Friday, 28 May 2010

A little late-night learning at the Science Museum

"Did you just invite me to this thing so I would write a blog on it and you'd get mentioned again?" I quizzed a friend, who has on occasion complained she is not mentioned enough in this blog. Of all my friends she has probably appeared the most, yet she remains without an Accidental name. So now came a challenge to name my dear, fame-whore friend. We batted a number of options back and forward - rejecting the more ridiculous, and frankly misleading. The Accidental Giggle Monster was vetoed instantly (I mean, seriously!). Finally I agreed, due to her Aberdonian heritage, she could be the Accidental Scot, and so from now on, that is what she will be.

So the other night the Accidental Scot and I went to hang out at the Science Museum - wild eh? Similarly to its South Kensington neighbour, the V&A, every Wednesday evening of each month the Museum reopens its doors an hour or so after its official closing time, for adults only; this is the XXX Science Museum experience. Sort of. The bliss of wandering around one of the city's top museums unaccompanied by thousands of screaming four-foot horrors makes the queue for entry worth the wait. One often forgets that museums were not originally designed for class-trips and school holidays, and grown-ups should occasionally get to play too.

Here at the Science Museum we watched fully-grown adults jabbing buttons and poring over touch-screens, even playing chicken with a strange, humming pole which electrocuted those brave, or stupid, enough to stick their fingers through its metal guard-bars. The Accidental Scot and I wandered through a multitude of galleries and exhibits - Medicine, Space, Energy, Agriculture (well, actually the Accidental Scot got lost there searching for me amid the dangling red panels which shroud Plastics). Tucked into several areas of blank floor space were a number of impromptu bars, named after prominent scientists, so the late night visitors could wander, beer-, wine-, or horrifyingly lurid cocktail-in-hand, through the vast halls.

But these "Lates" offer even more than free access to a wide array of clear perspex boxes full of fascinating things. The Museum lays on a number of exclusive talks on its greatest treasures, and explaining how an IQ is calculated, or how a genius is defined. For those in search of a more hedonistic cultural experience a silent disco provides an extraordinary dancefloor amid space shuttles and twirling planets. (And it also gives the rest of us visitors a good giggle, watching them flail and boogie away, huge headphones clamped over their ears, in the absence of any audible music.) The Accidental Scot and I took a ride on a 3D simulation of a space shuttle mission to the moon, which left us somewhat jolted and in need of supper after our evening of educative culture. So we left the museum and all the listening and learning, and dancing and drinking, and went to dinner. And from now on I shall only go to museums where one can drink and be merry, and where one never has to fight a 6 year old to press the buttons.

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