The Science Museum Has Just Made Maths Fun

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 25 months ago
The Science Museum Has Just Made Maths Fun
The biplane centrepiece and the lit up airflow around it is stunning.

The latest addition to the Science Museum is a gallery dedicated to mathematics. And before you let out a big yawn and start flicking Tipp-Ex at your neighbour — this place has made maths awesome. Maths, you see, isn't just numbers, and here are over 100 objects to show how it shapes many things we take for granted.

The centrepiece is a biplane, the airflow around it highlighted via purple glowing structures. The effect is visually stunning, and we've learned something too. Crafty Science Museum.

Early calculators were bulky and rudimentary.

Wandering around the gallery we see how maths has shaped computing, architecture and flood prevention through the Thames Barrier (so without maths, London could have been flooded multiple times).

There are plenty of giant computers from the 80s, old cash registers and calculators. There's even a copy of the old spreadsheet program Lotus 1-2-3... the fact we remember this software made us feel very old.

From a time when phrenology (studying the shape of a skull) was used to determine personality types.

A very early cash machine reminds us how bulky they were, and we see all the weights and measures the British government had to use when importing from other countries with completely different systems. We can only imagine how chaotic trade must have been before international standards were brought in.

Old technology is juxtaposed with modern too; a quantum computing chip is placed next to an Enigma machine — poles apart in size and processing power.

The Thames Barrier wouldn't have been possible without the complex mathematics used to design and build it.

Mathematics is often seen as a dry subject and this new gallery does a fine job of making it more accessible and relatable. OK, it's much smaller than the Information Age gallery that opened in 2014 — but it's yet another fascinating addition to this world class museum.

Mathematics: The Winton Gallery is on the second floor of the Science Museum and is free to enter. The Science Museum has also refreshed Launchpad, converting it into the brilliant Wonderlab.

Last Updated 14 December 2016