Tag Archives: drugs

A Hedonistic Night at the Museum

Louis Buckley from Guerilla Science blogs about the August Lates, which was themed around the science of sex, drugs and music.

Being accustomed to working at music festivals, the rest of the Guerilla Science team and I are, shall we say, not unfamiliar with the hedonistic themes explored at this month’s Science Museum Lates.

For those of you who haven’t heard of us before, Guerilla Science is an organisation that specialises in taking science to summer festivals all across the UK – from Glastonbury and Green Man to the Edinburgh Fringe and the Secret Garden Party.

Visitors mingling at the August Lates. Image credit: Science Museum

Visitors mingling at the August Lates. Image credit: Science Museum

Working in unfamiliar and often unexpected settings, we set out to challenge audiences and scientists alike, getting them to consider and experience scientific ideas in new ways that are enlightening, inspiring and – we hope – entertaining too!

While not our usual habitat, bringing a sex, drugs and music themed programme of events to the raucous and exhilarating environment of the Science Museum Lates was an offer far too good for Guerilla Science to turn down.

So, what did we get up to on the night itself? Guerilla Science put on 14 workshops, demonstrations and talks across the museum, from mapping erogenous zones and anatomical life drawing in the fourth and fifth floor medical galleries to crocheting chromosomes among the strange and challenging materials gallery on the second floor.

Lates visitors crocheting chromosomes at August Lates. Image credit: Science Museum

Lates visitors crocheting chromosomes at August Lates. Image credit: Science Museum

It isn’t possible to go through them all in detail, but I’ll pick out a few of my personal highlights from the night to share with those that couldn’t make it – or can’t remember being there!

First up, Guerilla Science’s own Zoe Cormier filled the Museum’s theatre with tales from her new book Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll’, while chemist extraordinaire Andrea Sella treated audiences to a bubbling and explosive journey through the science of distillation.

On the third floor we ran a range of hands-on activities, from experimental hangover cures with food scientist Becki Clark to examining drugged-up fruitfly mutants with Dr James Hodge and sniffing a range of mystery fragrances with chemists Rose Gray and Alex Bour.

My personal favourite, though, was up among the aeroplanes of the Flight gallery, where sexologists Soazig Clifton and Clare Tanton discussed the findings of their national survey of sexual habits and attitudes and tested these against the audience’s own experiences and perceptions.

All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and a fantastic opportunity to create something for the Museum’s wonderful audience. Most importantly, we hope the Lates punters enjoyed Guerilla Science’s attempt to bring a little bit of festival magic into the galleries of this grand old institution, and might be tempted to check out one of our events in future.

Guerilla Science’s book ‘Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll, the Science of Hedonism and the Hedonism of Science’ is out now, published by Profile Books.

The next Lates is on 24 September and is all about Magic and Illusion


Alexander Fleming in his Lab, December 1943.

1920: Penicillin discovery

Each day as part of the Great British Innovation Vote – a quest to find the greatest British innovation of the past 100 years – we’ll be picking one innovation per decade to highlight. Today, from the 1920s, the discovery of Penicillin.

It’s hard to imagine life without penicillin. This drug, which many of us take for granted, has saved millions of lives since its discovery by Alexander Fleming less than a century ago.

Alexander Fleming in his Lab, December 1943.

Alexander Fleming and Penicillin.
Image Credit: Credit © Daily Herald Archive/National Media Museum / Science & Society Picture Library

Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society said, “Just imagine a world without antibiotics, a world where infections that would barely keep you off work or school today, would have actually killed you. That was the world that existed just a little over 70 years ago.” listen to ‘Sir Paul Nurse’ on Audioboo

Today, penicillin continues to fight against infectious diseases. Yet who would have thought you could create such a phenomenal medicine from mould? Fleming, a bacteriologist working at St. Mary’s Medical School in London, observed that certain bacteria were killed by mould when he saw a bacteria-free circle forming around a culture dish used to grow microbes, and by 1944 the drug was being mass-produced and proved a powerful weapon in fighting diseases such as pneumonia and syphilis.

Thanks to Penicillin, we lead much longer, healthier lives which is why it deserves your vote as the Greatest British Innovation.