by DR. J. BRONOWSKI
This is a narrative exhibition. It develops its theme by means of things you can see and believe. Each is clearly captioned, so a written description of the displays exhibit by exhibit is unnecessary. But what may be a help to the visitor is the background story of this theme. This is attempted, section by section, in the pages that follow.
The word Science means Knowledge. This is an exhibition of things which we know. It shows what we know about nature and how we have come to know it, step by step, in the sturdy progress of discovery. People are often tempted to draw a more romantic picture of science: to see it as something remote or frightening, a magic and a mystery. Science is none of these things. Science is knowledge.
Nor is science a strange and special kind of knowledge. Its underlying ideas are not difficult and not at all extraordinary. They can be understood and enjoyed by everyone. This is an exhibition for everyone, in which the ideas of science are shown as common knowledge.
Nothing in this exhibition, therefore, is meant to puzzle or to astonish. There are no trick miracles here, and no mechanical marvels. Instead, here is the modern world itself, standing straight and handsome on its base of science. The wonders of this exhibition are not larger than life; they are the fabric of modern life, and they have grown of themselves from science.
This is an exhibition which looks inside nature. It shows the processes, living and dead, by which nature works. Here is the world for all to see, built transparently from the clear ideas of science. This exhibition is meant to make you feel at home with the knowledge of science, and to make you take pride in it, because it shows science as it is -- fascinating, yes, but real and downright.
THE WAY IN
You come into the exhibition through five rooms which take you, step by step, into the heart of matter. Going through these rooms you seem to shrink like Alice in Wonderland, and the things round you seem to grow larger and larger. There are pencil and paper in the first room. Now you find yourself apparently shrinking, first to the size of the pencil, and then to the thickness of the paper; you see that the pencil lead slides off in layers as it writes. Another step, another thousand times smaller, and you see the structure of the graphite crystals which make up the pencil lead. And then a last step, you are ten thousand million times smaller than you began, and now you see into the atoms themselves. Each atom has a heavy centre like a small sun, and the electrons move round it in clouds. You can see what it looks like in the artist's impression on the opposite page.
You have plunged headlong through these five rooms into the structure of matter, and are now ready to see, in a more leisurely way, how we come to know about it.
A FIRST LOOK ROUND
The exhibition's story at its simplest is told on either side of the main central gangway. Opening off this gangway are bays where particular aspects of the story are presented in more detail. These are distinguished in this Guide by being printed in smaller type.
The story is in three parts. The first part displays the PHYSICAL AND CHEMICAL NATURE OF MATTER. Matter is made of atoms, and there are over 90 kinds of atoms, because there are over 90 elements, each made of atoms of one kind. From the centre gangway we see how these elements make up the earth's crust, and we have a glimpse of the inner structure of the atoms themselves. There are side displays which look more closely at rocks and crystals, and at the finer structure of atoms, particularly of radio-active atoms.
The exhibition continues by showing the chemical behaviour of elements and their combinations. This chemical behaviour itself depends on the structure of the atoms, and this is shown in alloys and in some compounds of carbon. The carbon compounds, which are found in all living matter, then lead us to the chemistry of living processes.
The second part of the exhibition --THE STRUCTURE OF LIVING THINGS -- deals with plants and animals. It shows how they are built up from cells which live and multiply and die. The factors of heredity lie curled up within these cells, and when a male and a female sex cell unite, these factors show themselves in the descendants. So the plant or the animal grows and fulfils itself, shaped jointly by its heredity and its environment.
The third section is aptly described by its name, STOP PRESS. Here are shown some of the latest topics of research in science, and how they have grown naturally from the underlying ideas which we have met on our way round. These new advances concern such matters as the penetrating rays which reach us from outer space, what goes on in space and in the stars, and a range of subjects from the electronic brain to the processes and structures on which life is based.