Wednesday, 11 July 2012


On Monday we went to the Science Museum.

 This, alas, is no longer the museum of my youth: the amazing hands-on displays I remember from childhood are all gone, replaced with new child centred exhibitions: The Garden, Pattern Pod and Launchpad.
 Of these The Garden is supposedly the one for Eleanor's age-group.
It's a free play area in which children are supposed to explore and make discoveries assisted by red-jumpered Explainers* there are areas for sound based play, lights for shadow puppetry, a gantryesque area with beanbags (presumably to assist in the discovery of gravity) and a complicated water table.
 The water table was certainly a hit with Eleanor, who enjoyed making whirlpools and seeing the affects of opening and closing various water gates.
It was also by far the most popular part of the exhibition in general: I don't think I ever saw it without a crowd of children surrounding it on all sides.
For the most part, though, The Garden didn't really seem to impress her that much: she claimed to be having fun, but gave the impression that she said it was fun because she thought it should be, rather than because it really was.

 Pattern Pod, once we managed to find the wretched place**, was much more to her taste.
Intended for children aged between five and eight, it is another interactive area, this time for set activities rather than free play.
There was a station full of boxes with lights that lit up if you followed the correct sequence of events, another where you could grow fractals from "seed"***, and another where you could create mandala-like patterns on a screen.
 Eleanor was particularly impressed by an exhibit on movement which required her to put on a variety of funny shoes before attempting to follow in the footsteps of a crawling baby, a dog, a duck, and a hopping robot.

She also enjoyed experimenting in a small chamber which played music for the occupant to dance to, while filming their movements and converting them into patterns on a large screen.
Well, she like the dancing anyway.

We failed to locate Launchpad entirely, which was rather a shame as there was supposed to be a demonstration of explosive science there which looked like it might be fun.
 On the bright side, though, this gallery is meant to be for those aged over eight, so I don't know how much Eleanor would have enjoyed it anyway.

We did, after several detours past clocks, flying machines****, and the Planets Suite by Holst***** find the Who Am I exhibition which looked amazing but was so crowded that we could barely get near any of the stations.
 Alas I may never know if my daughters are optimists or pessimists, or how they would survive various challenges.
The only station available was a very serious one about whether we should keep samples of everyone's DNA on file or not.
Eleanor asked what DNA was and, when I had told her, said that she thought it was a good idea as then they would have some to fix her with if she ever got broken.
I'll explain again when she's older.
 She was quite interested by the displays though, especially one on forensics which contained a skeleton "Like the dinosaurs but human", and one of genetically abnormal stuffed animals which I can only assume they put in especially for me.

And then, before we could look at the Difference Engine; or find the strange model, like a wooden game of Operation, in the Medicine exhibition; or even -horrors- look around the shop, it was time to go home.

*One of whom offered me a portable seat when I went in, I take it children can spend quite a lot of time in there.

** I suspect we would have seen far more that actually interested us if we'd had a better time navigating: the Science Museum is huge, and complicated, and laid out apparently at the whim of an insane artist, the children's areas, for example are not adjacent as you might expect, but dotted about the building, and to get into Pattern Pod you actually have to go past the ticket desk of the IMAX cinema.

*** Plastic seeds, each with a simple symbol inscribed on it.
When inserted into a box the symbol appeared on a screen above and "grew" into a fractal pattern

**** Including a missile.
Eleanor asked if it was for going into space on like Apollo 11, I said no, and explained its purpose.
Eleanor thought about this and told me that she thought it was nasty and silly.

***** No, really, it has its own gallery.
For now anyway.

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