An advantage of my lab work getting off to a slower start than I expected is that I could enjoy the free time I had over the Easter weekend visiting family in Manchester, without being tied down by experiment commitments. Whilst up North for a few days we decided to check out some of the museums and centres there and they did not disappoint!
On Saturday we took a tram into Manchester city centre and visited the Museum of Science and Industry on Liverpool Road. The museum itself is pretty big and comprised of lots of smaller buildings, some of which are listed so it’s well worth a visit just to wander around those. There are lots of things to see, places to eat and a gift shop, and so for the £3 suggested donation it really is a good-value-for-money day out.
Like most museums, they have different temporary exhibitions depending on when you visit, and we were lucky enough to see the Soyuz TMA-19M descent module – the spacecraft that British astronaut Tim Peake returned to Earth in following his mission to the International Space Station. Now I have been a massive fan of space science since I was little so getting the chance to see this in the flesh was fab:
The capsule was small and covered in black scorch marks from the high temperatures when it re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere. They also have the spacesuit Tim wore whilst he was travelling into space for you to have a look at.
In the Revolution Manchester gallery there are lots of old science/computer equipment which was really interesting to look at. One of my highlights though as a biologist was getting to see one of the early mass spectrometer machines. Mass spectrometers are useful in biology for identifying the different molecules present in a sample. They work by turning your biological sample into a gas and then firing beams of electrons at the gas. As the electrons hit the sample, the different molecules inside become positively or negatively charged and this information is picked up by a detector. The detector then produces a graph which can be analysed to determine what was in the sample. The data can tell you lots of information and is used often in science labs. Here is a picture of the mass spectrometer they have in the museum:
What was really surprising to me was that, although the computer equipment looks much different nowadays, the size of the machine hasn’t really changed much in the last 40 years!
Another one of the permanent galleries they have is the Power Hall which consists of a whole host of different machines and engines used in the cotton mills from Manchester. During the industrial revolution, Manchester had a massive cotton processing industry which was one of the major reasons for the big expansion of the city during that time. So it was really nice to get to see the cotton spinning machines working in the museum knowing the history and significance they have to the city.
The last think I wanted to mention was this fun piece that we noticed whilst wandering around the Textiles gallery:
It’s a cardigan made entirely out of fine strands of white cotton and dandelion seed heads! I can’t imagine the amount of care and patience it took to make this – it was fascinating!
There is so much more to see at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry as well as the bits that I’ve spoken about. They have other galleries looking at how the museum first started out as the world’s first intercity railway and another showcasing lots of the old cars and planes. Not to mention the more interactive things that you can do like the VR space descent and the RAF red arrows simulator. If you’re ever in Manchester and have a day spare then the museum is definitely worth checking out!