The art of scientific enquiry

Another busy day yesterday! My friend from my degree course, Lavinia (referred to from henceforth as Vin) came down to London to have a lovely, cultured day with me at the Natural History Museum. I could not believe that she had never visited this particular museum before – I have been going since before I was born.

She felt a little bit guilty when I told her how often I came to NHM – was I not going to be bored coming again? But no – anyone who has ever been there can confirm, you can never see enough of it. The building itself is a whole day out – it is stunning to look at, the scale of it, the “gargoyles”, everything.

One thing was certain: she wanted to see the dinosaurs. Now, I’m not particularly fussed by dinosaurs, but seeing dino skeletons in full size is something else. I particularly like Iguanadon’s hands.

After having a really good look around, we made the obligatory stop by the dino gift shop! And played with all the cuddly toys… heh.

But I did bite the bullet, and finally bought… Dino cookie cutters!!

Triceratops skeleton.

By now, it was about 12:30, and I was starting to get peckish. But Vin is on some mad liquid diet at the moment (she does not need to be – she is gorgeous) so she was steering clear of a big lunch. However, I knew from experience that the NHM’s restaurant is wonderful – it is big and clean and well decorated. It is run by Benugo and therefore a bit pricey, but good quality. Vin did decide to take on a small portion of solids in the form of a chicken Caesar salad and a bottle of water, whilst I went for their Cumberland sausages and garlic mash, watered down with St Helier’s pear cider.

There were three sausages, but despite this, the meal was not very filling – delicious, but as I have felt before, too small. The mash was very smooth, and the gravy flavoursome, but the sausages were mediocre. There were no greens, so it felt a bit unbalanced.

Vin decided to not even finish her modest meal, so of course I needed to try it – the croutons were gorgeous (large, and “rusticly” cut), the salad itself crisp and a good size, the chicken well cooked and not dry, and the dressing was lovely and salty (made with anchovies). It also had parmesan shavings, which topped it off nicely. A much more satisfying dish: better balanced, and not disappointing, considering what you expect from a chicken salad.

 Fruit bat, one of the bats on display.

Onwards we went, to see the animals. We decided to stay mostly in the Green and Blue zones of the museum, as both of us are more into animals than minerals. So we perused the birds (we both share an unusual love of vultures!), then I introduced Vin to the famous blue whale. Vin did not agree with me that the polar bear looked cuddly. Pangolin was one of the coolest animals all day, in my opinion.

From here, we had another pit stop, at the museum’s cafe. Vin had some more water (tsk) whilst I went for a soft drink and a slab of chocolate fudge cake (I wasn’t doing it deliberately, to taunt her, honestly).

Last point of business: The Darwin Centre. It’s been there about a year now, and I’ve only visited it once. It’s a fantastic, modern “cocoon” building, which introduces the layman to scientific enquiry, methods of categorisation and basic qualitative research methods. There are masses of interactive technologies to play with, from the Nature Plus system, to “drag and drop” style touch screen projections. There is also an Attenborough Studio (showings through the day of fascinating nature videos and live talks by scientists), the Spirit Collection (hurrah! Things in jars!) and the Centre for UK Biodiversity. There is far to much to see in just one day. I could go back tomorrow and fill an entire visit with completely different things.

We browsed the main gift shop for a bit, and then the museum was set to close, so we sat down on the benches outside for a while, chatted, and people-watched. A day well spent.

If you’re thinking about visiting the Natural History Museum yourself, why not go to their Science Uncovered event? This is set to be a huge after hours event, with talks, behind the scenes, tours and bars involved. I won’t be there the entire evening, unfortunately, because I intend to go to a talk at the Royal Institution on the same night. But I do intend to go to some of it, so maybe I’ll see you there 😉


One thought on “The art of scientific enquiry

  1. Pingback: 100! « Unravelled

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