Through the Looking Glass - Science Of Alice Explored At @Bristol

By Laura Prince | 16 November 2006
a photograph of two children perring through a hole in a wall and looking up at a ginat rabbit

Courtesy @Bristol

A new science exhibition opening on November 18 2006 at Explore-At-Bristol is set to be the first of its kind to explore contemporary science through the popular children’s classic, Alice Through the Looking Glass.

Since the Reverend Charles Dodgson, pen name Lewis Carroll, created Alice Through the Looking Glass to read to his friend’s daughter, the much loved tale has been subject to many adaptations. This exhibition is no exception and promises to intrigue and baffle the minds of mad-hatters throughout the country.

Alice Through the Looking Glass runs until September 2007 and features more than 60 hands-on exhibits, which are divided into themed areas based on the original storylines.

photo of two children looking through a spyhole in one of four doors lined along a wall

Courtesy @Bristol

The exhibition is designed to illustrate scientific conundrums to adults and children in a way both can easily relate to. It also encourages visitors to learn about the way the brain works in more detail - even those who think their grey matter is fading with age.

The scientific brains behind Alice Through the looking Glass is Professor Richard Gregory, a renowned experimental psychologist and Professor of Neuropsychology at the University of Bristol. He has provided the exhibition with his scientific input and scientific explanations.

Emma Cook, Exhibition Manager at Explore-at-Bristol explains: “The exhibition showcases illusions that have helped researchers to better understand how the brain and our senses work. Visitors may find that they have been seriously underestimating their brains!”

photo of silhouette cut outs of an Alice figure and a white rabbit

Courtesy @Bristol

One of the exhibition’s themes is aptly named Down-the-Rabbit-Hole, where visitors can discover just how Alice felt in the story as she entered the rabbit hole and found herself falling downwards. Fascinating illusions with images flashing past can make the brain believe the body is falling through space when it isn't.

While falling, Alice poses the question: I wonder if I shall fall right through the earth? So, if you dug a hole straight through the earth from Bristol, where exactly would you end up?

Many of us would instinctively say “Australia!” but, are you sure? An exhibit here allows visitors to find out by positioning one camera on Bristol (or indeed anywhere you like), and another camera will show the location which is exactly opposite on the globe. The results are very surprising.

photo of a schoolgirl looking at a mirror with a flower shaped frame and holding onto a large mushroom sculpture

Courtesy @Bristol

Many will remember the part of the story when Alice became very large after drinking the contents of a bottle labelled 'drink me'. This is the underlying theme of The Pool of Tears area. Here, visitors can find out about casting shadows and illusions formed by light.

Other memories from the story include the White Rabbit’s House, The Loveliest Garden and Croquet Ground, The Hall of Doors and At the Riverbank. Each of these has a dedicated section, with bright and colourful exhibts to educate and entertain all visitors.

Parents might like to note that select elements of Alice Through the Looking Glass are designed to link to Key Stages 1 and 2 of the National Curriculum, meaning children can not only have fun shrinking in the Glass Table area’s special optical illusion mirrors, they will also be learning something relevant to schoolwork!

This exhibition embraces the miracle of human perception and the workings of the brain, and Explore-At-Bristol provides the perfect venue for such a fascinating and informative day out.

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