I've been meaning to post some pictures from my trip since I returned in July, but I've only found motivation to do so now that I have to pack... Anyhow, my trip didn't focus on science/technology sights, but I got a good few of them in. I don't have the most exciting pictures (even given the subject matter), but I've posted some anyway.
CERN (Geneva, Switzerland):
The darn thing is underground, so there's not much to show. We decided to go to Geneva on short notice, so I didn't get a chance to sign up for the big tour -- I just went to the museum instead. It wasn't very large, but I thought it was well done -- I even thought it might do a decent job explaining things for non physics types. Things that particularly interested me included a large charged particle detector (not sure what it's called -- same role as a cloud chamber
, but much larger and with a different operating principle), and the gold foil experiment
set up as a demo you can play with (I hadn't done it before, so that was cool).
Of course, CERN is known for more than just particle physics -- it's the place where the Web
as we know it was born. They preserved the original NeXTcube
where it all started.
Einstein House (Bern, Switzerland):
Einstein lived here while working as a patent clerk, a period which included his annus mirabilis
. The house itself was a bit of a let down -- there wasn't as much there as there could have been, and what was there often wasn't so great (i.e. they showed a film on Einstein which was little more than a listing of dates).
His desk from the patent office. He dubbed
one of its drawers his "office of theoretical physics".
You can view Bern's famous clock tower (the Zytglogge
-- swiss german is god awful) from the apartment's window. Taking this picture is obligatory given Einstein's connection with time...
Swiss Transportation Museum (Bern, Switzerland):
There's a lot of interesting technology on display here, and the museum is nicely done and all the exhibits had signs in english. Anyone can build a museum anywhere about anything, but they're generally more interesting if they include a lot of local stuff. While some exhibits didn't do so well in this regard (the computer exhibit was mostly about events that happened in California), others -- like those on the phone and postal systems -- were more swiss centered. They might not have come up with the technology, but they knew how to use it (e.g. they were the first nation to fully install automatic telephone exchanges
.) Definitely an interesting museum.
The Swiss didn't take a high tech approach to everything -- here's a mail delivery bike.
Voltian Temple (Como, Italy):
Who else but the Italians would build a neoclassical temple as a museum for a scientist? But Alessandro Volta
(of SI unit fame) was a local boy, so why not? It's located right on the shore of lake Como, so the surroundings are beautiful. The inside is ridiculously nice too.
They have a nice collection of his apparatuses and experiments. Some of his more famous experiments make use of a thing you don't often see in physics labs -- frogs legs. Luigi Galvani
had previously discovered that frogs legs would kick when zapped with electricity, and that they could produce a current if different types of metal were connected to them. However, he thought that this was through an intrinsically biological process -- he called the effect "animal electricity". After doing some experiments with frogs legs, Volta tried other materials and discovered that this was not so. The end result: Volta invented the battery.
Deutsches Museum (Munich, Germany):
This is world's largest science and technology museum, and it is quite simply amazing. It has everything: from musical instruments to electron microscopes. The only downsides are that there aren't english translations for all the exhibits (it seems to be about 50/50 at the moment), and the E&M and mechanics exhibits are kind of old and run down. Still, I would have spent a week there if I'd had time.
I've visited a fair number of science museums (San Fransisco, Boston, and Cleveland to name a few), but my favorite had always been the Franklin institute in Philly (even though they got rid of the mechanics room and replaced it with some dumb sports exhibit). However, the Deutsches Museum definitely takes the crown. Hell, it even has one of Ben's glass harmonicas
Moreover, it also has a picture from my undergrad institution (the first picture of a scientific experiment in progress -- a picture of one of the first medical X-rays in the US, the first was done there a bit before).
I guess it's also required for me to provide a picture of my lovely mug along with this post... so here it is...
Anyhow, I'm headed out to Wisconsin tomorrow. I imagine that school is about to start up for a lot of folks here, so I wish you luck!