Sidepodcast Meetup: Science Museum, London

What: Fast Forward F1 exhibition
When: Wednesday 15th April, 2009
Where: Science Museum, Kensington, London

Background: A few weeks ago Mr & Mrs C, the brains behind Sidepodcast.com, mentioned they planned to visit the new F1 technology exhibition at the Science Museum in London, and asked if any of the commenters from the site would like to join them. I tagged along for the ride.

Arriving into London Waterloo on time, I hit a snag: signal failure on the Underground. Being stuck on a hot, sweaty tube train is not a lot of fun and so I arrived at the museum 30 minutes later than planned, not a good start when you’ve never met the other attendees before. Thankfully from reading the comments it seems our hosts arrived mere minutes before I did, something I didn’t realise at the time and it helps that ‘Sidepodtime’ is fairly relaxed and nobody seemed to mind.

Once clear of the bag-search area ubiquitous of any London attraction these days I made a beeline for the McLaren hung upside down from the ceiling, then up the stairs to the designated meeting place where I found a large group of Formula 1 fans!

McLaren on the ceiling

After a quick group photo we made our way to the adjacent exhibit – it’s fair to say as soon as we saw it we were fairly underwhelmed. There are 20 objects arranged in a rough square in a very dark corner of a mezzanine floor above the main lobby, and you got the distinct impression it had been tucked out of the way.

F1 Exhibits (image brightened with Picasa software)

Each exhibit had a small piece of text underneath it explaining what the object was for, which was actually very interesting, the shame about it was that we’d all read the same information online before visiting the museum and it would have been nice to have found out a little more. Perhaps this information was contained within the touch-screens, I tried one of them and couldn’t make much sense of how to use it – it didn’t respond to touches very well.

Here are a few of the goodies at the exhibition:

Pod for premature babies Wheelchair

Medical telemetry system Wellbeing pod (no, we didn’t know either)

Other items included reinforced materials for soldiers’ armour, a magnetic device for cleaning a house heating system, a bicycle (the one at the Ferrari shop seemed more advanced), and some carbon-fibre stairs. Yes I took a (bad) photo of that too.

There was some tech intended for F1 as well, although this KERS device is not currently being used by any of the teams we believed it was intended to end up in the Honda. It would have been the only ‘hybrid’ KERS on the grid to use a combination of a flywheel with battery packs and is perhaps surprisingly small:

Flybrid KERS – a flywheel/battery hybrid system

The funniest moment was the comedy security guard! He took his job FAR too seriously. There was an invisible ‘barrier’ between the walkway and the glass/plastic cases – if you broke the barrier with your hand, or if you leaned in for a close photo an annoyingly loud alarm sounded until you moved back. This guy kept walking briskly around the exhibit telling people off for activating the alarm. Net result: more and more people did it! Only when he was relieved and another more relaxed guard appeared did the buzzing suddenly stop…

A final look

It took about an hour to cover the exhibits at a very slow pace and we hung around for another 30 or so minutes chatting and looking in closer detail, before getting bored of the whole thing. We were having a good time yet this was much more to do with who we were with than what we were seeing. If you are in London or if you are meeting a few people then it’s worth popping in for a while to check out the exhibits because they are interesting – our complaint was that so much more could have been done.

We wandered downstairs to the space section of the museum:

Huygens probe Hubble telescope

The actual capsule from Apollo 10!!

Someone then remembered there is another McLaren stationed at the very back of Museum. We went to take a look and it turned out to be Mika Hakkinen’s crashed car from the 1999 German Grand Prix at the old version of Hockenheim.

McLaren-Mercedes
Diffuser -1999 style Diffuser

By now we’d got entirely bored of the museum – this may have been due to the stuffy heat in there and the many kids running around, after all it was the Easter holidays. We decided to relocate ourselves to nearby Hyde Park for an ice cream and a chat and we stayed there for a very enjoyable afternoon. I’m sure we were there longer than in the museum, not that it matters.
We even broadcast live via justin.tv/sidepodcast which was an interesting experiment, before the audio gear was set up and a ‘Sidepodchat’ was recorded. I think most of us said at least a few words on that – even me!

After that we adjourned to the pub for a refreshing drink or five, a bite to eat, and a lot of alcohol-fuelled debate about F1 and other sorts of racing which is always fun. It’s been quite a long time since my last alcohol-fuelled F1 debate (outside of text comments) so that was good. With that we were done!

They are all a great bunch of people and the C’s are even nicer in person than on the podcasts, which is quite an achievement. Thanks guys for organising everything. And it was nice to finally meet Gavin after talking online for so long!

The following day I wandered around London for a while and located the Ferrari Store in Regent Street, it was good to see they have a relatively modern car (2003) in the main entrance but not being big on Ferrari I didn’t stay long.
I then found another shop I liked a lot: Pole Position, also in Regent Street towards the Piccadilly end. It was here I found some BrawnGP merchandise and so I promptly paid £19.99 for a hat, and the same again for an Aston Martin Racing hat. I do collect racing hats although I no longer wear them as often as I did. The guys in the shop were amazed at how quickly the BrawnGP gear was selling – the consignment had arrived 15 minutes before I did and they had almost sold out!

Suitable satisfied with a very enjoyable two days I made my way back home. Sorry for the long post but I think it deserved it! Take yourself along to the museum if you are in the area and be sure to pick up some F1 gear from Pole Position.

* * *
Links
An edited edition of the chat in the park is due to be released as a podcast soon, I’ll update this post with a link when it appears – let’s not pressure them though, they have a very big schedule of podcasts to record on each race weekend!

CLICK HERE to listen to the latest ‘Aside With Joe’, the regular feature with Joe Saward of GrandPrix.com who calls Sidepodcast every Friday or Saturday from each Grand Prix – it is always a very revealing chat and well worth the listen.

You can view my gallery here or by clicking the thumbnails above. The photos aren’t spectacular but I’m no photographer! I hope it gives something of a flavour to the day.

This is the website of the exhibution.

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5 thoughts on “Sidepodcast Meetup: Science Museum, London”

  1. one thing that you may have missed right at the very beginning, was my bag search.you know how much audio, video and photography gear was stuffed in there. it’s not the kind of thing any normal person would carry around a science museum and i expected to have to do a lot of explaining.the chap took one look at the motley collection of electrical gadgets and twisted cables, then let me go.guess i must have a trusting face.

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  2. Great write up, Pat. It’s cool to hear about museum displays about racing that don’t center around the “technology” found in tube framed, sheetmetaled, pushrod engined cars… 🙂

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  3. Pat,It was a pleasure to meet you too! Glad you enjoyed the trip, even though the exhibit was pantstastic!

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  4. @sidepodcast – I completely missed that, ha!@SpeedGeek – Thanks. I can imagine how that could be annoying. As I think Joe said on the latest podcast, F1 needs to do more of this sort of thing.@RubberGoat – Absolutely, it definitely was worth going (I nearly didn’t).

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