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Science Express

525 words

To promote science, people came up with the sweet idea of setting up a whole train with an exhibition on science topics. It’s named Science Express (I suppose Wissenschaftszug didn’t sound modern enough) and it’s stopping in Göttingen these days, so we had a look.

Science Express on the platform

Each coach is designated to a particular topic ranging from abstract astrophysics to ‘life sciences’ to information technology and more engineering-centric topics. The exhibits themselves looked like they were made with a lot of effort and the train looked well done and cool in many places.

On the other hand, we thought the exhibition was rather superficial. No more than a quick blurb was given on anything, and even the interactive displays (fun, but not particularly useful touch-screen stuff going on in a few places) weren’t particularly deep. Wherever there was more detail, it seemed to be either be related to corporate sponsorship or to some scientist getting the opportunity to feature their pet project with too much detail and too little context.

Design-wise I am split. Things did look nice and carefully made but in a number of places it was very hard to read the text because of the light or - with a lot of the text being on nice transparent panels - there being a patterned wall that’s too busy in itself or too low contrast compared to the text to make reading easy. Seeing that most of the exhibits seem to be aimed at children in their difficulty and depth, making them more accessible to smaller people could have been an advantage as well.

Trees in a train

Another problem was that even without any seats and walls a railway coach is quite small. And it seems pretty much impossible to run large or even medium numbers of people through it at the same time, as all the natural ways you can pass each other in other exhibitions simply fail in that constrained environment. Add a guided tour and a bunch of running children to it and the you could consider it a stressful environment.

A final negative was the fact that many of the interactive exhibits didn’t offer much in terms of meaningful interaction. A few had ‘out of order signs’ on them, but quite a few more didn’t work, either because their buttons didn’t cause any effect or because their speakers seemed broken. That wasn’t too helpful.

Fun bits were the mention of Calabi-Yau manifolds - with a picture even -, a nice small experiment with a ferromagnetic fluid and - in a wierd way - their take on our web future. According to them the ‘semantic web’ is not an absurd idea but coming really soon (I can’t wait for my Direct Brain Link…)

Diagram about technological development

Next to that description of the future they ran a graphically rather nice video on modern life running from local living to work live to national drinking habits to time zones. Unfortunately I didn’t catch where that bit of Helvetica-loving came from. Any clues?

Many thanks to Carl and Paolo for pointing out in the comments that this is a Röyksopp video. Without music being played, quite nonobvious. But here we go:

June 13, 2009, 0:14

Tagged as science, train.


Comment by Carl: User icon

I’m pretty sure that last picture you have is from the music video “Remind Me” by Röyksopp.

June 13, 2009, 0:44

Comment by Paolo Mazzetti: User icon

The video is Remind me by Röyksopp.

June 13, 2009, 9:25

Comment by ssp: User icon

Thanks for video pointers Carl and Paolo. I love it when information comes together in this way. Added the video to the text now.

June 13, 2009, 13:57

Comment by Paul Mison: User icon

2lmc have loved Remind Me since it was released and on fairly heavy rotation on MTV2 years ago, back when we had a dozen music video channels.

Recently I discovered that Röyksopp have a Vimeo account with a vaguely decent quality copy of all of their videos, including Remind Me. It’s probably worth skimming their other work; there’s some nice ideas in there.

June 18, 2009, 0:39

Comment by ssp: User icon

@Paul: Thanks for the further video links. Will have to look at those as well now.

June 18, 2009, 2:26

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