Skip to content

Science Museum Blog

It’s 125 years since bicycles took the form that we know today. Then, cycling meant mobility in a world before mass motoring. Now, eyes are turning to cycling as part of a solution to urban congestion. Transport for London is planning a turn-up-and-ride cycle hire scheme for the capital, going live this summer. One problem might be theft of the bikes. TfL’s response? “The bicycles will stand out as Cycle Hire bicycles. That way we hope people will think twice about stealing […]

The International Year of Astronomy 2009 has now been officially ‘closed’ at a ceremony in Padova (timed to celebrate Galileo’s observations of Jupiter’s moons, which you can read about in a previous blog). It’s been a really successful global project, with 148 countries signing up and thousands of people around the world taking part in events ranging from backyard observing to major international collaborations. The participants of IYA2009 produced a huge amount of promotional and outreach material – posters, stamps, coins, calendars, T-shirts, badges, books, […]

I heard a really interesting programme on BBC Radio 4 on Monday evening that lifted the lid on the murky and frustrating world of British transport politics. You can listen again here for a few days. It looked at the work of John Prescott‘s transport ministry in the late 1990s, which developed a ten-year transport plan for Britain called, inventively, ‘Transport 2010’. Those ten years have come and gone and 2010 has arrived, so how far did we come? Not far […]

The British inventor of the magnetic drum store, Andrew D. Booth, recently passed away so its a good time to remember the significance of his work for computing today. Andrew Booth was a physicist and computer scientist who became interested in the structure of explosives when he was working in Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire. After WW2 he moved to Birkbeck College, University of London, where he met the physicist J.D. Bernal and began to use X-ray crystallography to look […]

As I mentioned last week, I went to the London Boat Show at the weekend. The venue sits right beside the Royal Victoria Dock in east London, one of three built in the second half of the nineteenth century to keep pace with the capital’s expanding maritime trade. They’re quite majestic. It was my first visit to the Boat Show. Essentially, it’s one vast exhibition centre stuffed to the gunwales with pretty much everything you’ll ever need to enjoy a life of leisure on […]

I’m off to the London boat show tomorrow. It’s being held at an exhibition centre beside an old dock in east London, so there’s plenty of water to show off  the yachts. I truly love that part of London. Not so long ago, the docklands area was teeming with maritime activity, but now it’s mostly pleasure craft occupying the spaces left behind when the working docks moved down-river to places like Tilbury. But just fifty years ago, Londoners were much closer to their ships, as […]

If you’re planning to attend Monday’s Centenary talk on the Large Hadron Collider, you can spot a few of its distant ancestors as you pass through the Making the Modern World gallery en route to hear Brian Cox speak. Looming large on the left of the central walkway is the cascade generator from John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton’s million-volt accelerator. This generated 1.25 million volts to accelerate protons and smash them into atomic nuclei, breaking the nuclei apart. During the Second World War this apparatus was […]

As the snow continues to fall, some are delighted by the wintry weather, while others just want to get away to some sunshine… Most of us will have to wait until summer before getting away, and even then, as the recession bites, the ‘stay-cation’ may well be the only option. Back in the second world war, ‘staying put’ was in vogue for another reason – to keep the railways clear for military traffic, as this stern holiday poster reminded everyone… Once the war […]

I mentioned recently the 225-year anniversary of the first manned flight across the English Channel in 1785, following the first successful balloon ascents in 1783. Some observers sceptically asked what use the new technology offered, failing to spot the opportunities it could afford. American scientist and statesman Benjamin Franklin scoffed at their short-sightedness, retorting, ‘what is the use of a new-born child?’ Ballooning hit eighteenth-century society with a bang, quickly becoming a fashionable spectator sport with men and women routinely risking their lives […]

While I was at the National Railway Museum last week, looking at the wonderful George Earl paintings, I also reminded myself of the splendour of Terence Cuneo’s giant view of London Waterloo station, painted in 1967. It’s quite a feat. Measuring 20 feet by 10 feet, it is Cuneo’s largest painting and was commissioned by the Science Museum for its then-new Land Transport gallery. Cuneo painted it in the gallery itself, surrounded by locomotives, cars and bikes all shrouded in […]

Four hundred years ago today (well, tonight) Galileo Galilei trained his telescope on Jupiter and spotted what looked like three stars nearby. The next night he looked again, and the stars had changed position. Tracking their motion over the next week, he established that there were four of these ‘stars’, and they were in fact moons orbiting the planet. In March 1610 he published his observations in Sidereus Nuncius (The Starry Messenger). It was a small book – if you […]

Happy 2010, everyone! I spent New Year’s Eve in York with friends, so naturally I took the opportunity to call in to the National Railway Museum, as there were a few things I wanted to see (as well as reminding myself what a cool museum it is). Just before Christmas, I described my journey north, from King’s Cross station all the way to South Shields. I showed you the NRM’s wonderful picture, Going North, King’s Cross Station, by George Earl, […]

1 87 88 89 90 91 96