Happy Easter everyone!! Here’s a non-chocolate, non-rabbit themed post… (but there is alcohol 😉 )
The Science Museum used to be my favourite place to go in London. There was something about that huge spinning light thing above the reception and the rooms and rooms of random contraptions and the incredible magical science stuff on sale in the shop that drew me as a child…
So when I heard that the Science Museum were hosting a Late along with the Royal Society during the Easter holidays, I was so stoked to go!
I went with my friend Michael (I got his permission to introuduce him to you haha), who you might recognise from his chess videos I’ve shown you guys before. (Shameless plug for his YouTube channel here: this is the video where they manage to play Chessbrah, a seriously popular chess streamer on YouTube!)
What’s a Late?
Every last Wednesday of the month, the Science Museum hosts an after-hours, adults-only night. You can find out more on their website here.
What Happens in the Science Museum during a Late?
When Michael and I went, we were given a programme at the door. There were so many things to see! We first found the Turing Dance Floor in the Silent Disco, but there weren’t that many people there and we felt a bit awkward dancing to different music whilst people walked past.
Booze on the Brain
We moved on past Tim Peake’s Spacecraft in the Wellcome Wing towards the back of the Science Museum in the Deep Blue Diner. Although we queued for a good 20 minutes or so, we managed to get a seat in the ‘Booze on the Brain’ exhibit, where we mixed our own DNA cocktails from strawberries!
I might write some instructions on how to make your own DNA cocktail 😉 but in short, it was so awesome separating the DNA and even getting to drink it.
There was a substantial queue for this one, but it was totally worth it.
We then decided to visit the Basement because the descriptions in the programme promised cutting-edge science exhibits, and they certainly weren’t wrong.
The first thing we saw when we stepped out of the lift was a pretty, multicoloured painting of London. We didn’t really think much about it and went to talk to a guy holding a circuit with black paint on it.
He was talking about graphene flakes, and how they mixed it with water to create a conductive ink which could be painted onto a piece of paper and complete a circuit. As an aspiring materials scientist, I got very excited very quickly at the mention of graphene.
The volunteer then showed us a black patch, which he said was spray-painted with this conductive graphene, and it was very flexible. He explained that this paint could be sprayed onto aeroplane wings to heat them up in winter, or used as a patch to warm us up under our clothes. The graphene paint was more efficient at turning electricity into heat.
I asked him if it could go the other way and turn heat into electricity – which he said was something that they were working on right now!
He then explained that the multicoloured painting of London was created using graphene paint, and in the future, our houses could be heated through artwork instead of clunky radiators.
A Polarised View
We then moved on to the next stand, and there were a couple of LCD monitors emitting (apparently) white light. We asked the guy standing there what was going on, and he gave us a pair of odd glasses – we put them on and suddenly we could see an image of a lobster on the LCD screen.
We took off the glasses (they did hurt my eyes after a bit) and although I’d learnt about polarisation in physics (yay physics!), my friend hadn’t so he was totally fascinated. Turned out that certain species of sea creatures and insects used polarised light to communicate.
Michael asked if we could use polarised light for pest control, and the guy said that they hadn’t thought of that. So if polarised light becomes a form of pest control, you know who came up with it first!
And for you Instagram peeps, polarising filters are also used in polaroids 😉
Molecular Jedi, Resistance is Futile and DNA Dance Revolution
There was quite a long queue for people to attempt the Molecular Jedi stand, because there was the opportunity to experience using a VR headset to ‘use the Force to bounce buckyballs and push atoms’. It looked very strange from the outside…
Turns out that VR is very useful for modelling what happens when a drug is in the body, and VR is used to drag the drug and the target molecule together and see what they do. Since just using a computer to model it is so complicated, scientists force them to come together.
On the Resistance is Futile stand, it was basically a coconut shy. I managed to knock off 2/5 – Michael didn’t even knock off one xD
This was analogous to the ‘artificial selection’ that goes on when antibiotics are used on patients – they kill off most of the microorganisms but only leave those that have mutated to be resistant. This is why drug-resistant diseases like MRSA have become more common, especially in hospitals; we’re using so many antibiotics that we’re artificially selecting the microorganisms that are immune!
Lastly, Michael and I shared the dance mat and we had to press the arrows which related to different bases in DNA (A, C, G and T) which was quite fun but there was nobody about to explain what it meant…
The clock struck 9:30 and we had no more time to explore other levels of the Science Museum, which was a shame. We arrived late that day because there was a ridiculously long queue outside, so we didn’t get as much time as we wanted to see everything. Next time!
What Else Was On The Programme?
So much! Check it out:
Going To A Late? Here Are Some Tips
Arrive early. And bring something to do whilst you wait. My friend asked whether there would be a huge queue, and they said maybe a small one – boy were they wrong!
The queue stretched out from the entrance in both directions: one was for people with tickets (I didn’t realise you could get tickets!) and one for non-ticketed people. The non-ticket queue literally stretched out all the way down Exhibition Road, past the Natural History Museum and round the corner!
No under-18s allowed. Which was a shame because I wanted to bring my brother along, but when I asked the crew sent a very reasonable and apologetic email about how the whole atmosphere depended on having no kids. This is totally understandable because if they let my brother in, then they’ll have to let other kids in and that will defeat the point of an adults-only evening!
But the weird thing is, not one person asked if I was over 18 – which I am, I even had my ID to prove it! – I don’t think I look that mature xD
Plan where you want to go. Prioritise the ones you’ll probably find interesting. Don’t be afraid to queue for experiences that you probably won’t get elsewhere!
Totally geek out. This is the perfect opportunity to show your nerdy side! Everybody else in there is likely to share the same interests as you, so ask as many questions as you can think of! The volunteers are all very knowledgeable and friendly 🙂
Most of all, have fun!