26 September 2013

Sci by Night

Once a month, the Science Museum in London opens up to adults on a Wednesday evening. The night always has a loosely scientific theme. After a few tough weeks at work, we needed a team outing and when we heard that this month's Science Museum Lates had a photography theme, we were sold. There aren't too many good freebies for people working within science communication, but we do have good contacts, which meant we got to skip the huge queue and go straight into the museum.

If you've never been to the Science Museum, you should check it out, as they have a lot of very cool stuff. First on our list, though, was the build-your-own-macro-lens workshop. Once our iPhones had been suitably converted, we snapped away. The best shots were of the bubbles on a cider bottle and of holographic bank notes, but of course I spent quite a while taking a series of somewhat out-of-focus photos of my eye.

The next activity was screen printing. You could pick whether you wanted a slightly faded black and white photographic print of a betting shop or of a dilapidated building — I love my urban wastelands so I chose the latter — and then choose to screen print one of two different colourful patterns on top. I always like taking away souvenirs, so we joined the short queue and produced our own prints, which we toted round for the rest of the evening.

We had signed up for tickets for a conversation in the IMAX between Roger Highfield (who is the director of external affairs at the Science Museum Group) and Lily Cole (model, actress and now social entrepreneur), partly about evolution and cooperation, but mainly about their respective projects: his book Supercooperators and her website, impossible, which encourages people to do things for other people in the hope that others might do things for them. Certainly a very interesting idea — I'm sure the game theorists will be very interested in the results.

Downstairs, there were some trees onto which you could hang your wishes, as part of impossible. I thought I was being shallow considering writing Clive Owen on one of the wooden tags, but there were plenty of suggestions that were closer to that thought than to the world-peace-type suggestions. I did at least get some free cheese straws when they ran out of whole portions.

We then had a bit more time to explore some of the other galleries, playing various science-themed games. I lost at most of them, but it was still a fun night. There are various bars throughout the venue, as well as eating options of various levels of formality. Given that it's free to go to Lates, it makes for a pretty cheap night out. I would definitely go back – ideally during a less hectic work night — the next time I like the sound of the theme. It's just going to be a shock to the system to join the queue.

Science Museum Lates (last Wednesday of the month). Exhibition Road, London, SW7 2DD (Tube: South Kensington). Website.

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