Tuesday, July 10, 2007

science and poetry

sculpture at the Royal Society, originally uploaded by supafly.

As I'm writing this I am being driven crazy by the construction that starts outside around 9:30 every morning. There's always hammering or drilling happening with the occasional swear word thrown in. The worst though is the constant 80's and 90's music that they play. It's all the cheesy stuff too....that's better - I just put on my noise cancelling headphones and am listening to Blossom Dearie instead. (I could also just move to the front room, but why do that?)

On Thursday I went back to the Royal Society for the last day of the Science Exhibition. On the way, I walked by Trafalger square and the Mall. They were setting up bleachers and big screens in Trafalger for the Tour de France opening ceremonies tomorrow and the mall was closed to traffic. It was lined with new trucks and Tour de France vehicles. I walked over to Carlton Terrace and up the stairs of the Royal Society.

The only quiet exhibit room contained information on primate language. You could listen to different chimpanzee sounds and the researcher's explanation for what it means. They also had a machine that showed pitch and loudness of different primate sounds and a microphone so you could try matching their sounds. I tried a few times, but the room was so quiet so it was quite embarrassing to hear myself trying to sound like an orangutan for example.

There was another room that was loud with the sound of airplanes taking off. They are trying to develop technology for quieter aircraft. One of their simplest and most brilliant solutions was to point the engines up instead of down so that most of the sound was above the plane rather than below it. They also gave out cool portable frisbees.

An exhibit about life in the canopy of the rainforest had many arthropod specimens. There were huge beetles and ones so tiny they looked almost like specks of dust. There were also a few live samples, including dung beetles, a millipede, and a centipede.

In the basement of the Royal Society were the last few exhibits. The clothes of some of the first arctic explorers were on display. I couldn't imagine staying warm in such thin layers of cloth - they must have been cooooold! One of the coolest exhibits let you control a mini ROV (Robot Operated Vehicle) that was in a large fish tank. It's similar to playing the game where you try to pick up things with a robotic claw, except you watch what you are doing on a tv screen and it's hard to do something 3-dimensionally from a 2-dimensional image. Kids were once again overwhelming the exhibit so I just watched them bicker with one another about whose turn it was and how so and so was hogging the machine.

After watching all the exhibits, I walked down to Regent street to Habitat, a store with similar goods for sale as Crate and Barrel. The biggest difference was the in-house wurlitzer organ that was being played when I walked in. There were several old people gathered on couches near the organ and I joined them for a little while.

Next, I walked down to Carnaby street. I was going to get some sticky toffee pudding, but decided I better have something more substantial and sat down in a quiet corner of a pub for sausage and mash instead.

After taking some time to read and rest, I took the tube to the Southbank Centre. I walked through their Operation Soapbox maze, where people could leave messages throughout and then went next door for a poetry slam. All the poets were teenagers and many of their works were about the violence they had seen. The two that impressed me the most were only 12-years old and great beatboxers!

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