The Science of Survival

Last year I worked on The Science of Spying for the Science Of… team at London’s Science Museum. Today, they invited me back to view the exhibition that followed in our footsteps: The Science of Survival. It’s really interesting to see a different team’s approach to creating a major exhibition.

The Science of Survival uses a lot of animation, with four kids from the year 2050 talking about survival in the future. The exhibition opens with them explaining a bit about life in their time, but then their comlink goes down and you step forward in time. In the middle of the current climate change frenzy, coupled with the 2050 theme, the team could have taken an apocalyptic view and, with only static on the screen in front of me, I wondered if I was going to enter some sort of waterworld. Of course that doesn’t happen – the future proves welcoming, almost utopian, and our four young guides offer contrasting views on different survival ideas, which balance each other nicely.

One thing I must say is not to be shy. There is water once you’re through the entrance, and you can stand on it, making waves and scaring the fish, without even getting your feet wet. Make sure you doMind the fish

There are other interactions about reclaiming water (be careful not to eat the frogs) before you move on to designing futuristic foods, or fighting your fellow visitors to see who can eat the most pizza and bananas. The standard Science Of… brief would be for kids aged 8+ but, for younger children, there’s a great dressing up area in one corner.

You can also design a future transport system and a home to live in, but the attraction that I suspect will prove most popular is a driving game, whizzing around Future City collecting as many friends as you can for a party. I’m delighted to say I ended up with the top score. I know that because almost all the interactions are linked up and you start each one by touching a card on an electronic reader. Then, as you leave the exhibition you can see the effect of all your choices together on future city.Future City Panorama

The whole thing looks like a giant multi-user version of the Sims and it’s great to see the effect you as a visitor have had on this future urban idyll.

Of course there’s serious information behind all the bells and whistles. I learnt about the proposed Mega-City Pyramid for Tokyo and also the more modest but still impressive Middlehaven redevelopment in Middlesbrough. There’s a hydrogen fuel cell model racing car (the H-racer) from Horizon technologies and a model of Nissan’s Pivo car. I’m told they’re hoping to have the real thing in the entrance to the exhibition soon. I would have liked something on wave and tidal power as (for the UK at least) these technologies have massively more potential for generating clean renewable energy in the future, but everyone seems to overlook them in favour of the much more limited solar and wind power. But you can’t have everything and I did fulfil the ambition of a lifetime by building my own underground house.

You leave the Science of Survival to enter the exhibition shop. I particularly liked this Easter Island style display of wind-up penguin torches:Easter Island penguins

If you’re looking for somewhere to occupy, entertain and educate the children when down in London, the Science of Survival should be high up on your list.
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~ by keithmansfield on April 4, 2008.

2 Responses to “The Science of Survival”

  1. I really want to go and see this! I love the Science Museum. And a wind up penguin torch!?!?!

    I want one!

  2. Hi Alex – they had mini wind-up radios too, which were cute, but not quite as much fun as the penguins.

    Love the Science Museum too – normally I’m taking nephews or godchildren round in school holidays when it’s heaving, so I was really lucky to get to the preview and be one of only a handful going round the exhibition!

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