Darwinning

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The other day, my lovely, keen family and I decided to go to a bit of an exciting event at the Natural History Museum.  It was an after-hours viewing, a ‘night at the museum’, and the theme was a one-off: Discovering Darwin.

Now I’ve never been a huge fan of science, but this was one of the coolest, most enlightening evenings I’ve had in a long time.  I won’t fire a whole load of academic shpeel at you, probably because I couldn’t pull it off, but I just thought I should write a quick blog post about it, because heading to one of these ‘nights at the museum’ is an awesome way to spend an evening, and they get booked up pretty speedily.

So back to the evening: we arrived at the Natural History Museum at 6.30pm, were assigned our ‘teams’ and given our badges, mulled around drinking and appreciating mammoth skulls (as you do), and then the tour began… 

The whole idea was basically that each group would be led around the empty museum to different areas, where a respected scientist or professor would be standing.  They’d show us some amazing artefacts (including some of the original specimens that Darwin brought back with him on the Beagle – no qualms about picking up very old, dead fish suspended in alcohol, and dangling them before our eyes), and would then expand upon their area of expertise, answering questions and showing us more excitements.  And then we’d move on to the next station, and the next scientist.  At one point, we were casually gathered around the skeleton of a 3.2 million year old early human, Lucy, and it was revealed that a set of three even older skeletons has recently been discovered…the amazing thing about this discovery is that they had somehow managed to fall and die in a way that preserved them, almost mummified them.  Attached to these skeletons is therefore a small fragment of 3.5 million year old skin and hair; a fragment currently being analysed by experts.  This small discovery will in fact let us know how much hair early humans had at this precise moment in their transition from being apes.  It’s going to open new chapters in our studies of Darwinian theories; it’s basically quite a big deal.

(‘Dippy’, the dinosaur in the middle of the hall which genuinely KEEPS shrinking)

Anyway, all the lectures were related to evolution and Darwin, but they weren’t delivered in a boring, school-teacher way, but rather an exciting, interactive, enthusiastic way; a way that only true experts can master.  It was all just so inspiring, especially when they whipped out things which had been hidden in their archives for years, and I’d never have guessed that as soon as I left that place at 10.30pm, I would come straight home to Google various evolution facts, but I did and I still am.  That’s quite a massive achievement on their part.

It was well worth going to, and I know that there are plenty more one-off events like this coming up (including a murder mystery evening with real forensic scientists there to help solve the crime!).  You might think it’s a bit geeky to do something like this in your free time, but I reckon it’s just so sad to stop learning as soon as you leave uni.  And anyway, everyone knows there’s no place more exciting and brilliant than the Natural History Museum…

See http://www.nhmshop.co.uk/tickets/events-listing.html for details of upcoming events.

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