Science at the National Museum of Scotland

At the moment I’m on a pre-Christmas trip to visit my younger brother, Nick, in Edinburgh. The only time I’ve been here before is to play lacrosse so it’s been wonderful to come and explore the city.

Yesterday afternoon Nick and I visited the National Museum of Scotland. Both being self-confessed geeks, we headed straight for the science section of the museum. The space was jam-packed with lots of exciting and informative exhibits. However, a lot of the time I found myself asking the question, ‘Why are they telling me these facts?’ I’d then have to look around to find the purpose of the display. But despite this lack of overarching narrative, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

I particularly enjoyed some the interactive displays dotted throughout the space. Here are three I’ve singled out:

  • The animal weigh-in

Standing on the scales allowed you to see which animal you were equivalent in weight to – I weigh the same as an anteater and Nick the same as a chimp! This was a lovely way of helping people young and old to appreciate how heavy some animals really are. I particularly liked that the scales were big enough to fit a small group of people on!

  • Visualizing the earth’s atmosphere

By spinning the globe the liquid moved in the same way as the earth’s atmosphere does as the earth spins. Simple but beautiful visualization. However, the information it imparted might have been a bit beyond the toddlers whose section it was in.

  • Natural selection

Using a touch-screen display you could design a fish (big, small, striped, spotted, pink and blue or black and white) which would then be dropped into a ‘pond’ projected onto the floor. Every few minutes a shark would swim across the pond, and the fish would dart to the coloured shelter around the edges of the pond. If a fish couldn’t blend in with its surroundings it became a skeleton. The ones which could continued to circle the pond after the shark had moved on. I thought this was a brilliant game to show children certain aspects of natural selection.

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