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Science Museum Blog

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, […]

Back in July last year, I kicked off this blog with a post about Louis Blériot’s historic crossing of the English Channel a century ago. Blériot’s journey is rightly considered a momentous event in aviation history, but it wasn’t the first flight across. That happened 225 years ago this week. Whilst Blériot had a powered, heavier-than-air craft, on 7 January 1785, Jean-Pierre Blanchard and John Jeffries were the first people to cross the Channel in a balloon. This is a wonderful pair of […]

It’s 2010. A new year, a new day. Check this post’s title. Jethro Tull fans amongst you will now be singing along merrily; if you haven’t yet experienced the Tull, you can hear their excellent song on YouTube here. Let me tell you about some of the ice skates in our collection. Our earliest is believed to be from the Stone Age (found in the Netherlands in the 1930s). They didn’t change much in the ensuing centuries; this one was […]

The V2 rocket engine was the first ballistic missile, built by the Nazis to fire missiles at London, but that wasn’t the only part it had to play in history. It could travel at three times the speed of sound and was the first man-made object that had the capability to reach space. On the 16 July, 1969 the Apollo 11 mission allowed the first men to walk on the moon. The Saturn V rockets which took up each of the Apollo […]

As we navigate our way through the festive season, and possibly eat and drink a little more than is wise, it is always worth remembering the most basic transportation device of all: Shank’s pony, or going for a walk. Maybe you’re a sporty type like these two, full of energy and ready to bound out of the house for a good stride across the countryside… You can even keep count of your paces as you march along using a pedometer… But […]

On Christmas Day, I showed you one of the sleighs in our transport collection. Sorry about the singing, by the way. I hope it was in tune. Sleighs were very important vehicles in heavy snow in many parts of the world, and continued to be used long after motor cars became popular. We’ve got a handful of sleighs and sledges in our stores, including two push-sleighs at opposite ends of the glamour spectrum: That Dutch sleigh is quite a beauty, isn’t […]

Dashing through the snow, in a one-horse open sleigh, o’er the fields we go, laughing all the way! Bells on bobtail ring, making spirits bright, oh, what fun it is to sing a sleighing song tonight! [All together now:] Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way, oh, what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh, jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way, oh, what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh! HAPPY […]

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