid nitrogen to make a banana hammer

Science Museum Live was extremely fast-paced and fun. It was enjoyed by both young and older audience members throughout the UK, as well as the crew members from each new theatre! We managed to reach out to many families who would be unable to visit the Museum. Through Science Museum Live, the Science Museum was able to branch out from schools and the Museum itself into a whole new means of entertainment: live theatre.

Explainer Fact: The second season of Science Museum Live (complete with new demonstrations) will be touring again beginning in January 2012 (tour dates).

Giant cockroach drama character

Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton and the world’s first pregnant man – these are just a few of the characters brought to life by actors inside the Museum.

Today I met a real-life giant cockroach (the actor’s name is Guy) who is kind enough to give humans a tour of the Science Museum from this critter’s perspective. Here’s what Professor John Cockroach had to say:

“Ah nice to meet another friendly cockroach face! Quick, join in. Don’t forget to put on your weekend ‘best’. Going among the humans, we’re all to be on our best cockroach behaviour.

Now, you’re probably wondering why we cockroaches are gathering here?

Well, as cockroaches, we forget – don’t we? – we haven’t had to evolve for, well, millions of years. We are, after all, pretty much the same as we were when there were dinosaurs. Humans, bless ‘em, clearly still have a long way to go. But they’re trying, obviously, so we mustn’t judge them too harshly. That would be very uncockroach of us, wouldn’t it?

Human beings are so fascinating. D’you know, they change their own environment to solve their problems rather than evolve? Yes, they have a strange habit of constructing things and when they’ve finished they sometimes put those things in a room and call it a museum. How strange!

So, being a cockroach professor of humanology, ahem, I lead a group of you cockroaches, on a quick scuttle around, as it were, for about 30 minutes.

We’ll see how humans seem absolutely obsessed with something they call time. Many of them can’t even eat, sleep, or indeed leave the house without first ‘checking the time’.

We’ll see plenty of examples of their machines too, how they try to save time, kill time, and how they love to burn things in order to go faster and faster.

Just a quick reminder, though, to any of our cockroach visitors. Please don’t expect to feed the humans. Sorry, but they’re very fussy eaters and have quite strict feeding times.”

Cockroaches studing the Apollo 10 capsule

Cockroaches studying the Apollo 10 capsule

If dressing up as a giant cockroach and participating in a unique tour sounds like fun, sign up for a Cockroach Tour of the Science Museum.

A big thanks to Guy for his contribution to this post!

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.