October 11, 2006

The New Robotics... I mean, NEURObotics

messminds.jpgYesterday I attended the opening of the exhibition NEURObotics at the Wellcome Trust wing of the London Science Museum. I had been one of the science advisors so I got the chance to talk a bit with the journalists as well as sample the free sandwiches.

Overall, I like this exhibit. It is simple and really shows some of the devices that can affect the brain - multielectrode chips, TMS, chips for cultured neurons and so on. And there is the ubiquitious brainball game. I won again - maybe I'm relaxed, maybe I'm just empty in the head and no signal registers.

The exhibit has the usual problems with asking challenging ethical questions: it just asks them. This leaves the visitors trying to make up their minds without giving them any tools to do it. But at least it asks them and shows some of the good and bad applications of the technologies. Usually it is enough to show the tech and then ask. But creating the dialogue and discussion real answering would entail is of course very hard with a single exhibit.

I also discovered the Science Museum. Very fun exhibitions, especially the ones that didn't try to be interactive, for kids or "popular". Since England was at the forefront of the industrial revolution they got all the originals and firsts here, the devices you see in the history and textbooks. Seeing Lord Kelvin's mechanical spectrum analyzer, Babbages machines and the instruments of the 18th century physicists was moving.

In particular the exhibit of mathematical surface models was brilliant: just beautiful models and weird devices, with explanatory texts that dared to give the correct equations! Maybe most viewers won't get that, but it doesn't matter because they can feel that this is for real: real objects made long ago by scientists for real scientific use. Or for the sheer beauty of it - the generalised Klein bottles in glass by Alan Bennett were a treat.

Posted by Anders3 at October 11, 2006 08:59 PM