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The Open Lab Experience

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Entertaining stampeding children, discussing the complexities of the human mind, and making people marvel at incredible illusions – all part of a day’s work at Lottolab. For those of you who haven’t heard of Lottolab, it’s a perception research space and the only place in the Science Museum where multiple real science experiments take place. For the past few months I have volunteered at Lottolab and gained great insight into a totally unique and highly interactive museum experience.

Unlike other museum spaces, Lottolab doesn’t have many exhibits in the usual sense. In fact, on entering you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve stumbled into a forbidden section, perhaps a sort of experimental wing. And in a way you’d be right. Lottolab is experimental in so many ways; take a look at this video for an overview:

Rather than spending hours reading signs about old bits and pieces, here you’re more likely to find yourself approached by a rather charming volunteer and asked to take part in an experiment. Not just any old experiment though – a perception study (and they’re the most fun, because they’re about you!). You might even end up blindfolded, trying to navigate your way around a maze, using only an iPod application which converts colour into sound.

The most impressive part of the maze experiment is that it’s designed by kids. A key philosophy of Lottolab is that people shouldn’t only take part in experiments, but also make them. It’s this high level of public participation that inspires everything we do. Many of our studies end up published in scientific journals and so contribute to the formal advancement of scientific knowledge.

Our infamous Sound Switcher in action last Half Term.

During my time at Lottolab, I created the short video you can see above, with Program Manager David Robertson explaining the lab and its mission (as well as showing people attempting the blindfold experiment). Hopefully it gives you a sense of what a totally unique and truly interactive place Lottolab is. Whether you want to take part in an experiment, suggest your own or simply admire some incredible tricks of the mind, there’s something for you here.

Lottolab are open in the Science Museum until the 20th of April, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (12-4pm) next to the Energy Gallery on the second floor – though we hope to be reopening in a new-look gallery in the summer, so stay tuned if you don’t get to pay us a visit this time. We look forward to meeting you!

This post, and the associated video, were created by Lottolab volunteer Samuel Cavenagh.

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