The Culture24/7: Science and Nature picks for April 2012

By Ben Miller | 29 March 2012
An image of a large fish in an oasis in mountain valleys
© Courtesy Zhao Renhui
Sci-fi in Scotland, mathematical masterminds in Manchester, a stink at the Submarine Museum and Signs, Symbols and Secrets at the Science Museum. Here are seven to watch out for in April...

Molecular Time Travel into Medieval York, The Basement, York, April 4

Rapid advances in bioscience are allowing scientists to analyse DNA with unheralded clarity.

Find out how archaeology is helping them win the race for the personalised genome and shedding new light on York’s past as “the Hong Kong of the Middle Ages” in this talk by Professor Matthew Collins, an expert from The University of York.

Intersections, Science Museum, London, from April 4

What’s Henry Moore got to do with mathematics? Quite a lot, of course, particularly when it comes to the precision of his stringed sculptures.

Four of them - Mother and Child (1938), Stringed Figure (1939), Stringed Ball (1939) and Stringed Figure (1938/60) – go on show in the Mathematics gallery, taking direct inspiration from accompanying models including colourful polyhedra, topological and surface models.

Signs, Symbols, Secrets: An Illustrated Guide to Alchemy, Science Museum, London, from April 26

Smell the superstition of England’s earliest chemists in this magical mystery show full of rare books, illustrated manuscripts and scrolls pertaining to practitioners who believed they could turn compounds into treasures.

The dizzying barrage of signs and symbols used could illustrate an exercise in fancifulness or faith. These closely guarded secrets from centuries ago ultimately pursued the immortal touch of the philosophers’ stone.

Brains: The Mind as Matter, Wellcome Collection, London, until June 17

Ordered into sections of Mapping and Modelling, Cutting and Treating and Giving and Taking, the Wellcome’s new show weaves from hypothetical diagrams of the brain from the 16th century to one woman’s recent preparation for brain surgery.

Give your own mind plenty to think about with this history of what could well be the most complex entity ever made – “sufficiently balanced and engrossing as to render loveliness unnecessary”, said our Review.

It's Life Jimmy, but not as we Know It, National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh, until June 30

John Birch, the curator of this survey of literary spookiness, says we’re living in “a golden age for popular Scottish science fiction writing”, highlighting the medium’s shift from niche allure to mainstream popularity.

Some of the best examples are on display here, ranging from Arthur Conan Doyle’s Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde and The Lost World to Steven Moffat’s first Dr Who short story and shelves full of “obscure gems and little-known writers”.

Alan Turing and Life's Enigma, The Manchester Museum, Manchester, until November 18

The latest display in a year full of excellent exhibitions on the life and genius of Alan Turing has a personal link to the extraordinary scientist – between 1948 and his death in 1954, Turing worked on the earliest computers in a university room next to the museum’s home, exploring DNA and cells in investigations which drew some incredible conclusions.

Tragically, his groundbreaking work in this area is intertwined with his conviction for the “crime” homosexuality was at the time, leading to his chemical “treatment” and eventual suicide. But injustice can never extinguish his brilliance.

Horrible Science, Royal Navy Submarine Museum, Gosport

For those under the illusion that life aboard submarines might be relatively serene, this show could prove a shock. The writers of the much-loved Horrible Science books have devised five themes - food, filth, pesky pets, scary dives and stinky submarines - and poo fountains, rats, cockroaches, millipedes and bearded dragons all feature.

Funny and enlightening, it's a perfect family trip for Easter. "I know it will entertain by showing the funny and horrible side of submarine life", says curator Bob Mealings.
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