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Stitched chromosomes

We’re teaming up with Stitch Science for a weekend of science stitching. Come along to help make a giant stitched model of the solar system or help us out by sending some plastic bags to make plastic yarn.

We sometimes find that objects in our collections suddenly become newsworthy because of events beyond the Museum. This beautiful, but small and unassuming, object on display in Cosmos & Culture is now one of them. It’s a prototype gyroscope from the Gravity Probe B experiment, which has been testing predictions made by Einstein’s general theory of relativity: that a massive body such as the Earth should warp and twist the space-time around it. Four spheres like this one – among the most […]

My colleague Ali’s recent post focussed on the often gruesome relics of some of the great men of science. In between Galileo’s finger and Einstein’s brain, I was struck by the ghostly serenity of Newton’s death mask. Creating such portraits of eminent people – either in life or death – was not uncommon in the days before photography. But these masks found a new purpose during the 19th century in the pseudoscience of phrenology. What better tools to back up its claims and […]

A few weeks ago, Stewart talked about relics in our collections – often mundane objects that have gained mystique through association with famous historical characters. Recently, I got a close-up look at what’s possibly the ultimate scientific museum relic: Galileo’s body parts. The middle finger of Galileo’s right hand has been on display at Florence’s history of science museum for many years. The museum’s recently been refurbished and (in what’s possibly a cunning marketing tool to entice visitors from the […]

Are you off to the beach this August? Lucky you – I’m stuck at work (hey, but life’s always a beach here at the Science Museum). If you’re planning a holiday in the UK, you could tread the sands at Cromer, and follow in the footsteps of Albert Einstein. Einstein’s trip to Norfolk in 1933 wasn’t a holiday. As a famous German Jew, he had been subject to Nazi threats. He was invited to stay in Cromer by the MP and antifascist campaigner Commander Oliver Locker-Lampson.   Einstein’s visit has (very […]

It’s been an astronomical few days: The Astronomer Royal and President of the Royal Society appeared on the radio to talk about all the big scientific truths that, apparently, ‘we’ll never know’, we celebrated the Summer Solstice, we saw Dr Who at Stonehenge, and – last Thursday – the Director of the Taipei Astronomical Museum came to the Science Museum. As a parting gift he presented me with a tie depicting the Sun and planets. I had come to work in suit and open collar shirt so […]

This month marks the hundredth anniversary of radio time signals. These days, we’re used to the familiar sound of the six pips on the BBC, and we can buy cheap quartz clocks and watches that get magically set right every day by distant transmitters, such as the British service from Cumbria. Whilst experimental radio time transmissions started in the late nineteenth century, it was in May 1910 that Paris’s Eiffel Tower was used to broadcast the world’s first official regular radio […]

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 […]

Picture the scene. Two men are lurking at a London station, waiting for the Glasgow train. The train arrives and a third man disembarks, wheeling a suitcase. The three exchange some quick words of identification, the Londoners give the man from Glasgow an envelope of papers and he hands over the suitcase. The Londoners jump into a taxi with the suitcase … which contains a 23kg sapphire. No, it’s not a scene from the latest Bond movie. The man on […]

At first glance, a replica of Isaac Newton’s telescope might not have much in common with a dark matter detector. And what could the first astronomical instrument with built-in photography possibly have to do with a tea towel? Following the threads on the activity wall at the launch event for our Cosmic Collections competition, it all became clear. For the competition, we’re releasing data about more than 100 objects from our astronomy collection for people to incorporate into their own websites. We asked […]