The Culture24/7: Our top picks in Science and Nature for June 2012

By Ben Miller | 01 June 2012
A photo of two screens showing video installations inside an art gallery
© Jamie Woodley

It's all about the outdoors in Science and Nature this month, with Thinktank, Kew Gardens, York Museum and Science Oxford all suggesting a certain capacity for chaos.

Astronomical wonderment at the Royal Observatory, a glimpse of Alan Turing's cerebral prowess and two great exhibitions in Scarborough and Bristol are also among our picks...


Thinktank Science Garden, Thinktank, Science, opens June 2

No matter how enticing your garden looks right now, it won’t beat this. There are 42 fun zones and exhibits, an eight-metre high Terminus machine and a human-sized hamster wheel in this enormous interactive science playground, one of only a few in the world.

Official figures reckon more than 10,000 man hours have been spent shaping this adventure, so it would be rude not to reward them by causing some serious outdoor mischief.

Coral: Rekindling Venus (from June 7); Anvilled Stars; Measuring the Universe, Royal Observatory Greenwich, London

Once-in-a-lifetime stuff in Greenwich: on June 6, the planet Venus will cast a small black dot against the face of the sun, and it won’t do so again until December 2117.

To honour the occasion, Lynette Wallworth considers climate change in video work Rekindling Venus, Wolfgang Tillmans returns to his photos of the 2004 Venus transit and skilled blacksmith Matthew Luck Galpin arcs Anvilled Stars across the Royal Observatory galleries.

David Nash, Kew Gardens, Kew, from June 9

David Nash has excavated trees for an evolving outdoor workshop which doubles as a quarry and explores the science and anthropology of trees. Watch out: his main tools are a chainsaw, an axe, and fire to char each bark.

Steve Hopper, the Chief Scientist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, says Kew’s alliance with the sculptor represents a “perfect partnership” intent on making people “look at plants and the natural world differently”.

Codebreaking – Alan Turing’s Life and Legacy, Science Museum, London, from June 21

ACE – Alan Turing’s computer which was the fastest in the world after World War II – is the star of this latest show in honour of what would have been the 100th birthday of the forefather of mathematical and computing science.

It’s hard not to boggle at his achievements, which remain a constant source of wonder. Other highlights here include military machines reeling out the German Enigma code Turing was instrumental in cracking and, conversely, rare parts of the ton-sized, electromechanical “bombe” machines, built by Turing to pinpoint enemy U-Boats.

Bioblitz, York Museum, York, June 15-16; Science Oxford, Oxford, June 23-24

A fantastic chance to get close-up to the wildlife on your doorstep if you’re near York or Oxford.

Experts want you to help them record as many species as possible, from flora, fauna and bats to birds, foxes and foxgloves. Opportunities to meet and touch the animals are aplenty and, drawn from sessions running throughout the day and late into the evening.

Scarborough’s Lost Dinosaurs, Rotunda Museum, Scarborough

Dino footprint sightings have become as prevalent as choc ices and end-of-the-pier shows on the North Yorkshire coast – the Jurassic calling cards are hardly difficult to spot, embedded as they often are in rocks and stones.

In response, curators have attempted some prehistoric sleuthing in this exhibition, pulling out some of the incredible finds collected during decades of dinosaur discoveries. The aim is to work out why few gigantic bones have ever been found, but part of the allure surely lies in the mystery of where the giants who once roamed Yorkshire ended up.

Superpower: Africa in Science Fiction, Arnolfini, Bristol

In a rivetingly original idea, the Arnolfini has invited ten artists to consider how and why Africa has found such a firmament in science fiction, from the opening of Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey (in which a black monolith disappears) to Neill Blomkamp’s District 9, alluding to South Africa’s past and future.


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