Learning in London: Museums and Castles

Monday was another day filled with parks, learning, and enjoying the company of old friends at night.  I hit up Hyde Park for a nice stroll and some afternoon yoga, eventually ending up getting my knowledge on at the neighboring Science and Natural History Museums.

One of the monuments in Hyde Park.

One of the monuments in Hyde Park.

The Science Museum had some really interactive exhibits and I learned a lot about the human body and 3-D printing.  It’s incredible how quickly technology advances, especially when you’ve been away from it for an extended period of time. All types of intricate shapes were made from 3-D printers as well as replacements parts for the human body, like teeth and prosthetic arms, and even a fully functioning bicycle. These printers seem to be the way of the future as they waste less material and cut down on immense transportation costs. Anybody with a printer and the right schematics can create something that used to be available only in certain parts of the world. However, it does take a lot of time and effort to print a single object, it will be interesting to watch how the technology continues to advance.

Fully functional 3-D printed bike.

Fully functional 3-D printed bike.

The exhibit dedicated to the human body was particularly interesting. One program takes a picture of your face and alters it to show what you might look like if born of the opposite sex. It doesn´t take facial hair into account though and I made one hideous looking shemale. There was also scientific research to back up what many modern yogis believe, that stress is linked to illness. In fact, throughout the animal kingdom, females who do not have offspring live much longer on average. Every 7 years or so, all of the cells in our body will change. Telomeres, or the ends of our chromosomes, shorten each time that they are replaced. Many preliminary studies link this to aging, and the more stress that occurs in the body, the more these telomeres shrink when they are replicated. Anxiety has been linked to shortening these telomeres, which in turn accelerate the effects of aging. Once the telomeres become too short to protect the chromosomes, degenerative diseases associated with old age start to take effect. Many other parts of the exhibit were illuminating as well, the human body is an incredibly complex ecosystem that we have just begun to scratch the surface of understanding.

Partially glowing painting in the human body exhibit.

Partially glowing painting in the human body exhibit.

Speaking of scratching the surface brings to mind searching for fossils, and walking through the entrance of the Natural History Museum itself is an experience.  The fossilized remains of a huge dinosaur take up the main lobby, complemented by vaulted ceilings and ancient architecture opening up into endless hallways.  I learned all about the catastrophic power of earthquakes and volcanoes.  In fact, in 1815 the super volcano Mount Tambora erupted in Indonesia. The eruption is believed to have lowered the temperature of the entire earth by around 0.7 degrees celcius. The cloud of ash was so powerful that it blocked the sunlight all the way in North America, creating a year without a summer and ruining the harvest, leading to widespread famine. The year 1816 has been referred to as the Year Without a Summer, the Poverty Year, and Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death. In mid June it was so cold in Quebec City that they received over a foot of snowfall, in the middle of Summer!  No matter how much we try to control nature, we are still ultimately at her mercy.

The main lobby.

The main lobby.

Speaking of the power of nature, the most impressive part of the museum is a huge room containing the skeleton of a blue whale and many of the other large mammals on earth.  The skeleton is so big that it wouldn’t even fit in the frame of my camera, I would need a super wide angle lens to capture it all.  They also had the largest set of elephant tusks ever recorded on display, over 3m long!  I certainly wouldn’t want to piss off either of those monstrous beasts.

Only half of the blue whale skeleton fits into the frame.

Only half of the blue whale skeleton fits into the frame.

Later that night, I met up with my friends Ali and Claire from Agonda at the London Eye.  One of Claire’s mates happens to be the duty manager for the area and scored us some free tickets on what is possibly the world’s most famous ferris wheel.  Outside the windows of our private car was a 360 degree panorama of the city.  Across the river stood the beautiful Parliament building and Big Ben, displaying the time to be sunset.  All sorts of famous buildings dotted the landscape, from MI6 headquarters to Wembley Stadium.  We grabbed a couple of margies and mojitos to go with our Mexican food at Wahaca and the time slipped away until we were the only ones left in the restaurant.

Ali and Claire on the London Eye.

Ali and Claire on the London Eye.

The last major train ride of my London experience was a day trip with Kate to the city of Windsor. Home to the queen and the humongous Windsor Castle, the small city has a quaint feel to it. From miles around you can see the castle towers standing guard. We did not actually enter the castle, it costs around 20 pounds to enter, but enjoyed the impressive view from outside nonetheless. After a stroll around the city we hit up a local park to stretch our legs out and enjoy the grass between our toes. A little over an hour train ride later and we were back at the Liverpool station, ready to hit up the bar for a tall pint of Guinness. Dark beer, you glorious tasty bastard!

Bet the queen does this on her days off.

Bet the queen does this on her days off.

Borough Market, you gloriously tasty collection of scrumptious morsels! With my flight not leaving until 4:30, we had just enough time to grab a meal at the famous Borough Market. Free samples of all varieties of cheeses, pate, paella, and all types of other foods are handed out. I grabbed a green curry seafood paella and finished it off with some local organic strawberry ice cream. A sweet way to end a sweet week in London.

Big Ben says it's time to leave London.

Big Ben says it’s time to leave London.

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