Category Archives: Inventions

Swiss Army Octopus - the perfect camping buddy

Visitor Inventions – Animals

They say the UK is a country of animal lovers and judging by what our visitors have drawn, it is most certainly true!  Why use a standard Swiss Army knife when a friendly octopus can help you instead?  Or why should we continue to burn fossil fuels when hamsters are happy to power devices for us?

We give our visitors the tools (colouring pencils and paper) to doodle down any ideas they have whilst in our Launchpad gallery.

Here’s a selection of animal-based inventions drawn up by some of our imaginative visitors. Click on any image to see bigger pictures.

Explainer Fact: The Museum has a large anatomical horse in the Veterinary section on the 5th floor

Trace023title

Visitor Inventions – Adult ideas

It’s not just our younger visitors who love drawing their ideas down on paper whilst inside our Launchpad gallery – adults do too!  Especially after a bit of alcohol and some silent discoing during one of our Science Museum Lates, which happen on the last Wednesday of every month except December.

Below are a selection of inventions drawn by some of our larger visitors – click  on any image to see bigger pictures.

Mark Champkin's with his gift for Stephen Hawking

A ‘black hole light’ as a birthday gift to Prof Hawking

By Mark Champkins

When I was asked to design Stephen Hawking a 70th Birthday present on behalf of the Museum, I have to confess, I was a little overwhelmed. I was chuffed to be asked, but didn’t really know where to start.

A ‘black hole light’ as a birthday gift to Prof Hawking

After giving it some thought I reckoned it would be worth talking to some people that knew him and his theories really well, so I approached the Museum curators, Boris and Ali, who have been responsible for putting together a display about his life and work.

They were amazingly helpful, explaining a little about his theories about Black Holes and his work to unite the field of quantum physics with the cosmological. They showed me some images of his office, and his most prized objects and awards, along with some models he had made of the way light falls into a black hole. They also directed me to one or two objects in the Museum that have relevance to his work, one of them being Geissler Tubes.

Geissler tubes are beautiful! Alison and Boris described to me how a fella called Geissler was experimenting with vacuums, and created Geissler tubes by pumping gasses into the vacuum tube, and passing a current through the gas. The gasses glowed as they emitted photons, and though they started out as a curiosity, they led to two developments that relate to Hawking’s work. Firstly, the tubes led to the development of the equipment used to discover the electron – the first sub-atomic particle, which in turn, arguably led to the field of Quantum Physics. Secondly, the Geissler tubes led to the creation of Crookes radiometer, which as it’s name implies detect radiation, linking with Hawking’s identification of his very own form of radiation, that which escapes from a black hole.

I then hit upon the idea of making a “Black Hole Light” using the closest thing available to a Geissler tube – neon tubes. I liked the pun, and how it alludes to Hawking Radiation.

The form I chose for the lamp was inspired by the profile of the model I had seen in Hawking’s lab, demonstrating how light is sucked into a black hole.

I rather liked the idea of uniting the technology that led to the birth of Quantum Physics (in the form of a Geissler-inspired neon tube), with a form that is representative of the path light would take spiralling into a black hole. Mixing Cosmology with Quantum Physics, and trying to reconcile them in one artefact. Something of a metaphor for Hawking’s work.

Having made the light, I am really pleased with it. I really hope it can also serve a practical purpose in his home or office, and that he’ll like it!

View the rest of the pictures in our Flickr set

 

Pencil that does your homework for you!

More visitor inventions

A pencil that does your homework for you, clouds that rain chocolate and a levitating chair – just a few of the ingenious inventions that have been dreamt up by visitors to our Launchpad gallery.

Here’s a small selection – click on any image to see bigger pictures.

That last one was just us showing off…

The hamster powered vegetable garden

Visitor Inventions

Hamster-powered vegetable gardens, multi-tasking hats with limbs and rubber-producing clouds. Our visitors are a creative lot.

We give our visitors the tools (colouring pencils and paper) to doodle down any ideas they have whilst in our Launchpad gallery.

Some creations are pure genius. Others, lets face it, are a bit weird. However, there is definitely a common theme. Most of the inventions we get from the kiddies are either about food or homework/housework robots. Basically anything that makes their lives easier.

Here’s a small selection of the inventions drawn up by some of our imaginative visitors. Click on any image to see bigger pictures.

Explainer Fact: We get through 100,000 paper trace cards every year (used ones get recycled).

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: whatsyourproblem@sciencemuseum.org.uk

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!

Mark-Champkins

Inventor in Residence

Here at the Museum we recently appointed a new Inventor in Residence Mark Champkins. Now you may recognise Mark from his appearance on the popular TV show Dragon’s Den where he battled it out in the den to secure backing from Peter Jones for his company Concentrate.

Mark Champkins

Mark will be spending two years at the museum helping support our exhibitions and galleries and taking inspiration form the objects to help design new products and inventions.

We sat down and had a chat with Mark to learn a little bit more about what he’s up to.

What inspired you to become an inventor?

I had a brilliantly creative childhood. I’m one of three brothers with quite an eccentric Dad, and we used to make go-karts, peg-guns, dens, aerial runways, and all sorts of daft contraptions. My Mum also ran a business from home making Jack-in-the-Boxes, and then computer dust-covers, and my brothers and I were regularly part of the production line. When I look back we were always hacking things together, bodging up ideas and trying to create things which we thought would be fun. I ended up studying design at school, and it was the only lesson that didn’t feel like work, so I knew I wanted to design things for a living!

What is your favourite invention ever?

I think for its pure usefulness in everyday life, especially when I was younger, sellotape is my favourite invention ever.

What invention could you not live without?

I don’t think I could work or be inspired nearly as regularly or effectively without the internet. It’s a cliché to talk about how much it has transformed the world, but it really has opened up the exchange of ideas and information in a way that even 20 years ago, would have been unimaginable.

Which object in the museum is the most inspirational or influenced your time here so far?

I am constantly noticing new and fascinating inventions in the Museum. I was in the Making of the Modern World gallery and it occurred to me that it contains a collection of the most influential artefacts in human history - and they are the actual items.

The tool that Jenner used to do the first ever vaccination. A sample of the very patch of penicillin that led Fleming to develop antibiotics. The actual Rocket, the very first train. All of these changed the world.

The latest I have noticed is the first ever Davy Miners lamp. It’s a simple, elegant solution to a problem that was well identified and was causing hundreds of deaths a year. Humphry Davy figured out a safe way to make lamps that used naked flames, but did not ignite the flammable dust and gases often present in mines. Using a fine mesh he tested and refined his lamp until it proved a safe solution for miners to light their work underground.

Keep an eye on this blog and follow Mark on Twitter to find out how he is getting on in the Museum and how you could get involved in his inventions in the future