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Temples of Science & Evolution

Temple of EVOLUTION!
Temple of Evolution: Natural History Museum

One of the great things about London for the visitor - and I guess for the locals - is the wide and excellent variety of Museums and places to visit. As this was Nathan's first trip to the Big Smoke, we decided to take him to two of the biggest; the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum.

Both have the things that will interest a five year-old boy *and* his parents, but overall our experience was that the Science Museum wins for overall excitement. Space rocket, lunar landers, cars, planes, bubbles, old technology, the Red Arrows and more won the heart of Nathan over the Dinosaurs, Creep Crawlies and Amphibians. Admittedly, he loved it all, but the Science Museum was the clear winner in the running from display-to-display and actually listening to videos and audio material stake. I also lost Jill & Nathan for thirty minutes after they got detoured into the Launchpad activity area when they had supposedly nipped quickly to the toilets!

The Natural History Museum (NHM hereafter) was also a bit more blatant in its commercial operations, with a wincingly expensive café and in-your-face promotion of dinosaur toys as part of the displays (cleverly wrapped up as 'dinosaurs in modern culture') which just happened to available immediately opposite the gallery exit. The Science Museum wasn't quite as blatant, although a can of soft drink was still £1.80 against the £2.00 in the NHM.

I went into an adult aimed temporary exhibit in both Museums; at the NHM it was 'Scott's Last Expedition', which cost £9 to go into. This was excellent, recounting the last, fatal, journey of Captain RF Scott and his men as they arrived second to Amundsen at the South Pole. There were a good variety of artifacts and interesting displays, giving a good understanding of the logistical and scientific achievements of the expedition. One thing that was apparent was the different focus applied by Amundsen and Scott. Amundsen was completely focussed on achieving the pole, whereas Scott had a huge scientific agenda as well. It's particularly painful when you realise just how close Scott's party got to the supplies and safety of 'One Ton' camp. I really enjoyed the Exhibition and would recommend it if you can get to London before it ends at the start of September.

Temple of SCIENCE!
Temple of Science: The Science Museum

In the Science Museum, I visited 'Codebreaker', an exhibition on the life and influence of Alan Turing, WW2 cryptographer, computer pioneer and philosopher. Free to enter, there was less to see than "Scott's Last Exhibition", but it was interesting material. I've read a fair amount on the Engima codebreaking operation at Bletchley Park, so that was a familiar story, but the early computing and morphology work was new to me. There was also a classic engineering example, with a section of the failed Comet airliner displayed. Apparently, the Pilot ACE computer designed by Turing was key in carrying out the calculations that demonstrated that the cause was fatigue cracking of the square windows. Again, and especially at the price, worth a visit.

All in all, we had great days both times we visited and it is fair to say that we could easily have spent all-day at both venues rather than the four-to-six hours that we were there at each.

Interestingly, Nathan actually gives the NHM '3 thumbs up' and the Science Museum '2 thumbs up' on the grounds that he felt the NHM had more stuff (but we only did two floors at the Science Museum). However, for all the NHM is the winner in the questions afterwards, the Science Museum was definitely the one that fascinated him most on the day. Intriguing.